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Solo in the Sierras

23 Aug Posted by in • Guest Writers | 7 comments
Solo in the Sierras

The only sounds I hear are the crunching of my boot soles as they connect with the granite on the trail, the steady thumping of my heart, and the exhale of my labored breath. Once I settle into the rhythm of climbing up over 11,760 foot Kearsarge Pass other sounds filter into my awareness. A cacophony of distant waterfalls, the music of chirping birds, the flapping wings of a hawk, and the slow musical drip, drip, drip of snow melting and running down the side of the trail.

For the past six years I have spent seven weeks car camping, backpacking, day hiking, and kayaking in the Eastern Sierra, the majority of the time solo. Friends, family and people I meet along the way ask a variety of questions centering on the theme of fear and loneliness. At the end of the conversation most remark on the courage it must take for a middle aged woman to be alone in the wilderness. Many want to join me for a few days or a week. Over the years friends have hiked, camped, and kayaked with me on part of my adventure. I am a great camp host and we have a wonderful time filled with high adventure and deep belly laughs. After a few days though, I am ready to be alone again, where my biggest decision of the day is deciding which trail to explore.

Alone in my tent at night I hear the constant melody of the creek I’m camped next to. It seems to be calling my name. Or, is someone or someTHING out there. I hear the crunch of twigs. A shadow passes over my tent. I pull my sleeping bag tightly around my shoulders, hold my breath and wait for what I’m certain is imminent attack. When nothing happens I realize the shadow is in fact the moonlight reflecting off a nearby tree. YES. Sometimes I get scared and usually when I do it is my imagination taking me for a wild ride.

There are two types of car camping I do; small remote campgrounds at high elevations or dispersed camping. My Subaru Forester and I love to explore dirt roads in search of the perfect camping site. We bump down a dirt road leaving a dust trail like an atom bomb. Curiosity has taken me over many potholes and around corners that reveal meadows full of wildflowers, roaring waterfalls and pristine isolated camping spots.

From my base camp I hike and explore, think and wonder. I allow the fresh air and the sun to wash over me creating both a cocoon of comfort and a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of the universe. I spend hours watching and listening to nature and the wonders that it produces. I hear the sharp cries of hungry baby birds and locate their house in a hollow tree snag. I discover that the birds are baby woodpeckers waiting patiently albeit nosily for their mother to feed them. For the next hour I watch the mother continually leave the hollow, search for food, and return to feed her babies. In the evening as I light the fire and prepare my own dinner I am grateful for the contentment in simple pleasures.

When I tire of car camping I either find a lake and drop my kayak into the clear blue waters or pack my backpack and head into the backcountry for a few days. Floating in the middle of an alpine lake in my kayak I feel suspended above time. Again I’m in awe of the simple pleasures; the way the water ripples when my paddle touches the surface, the sun dancing where the water and the shore connect, the light changing ever so slowly across the granite rocks. I watch this amazing symphony of nature every day for hours and hours and never tire of its rhythm. I paddle around the lake exploring coves and when I find a suitable spot, I stop and camp for a night or two. Solo in the Sierra is a way of reconnecting with the inner most workings of my soul. It has become a yearly ritual that every fiber in my being begins to crave by mid-April. It is an awakening and a coming home to myself.

Bren Fraser has been camping and exploring wild places since she was in her mother’s womb. Bren is a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with teenagers and those who love them. Bren combines the therapy process with the healing power of nature, her love for the outdoors and her passion for witnessing and honoring growth in others.

Visit her website at

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  • Lauren Casapulla says:

    Bren, sounds fantastic – makes me happy to hear a snippet of your adventures.

  • Eleanor Palacios says:

    Way to go Bren! You actually took me there. I could hear and feel everything. I’m so glad I am going to the Sierras tomorrow. The Battleaxe

  • Cat Burke says:

    Excellent job, Brenner. The section about the kayaking had me right there in mine. Hi ho, Zippy, away!

  • Lisa Garrard says:

    Very nice article, Bren! Glad I met you on one of your outings this year!

  • Jen says:

    Beautiful in every way! A great spin on the difference between loneliness and solitude, fear and exploration. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Cathy Stettler says:

    Great Article My Friend! Great timing as I set out for my adventure in Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons!!

  • Cedar Moss says:

    Yummm sounds delicious!