Wednesday, July 7

Urban Hiking

Okay it’s official! No one knows the difference between walking and hiking. I attended a workshop yesterday from two long-experienced hikers from a local mounteering club and it became clear that there was no distinctive, solid delineation between hiking and walking.

Don’t even bother looking on the Internet or in a Dictionary (you know, the big book that doesn’t have phone numbers it in). If you find something that looks authoritative, you’re wrong. If you have a gut feeling you know the difference… you don’t. Don’t worry, I can already tell. At BEST you are going to give your subjective personal interpretation and likely try and pull in something scientific like physical exertion rates or the gradients of the trail or path. You might think that walking is less strenuous but I have learned otherwise. Consider, this sage-like wisdom: you are only as fast as the slowest hiker. Of course, this is based on a essential arguments that you a) want to have a slowest hiker in your group and b) you want to wait for them and keep them in your group. I think the only answer to this is that, yes, OF COURSE you want a ‘slowest hiker’ in your party! It’s the only way the famished wild cat or black bear will spare you on account of YOU not being the slowest hiker of the bunch. But I digress.

Back to your feeble attempts to figure out the difference between hiking and walking. At best, all of your authoritative references are really only attempts. Yes, even for those of you with a great the up-the-side-of-a-mountain anecdote or trails with the word “hiking” in it examples. I am about to blow that all out of the water with two words: urban hiking. This is most certainly a taste of wonderful. Definitely. The premises here is that you can have all the joy and escapism of hiking with none of the costs or hassle. We all live somewhere and have to go somewhere else: so try Urban Hiking to get there. No it’s not the same as that low-culture, un-glamourous walking! I would never suggest that. This is Urban Hiking. You can discover and experience and marvel… at things you THOUGHT you saw everyday but have never really observed.
 unofficial Urban Hiking mecca: NYC

It bends your mind just a little bit and pushes you on into realms of wonderful when you move at a human pace and do so with the goal of noticing. It seems to me that if I negate everything I said up until this sentence about the non-existent definitions of walking and hiking that there is significant difference in the essence of the two activities. It is precisely our frame of mind while we are participating or anticipating them. Both walking and hiking let you move at this wonderful human-pace but only hiking instantly initiates (to the point of demanding) a heightened sense of observation and opportunities for marvelling.

Consider the last time you went on a “hike” and didn’t notice anything about the bends in the trail, how the tree roots intersected the path and whether or not there was a patch of mud or a creek blocking the path? Now try to remember the way the sidewalk looks or if there are benches or flowers between your home, say, and the grocery store. I’m not saying you can’t but there is most definitely a lack of detail or excitement, is there not? And if it’s not your walk from the market then maybe it’s some other trail. Think of all the stupid boring walks that could become treks on an average weekday! Don’t feel that you have to live in a metropolis to try Urban Hiking. You could also do Rural Hiking, Suburban Hiking or even Foreign Hiking like I alluded to earlier (for example the photo of Hikers below was taken while I was on Foreign Hike in Budapest, Hungary).

If there were rules about Urban Hiking I think there would be only two and it would be essential to follow both: 1) Observe your moments of awe and 2) No treadmills allowed. And a suggestion (but not a rule) on the pragmatic end of things (in light having both a chiropractor and massage therapist): consider your footwear options before and a light stretching routine after your Urban Hiking adventure.

Beyond that, it’s all fair game. Urban Hiking wouldn’t even need to be outdoors but I highly recommend it. Hike in your office from the board to staff meeting. Try or places in your neighbourhood, school or (dare I say it) shopping mall but do it with the same open and expectant mind that you would if you had just discovered a beautiful forest clearing in which to pitch your tent or have flown yourself to one of the Wonders of the World at great expense as if that currency was buying you wonder.

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