Beginner Backpacker
Beginner Backpacker

Endless Horizons

by Zach Doehler 2 months ago in solo travel

The story of a solo hike up in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but the endless horizons and my camera.

Endless Horizons

It was late-September of 2019, I had this desire to do an overnight hike at a location I had only since dreamt of visiting. It was a place that continued to avoid me, due to poor weather and inconsistent planning on my part. I knew of many people who had made the trek up this mountain out in the middle of nowhere. It was a place I had only ever experienced through the screen of my cellular device, as I looked upon the images of photographers who had been to it. I wanted to go, so very badly. But the weather was always poor on the weekends, and that was the only time that my fellow hiking friends could take the time off from work to go hiking. Therefore, the only option was for me to go hiking alone in the middle of the week.

The thought of hiking solo both excited me and frightened me. The solitude and the fact I could set my own pace for once, not having to wait or worry about others; was amazing. But I couldn't help but think of all the Missing 411 stories I had heard about in the past. "Is it really so smart to go up in the mountains and hike on my own? With no cell service or friends to help protect me from the dangers of the mountains?" I wondered to myself. But the reward outweighed the risk. I knew the views would be awe-inspiring. And even if I would have a hard time sleeping that night, just having the opportunity to be in such a raw and wild location for 24 hours; would be a special experience for me.

So, one Thursday morning I packed up all of my gear and hopped in my little 2wd hatchback vehicle. I headed straight for the mountains. I told a couple family members and friends where I was going, and then I said goodbye to civilization and the internet as I knew it. It was just me and nature now. I arrived at the treacherous logging road that would go up the mountain, up to the trail head. A road that everyone on the online hiking forums said: "Do not attempt without 4wd. You will not make it." "It can't be so bad", I figured. I was in a car that I hardly cared about. The road was dry. Worst case scenario, I'd be adding an extra 20km round-trip of hiking to my itinerary.

I approached many hills, some treacherous, some not-so-much. I came across one that was so steep, I figured there was no way I could possibly make it to the top. But I went for it. I pushed every bit of horsepower out of that little 2L 4 cylinder, and I made it; just barely. After that, I finally arrived at the last hill, only about 2km from the trail head. I tried and I tried, but the hill was too steep and too loose for my little car to make it. So I parked off to the side, strapped on my gear, and began ascending to the trail head. The skies were sunny, the birds were chirping, my adrenaline was pumping, but I still could not shake the thought of mountain lions staring at me from the depths of the woods. At times, I would put a firm grip on my bear spray, just in case I would need to fend myself from a sudden attack. But, throughout the hike on that logging road and throughout the hike up that nasty single trail to the peak, nothing attempted to defeat me other than the mountain itself.

My pace was excellent, I was powering up this mountain faster than I ever had on any group hike. But the grade was killer. And having 40lbs on your back doesn't really make things easier. There were times that I required a break so as not to pass out. Though it was intense, it didn't take long before I popped out of the Alpine and could see the peak above me. I was close. Close to camp. Close to those views I had dreamt about seeing for so long. Close to victory.

Soon after, I had arrived. It was mid-afternoon and I had plenty of time to kill before sunset. I setup my tent, had a snack, and took a nap. Then I packed my day pack and made the final trek up to the peak. I could hardly believe the views around me. Endless mountain layers. The beautiful sight of the Coastal Mountain range on the mainland to my left. And the open and wild Pacific Ocean to my right. It was as if I was in a movie. I took the time to really soak it all in before heading down to camp for dinner.

After dinner, I went back up again for sunset. The conditions were stunning, and everywhere you looked, there was a picture waiting to be taken. Gradually, the sun faded away and the moon came out. The landscape was lit up with these bright white glow. But I couldn't help but feel slightly fearful of the eeriness. That night spent up there all alone, was nothing short of uncomfortable. I couldn't wait for morning to arrive, though it seemed like forever with the constant waking up and falling asleep that I did throughout the night.

Morning finally arrived, I woke up early to shoot sunrise. It was gorgeous. I watched as the alpenglow lit up the mountains around me in a beautiful pink color. And after breakfast, I went back to the peak once more to enjoy the views around me in that golden morning light. That was when I captured this image. What appeared to be a landscape of endless mountain layers below me. It was stunning. I shot hundreds of images that morning, but I took many moments to appreciate with my own eyes what was before me. It was during that moment, I knew, this would not be my last solo hike. There may have been the lows of the trip, but the highs are what truly made it worth while.

The risk did not outweigh the reward. In fact, it was hardly a consideration in the end.

solo travel
Zach Doehler
Zach Doehler
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Zach Doehler

Hi! My name is Zach and I am a landscape and nature photographer from British Columbia, Canada. I look forward to sharing with you the behind-the-scenes of some of my adventures!

Website: calibreus.co

Instagram: @calibreus

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