Nature Diaries: The Benefits of Hiking Solo

waterfall on Annette Lake Trail, Washington

When the flu kept my friend from hitting the trail with me this weekend, I decided to hike it anyways by myself. I thought of it as a one-on-one date with nature, something I haven't done in a long time. I arrived at Annette Lake trailhead early, laced up my boots and hit the dirt. Within the first .2 miles of this hike, I had stopped and spent at least 5 minutes fiddling around with my camera settings, trying to get the best shot of the waterfall rushing underneath the bridge I was standing on. Already, this hike was a departure from the norm.  Typically....

A) I'm not by myself and B) There is usually no stopping until the summit.

Water breaks and quick iphone snaps are usual but it's a short time out in the race to the top.   Often the workout (or "burn" as Jared would call it) takes precedence and while I enjoy the feeling of sweat, muscle contraction and an accelerated heartbeat, I admit I sometimes feel like I'm missing the whole point of being in nature.

On this hike, I took my time. I stopped at plants that interested me and took notice in the different bird songs. I observed the light as the sun rose over the mountain and illuminated the forest floor, the way neon moss covered the giant boulders and the different types of trees that grew as I rose higher in elevation. I took notice of my thoughts, what I think and talk to myself about when there is no one there to communicate with. I watched as they turned from self centric to universal, to completely drowned out by the sounds of the natural world. The birds, waterfalls, my heavy boots stepping on the muddy Earth, the whipping wind against the trees, my breath, my heartbeat in my ears.  Being alone encouraged more thoughtfulness and attention on the journey, not the destination.  Overall, I enjoy human connection in the outdoors and a  majority of my hiking trips will involve other people, but this weekend reminding me to throw a solo journey in every once in a while.

What do you enjoy more- hiking by yourself or with a group? Share your experiences with me in the comments below.