Bushwhacking is a form of off-trail hiking where you need to navigate through dense vegetation to locate your destination. Getting really good at it is an art form that takes years of practice and lots of hikes in all kinds of different terrain.
Bushwhacking is not for everyone and about 90% of the people who try it for the first time hate it. They think it’s insane. Bulldozing through dense spruce that tears up your clothing and gear, scratches your skin, and makes you bleed is not for the faint of heart.
But the benefits can be tremendous. If you go hiking to get away from all of your worldly problems and recharge yourself by getting close to nature, bushwhacking provides a much deeper level of immersion than trail hiking. You also get to come home covered in sawdust, with small twigs in your hair, and smelling like a spruce car freshener.
Bushwhacking is much more difficult than trail hiking because you need to do all of your own navigation using a combination of maps, an altimeter, or if you are “lazy”, a GPS. But it’s not like you can just set a compass direction and follow it, because you need to walk around obstacles and dense brush while staying on your bearing. Teamwork and good group communications skills are essential and a fun part of the experience.
Bushwhacking can also be far more strenuous than trail hiking because you may need to bulldoze your way through dense vegetation or manueuver around huge piles of blow-downs blocking your path. And you often don’t make your objective because you run out of time, the terrain is more difficult than what can be depicted on a map, or the ground cover is too thick to get through.
Getting used to “failure” or not meeting your goal might sound like a downer to trail hikers and peakbaggers who always make theirs, but it’s far less important to me than the cameraderie and sense of adventure that I experience when I go bushwhacking with a group. Something to ponder if you’re sick of climbing the same peaks week after week and want a richer outdoor experience.