When women who generally live in the city or suburbs gather for things like retreats at state park inns, some of them get the urge to spend time in nature and not just in the lobby or in the pool. Why, however, do we insist on calling our ventures into well-behaved nature a “hike?” And how is it that we spend most of our lives NOT reading maps at all, but then all become expert map readers in places where the landmarks are not street signs and buildings, but trees and rocks and lakes and an occasional foot bridge?
A few in the group who nearly accidentally gathered on Saturday afternoon for a hike (on Trail 5) were intent (and capable in every sense of having capacity — including the right shoes and the right legs) of hiking. Most were really out for a walk and were quite content to find a stone or mulch covered path through the woods with occasional logs over which to step and rocks to maneuver.
Don’t get me wrong — I would have been fine with a walk and, in theory, I’m a fan of the hike as well. What’s the difference (besides equipment) between these things? Pace, for one. But that’s on the surface. Under pace is the reason for that pace. Granted, the difference between hiking and walking as it relates to pace could be measured in ones ability to go faster. We all know that Debi was going as slow as she could imagine going on a trail, for instance. (And for those who wonder, I was not pointing the way in this photo, I was commanding traffic to stop interrupting our group photo. I was feeling the power of the big stick momentarily. It didn’t last.)
The essential difference between walking and strolling is not really pace — though it can be somewhat measured by pace. It is intent. We walk with the intent of getting from one place to the other and, if we are want to do so, we can enjoy the sights along the way.
We stroll with the intent of seeing the sights along the way and have to move from here to there to do that, so we make our way along the path. For me personally, Saturday’s “hike” was more about the sights along the way. I loved seeing the trees that showed evidence of the presence of beavers in the area. I was very happy to find and claim “my” rock and “my” stick — and to give them all back at the end of the venture. (Well, I would have liked to bring the rock home, but that was against everyone’s regulations.)
Perspective and pace. Those two things make quite a bit of difference, and in more than just the act of wandering through the woods.