Alone Outdoors : One is the loneliest number?

One of my favorite equivalents of a smoke break is the A.V. Club. 

Smart, funny, and entertaining writing about pop culture.

Before I became enamored with all things outdoors, I had a deep geek streak.

Star Trek re-runs were consumed on an old B&W television; I enjoyed the early form of anime’ known as Starblazers and inhaled lots of Isaac Asimov books.  My day job is in no small part because of the many hours spent using my C= 64.

As such, I love the A.V. Club for their features on topics related to the above. And their writing about movies, television shows, music, literature and other topics is always fascinating.

I also enjoy the oddball websites the A.V. Club discusses.

And a recent website that was featured? The Instagram account @sadtopographies .

Snapshots of actual Google Map places such as Camp Suicide Road, Disenchantment Bay, and Forlorn Lake.

But as a solo outdoors person, I had to question the choice of Solitude Island as a sad place name.

Solitude Island, Ontario Canada #solitude

A photo posted by @sadtopographies on

Why is having solitude inherently sad?

It seems solitude having a negative connotation is very ingrained into our culture and society.

Going alone is considered irresponsible by many.   People seek trip partners and will sacrifice their personal trip goals for the sake of going with a group. And more than one trip has been ruined due to personality conflicts.

A more appropriately named set of sad islands might be “Group Argument Island,” “Control Freak Trip Member Island” or “Person- who-lied-about-their-fitness-and-experience-level-and-is-slowing-down-the-group  Island.”

It is amusing when among the synonyms suggested for solitude is “loneliness.”

Solitude is not sad. Nor does it have to be lonely.

Solitude is perhaps the most intense way of experiencing the outdoors.

I’ve had many enjoyable trips with friends and past partners.

But some of the trips that tend to be entrenched most strongly in my memory are the solo trips.

Walking along a ridge line solo, camping at an off-trail lake or exploring some canyons, or at a quiet camp on the High Plains. I seem to enjoy these trips immensely.

I enjoy my solitude.  And I like my personal company.

I love a schedule that I set. Switch things up at the last minute. Just pack my gear and go.

Wildlife is spotted, new routes are savored, and more serendipity is experienced in a few short days than seen in so-called “normal” life.

Trips full of solitude aren’t sad.   Trips full of solitude are invigorating.

Plan well, leave your planned route with someone you trust and only do trips within your comfort, safety, and skill levels, and a solo trip can be enjoyed by all.

Embrace the solitude. Forget about the sadness of the solitude.

It ain’t.

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Rodney on the Rock
Rodney on the Rock
6 years ago

Solo trip. Drove 4 hours to ubehebe crater in death valley. Got there, no one around. Walked around for 10 minutes, took photos, I was fine with that, got my solitude fix, then got back in the truck and drove back home 4 hours.
If I had a trip partner, I would be obligated to compromise the agenda, timeline, trip goal, and not have the freedom to be impulsive.

6 years ago

Agree, being alone and lonely are two different things. You can be lonely in the city.

Mark K
Mark K
6 years ago

While I certainly enjoy backcountry trips with other friends, I really enjoy my solo backcountry/backpacking trips. I always leave a detailed itinerary with my wife & kids and stick close to my schedule and plan accordingly & carry the proper gear. What I like best about solo backpacking/backcountry travel is that I make my own daily schedule and can do whatever I want, whenever I want… such as fly fishing a beautiful stream, or stopping for lunch much later than normal, or hiking at whatever pace I feel like. I tend to avoid technical terrain when solo traveling and stick… Read more »

Jim Schifferns
Jim Schifferns
6 years ago

I absolutely enjoy solo hiking/backpacking. While I’ll occasionally go on or lead group hikes I definitely prefer the solitude and the ability to go where I want, when I want and do/not do what I want and I enjoy my own company.

Evelyn Moran
Evelyn Moran
6 years ago

I absolutely agree. I’ve had some great trips with a couple of friends, but the ones that have left the most impressions have been solo trips where I’ve wandered ridges and plateaus above tree line, camped in a seclude site on an off trail lake or just sat and listened to the quiet.

6 years ago

I have only taken solo trips much to the dismay of my family, and I love them.. Maybe one day I will invite someone along.

Jeramie Nielsen
Jeramie Nielsen
6 years ago

Solo hiking can definitely be very rewarding. Doing the sawtooth traverse from Bierstadt to Evans solo was nerve-wracking but felt like an amazing accomplishment for me at the time.

The only concern with hiking solo is safety. Yet, with the right knowledge and skills set, this concern can be mitigated.

Travis Briles
5 years ago

Where is that last picture?!?