Going It Alone, and Female, in the Woods

Jocelyn Hebert needs no encouragement from Hollywood to hit the hiking trail all by herself. For years, she’s ventured deep into the woods with only her backpack for company. Animals, accidents and creepy strangers aren’t worries for her, although occasionally the whisper of the wind gives her the shivers. “Seriously, the wind can be eerie,” Hebert says.

Not every woman wants or needs to trudge hundreds of miles solo to find her mojo. But with summer’s arrival — and with or without inspiration from Wild — women who seek some time in the woods can find plenty of trail options in Vermont.

Many women who hike alone say they don’t worry about their safety, but that their friends and family do. Long-held stereotypes about women’s strength, resourcefulness and vulnerability come into play.

Don’t be shut down by fear if the trail beckons, experienced hikers suggest, but do pay attention to your own comfort zone and plan carefully to maximize fun and minimize risk. Remember that in Vermont, cellphone service on the trail can be spotty or nonexistent, so don’t count on it. And be willing to scrub a trip if weather warrants. Winter hiking alone is especially risky and leaves no room for error.

Hebert, a 47-year-old Calais resident, carefully follows certain rules when she sets out alone. She tells someone — usually her mother and a friend or two — when and where she’s going, and when she should be back. Other basics: Study the route and allow sufficient time to complete it; choose a realistic route for your fitness level and outdoor savvy. Hebert advises bringing enough food, water and clothing to spend a night in the woods in case of emergency.

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