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Me, hiking in the
Collegiate Peaks of Colorado.

Alone In the Woods

470 words


A walk in my mother's shoes
by Dianne Roth


All my life I have wished for the courage to go into the woods alone. It seems I was instilled with a strong sense of danger that welled up within me when the idea even popped into my head.

There could be bears, mountain lions, falling rocks, lightning strikes, and all manner of murderers. The idea of being alone would cause my breath to catch in my throat. I couldn’t possibly go into the woods without another person at my side.

For over 10 years now, on Friday mornings, a couple of friends and I have hiked in MacDonald Forest. We are flaky enough that we don’t decide where we are going until we are in the car. Once we negotiate the suggestions, we are off, hiking between four and six miles by lunch time.

Perhaps, it is the frequency of my time in the woods with them or our overnight trips in the Cascades, each of us bedding down in our own little plot of ground in our own little tents. Something changed. I felt alone, but I knew my buddies were nearby.

Perhaps it was spending time hiking across Oregon on the PCT. They always camped nearby, but living in a tent, night after night, came to feel like home, it came to feel safe.

For nearly 40 days we walked and camped, walked and camped. Then, when it came time for me to finish a couple of sections that I had missed, it seemed just as safe to go it alone.

Since then, I have continued hiking and camping in the woods alone. It feels only slightly different from when my buddies are across the meadow.

This fall, I spent time revisiting Colorado, where I grew up. I took my backpacking gear along, just in case. Friends and family knew my intention and expressed concern. I was heedless.

I started around 9000’ of elevation in the Collegiate Peaks and climbed into my tent at just over 11,000’. I saw only a couple of people during my time in the woods. As I nestled into my sleeping bag, a thunder and lightening storm doused my tent.

Lying there, alone and dry, my thoughts turned to my mother who would have been horrified at my boldness. I chuckled. Then, the tables turned. I pictured my mother walking in my boots on the trail, alone. I felt the same horror and worry as my friends and family express to me.

Interesting when you share someone else’s shoes. There comes a moment of clarity, of truth. I will still go into the woods alone, but when I do, I will walk with greater understanding of the burden it places on others.

PS: I always carry a SPOT Locator, a satellite communicator that can summon help with the push of a button.


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on November 6, 2015