My wife calls me a hiking snob. It’s not because of the gear I use (none), the clothes I wear (don’t get me wrong, I don’t hike naked, but I don’t look like I just walked out of the L.L. Bean catalog either!), or any other such thing. I’ve earned this title simply because of the (sometimes vague) criteria I use to consider a hike a hike. Walking is not hiking. Hiking is not walking. Hiking entails getting your shoes dirty, usually on dirt–not a paved or blacktopped path. Hiking involves shoes made for hiking. Hiking involves breaking a sweat and hopefully includes elevation changes. Hiking consists of a pace that would never be considered meandering or strolling. And possibly the most important aspect to hiking is the setting…deep in the woods, high on a mountain, around a lake, next to a stream–you get the idea. Urban hiking is a misnomer–there is no such thing. “Hiking” to the Starbucks in flip-flops with no pack or water bottle isn’t hiking!
Whether or not she believes it, I don’t really have many other hard and fast rules as to what actually constitutes a hike, but if you are on a real hike, you’ll know it! Now see, this is where my wife sometimes gets confused–walking around the lake or next to the stream is not necessarily hiking. The setting, while important, doesn’t overshadow the other necessary criteria. I enjoy sauntering along the mountain meadows, but no sweat, no hike. I like ambling up the paved path to see whatever sight is at the end, but no dirt, no hike. How can this be confusing? It’s as clear as the mud you should be cleaning off your calves once you’re finished with an actual hike.
Wherever the communication gap lies, I’m sure it’s not with me; but just to be sure, I think I’ll take a hike…or at least a long brisk walk out of arms reach!