Town: Denver, Colorado
Quote: “Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by nature” – George Harrison
About Anna: I’m not one to read directions. I built the desk in my room without a Phillips head while fuming at the instructions that lacked logical steps and words. This is why I typically skip instructions, I remember thinking. I’m also stubborn. I don’t care if it is unadvised, unlikely or challenging – it all gives me more reason to do what I’m told I shouldn’t.
Part of this stems from me being a woman, in which, daily, I am told the wide range of things that I cannot do. Ten year-old girls don’t play boys hockey, young ladies do not hitch-hike, and women definitely do not embark on adventures with no promise of safety or ease. However, having done all of these things, amongst many more, I have never felt stronger nor more independent.
Though these feats may be rewarding, none of them were easy and some resulted in unexpected outcomes.
With that being said, it should come as no surprise that I found myself in a bit of trouble upon my first solo hike. I was more than ready. I had the day to myself, perfect weather and a full pack. Nearing the end of the two-hour drive to the trailhead, I found myself at closed gates, denying my entrance.
Confusion, followed by overwhelming stubbornness typically strikes me before defeat or acceptance. I parked my car and headed to the gate to find a sign saying that the trail was planned to open tomorrow. 24 hours. Surely, it can’t be too bad if I jump the gate and walk a few extra miles to the trail.
So I did just that. I hiked an extra four miles to the trail, which was an estimated nine mile loop. The stunning views and self-assurance made the extra miles easy. No one else was around and I was going to be one of, if not the first person, on this trail all season. And, I was going to do it on my own.
Roughly an hour and a half later I reach the trailhead. It is covered in snow and littered with warnings of mountain lions. Frustrated, yet determined, I continue onto the trail. I decide to be smart; to take this hike in stride. As much as I’d love to summit the peak, I realize that I am completely alone on a closed trail and must prioritize my safety.
Less than half a mile in, snow is reaching my kneecaps. Each step is calculated; trying to predict how far beneath the ground is from the snow. The trail eventually gets even harder to see. Several times, I stray too far and have trouble returning to the designated path. I decide that if the trail gets any harder to follow, I will turn around.
Every ounce of my being is denying the fact that this is a bad idea. In the back of my mind I hear words telling me that men do things like this all the time, and they end up fine. Most of them are praised for their bravery and perseverance. However, often times, if a woman were to attempt the same, her safety is immediately questioned. Questions like, “why were you alone?” and “aren’t you scared?” are thrown into the mix more often than not.
I am not scared. I am angry that my grand plan is falling apart between my fingers, but I am not scared. The snow is nearing hip level in some areas, and my stubborn mentality tells me that once I clear the treeline, the snow will be mostly melted.
I’m distracted as each step digs deeper under the snow than the last, when I hear a faint snapping in the distance. Jolted, I look up to find a mountain lion roughly 100 yards away. It is calm, peaceful and unaware of my presence. It does not yet know that there is an intruder in its home. It does not see me as I slowly retract my steps.
I slip and stumble down the mountain, fuming at the obstacles that prevented me from summitting. I made it less than a mile in. I was trudging through unanticipated snow and found myself in another animal’s territory. It doesn’t matter how strong-willed, stubborn or driven I am, continuing this hike would be dangerous – regardless if I were a man or a woman.
The four miles back to my car are far less exciting and I decide to return as soon as the snow has completely melted. I also realized that turning around does not make me weak. Being able to understand my situation and put my stubbornness aside ultimately is what kept me safe and got me down the mountain untouched. Besides, when I did the hike a month later, it was infinitely more rewarding.