In November 2014 I decided to spend a week alone in the backcountry to get a taste of the solo backpacking life. Some people love the true solitude, some people hate it. So before I thought anymore about the John Muir Trail I wanted to get a taste. As a plus, the trip was also the longest backpacking trip I’ve done and my first time winter backpacking. It ended up being one of the more difficult physical things I’ve accomplished.
To document the solo experience I journaled daily and I’m hoping that journal can help share the experience with you.
The Night Before: Nerves
“In the shower I think about how this is the last blast of warmth I’ll feel for seven days. I’m used to other people worrying about me, but I’m not used to worrying about myself and that is what makes me uneasy.”
Day One: Focus
“I now see what the difficulties of winter travel are. Every foot without snowshoes is like walking through sand, but harder. Being alone so far has not bothered me due to all this struggle combined with getting a 50lb pack up 1500 ft without snowshoes and fighting my sickness [nauseous sinus migraine].”
Day Two: Why?
“The few times my thoughts can wander I go to ‘why?’. Why was it necessary to do this trip? Is it for me? For what reason? I have a warm bed and life of luxury compared to this. To be honest, I don’t know why. What keeps me going is that its a trial run for the JMT, but why do the JMT? I don’t know…”
Day Three: Acceptance
“Aside from no one to share the load of the pack or someone to back me up against a bear. Solo trips are not so bad. Its cool to be able to push yourself so hard, I just wish it was summer so the consequences weren’t so real and my pack was lighter.”
Day Four: Silence
“Its interesting on the ‘day of silence’ [I said less than 100 words that day] I found an answer to the why I’m out here question. I’m here to accomplish a physical and mental challenge like a marathon. The body resists, but the mind wills it forward.”
Day Five: Exhaustion
“Today I remembered why I was so infuriated these first few days. Walking and having every other foot go through the top snow crust layer is so angering. It makes it impossible to develop any hiking rhythm, it puts a lot of force on your joints and you have to exert a lot of effort to catch yourself. “
“My summary of thoughts about this solo trip: Solo’ing isn’t that much of a big deal if you have a goal and are typically the trip leader and planner. The big difference is there is no one to question your life-death decisions you make. So you mentally have to be present.”