“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
Anyone can hike. Go to the woods, put one foot in front of the other and you’ve pretty much got it. Right? Not so fast. Being a hiker, a true believer in the healing power of the woods is a mindset that can only be developed by spending countless hours on the trails and climbing hills that would kill any other mere mortal.
Many people say, “I like to hike.” Ok. But do you have what it takes to become a true “hiker?” Hiking, like any other sport, hobby or activity, has a vocabulary unique to its participants. Can you speak the language of the seasoned hiker? If you encountered a fellow hiker in the woods, would you be confident that you could make yourself understood? This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
As you are preparing for your next hike, pick up the shirt that you want to wear. What does it smell like? Imagine for the sake of argument that the odor emanating from the shirt is nothing short of horrific. What do you do? In my case, I would put it on and head out the door. But would you? What you smell like is just another form of identification for other hikers. It’s almost like dogs sniffing each other’s butts. That’s how we know who is the real deal and who is just playing the part for the day. Trust me, you can smell them a mile away.
What did you put in your pack to eat? Now, of course, this all depends on how long your hike is going to be, but hikers definitely have some do’s and don’ts when comes to being a true hiker. Trying to stuff a picnic basket into your daypack isn’t going to work and neither is bringing stuff to grill. You gotta keep it simple. If I know that I am going to be out for a full day and I am going to be covering 8-10 miles with some elevation, I’ll get a sandwich from the local deli plus some granola or protein bars to stave off the hunger pangs to keep me going.
Now if I know I’m only going to be out for a short hike of maybe 3-5 miles, I’ll bring granola bars, protein bars and other assorted garbage to keep my legs moving throughout the day. The good thing about logging the miles is that although you might eat a load of crap, you will still burn a great deal of it off during your hike. And of course, don’t forget the GORP!!
You may be asking yourself, “He’s talked about the language, clothes, and food, what about liquids?” Even though it is relatively obvious, water is the most important liquid to have on a hike. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I now go overboard with the amount of water that I carry. Even if I am going out into the woods (for what I consider a short hike) of between 3-6 miles, I’ll figure out the amount that I need to drink and double it. And now that they have Gatorade Zero, which has no sugar and I’ll take a few of those as a way to replenish my electrolytes.
At times, however, any good hiker might develop a thirst for a nice cold adult beverage. Especially if the hike you are on isn’t too strenuous and you have a nice view where you can sit for a while and contemplate life’s mysteries. Of course, the idea here is not to overdo it, because chances are you will have to drive home and you also don’t want to be a stupified slobbering mess walking down the trail.
Now please, I hope that in reading this you haven’t taken me too seriously. Hikers come in all ages, shapes and sizes and have their own rituals when it comes to preparing for a hike. I too, have my own rituals.
That is the glorious thing about hiking and adopting the lifestyle of a hiker. Being able to enjoy the outdoors doesn’t come in just one fashion or form. In my humble opinion, I believe that as long as you are out in the woods doing what you need to do, then you are ahead of the game.