Anatomy of a Hiker: Who Are We Really?
When long-distance hiking, certain philosophical quandaries often tickle the forefront of your awareness and beg to be explored on a deeper level.
I’ve thought about one question in particular for a long time and still have not yet settled on an answer.
That is predominantly what this article will attempt to rectify.
The Real Hiker
While thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, one of the people in my tramily and I began a conversation which has often been weighed in my mind.
This is not something which was discussed only once. In reality, we talked about it in detail every few hundred miles. I never once remember either of us having the same answer twice.
The question this discussion was built upon was this:
What is a real hiker?
So What Is a Hiker?
The Cambridge English Dictionary states that a hiker is “a person who goes for a long walk in the countryside.”
To me, that sounds like a definition written by scholars rather than doers. One thing I am certain of is hikers are doers.
But if that isn’t an adequate explanation, what is?
A Fair Postulation
In all of my discussions with that tramily member, one theme came to a head over and over: experience.
See, when we had both just begun the trail, we heartily agreed that we were hikers.
But we hiked further and we had the conversation again, and again. For a few more times, both of us agreed we were hikers but that we had not been the previous time we had the same discussion. Towards the end of the trail we began to agree that, as we gained greater and more in depth experience, we were not actually hikers at all despite the thousands of miles we had under our belts.
The Logical Conclusion
The way I have come to see it, there is only one logical conclusion to this question while looking at the direction our answers began to point towards.
Perhaps you are never really a hiker until you gain such extensive experience hiking that you no longer benefit from any further experience.
To be a hiker you need to hike, and often.
Set larger goals.
Immerse yourself in new environments.
Test varying methods and gear.
Stay out longer.
Learn things no book can teach you.
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