I don’t really describe myself as a hiker anymore. I prefer “explorer”. This idea links my travels to all the diversity and all the opportunity to be found out there. And the truth is, I’m not wedded to slogging forward at a walking pace with a pack on my back (though I’ve done an awful lot of that). I can get in a kayak and accomplish the same thing. I can run or bike too in my mission to see all of nature’s surprises.
Learning new country often begins with a hike, a great way to spot opportunities you couldn’t have seen from the map. Can I pass through this water safely in my kayak? Well, I can perhaps walk the trail that follows the stream up first and get some idea. Maybe today is all about photography and my legs are the best way of propelling the camera through rough terrain. Maybe I want to fish but I’m not sure exactly where to start so, again, I might choose a trail along the water to give me an expansive preview before coming back next week properly equipped to find trout.
If hiking ever gets to feeling “old,” new interest can be sparked by combining a hike with just about any of the other things you enjoy. If you enjoy a vigorous social life or just the company of a few special friends, you might try introducing them to your favorite trails. They’ll have their own perspective on the place and notice things that may not have caught your eye. If you enjoy botany, just as an example, bring your notebook and guidebook to greenery and really “get into” the leafy stuff along your path. Same could go for birds – they are plentiful in the forest, or maybe you’ve noticed. Even a sedentary, indoors activity like reading can be combined with your outing; just find a sunny rock half-way through. I like to fish almost as much as I love to explore and so I don’t mind two hours of hiking to get into choice water. And there’s a fringe benefit: not all anglers love the walk and so I have these more remote waters too myself.
In the end, hiking, like all else, is about your mission. It can become so much more than one boot after the next along a thin dirt line. It certainly has for me. In fact, it would be fair to say that my book, “The Dying Fish” is all about combining hiking with a grand mission. Get out and find your own mission this spring.