Colin Fletcher

Many experienced outdoorsmen – and all responsible hiking organizers – contend that the greatest danger in wilderness travel is one that permeates this book:

Walking alone.

They may have something too. But once you have discovered solitude – the gigantic, enveloping, including, renewing solitude of wild and silent places – and have learned to put it to creative use, you are likely to accept without a second thought such small additional dangers as the solitude imposes.  Naturally, you are careful.  You make darned sure that someone knows where you are, and when you will be “out”.  You leave broad margins of safety in everything you do: hurrying (or not hurrying) over rough country to make up time; crossing (or not crossing) the creek on that narrow log; inching past (or not inching past) that perilously perched boulder.  And when it comes to the all-important matter of luck, you keep firmly in mind the Persian proverb I have already quoted ‘Fortune is infatuated with the efficient’.

But if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone.  Don’t take short hikes alone either – or, for that matter, go anywhere alone.  And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs.  Wear wool next to the skin.  Insure every good and chattel you possess against every conceivable contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half-cripple the present. Never cross and intersection against a red light, even when you see that all roads are clear for miles.  And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs.  But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.”

Colin Fletcher, “The Complete Walker”, page 310, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., November 22, 1968

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