I’ve noticed a few blog posts about being female on the hiking trails. Walking solo and finding your place among a mostly male environment. Made me think about the Appalachian Trail hike I finished back in 2015. Brought me back to one of the very few strange encounters I had. And yes, it involved a man.
What made me me think back to this experience was reading about comments, queries, assumptions and environments on the trail. I’ve personally found hiking trails to be one of the safest places on modern earth. The more remote the better. Human animals scare me far more than any bear or cougar. Nature has a way of bringing a person to a level of awareness that bleeds the bullshit to the surface of any and all situations. It’s like you can see into a persons deep thoughts and character before they even speak. Almost like you can see the colour of their aura floating around their body like a human solar system of good to bad. It’s pretty cool.
But it it takes weeks and even months to get to this place.
The encounter I’m talking about happened in New Jersey. In the thick of the northbound thru-hike. I was getting water from a pump and a man who had just begun a section hike pointed to my legs ‘that’s poison ivy’. I looked at him and said, ‘excuse me, are you talking to me?’ He went on to tell me he knows poison ivy and that I had it. I tried to explain to him an odd allergy to the sun I have, that I get it when it heats up, that it is not poison ivy and that I know myself well enough to know what this is. He went on to continue pointing at my legs and going on about how much he knows blah blah blah.
So I stood there and stared at him. Until about five minutes later he finally stopped talking. I stared some more. He pointed at my legs again and I finally lost it ‘you know what, you are making me uncomfortable. Stop looking at my legs. Stop pointing at me. Stop talking to me. Go away.’
He he said one more time that I had poison ivy and I said ‘leave’.
This was an over middle aged man in the middle of the forested area basically not listening to a single girl asking him to leave her alone. This was weird. He had no sense and no awareness. I wanted to kick his ass but was too annoyed and I am not a violent person.
The point of my story is, what made this man, a complete stranger, think it was okay to point and stare and talk at me like that? Did it cross his mind I may not be comfortable with his actions? How could he think that was okay?
So, please, not just men but all of us, be aware when you’re out on the trail to go easy on those you meet. Just give some room and use your awareness. If someone gives you the vibe, leave them be. They probably don’t want your advice and likely are tired or just want to be alone.
And ladies, don’t ever be afraid of a hiking trail. Don’t ever hesitate to get out there alone. There are good humans out there. Annoying ones, too, but for the most part great people.