What is hiking?
Trend? Activity? Passion? Hobby? Lifestyle? Diversion? Recreation? Necessity?
I was listening to a podcast on hiking called The First 40 Miles. They were discussing how to classify hiking in your life. As I reflected on their conversation, I began asking how hiking is classified to me. Something I’m learning in life is it is very difficult to classify anything in one genre. What I mean by that is many things in life are both/and rather than either/or. For me, hiking is a both/and. It falls into a variety of categories and hardly fits fully in one. When I began hiking, it was a mere hobby. To walk in the woods, to see and see what there is to see. It was to get out and recharge my battery where living in the middle of the city was sucking every vital percent of energy that I needed. It was my alone time. It was my peace and quiet. It was my solitude. It was my chance to get closer to God by experiencing his creation in a raw way.
So can we classify hiking. Can we describe with one adjective? Can we give it one label? I don’t think so. Here are some of my thoughts on classifications for hiking that was brought up in the podcast.
Is it a trend? Not with me it isn’t. But what I have noticed is that I never saw anything related to hiking or backpacking until I started doing it. I thought I was the only one. Then as soon as I began sharing my escapades on Facebook and Twitter I started seeing everyone else doing it. I began seeing almost every faith meme with a mountainous scene and a backpacker in the background. All my friends started sharing their hiking trips. I told my wife that I thought I was starting a trend. She humored me. A good friend of mine said I was starting nothing. He called it Frequency Illusion. In other words, I didn’t see it till I started doing it. Then I began seeing it more. I don’t think it is a trend.
Is it a lifestyle? I don’t think so. My life doesn’t revolve around hiking. I don’t make a living from hiking. I don’t even get paid to hike. I actually normally pay to hike. I buy food, gear, and fees. I may think about it constantly. I may study maps every chance I get. I may stay on AllTrails.com too much and read the forums at Whiteblaze.com, hammockforums.net, and trailjournals.com. I may watch Syntax77 and Shug Emery (The ole shug in the third person) religiously. I probably wear beige convertible pants and synthetics a little too much but hiking is not a lifestyle. Ok, maybe it is a little.
Is it an activity? Of course! If it involves moving around, breaking a sweat and planning, I would say it is an activity. My knees hurt when I hike. My back hurts when I carry my pack too long. My back hurts when I have to sleep on the ground. My feet hurt with too much mileage. My head hurts from the straining walk. But camping is joy. I’m contemplative by the fire. I’m restful in my hammock. I’m laughing with my friends. I’m thankful filtering water. I’m content after filling my belly with rehydrated food. I’m creative when using my knife to carve. Hiking is very active.
Is it a diversion? It can be. It definitely is a diversion from work. When I’m in the woods, the last thing I think about is my occupational responsibilities. It’s a diversion from my pain in life. It helps me escape my problems momentarily. When I’m in the woods, I have new problems that I enjoy, like how far to walk, where to set camp, where to filter water, getting my chores done before sundown. What really matters are my immediate needs and not my life’s troubles where worrying helps none.
Is it recreation? Of course.
Hiking is fun. Scratch that… Camping is fun, hiking is work. But hiking can be fun too when you’re walking through the woods and see the many things that God has created and man has left behind. I’ve seen some interesting things, like old cars, trains, farm equipment, house foundations, barns, structures of many types. Hiking can sometimes feel like work but can’t most recreations? Fishing takes work. Hunting takes work. Playing ball takes work. Recreations of all types have an element of work. But recreation is fun because it is work we enjoy. It is attributed to Confucius as having once said do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I love backpacking so it is not considered work to me, just a labor of love.
Is it a passion? Without a doubt. I’m passionate for hiking. I think about it all the time. I read about it all the time. I study about it all the time. I give a lot of time and effort to hiking. If I could analyze my personal battery life, I’d say hiking takes up a major percentage. It is just something I can not get enough of. I remember the first long trail I finished. When I sat in my car, all I could think about was getting back out and heading back to the trailhead and doing it again. It felt wrong to be driving. I needed to be walking. It felt wrong to be in my house. I needed to be hanging my hammock. It felt wrong to be cooking on the stove. I needed my cookpot and a campfire. Everything about not being in the woods was wrong. I’m passionately passionate.
So, can it be classified in one category. I think not. Hiking truly is a culmination of many things. Thats why I believe it is so illustrious. It draws you and keeps a part of you. It gives you something in hopes that it may draw you back. It will make you work for the pleasure but the joy will come effortless. It may be simply putting one foot in front of the other but ultimately it is deeper than that. So deep that it can not be summarized. It must be experienced to fully appreciate its complexities.