I got to Wells, Nevada at about 6 p.m. in January. It was on a solo excursion to Texas and I wanted to see what winter had to offer my camera lens. I am from the south and have been in the snow a handful of times, but I have never camped in the freezing temperatures.
I drove twelve miles out of the tiny Nevada town and made my way to 12 Mile Hot Springs. At a dead-end, I turned right onto a snow-covered gravel road and drove slowly for about two miles, taking in the beauty of the white wonderland around me. I went over hot low-water crossings and squeezed along ridges that
dropped off into the darkness. As I arrived at the hot spring, my headlights shined toward the steam rising into the sky, making visibility low. “It must be cold for the steam to rise that high,” I thought. I parked my car and turned it off. The wind was howling, slightly shaking my car. I sat there, admiring at the falling snow. I looked out of my driver side window at what looked to be three-inches of powder desperately grasping onto naked shrub branches. I thought about what my first move was going to be. I had to mentally brace myself, “Okay, let’s do this!”
I set up camp, started a fire, and made something to eat. By the time I went to bed, the temperature dropped to six degrees. I kept thinking, “I can’t believe where I am right now.” Because honestly, I was pretty intimidated to get out there in the backcountry by myself in the snow with no previous experience. My worst fear was being defeated by the cold and having to pack up in the middle of the night.
That morning I woke up looking at the steam from my breath,
but my body was warm. The top of my sleeping bag was covered with a thin layer of ice, as well as my hair. I unzipped my frozen tent to a view that I have never seen before in person.I was nestled in between two huge ridges of rolling white hills. Huge boulders shot out of the hillsides. Behind me, was a steaming 102 degree hot spring.
After starting a fire I got myself up and started setting up my camera and tripod to get some photos. Surprisingly I had a tiny bit of cell service so I posted some pictures on social media. By the time I had eaten and had a much-needed soak in the hot spring, I received some comments about me being alone in the backcountry.
“How are you doing that alone?!”
“You’re a female, aren’t you afraid?”
“Have you checked in with someone?”
“It’s freezing, you’re crazy!”
Well, the truth of the matter was: I am a female, I was alone, it was cold, and yes, I was afraid. But that wasn’t going to stop me
from doing what I wanted. I wanted snow shots so I researched and set out to get them. This made me step back and think, ‘Am I crazy?’ I got back in the hot spring and gazed into the never-ending steam and thought, “How can I promote confidence and empowerment in women? I thought about what the most important things are to me on the rest of my two-week camping trip to Texas. I came up with six degrees to live by when you are a woman traveling solo.
Degree One: Do Your Research
Where do you want to go? Do you want to go to a state or national park and camp? Hike the Grand Canyon? Go to another country? Start researching. You will want to start with things like the environment. From there, you should research the gear you will need for that climate. Remember cotton kills in hot and cold. For this trip, I had no idea how to layer my clothes to make sure I was warm enough. I read sites like Outside Magazine and REI in conjunction with other blogs. I also asked a friend that works at Fox Glacier to find out the dos and don’ts of cold weather camping. What is the food like in the place you want to go? Will you need to watch out for certain foods and water so you don’t get dysentery? Research ways you can prevent this either by not eating those foods or taking supplements like grapefruit seed extract, a natural antibiotic. Or will you have to prepare your own food? If so, what kind?
Degree Two: Transportation
Research on transportation is important. Are you driving your own vehicle? Do you know how to change a tire and check your oil? These are very important to know if you are traveling alone (and anytime for that matter). Change your oil every 3,000 miles. Be sure and look at your gauges regularly. Look up what to do if your car overheats. Are you riding a bus? Research routes before you get on the bus in case you don’t have Wi-Fi at your destination or your phone dies. Some people plan a whole trip ahead, but that doesn’t work for me. I plan as I go, but I make sure to research my route to the next destination, so I don’t end up at a bus station at 4 a.m. with nowhere to go. Are you riding a cab in a foreign country? Make sure you know what the cab plates are supposed to look like in that country and what the cab driver’s license should look like. There are a lot of scammers out there, and I don’t want to see your pretty face on a missing sign. It’s real life.
Degree Three: Pack Properly
Like the old saying goes: Less is more. I can’t express that enough. As females, we tend to want to bring cute clothes and hair accessories – ditch it, go natural. Its added weight you probably won’t need. Pack according to the length of your trip and your comfort in a certain environment. In hot weather, say two weeks, I might bring 3-4 pairs of shorts. At least one pair should be a loose or dry-fit. The same goes for shirts. And again, this all depends on the climate you’re traveling to. Hiking in the backcountry will be totally different from traveling to another country or state to sight see. In cold weather for two weeks, you might bring 2-3 dry fit thermals (shirt and pants), a good down jacket, a waterproof shell, snow pants, three wool socks and two beanies. You will want to carry the appropriate luggage as well. In my experience, a backpacking backpack works best. It is easy to get from place to place and trust me, wheels on roller luggage do fall off… and that is inconvenient. Sunscreen is always a must! Did you get your camera? You better!
Degree Four: A Pocket Knife
I have always carried a pocketknife. Not a huge one, but one that is efficient and easy to open and close. I have found that it really comes in handy in my everyday life. Whether it is to open something, cut a rope, or dig something out. Also this may be a good thing in an emergency. You may need to release something that is constricting you or holding you down. It can be used in the kitchen for cooking. In the case of a broken limb, you will want something to cut a shirt to make a sling or splint. And last but surely not least, protection. Are you going to be in a third world country? Traveling alone can be unsafe and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared if someone aggressively approaches you and you don’t have mace.
Degree Five: Confidence
Confidence is a huge trait to have when traveling alone. When you stand tall and literally turn around to watch your back, you don’t appear to be weak. Predators, human and animal, are looking for the weak to prey on. You want to look strong and self-assured to your bystanders. When you show confidence, you are confident. It’s okay if you’re scared –I have been nervous many times in my travels, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t confident. Also, if you are in the backcountry and you see a mountain lion, you should not run. You want to show confidence by throwing your arms in the air and yelling. I have encountered mountain lions and acting ‘big’ has deterred them…so far. I haven’t seen a bear yet, and don’t necessarily want to.
Degree Six: Buddy System
But you’re alone right? Yes, but be sure to check in and let someone know where you are. Weather by email, text, or by social media it’s always best to share with someone if you change cities or camping spots. Any thing can happen and we all know that. It’s part of the adventure! If you’re in the city it will be easier to find Wi-Fi to let some one know you made it safe or are changing locations. If you want to hike a trail like the PCT, get a Spot or satellite phone and send a signal at dinner every night. If something does go wrong, you have a better chance of someone getting to you in fewer than two or three days. If you don’t have a check-in point, you could be out there for several days before anyone sees you, which could be fatal if your injury is severe.
These six degrees have gotten me through a lot of trips, this one in particular. I can honestly say that this trip changed my life. I researched thoroughly, set out, and conquered. I felt certain in the research that I did and although I was confident in myself, it was still very intimidating to be in the backcountry alone in single digit temperatures. Those conditions made every day tasks that much harder to complete. Obstacles happened that had to be overcome, but I know that the first time you are alone in the woods and you come out safely days later, you will feel accomplished. You will feel more confident. That is an experience that we learn from and apply to other aspects of our life. No matter what line of work you are in, confidence is a key role in being a successful woman. We have to utilize the resources we have around us and go the extra step to be better at what we do. Taking those extra precautions and gaining new skill sets will set you above and beyond.
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