Feedback from my last column included the question I always get from women about hiking solo: “How can I feel safe hiking solo?” My usual answer is, “Hike with a gun or a big dog.”
I was surprised to see a woman carrying a large backpack up Mt. Charleston, just outside Las Vegas, alone and at the end of the day. She did not have a dog, large or small, and I did not notice a weapon of any sort. I have never been asked about safe solo hiking by men.
Relatively few men have attended the classes I have given on wilderness skills since 1979. That’s one difference between men and women hikers. Men seem to think they (that is, we) know everything, hence we get into trouble by doing dumb things. Women, are smarter, which just makes sense.
Therefore, it is safe to say that men and women approach hiking differently, especially solo hiking. Not only do women hike more safely than men, they hike with companionship in mind. It’s all about relationships. The woman who asked me the question this time, said she carried pepper spray. Since “practice makes permanent,” it is important to get properly trained in self-defense and not just have the weapon with you.
Sorry to say that our society does not feel safe to everyone on the trail. Yet, walking in fear, rather than faith is no way to go. Hiking with confidence is preferred. It’s a matter of the object of that confidence of which there are many options, not all of equal worth.
HIKING WITH DOGS
I was surprised to find a packed parking area off Iron Springs Road on a Monday morning. As I put my pack on, another vehicle pulled in. A young, single woman got out of the vehicle, put on her ear buds and headed down the trail with a small dog. She soon took the dog off its leash. There is a leash law in Yavapai County across all jurisdictions of public land: federal, state, county, and municipal.
The leash law is like the speed limit. It’s the letter of the law. What about the spirit of the law? Do you always drive the speed limit? What’s the point?
The point is courteous consideration of others, which is best achieved through personal responsibility and self-control. This can be achieved by hikers without a leash on their dog when the owner has the dog under control apart from the leash.
As I proceeded down the trail, a pair of individuals approached me, with two dogs bounding in my direction. These dogs were large and full of energy. I thought back to the time I was bitten by a German Shepherd, as a child, receiving a rabies shot and 13 stitches in my leg. These dogs did not even appear to notice me. They were so focused on their owners. They leapt into their arms to lots of joyous laughter. I laughed too, thinking, “No wonder a dog is ‘man’s best friend.’ They provide a sense of safety as well as companionship.”
What an ideal combination, on the trail or off, with courteous owners in control of their beloved pet. Further down the trail a pair of hikers quickly restrained their dogs as I approached, since one of them came at me barking loudly. Are you in control?
Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.