Driving on the highway I saw a woman my age walking alone on the road shoulder, an unusual sight. She was hiking. Before thinking anything else I thought, "There's an easy target."
Then I thought: That's what I look like.
I go on solo hikes all the time, and take daily walks on back roads and trails mostly, sometimes crossing highways. City walks were filled with fears about being jumped or followed or harassed. That's not special; that was life as an urban female. In a better part of the city we women wore sweatsuits and sneakers while on walks to indicate that we were exercising and not out on the streets to make money. I gladly moved to the country where walks were carefree and I could forget I was female.
But I had no idea until now what I looked like to others. I tried to think of the last female solo hiker I met on a trail. There are almost none. That's because women are afraid. They're told they should be. There are those horror stories broadcast on TV into our minds. Once when I was fishing in a remote area three hunters emerged from the woods with their firearms and I thought, they're probably harmless--but what if they're not? So now, so as not to be defenseless, I'm armed; now very consistently armed. I'm aware that this isn't a perfect solution. You might tell me to get a man or a pit bull or at least another woman companion. Why? I have the right to walk and hike free of fear. I sure do.