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Thursday, July 28, 2016
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How to Avoid Creepy Men While Hiking

How to Avoid Creepy Men While Hiking

During the early stages of the trail, you will encounter a variety of creepy men. There will be old, creepy men; creepy men your own age who want to land a trail girlfriend; men who are creepy because they try to touch your waist; and, my favorite, creepy men who hike behind you to check out your ass. Don’t worry though, most of the creeps disappear after the Smokies.

I met my favorite creep at the beginning of the trail in Georgia. I shall henceforth refer to him as “Creepy Guy”. I was hiking one day, when an old man kept trying to hike behind me, I think to check out my ass (Note: this is not Creepy Guy). The old man was trying to ask me weird questions like, “How old are you?” and “Are you hiking with those guys back there or are you by yourself?” I finally just had to be rude and tell him that he could pass me because I didn’t want to talk to him.

The group of guys behind me were all going to Hiawassee for the night, and I didn’t want to be stuck at the shelter alone with the old man, so I agreed to go with them when they offered. We went to town and I split a motel room with a few of the guys, which might seem like a bad call, but it’s normal for hikers to go in on motel rooms to save money. Plus, I hadn’t showered yet during my hike, and I smelled bad.

The following morning, I woke up to Creepy Guy stroking my back. I’m not entirely sure what I said, but I left the motel within about ten minutes. A nice lady at the grocery store offered to give me a ride to the trailhead, and I started hiking again. I told several groups of hikers about the strange experience. It seemed rather funny to me once I was back in the woods. After all, I assumed Creepy Guy wouldn’t make it very long on the trail, and I wouldn’t run into him again.

Ironically, I ran into Creepy Guy on and off throughout my entire hike. The last place I saw him was halfway through Maine. Everyone seemed to know the story of our first encounter, and he tried to be polite to me whenever he saw me, although he did make backhanded comments occasionally. The situation became awkwardly amusing for both of us, and we attempted to get along. I think he sort of felt bad, or maybe just embarrassed, that he had stroked my back while I was sleeping. Even more ironically, last I heard, Creepy Guy and I are both planning Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikes for the same year, so the saga is not over.

Judging by my story, I probably don’t seem like a person who has any authority to tell women how to avoid creeps. However, there were countless creeps who I managed to get rid of in no time.

Without further ado, here are my tips for…

How to Avoid Creepy Men While Hiking the Appalachian Trail

1. Don’t be nice to men who make you uncomfortable.

This may seem obvious, but for some reason, we women are instinctually nice to everyone. Like, if a man makes an awkward comment or tries to ask us if we have a boyfriend, we smile and nervously laugh. We might think that our body language is conveying how uncomfortable we are, but in his mind, he thinks, “She’s laughing. She must be interested in me!”

 2. Work on saying “no” and using your bitch face.

Being somewhat polite to pushy dudes in the real world might be a good tactic to avoid awkwardness. After all, you can just go home and never see him again. On the trail, however, being polite to a pushy dude might be seen as an invitation to tagalong with you for multiple days. If a guy makes you uncomfortable and you have no urge to be around him, just suck it up and tell him that you don’t want to hike with him. Two minutes of awkwardness could save you days of annoying company.

 3. Beware of men who offer you Honey Buns.

A hiker offering you a Honey Bun (or any other tasty treat) is the trail equivalent of a guy in bar offering to buy you a drink. He doesn’t really want to part with his Honey Bun, but he thinks that he is courting you in some way. You think, “Yay, a Honey Bun!” He thinks, “She clearly likes me, otherwise she would have turned down the Honey Bun.” I once accepted half of a Honey Bun from a hiker at a shelter, and he thought that it was OK to touch my arm and sit way too close to me afterwards.

 4. Be opinionated, independent, and wear whatever you want.

Someone once told me that maybe I would meet less creeps if I didn’t wear yoga pants while hiking. That person needs to shut-up. I should be allowed to wear whatever I want without creepy men thinking that I’m dressing to attract their attention. Sadly, when your butt is covered in spandex, creeps see it as an invitation to stare.

Counteract your yoga pants by showing people how outspoken and smart you are. Opinionated and independent women are the enemy of creepy men. They will probably leave you alone once they see that you are not an easy target. When warding off creeps, it’s also helpful to throw in a comment like, “I’m really curious to see how powerful my pepper spray is!”

5. Don’t worry too much. Most trail men are nice.

This post might sound like a dire warning, but don’t worry. I only ever met about ten creepy men during my thru-hike, and I never felt like my safety was being threatened. For every creepy man you meet, you’re going to meet thirty nice trail men. Hiker guys are rather chivalrous, and they tend to look out for the girls on the trail.

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My name is Megan (a.k.a. Hashbrown) Maxwell, and I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012. I graduated from the Ohio State University in 2011 and have been trying to use my English degree ever since. My dearest ambition is to become a writer and editor, but I also like to snowboard, bake cupcakes, and try to blend in with the Coloradoans. You can check out my how-to hiking blog for women at Appalachian Trail Girl.

12 comments

  1. You had an old man following you and asking you questions like “are you hiking alone” but the guy you label “creepy guy” is the one who made a pass at you after you probably shared a motel room with him (shocker! lol) and then was awkward towards you afterwards. This is why women go missing while hiking…My advice, stop wearing yoga pants and complaining about guys staring at your ass while you hike in front of them. Sure you can wear whatever you want and that’s your right, but if I walk around with spandex pants on showing off my dong print I’m not going to be surprised and upset when I catch some girl looking at my crotch. Use common sense. Also, don’t act flabbergasted when a guy makes a pass at you after you share a motel room with him. No, we do not live in some futuristic societal structure where men have attained zen-like mastery over their natural urges. If you share a motel room with a guy chances are he is at some point throughout the night/morning going to make a pass at you. Again, common sense. You seem to have a very inconsiderate and self-centered logic. Which is probably why you are hiking alone to begin with. My advice to avoid creepy guys on the trail, DON’T EVER HIKE ALONE.

    • You, sir, ARE the creepy man type she’s talking about.

    • dude, you’re a douche. we, in fact, live in a society where it is a social expectation and requirement by law that we men control our natural urges. to not do so and make a pass at a woman simply because you’re in close proximity, without reciprocation, is fundamentally harassment and is a step away from rape. the fact that you are blaming Ms. Maxwell for this occurrence (btw, she justifies this decision in her article, which does not seem to indicate any form of flawed logic) says to anyone who is grounded in today’s social issues that you are way farther down the problematic spectrum than you might think. It is unfortunate that reality includes guys that do not adhere to these principles, but it is also a problem when male mentalities revolve around expressing condemnation of harassment while simultaneously victim-blaming. THAT is inconsiderate logic.

      • Women who hike alone are inviting problems., especially those who dress provocatively and flaunt their body’s “more obvious” feminine features. Yes, it is expected that men control their “urges” but women who dress “less than modest” and hike alone fail to realize (1) that men are hard wired to be aroused by the stuff they see and more importantly, (2) many of these “creepy men” she’s referring to are probably hiking those lonely trails because they are A) societal rejects that failed to “control those urges” you mentioned in the first place and cannot or will not conform to society’s rules of good conduct or its’ laws, and B) your standard, everyday, run-of-the-mill “creepy guy” in fact, may NOT be the standard… It might just be the one looking for a female that thinks that “she” is in control and can handle any situation that arises by having a “big girl” attitude who ventures out alone… The bottom line is this: if you are a girl, DONT HIKE ALONE! There’s a lot more out on those long trails than “creepy guys”., there are those who will do you HARM, and with your attitude, one day, you may just find one of those kinds. They are out there and the reason you don’t hear much about them is because they are very good at covering the evidence and hiding the bodies. Always, always, ALWAYS hike with a friend!

        • Good grief, what century are you living in? Women can, should, will, and DO hike alone all the time. We are equal, independent human beings, just like men. And some of us are taller and stronger than some men, so should THEY be worried about OUR urges? Oops, did I just display the wrong “attitude”?

          “Men of quality are not threatened by women of equality.” ~Thomas Jefferson

          “Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.” ~Bella Abzug

        • Dude,

          Trying to use logic with these feminist types that choose to disown there sexual aggression on the world and spout off about, wearing whatever they want is pointless. Plus, you can always count on their beta men counterparts to sweep in and support their flawed ideology.

          Trying to have that discussion with people like this is like trying to argue drug policy with drug users, pointless.

    • Actually, you have inconsiderate and self-centerd logic. It’s choice to look at a girl. It’s your choice to room with her only because you mean to use her. It’s your choice to blame her, like some rapist would, for what happens. It’s true that she should be less concerned about looking attractive if her goal to avoid bad situations. But for a girl to have to start with that, is a sad thing, and not something we should use to start our campaign to end such creepy events. But, as a word of advice to girls: if you want a guy who’s avoiding the temptation to smoke, don’t dress like a cigarett. It’s about your soul, and an attractive face isn’t bad at all. But sexy… well, you get the point. (Middle ground, boys and girls. Middle ground)

  2. Great article! I agree sometimes women feel compelled to be nice to everyone. Why is that? I was in a scenario where a person was being very flirty and I wasn’t responding at all to the flirting but being sort of “dismissively nice”, and after awhile it just seemed plain rude that they were still there trying to flirt. It was obvious I wasn’t interested and it was making me uncomfortable. Why am I tolerating this? I said nothing and just started physically moving away from him as he was in mid-sentence, then turned my back to him and began walking. It worked! Now that is my approach of choice. If anyone is creepy I just physically remove myself without saying a word. The only response I’ve gotten from this is a slack jawed stare. Never any retaliation or comments yelled after me. Not sure how this would work on a thru-hike, but I sure do like it in other scenarios.

  3. Out alone in the woods by yourself isn’t a good idea no matter if you’re male or female. Besides “creepy men,” there are things like bears, storms, and things that you can trip over or fall off of. No matter the potential hazard, safety increases with numbers. Sometimes, having other people there can keep you from doing dumb things like, for example, deciding to hike in the woods alone. Let’s face it, some really odd people are attracted to placed like the AT, because they just don’t fit in well with normal society and might not be entirely mentally stable. Would you walk down the street in the hood flashing hundred dollar bills? No, because it’s asking for trouble. There are plenty of people out there who don’t give a you-know-what about your rights and will exploit that if given the chance. We call those people criminals or psychopaths. While it’s their responsibility to act a certain way, it’s also your responsibility to protect yourself.

  4. How do you simply avoid all people while hiking? Really? I love nature and being alone, so I go hiking to get away from everyone but am always disappointed to see or go past people. I want to be alone and also, am a young girl so I also don’t want to be near anyone becuase they may kidnap me or something. Is the only option going off trail (with my legal handgun and tazer incase of dangerous animals)?

  5. Wow so many varied and some crazy opinions here. As a guy i want to say its actually hard sometimes not to look at spandex butt, especially when you’ve been out in the woods for a month. Not that that makes it ok and i feel guilty if i catch myself doing it and try not to in the first place. But anyways, women should be able to hike alone and i’ve seen plenty by themselves on my hike so far. And i in fact try pretty hard to make girls feel comfortable by giving them space (like sitting several feet away when sharing a view) and being somewhat aware of what i say, after all when you’re hiking in the woods few things are more frightening than an uncomfortable situation with another person you dont really know. In the end people just need to try to be considerate, and most are. I can count on one hand the number of people i’ve met hiking that i didnt like or made me uncomfortable, and out of probably a few hundred, i think thats a pretty decent statistic

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