Don’t get me wrong, I understand the benefits of group travel and the many reasons solo travel can be dangerous, especially for women. Those concerns are inherent in daily life for us and need not be rehashed, and when we’re feeling vulnerable there are thankfully a million articles about how we can better prepare ourselves to face the world while female. What I’m interested in exploring is the idea that there are circumstances in which solo travel can be advantageous to one’s safety. I’ve often had plans in mind that, upon a friend floating the idea of joining me, suddenly seemed rife with caveats. The following scenarios are food for thought.
As I prepared for my exodus from Southern California, I made a last minute effort to cross another thing off my must-see list by rambling around in one of my new favorite national parks - Death Valley. It’s pretty easy to figure things out once you’re there, but if you’re the researching/planning type, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
It’s official - I’ve left Los Angeles for the perceivable future! Before jumping headfirst into what’s next, I thought I’d recap some of my favorite activities that slid through the cracks - namely, the hikes. I regret that I never got to all the ones I wanted to do (and could you ever?), but of the ones I was able to complete, these memorable paths were my Top Three:
Late morning, clear day. The sun is shining, the wind is whipping fast; I’m sitting in the bed of a moving truck on a little-trafficked backroad in Molalla, OR, thirty-and-some miles outside Portland. There’s a dog in my lap. A local couple had done me the favor of picking me up as I walked back into town from the campsite. This memory has a glowing haze around it; it’s burned into me because of the quiet reflection bought with that moment of silence.
Today was the final day of my Los Angeles-to-Redwoods-and-back road trip, a whirlwind that kept me busy and alert every waking moment of the past four days. As I pulled out of the RV Park, I already felt it setting in: The Dread. I missed this lifestyle already, and I was still getting to live it for one more day. This mourning created a mild panic that followed me into Cambria and insisted that I try to milk every last drop out of the final miles ahead.
I’d bemoaned passing so quickly through the Bay Area the prior day, and since I didn’t have to be in San Jose for my Winchester Mystery House tour until 2PM and the Bigfoot Discovery Museum wouldn’t close until 6PM, the thought struck me that I could spend the afternoon exploring my favorite literary generation in the very city it was born in: The Beat Movement in San Francisco.
I got settled for the night, and then it happened - just as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a vicious screeching sound followed by two hisses, all of which sounded like some kind of cat (or two) right outside my tent. Then it happened again. They were probably just domestic farm cats, but I’d read that this was bobcat territory and of course my imagination ran wild for the rest of the night. What was that? Why was it hissing at me? Where was it now? Did my brain dream it up?
I had a list of unfinished business to attend to with four days, one car, and one backpack at my disposal. I refuse to live over a year in California without having seen the mighty Redwoods. Driving from Los Angeles to Humboldt Redwoods State Park directly, without any detours, is something like ten hours and doesn’t sound particularly appealing for a marathon out-and-back drive in one weekend, but taking two days to get there and two days to get back? Stopping along the way to knock other things off the bucket list? Leaving space in between to wander off course and make new discoveries? A race against time, but it just might work.
When the fog and rain cleared, suddenly the entire landscape was glorious. The final stretch of the trail between my camp spot and Lost Lake followed along the pinnacle of a ridge that allowed me to see out over the whole mountain range on either side of me. I felt like I was on top of the world. I think about that sometimes now, when I’m staring at four walls - how strange it is to know that such places exist, all on their own, all the time, without you there to behold it. Just waiting with open arms.