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March 2013 Issue
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Editor’s letter, March 2013

Most people have gone into the bush on their own. It may have been for a short stroll or a lengthy multi-day trip, but there would be few who have not experienced a little alone time with nature.

I do it often, though my preference is to go with friends particularly on longer journeys. I didn’t always feel this way. When I was in my twenties I spent perhaps the best month of my tramping life in Alaska on my own. I did similar trips in Sweden, hiking solo in the mountains bordering Norway for two weeks and in one disastrous trip I spent a week in the Spanish mountains where I became hopelessly lost. I’ve bored readers with that tale before so won’t repeat it again. But looking back, that trip to Spain was the beginning of the end of my multiday solo journeys. It’s not that I lost confidence in my abilities, though they were sorely lacking, but on subsequent long journeys I felt a loneliness I hadn’t experienced before and the enjoyment of being there wasn’t the same. I guess a psychologist could help me understand why, but I put it down to the fact I had a close call which made me cherish companionship more. Or perhaps I just got scared witless.

Now I tend to keep my solo trips to day trips and for anything longer I find someone to join me.

Interestingly, in our story on solo tramping we found loads of people who relish the opportunity to get outdoors for long periods of time on their own. Our own research shows around 13 per cent of Wilderness readers go tramping on their own more often than they go with other people. That’s a considerable number of people. So why do they do it?

For most, it’s about clearing their mind, getting away from the daily grind and busyness of life – similar motivations I’m sure for those who go tramping in groups.

They are the reasons I like to go on day walks – with or without friends. But for those longer weekend trips, give me a mate. One keen soloer interviewed for our story , Mark Mellsop-Mellsen, says “solitude for many people is a form of suffering”. I have to agree.

I went on a tramp with Labour MP Phil Twyford in January. Twyford was raising awareness for kauri dieback. It’s great to see a politician walk the walk and take this issue seriously. It’s crucial the government increases funding into this kauri killer, but equally its vital track users take the time to scrub and spray their shoes at the trigene stations found in places like the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, where several tracks have been closed to prevent the spread of the disease.

I did a follow-up walk in the park with my wife and encountered three trigene stations which we stopped at to clean and spray our shoes. At two of those stations other walkers just carried on through, oblivious of the consequences. It was so disappointing – they could easily be carrying the spores of a pathogen that kill centuries-old trees in the soles of their shoes. There is no time or place for complacency, lest we want to see more tracks in our parks closed.