Have you ever wondered why some people are so obsessed with hiking? People like me.
I’ve had my own theories about its appeal to me over the years. For a long time, hiking was one of the few ways I had to relieve the work related stress associated with my career in high tech. Going for a challenging day hike or an overnight backpacking trip made it possible for me to completely forget about work and live in the moment. It was a great outlet, but since I switched careers last year, I don’t have nearly the same kind of stress I used to. In fact, I haven’t felt more like myself in years.
So why is hiking still so important to me?
I think there are two reasons:
Fairly regular, challenging hikes help me overcome the doubts I have about my health, fitness, age, and mental determination.
I’ve long held the attitude that I can do anything I want as long as I have the will to do it and regular hikes help to conquer any doubts I have about myself. Take something as elementary as climbing a mountain. Every time, I come to the base of a peak and look up at its looming summit ridge, I can’t help but wonder if I will ever make it to the top. But I almost always do because my will is still stronger than any obstacle, even my (slowly) aging body. Making it to the top is a powerful way to reaffirm the power of my will, be it a peak or a long section of trail.
The second reason is still fairly new. I make friends hiking: friends who really know me and share my passions.
I’ve been a loner and a solo hiker for a long time. Having a really stressful career made it difficult for me to make much room in my life for other people beyond my marriage. It certainly cut down on any free time I had. But this is the first year that I’ve really started to hike frequently with other people who are as obsessed about hiking as me. It’s great to be able to call or email them and set up middle of the week hikes and bushwhacks together. It’s certainly added a new dimension to hiking for me, one I never expected to enjoy as much as I do.
I doubt I’ll ever really ever understand why hiking is so important to me. I guess I should be grateful that it’s meaning continues to evolve and still remains a bit of a mystery.