You'll never walk alone...

posted Sep 14, 2011, 8:14 AM by Paul Wagner
Colin Fletcher, the author of "A Walk Through Time," "The 1,000 Mile Summer," and "The Complete Walker," loved to hike solo.  He treasured his quite moments alone with nature. 
But he also made comment about his paradoxical meetings with other solo hikers.  Those other hikers would frequently stop him and want to chat for hours about how wonderful it was to hike alone. 
Fletcher, at least, noticed the irony!
On a recent trip to the High Sierra, we had a somewhat similar experience.  We treasure those hours on the trail without seeing other people, and always try to give other hikers, and groups of hikers, as much space as they need to enjoy the wilderness. 
But on this trip we started up a pass, only to see another hiker on the trail ahead of us.  No problem.  We needed some water so we stopped to pump and give him a good headstart up the trail. 
And yet...he didn't seem to be in any hurry.  As we hit the trail we could see him, still visible ahead of us.
Each time we hiked up closer to him, we would pause and take a break, have a drink or admire the view.  And each time as we started hiking, we found that he wouldn't be far ahead.  It was almost as if he were waiting for us. 
Finally, around lunchtime, we came upon him, just packing up and getting to leave a lovely spot with a nice view.  We greeted him, shared a quick trail report, and started getting out our lunch. 
And he slowed right down and started chatting with us some more.  Pleasant conversation, and we enjoyed the chat.  But it did go on a bit longer than we expected--at least twenty minutes.  And then he hoisted his pack and hit the trail.
We gave him plenty of time to build up a lead, and then finished up our lunch and starting hiking. 
Less than half a mile ahead, our companion was waiting.  We stopped before we reached him, to tighten M's shoes.  He started hiking again, and so we started off again.  Again he stoped and was waiting.  This time we stopped for P to snap a couple of photos.
We started off again, and there he was, only 100 yards ahead, with his pack on the ground and settled in for a long wait. 
We gave him a friendly "hello" and hiked on past him.  But as M passed him on the trail, he hoisted his pack and fell into step behind her. 
We had been joined. 
Since we didn't know this guy from Adam, we felt a little awkward about this.  But P decided that if the lone hiker took so many breaks, we would quickly leave him behind if we just kept hiking.  So we did.  We hiked for a solid two miles, straight uphill.  And after all those delays earlier in the day, he didn't take another break all afternoon!
We arrived at our campsite and watched him stroll in just moments later. 
To be fair, he camped on the next peninsula over, and was a quiet camper. 
He did stop by to chat a bit, but M was trying to get out of camp for a stroll when he did that, and P was fishing...and distracted enough that the conversation didn't go swimmingly.  We did learn that he had broken a tent pole....although that's not something we could really help with.  Then again, the weather was lovely and he assured us his rainfly would do just fine. 
And the next morning he hit the trail early, heading north.
We slept in, and when we got to the junction, we turned left and headed south. 
We hope he had a great time on the rest of his trip.
And we were happy to be hiking on our own again.