On my recent expedition to find Mount Joy (which is adjacent to Mount Misery, one of my favorite trails), I discovered my lack of skills in the art of map reading. So I set off on a different trail, hoping to find Mount Joy on the way. This trail was a paved path, which happens to be my least favorite kind of trail and was full of strollers and dogs and old men without their shirts on. I mean, it was hot out, but not that hot.
Anyway, here are some reasons why I hate hiking alone. I always like the idea, because it sounds awfully romantic, but there are only so many cute chipmunks and pictures of trees that can be taken before I lose my mind. Also, have you ever realized the danger of a twenty-something-year-old girl hiking alone through the woods? If you've ever seen an episode of Law and Order: SVU, and I have seen all of them, it is not uncommon to either a) get kidnapped or b) get murdered.
Did I mention the fact that there were a lot of old man jogging without their shirts on? If that's not creepy I don't know what it is. I had to pass an old man who was walking by himself with his shirt off, admiring the view. And then I realized, as I was speed walking passed him in my spandex capris, he was probably enjoying the view even more. And that's when I knew I was about to be killed.
But I was already too deep into my hike, too dedicated to quit, and too intent on finding Mount Joy. I took a self-defense class in college, so I put my knowledge to good use by surveying what I had on me. I had both a set of keys, which seemed promising, and a full water bottle, which also seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately they were both in my backpack, and it would be a little too obvious for me to take off my backpack and hold my water bottle in one hand and my keys in the other, with my empty backpack bobbing up and down. So I did the less obvious thing and continued to speed walk, checking behind me every six or seven steps.
Unfortunately this paved path that I was on went through an open field, not through the woods as I had hoped. The field gave me no protection as I imagined trying to run and hide from this inevitable killer. Speaking of running, I can't do that. I've been trying to build my stamina at the gym, and I have gotten up to four minutes straight of light jogging. My boyfriend always says he's proud of me when I hit anything above my average two minute running spree, but I know he's just saying that because he's trying to win brownie points. So I stick to speed walking, with my water bottle sloshing in my backpack with each step, making me slightly annoyed but mostly just nauseous. I really wished this trail was through the woods, because I have seen The Hunger Games a time or two. I even read all the books. If anyone knows about scaling a tree or hunting a deer, it's me. I've studied Katniss and she knows what she's doing. I mean, come on, she's been in the Hunger Games twice now (spoiler).
Entrance to Mount Joy's trail.
Fortunately for me, I finally found Mount Joy and it's a skinny little path through the woods - my favorite kind of trail. Unfortunately for me, my water bottle is still sloshing and it is beginning to sound an awful lot like feet scampering through dried leaves. So I continue my hike, still checking over my shoulder every six or seven steps, and I'm trying to enjoy nature and clearing my head and finding myself or whatever. I have finally calmed down enough to start to enjoy my hike when I see more hikers. Yay, I'm not alone in the woods anymore! But then I realize, more people means more crazy people which means more murderers hiding in the woods.
During one of my many over the shoulder checks, I notice not one, but two men approaching from a distance. I was lucky enough to have taken my water bottle out of my bag for a drink, so I at least had some sort of defense mechanism. I have two options a) hide in the trees and let them pass or b) run. Since I obviously can't do plan B, hiding in the trees is my only option. Which shouldn't be hard, because I've seen The Hunger Games a time or two. When I peek back over my shoulder, because it had been seven steps without a check, they are far too close and have already seen me. One even met my eyes, how dare he. So I resorted to speed walking, and because I had been speed walking for the past two and a half miles, it's starting to get a little hard to breathe. With that said, the first man passed me, and nothing happens. I neither die nor get kidnapped.
With a slight boost of confidence, I checked over my shoulder to see how this other stalker is making out. That's when I noticed he had a dog. If there was even a slight chance that I could outrun a human, I know I could never beat a dog. And besides, I'm more of the cat person. I heard him closing in on me and I casually switched my water bottle to my dominant hand, so that my biggest hit might actually throw him off balance slightly (if he's very weak and if I'm very lucky.) Before he even passes me, I heard a Learn Chinese Yourself audio tape that he is listening to and to make me feel even safer, I notice that his guard dog is some kind of little poodle or something. I don't know the exact breed because, as I told you, I'm a cat person. I even snuck a picture because I knew no one would believe me.
Who takes a tiny dog on a mountain hike? Don't their little legs get enough exercise walking from the food bowl to the water dish each day? Needless to say, I no longer felt endangered and I switched my water bottle back to my left hand as an ancient peace symbol.
Anyway, as much as I love nature, which is enough to desire to go on a solo two and a half hour hike, it is rather boring when the danger of being murdered and/or kidnapped is gone. So I wrote this in the notes section of my phone as I finished my hike for two reasons a) to hopefully be used as a future blog post or b) on the slight chance there is still a murderer/kidnapper still waiting in the woods to get me, there will at least be an amusing story for my friends to remember me by.
Update: I finally found my car only about a mile away from where Mount Joy's trail ended. I made it home tired and sweaty but mostly unharmed, except that my shin splints from high school basketball started acting up again.
I also realized that I didn't exactly give you a list of why I don't like hiking alone, but hopefully you will be able to pick a few reasons out of this terribly long story. Also, quick question. Would you like to be my hiking partner? Because I'm never going alone again.