She Confesses: Why I Hate Hiking
You guys. I hate hiking. Seriously. I don’t like it at all.
Now, before you kick me out of the outdoor’s club and unfollow our Instagram, hear me out. “Hiking” for me is a relatively new concept. I never once remember as a child going hiking or having that word be part of my vocabulary. When I got older and friends would talk about going hiking, I’d immediately nope out of that situation and find something more appealing to do. Even now, despite going on many excursions that are considered “hikes” on a regular basis, I still get that gut sinking feeling whenever I hear that word. I decided to do some self-reflection about why hiking gives me such a visceral reaction and, in one of those rare instances of cosmic timing, I came across this excerpt from John Muir:
“I don't like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not 'hike!' Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, 'A la sainte terre', 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.”
– John Muir
This spoke to me on a soul-altering level (as John Muir is wont to do). Besides the giddiness I felt at learning the beautiful etymology of the word “saunter” (nerd alert!), I felt like this perfectly represented my reservations about hiking. “Hiking”, to me, is about the destination when my preference for my time spent outdoors is to focus on the journey. In fact, it’s one of the few instances in my life where I, without effort, focus on the journey and not the destination. And, honestly, that’s the way it’s always been. As a child, I don’t remember hiking. I DO remember playing Ghost in the Graveyard in the woods with my friends. Or walking from my grandparents’ house to the nearby lake to maybe fish for perch or maybe just look for the giant turtle that lived nearby. Or wandering through my great uncle’s acres-huge farm to look for vegetables to pick. I loved just being in the elements, no timeline, no destination. And, that’s still how I prefer it.
I’ve realized I “hike” much like I travel. I don’t like sticking to a schedule. If we get there, we get there, but if we find something else along the way, I’m happy to let my surroundings be my guide. So, I’m not necessarily intending to get to the highest peak to catch the view. I’m more interested in moseying my way along and focusing on the view in front of me. I once drove to a hiking trail, walked about a quarter of a mile to the first lookout point, spent an hour there, then turned around and drove home. And, I don’t feel like I got any less out of that experience.
I LOVE how hiking has become trendy and has inspired these wonderful communities for people to connect. And, one of the best things about it? It truly is an activity that you can make your own. You can use it for exercise, to find the best views, to connect with nature, and even connect with yourself. For me, it’s a quiet activity. It’s my time to just be. No expectations. No failures. I’ll go when I feel called to go and I’ll move at my own pace. Saunter, if you will.
Yours in adventure,