Everyone who hikes does so for their own reasons, and while those reason generally have a common theme, they are as unique as any of us. If you’ve ever had trouble putting those reasons to words, perhaps this will help bring those thoughts into order.
Reason 1: The Sights
The most obvious of reasons and the easiest to share with others is the desire to immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature. Whether it’s a stunning vista overlooking a valley, the smallest wildflower growing amongst the grass, or the wonder-inspiring presence of animals both big and small, the sights are the plainest reason why we hike. Good thing the “leave-no-trace” slogan leaves the door open for photos.
Reason 2: The Sounds
Or perhaps more accurately, the absence of them. We are so very rarely able to enjoy actual silence. The hum of computers, the chatter of strangers’ conversations, the echoing rumble of a jet far above, it’s nearly impossible to not be reminded of the fast paced life that we live in our regular days.
Not that the woods are actually quiet themselves. The sound of the wind through the trees, the rustling of a chipmunk in the brush, the solitary call of a loon over the water; it’s never really quiet here either. But it’s different. Calming. Only while camping is it possible to enjoy silence, while still hearing so much.
Reason 3: The Smells
This one isn’t always a blessing, but it’s still a big part of enjoying the outdoors. If you are a city dweller, you can tell the difference right away. It’s cleaner for a start. It’s richer. And it varies depending on where you are.
Walking through a hardwood forest? The damp and healthy smell of the forest floor. Softwood? People pay money to get their car to smell like those pines. Meadowland? Stop and smell those wildflowers or breathe in the sweet smell of dried grass. Passing by a bog… maybe breathe through your mouth and hope that smell is swamp gas and not the sign that a bear was nearby (though only if the bear was eating garbage. Healthy bear poo will smell like whatever they were eating. So enjoy that fragrant blueberry bear scat!)
Reason 4: The Tastes
Camp cooking is a skill that only improves with practice and is often very simple, but that doesn’t mean it needs be bland. Eating balanced meals is vital to the enjoyment of a good hike and not doing so can lead to dangerous situations. You don’t want to run out of fuel in the tank before you’ve made it your camp site for the night. So bring your spices, plan your meals well, and if you can become a master chef of the woods, then perhaps you’ll be spared dish duty afterwards.
Reason 5: The Feelings
Two sides to this coin. Sure, there are the physical sensations and pleasures that come with hiking. Plunging into a cold blue lake, that welcome burn in your legs as you scale that steep rise, the heavenly comfort of your sleeping bag after a long day. But the way hiking makes you feel inside is perhaps the true reason why we hike.
Separating yourself from the stresses of your daily life, even for a few days, will work miracles on your state of mind. Or maybe you are more into that triumphant feeling of accomplishment gained from pushing yourself past what you thought were your limits. Climbing that mountain, doubling your number of kilometers travelled in one day, or simply building a healthy fire on the first try. When we hike, we may be able to get a little closer to who we truly are, or who we want to be.