Over the course of our hike my brother in law (he keeps showing up here, so he is hereby dubbed "The Outdoorsman" from now on) and I did a total of about 28.8 miles of direct hiking to get to and from our destination over three days. We broken it into two days of 7-8 mile hikes and a single return of 12.8 miles.
How long, I wondered as I trudged along, does it take one to hike?
Timewise of course it varies. The first day we made 7 miles in about 5 hours, but that was with a 1.4 mile almost vertical (at points) hike up a grade at the end of the day (the first time in a long time my legs have felt shaky at the end of the day). The second day we made the same distance more or less in 3.25 hours, but that was due to rolling hills along a ridgeline rather than climbing slopes. The third day - the return - it took us 6 hours and 10 minutes to make it all the way back (note these times are inclusive of things like rest stops, snack breaks, and lunch where required).
But how long, I wondered, does it really take.
Hiking - at least the few times I have done it - is endlessly fascinating to me on the mental side. At some point in the hike one realizes that one has to keep going. If one turns back early one loses the progress and once one has arrived, there is no way back except to come out the way that one came in: by foot. As a result, my mind set has to shift a great deal - after all, even in this hike we are discussing 3 to 6 hours of time which may be spattered by conversation but is largely conducted in silence. Thoughts in the mind like "Are we there yet?" or "How much have we come since the last signpost?" are as counterproductive as they are annoying (let alone if you start verbalizing them to your hiking party. You may end up "lost"...).
From the little I have read on the subject, this is a reality for long distance runners and ultramarathoners as well: how does one keep the mind engaged (and on what) as one pounds through the miles and hours of going across distances?
For me, it seems to become almost a form of moving Zen.
A lot of attention is paid to the trail, of course, especially if one needs to pay attention to one's footing or, if I am headed up hill, to the placement of the hiking poles as I pull myself up. I look at the trail - after all, am I not here to see the scenery? I am walking through it. I look for things that I usually do not see, like wildflowers that are new or odd plant and rock formations or even vistas. But other than that, I find that I am largely in the movement of moving through the landscape, sweating or shivering as called for, grateful for the shade and breeze in the heat when they come or the sun on the colder moments when I can step into it.
For me at least, I end up thinking a lot as well. The genesis of this post was on the trail, as are the genesis of a number of others (all noted in my phone before they slipped away). But interestingly, what I did not think about - once - was what I was missing at work or (more than idly) how far we had to get or when the next break was. In that sense there was no "then" or "other", there was only the "now".
So what is the speed of travel as measured by foot? What it has always apparently been, it seems: one foot at a time in a timeless sense where there is neither truly arrival or departure, merely the space between each step.
"I look at the trail - after all, am I not here to see the scenery? I am walking through it. I look for things that I usually do not see, like wildflowers that are new or odd plant and rock formations or even vistas. But other than that, I find that I am largely in the movement of moving through the landscape, sweating or shivering as called for, grateful for the shade and breeze in the heat when they come or the sun on the colder moments when I can step into it."ReplyDelete
That is a big part of why I don't care to ride motorcycles or bicycles on trails through countryside. You have to concentrate on the path your vehicle is taking, so much, so you miss what you came to admire in the 1st place.
So much of a hike is taking the time to admire the scenery and come to scenic spots you don't see any where else. Stopping and admiring the view, especially with a companion to allow them to share the moment is important. Later on, you can ask them 'Remember that time we were at ..." and they recall what was shared. That to me is what hiking is - sharing the experience with another / others to recall a time, an event. Sometimes, the adventure of getting caught out in bad weather is worth it later on - more memorable. The slippiery mud where your almost fell, smell of wet nylon jacket, the sound of rain hitting your poncho. When these events occur, I close my eyes and try to remember the moment of exhaustion but also the excitement of getting caught out. Almost a blessing it seems.
I cannot imagine riding anything on the trails we were on (where one could), largely because I would be fair too concerned about hitting something or falling, let alone looking at the scenery.Delete
At least for me, I physically have to remind myself to stop and take in the scenery. To date anyway, too often these things become a getting from one place to another, not being in the place at the time. It does make for memories as you suggest - I can remember the sound of the Colorado before we hit it, or the coolness of the water, or that last push up the Redwall before we created out of the Grand Canyon. It is not really something I can explain to someone else.
Sunny weather, now throw in rain and ALL the thoughts/computations go out the window....er.....ah....well at least for me. Height is the biggie for me, older lungs now. See anybody else on your jaunt TB?ReplyDelete
Weather was a huge factor of course - in our favor this time, as although it was sunny and a little warm it was bearable. No idea what that would have looked like rain: half that? If we could get up some of the muddy trails at all.Delete
On Friday and Saturday we maybe saw 10 people total - not many, and really not a bother at all. On Sunday as we went back we ran into more as we got closer to the park headquarters.
On boy scout hikes, I'd take a pace counter. Like an abacus, you keep track of how far you've walked. It became something I did without much thought. Every time my left foot hit the ground, I'd move a bead. You need to know your pace length and make adjustments for vertical movement to be accurate. Rest breaks were used to shoot landmarks and double check the topo map for location. It is an important skill for a hiker / scout to have. One Carrington level event, and that skill will be priceless.ReplyDelete
My other mental exercises while hike, besides enjoying the scenery, was looking for defensible positions and estimating distances to various objects. It's an old habit. I still find myself thinking like that while driving even.
Sic vis pacem, para bellum. Skill at arms was expected of a man, and I embraced that understanding at a very early age. Every outdoor activity had application to that end. Because The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. To be found wanting if the elephant was about was unthinkable.
STxAR, I was fascinated to learn that when Alexander the Great was conquering the then known Easter world, he brought with him professional pace counters so he could know distances. I had no idea that such a thing like a pace counter existed.Delete
I have practiced the art of defending and attacking positions as well while hiking. Recommended, as I recall, by Machiavelli.
I never have a problem occupying my mind while hiking but unlike ultra marathoners, I rarely hike long distances on paved surfaces. Like you, a good portion of my mind is occupied with the terrain and scenery. The rest just freely rambles on its own journey sometimes walking through the past and other times dreaming of the future.ReplyDelete
Ed, that seems similar to my own experience. I do find it interesting because when I am driving somewhere it feels very different - I mean, I am still paying attention to the road, but the thoughts do not seem to flow as well.Delete
Depends. When I was climbing 14ers, it was a lot longer than cruising over the flatland . . . better view, though.ReplyDelete
True John. Honestly, in the three days of hiking, there was not a significant amount of "feeling" time was different, even though the hike time was different.Delete
I'm fascinated by your ponderings about time while hiking, TB. There is something wonderfully meditative about it. I find it similar with most of the mundane tasks around the homestead. They require physical engagement with only marginal mental involvement. It's good for working on new thought habits.ReplyDelete
Leigh, I think it has something to do with the concept of "flow" that one reads about, where when we are so engaged in a task that we have no sense of time doing that task. I experienced this physically in other tasks, although I cannot give you a defining category that they fall into. Would that I could - it is a wonderfully productive state.Delete
Our 'hikes' include carrying 'packs'.... binoculars, water, fence posts, staples, hammers, wire reels.... lol. But sounds like you had a great experience that some people may take for granted or completely overlook.ReplyDelete
Yes, somewhat sadly at this point they are recreational hikes at the moment only, Hobo. That said, it was a very enjoyable experience and I am looking forward to next month.Delete