I think I was born into the wrong family.
Athleticism seems to come easy for most of them. I have a sister who can whip any girl around in softball (and some of the guys too), and brothers who seem to shine at any sport they try. I also have brothers who lived hours away from the nearest road, and who climbed up and down the steep mountainsides faster than the people who grew up in that village. Even my mom likes to hike. The competitive streak runs strong in some of my family.
And then there’s me.
You’ve heard of Type A versus Type B personalities, right? The people who are Type A are the driven ones, the ones that are ambitious and proactive and competitive, and Type B are more relaxed. Well, on that scale, let’s call me a Type V or W. After all, I was born on National Relaxation Day. (Except I daresay it wasn’t National Relaxation Day for my mother.)
Hiking and I have had a very rocky relationship for many years, comprised of ups and downs, twists and turns. Given the family and friends I inherited, and the fact that I lived in a remote-ish area of Honduras for years, I’ve done my fair share of it. And in my experience, there are only two scenarios that can happen when a non-hiker hikes with a group of LET’S-GO-TO-THE-TOP-OF-THE-MOUNTAIN-AS-FAST-AS-WE-POSSIBLY-CAN people.
One. The hikers try to slow down for the non-hiker, stopping every now and then to let her catch up. Of course, as soon as the non-hiker catches up, the hike must continue, so there’s no break. The non-hiker can feel the bottled up energy emitting in waves from the frustrated (although they’re trying to be nice) hikers. Conclusion: humiliating.
Two. The hikers decide to let the non-hiker come at their own pace and go on ahead. They say, “We’ll just run up to the campsite and set up the tents and start the fire and cook dinner and build a small civilization while you catch up. No pressure.” Hours later you crawl into the camp on your shaky legs, and they’re there, just as chipper and energetic as can be, having run several additional miles on up the trail just for the fun of it. Conclusion: humiliating.
So with those conclusions in mind, I declared that I hate hiking. I love walking, but I simply didn’t see the fun of plowing up the side of a mountain AS-FAST-AS-I-POSSIBLY-COULD while my legs shook and my lungs gasped for air and I turned beet red. And that’s mostly what hiking seemed to be.
But not long ago, the subject came up again, so I turned to my trusty Merriam Webster app to find out what “Hiking” actually means. You ready? It simply means, “To walk a long distance especially for pleasure or exercise.” Wait, what?? You mean it doesn’t automatically include mountainsides and max-speed and shaky legs? Mind = blown. You don’t have to be a Type A lightning-hiker-of-vertical-cliffs to qualify! If you want to stop at every overlook to admire the view, and even if you want to stick to walking city streets, you can still be a hiker. Shocking.
So I have decided that according to that definition, I like hiking. I love long walks for pleasure, and exploring by foot. I even grudgingly like walks as exercise. I was tickled pink to find I had walked about 24 miles in my two-day jaunt in NYC. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never turn into a Type A personality, not in hiking ambition or anything else, but my rocky relationship with hiking has at last reached its peak, and will hopefully just be a pleasurable stroll from here on out.
To be sure, there are still times when circumstances (or my pride) coerce me into joining a hike with HIKERS. But here’s a tip I learned recently. Go with a small child, then you’ll be the one slowing your pace so their short legs can keep up. Even better, they’ll want to stop and admire every cool rock and crevice and stick, and you’ll have about three times as much fun.