Monday, March 24, 2008

Hiking: An Ounce of Prevention

A terrible headline in the paper caught my eye: “Killer Tells How Victim Fought Him.” The victim, a young woman out hiking, used her wits and martial arts training when she was attacked in the Georgia mountains. “She did everything she could to stay alive,” according to the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But eventually her attacker killed and decapitated her.

What does this have to do with fitness? Walking and hiking are the most common kinds of exercise that people do, and for good reason. They require little preparation and can be done almost anywhere. And yes, they are relatively safe activities; but to assume there are no dangers at all can get people in trouble, especially women.

Years ago, I wrote a travel newsletter called Creative Drifting News. I often wrote about personal wilderness hiking experiences. I did quite a bit of it and it always surprised me to see a woman hiking or backpacking alone in the Sierra high country. This occurred more often than you might think. In my newsletter, I always advised against it. Not everyone agreed with me. And I know that some people reading this now will say the chances of being attacked are so small that we shouldn’t be concerned.

All I can say to them is that I know personally of too many instances of assaults and even murders of people who were simply out for a walk in a city or hiking in the woods. I used to say to people who were concerned about bears or mountain lion attacks that it’s the creatures that walk on two legs that present the greater danger.

Please walk, and hike, and run, and swim. Do it all. But be smart about it. If you walk alone, do it where people can see you — all of the time. If you walk in unfamiliar areas of cities, or back-country anywhere, hike with friends. There is safety in numbers. And always tell people where you are going and when you expect to return.

Yes, most people you will encounter are wonderful. But also recognize that the world includes sociopaths, just as that poor young woman in Georgia found out and lost her life just as it was beginning.

Read the full story: "Killer Tells How Victim Fought Him"

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