I Used to Hike Alone

I used to love to go hiking by myself. When I first moved to L.A., I didn’t have a job for about 3 months. So, I went hiking. Everywhere. Two or three times a week. I would grab a bottle of water and be gone for hours at a time, not telling anyone where I was going. People warned me about mountain lions and snakes, etc. But it was in my blood. I had to go.

I never thought about being murdered.

Meredith Emerson disappeared with her dog while hiking Blood Mountain in Georgia on New Year’s Day. Authorities found Meredith’s decapitated body on Monday. Officials are now saying she was alive 3 days after she first disappeared. According to reports, Meredith was last seen with murder suspect Gary Michael Hilton, as their dogs played along a hiking trail.

But that was Georgia. That could never happen here. Could it?

Here’s a checklist from the American Hiking Society that could save your life:

  • Always carry a map and compass with you, and know how to use them.
  • Whenever possible, hike with a friend. There is safety in numbers. Most of my longest lasting friendships were initially forged on hiking trails.
  • If you are new to an area or don’t have friends or family who are interested in joining you on a hike, don’t let that discourage you. Consider joining a local hiking club. American Hiking Society has more than 250 affiliate members. You can search our Alliance database for a hiking organization in your area.
  • Let your friends and family know where you are going, and when you are expected to return. This is very important. It could make all the difference in a search and rescue operation should you become lost or incapacitated on the trail.
  • Carry the 10 essentials with you in your backpack (PDF 109 KB).
  • Follow your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, it might not be. If you find yourself with a gut feeling that things aren’t quite right, be attentive. Listen to your instincts. Report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.
  • Look out for your fellow hikers. That could take many forms, including taking First Aid and CPR training so that you can be prepared to assist in the event of an emergency. I plan to renew my expired certification soon.
  • Stay on the trail! Do not wander off into areas that you are unfamiliar with. If you change your hiking plans, be sure to notify your friends and family of the change in your itinerary.
  • Pass along this message by teaching your children these tips on how to stay safe.

Some good advice, for sure. You can never be over-prepared for a hike or a camping trip.

If you’re up for it this weekend, and you dig you some historic ruins, check out the Mt. Lowe Railway Loop.

14 thoughts on “I Used to Hike Alone”

  1. I’ve been wanting to camping for some time now, but none of my friends are into. I’m tempted to go it alone, but my inexperience combined with lack of gun ownership makes it an unwise choice.

    As for ladies especially, if you must hike alone, make sure to avoid Angeles Crest and stick to Runyon Canyon or maybe Will Rogers – trails that are regularly trafficked with people.

  2. this is definitely scary news, in the past i would hike in griffith park (the less populated trials) and in burbank always w/my dogs thinking that was safe. but after this news with this young woman it makes me think twice, since she had her dog with her, does anyone know what became of her dog?

  3. David, don’t be so dramatic. A gun won’t help you if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings.

    Go to A16 and get some BearGuard (large pepper-spray). As a gun owner, it’s what I reach for first. I won’t think twice about using it.

  4. Roberta: I believe her dog turned up at a gas station. Not sure of the details, but I am pretty sure it was found unharmed.

    JB: Do you think a can pepper spray will defend me from flocks of ninjas? Don’t think so. And whats this talk about being dramatic?

  5. I’m with JB. Besides people, the spray can also be used on mountain lions (I’ve seen two, fairly close up in the ANF); rabid, frothing dogs and the like.

  6. One of the basic rules of hiking is never to hike alone. This holds whether you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail or whether you’re in Griffith Park. You might want to search newspaper articles about incidents in Griffith Park and Angeles National Forest. There are a few every year. Several years ago a woman was mauled very badly by a mountain lion. I believe that happened in Griffith Park.

  7. Sure it’s better to hike with others, but I hike and mtn bike alone all the time with my dog as do probably thousands of others in the United States. I’ve had a mtn lion encounter in the back range of San Gabriels, and I should probably bring my pepper spray every time I hike, but it’s a bit alarmist to let one very sad news story stop you from hiking alone in our fantastic local mountains. Just be prepared and careful; it’s no different than doing a million other potentially dangerous things, like crossing a busy street.

  8. I heard that someone recently died in a car accident on the 405. Jesus, I don’t think i’ll ever get on the freeway again. Scary.

  9. I used to live in Echo Park in the 90’s and used to walk around Elysian park with my dogs and hike a bit in Griffith and although sometimes in Elysian I was a little wary, I felt good because I had my dogs with me. I now live in Birmingham, AL I but go every year to the area near where Meredith was hiking in Northern Georgia. Let me tell you, these mountains seem completely safe and I would have never thought twice about hiking anywhere around there.

    I guess it just takes one evil person.

    I have been following this story and I’m just so sad. But I tell you one thing – I am going to now think twice about every place that is isolated and seemingly “safe”. What a shame.

  10. And to whomever asked about her dog, Yes, her dog was let go unharmed and is now with Meredith’s parents.

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