Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why Do People Hike?

"Most people never in all their lives sleep under the open sky, and never realize what they are missing."

~Earl Shaffer, Walking With Spring, 1981.

Ask any hiker this question and you'll come up with answers like: for the excercise, health reasons, love of the outdoors, physical challenge, a way of escape and countless others. I suppose there are as many reasons to hike as there are trails to hike. For me, one reason at least, is that it takes me out of my routine of daily, accepted existence.

Most of us work a job, have families, pay bills and live a normal, common life. We all have people & things to worry about, job or financial stresses, deadlines to meet, expectations attached to us. Hiking is a great way to either leave those cares aside for a short while, or even think more deeply about them. In one sense, going off to hike somewhere is getting away from it all; in another, it helps give us a clearer view of everything, helping us make better sense of it all. It breaks things down in a way that only being out in nature can do.

How does it do this? Technically, I can't say. Maybe it's the natural movement of walking to a determined destination, or just the physical act of walking itself. Maybe having a pack strapped to your back, containing all you'll need for a day or two, or even just a couple hours, simplifies the act of living. No need for phones, cars, computers or tv. No needs except for the water you drink and the food you eat. It doesn't get much simpler than that, I suppose.

People have asked me, "Don't you get bored just walking, climbing hills & mountains & stuff?" Nope. There's too much stuff that runs through my mind when I'm hiking; I'm always thinking. It's amazing the old memories that surface while pushing up a steep grade or taking in a panoramic view from a mountaintop. People & places come to mind, those buried for years beneath the everyday hustle & bustle of 21st century life.

Books are written while hiking, inventions designed & ideals formed. Hiking is a way to get out and live, "to take time rather than being taken by time." It's pure & strong, and helps make us so. Besides, there's always something new to see.

~The Pilgrim.