Once upon a time, I was mostly a solo hiker. I love hiking alone. I can walk at whatever pace I want, stop where I want to stop, and change my mind about where I want to go. I can wake up in the morning and decide I want to go to a lake, or scrap my plans entirely and go kayaking, without anyone else getting upset. I hiked and backpacked mostly alone for years.
But then I moved to a place with lots of grizzly bears. It's much safer to be in a group if there are bears around. More people can make noise, and a bunch of people look more intimidating to a bear than just one person. I figured I had better become more social.
I met some nice people. Some I met in a meetup group, but most through others. I met a couple of them sitting by a waterfall. Some I see more often than others, but when we hike we pick up where we left off. Although I can't be quite as spontaneous (turns out other people like to plan ahead), it pays off in other ways. If I wake up and it's cold and I feel lazy, I still have to go so I don't let them down, and I'm always glad I went. I get to see places I didn't know existed, and to share beautiful spots with others.
Now, because I'm trying to be a responsible public lands user and social distancer, I am alone again. The national park is closed, but the enormous forest is still open. The bears are awake now though, and can be somewhat surly this time of year. They're hungry, and they have young cubs. So I'm limiting myself to safer places.
Right now that means a weekly jaunt up the ski hill. They were forced to close early due to the virus, but there is an enthusiastic contingent of locals who hike up and ski down. The snow conditions are too rough for me to haul my snowboard, but I bring my snowshoes. Alone, I set off up a lesser used route to the summit, 2000 feet above. There is usually nobody there. Last weekend it was a brisk 11 degrees. I look longingly at the peaks in the park in the distance. It's too cold to linger, and I take another route down, one that winds past a statue we call Mountain Jesus. Far below, a blue lake sparkles.
I know a lot of people are hiking with others. They say they are staying 6 feet apart and carpooling, or they just aren't worrying about it. As the snow melts, and we get fewer cases in my town, I may start venturing out with my friends again. I miss them, and I miss getting into wilder territory. But for now I walk alone in familiar places.