Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hiking Fast

Whenever I am hiking the trails of SoCal, it is inevitable that as I am huffing and puffing up some particularly tough part of a trail, I see passing me by a trail runner who is barely breaking a sweat and running at twice the speed I am up the mountain. I have also been on hikes where my hiking companions turn into mountain goats, bounding down the trail while I am trying to remind myself "keep your toes pointed down the fall line".

What I am trying to say is that I take my time, moreso than others to get up and down the mountain. I have picked up my MPH as I have hiked more, no question and I feel like I am hiking stronger and longer recently. Still, being super speedy has never been my forte. My speediness on the trail is "affected" as I take time to enjoy the views, enjoy nature in general (was that a woodpecker?) and also taking a breather because "everybody sweats".

This past weekend, I consciously decided to hike "fast" because I was being tested. I am joining up with Glendale's volunteer hike patrol to canvas areas like the Verdugos, San Rafael Hills, etc. I am super excited about this opportunity (it will be blogged about extensively here of course) but part of the application process means I had to finish a certain mileage with a certain elevation gain in a certain amount of time. I had to hike fast.

Not too much faster than my usual hiking speed but this time, I was conscious of my hike time during the entirety of the hike and had my stopwatch on my watch clicking away the seconds. I also decided to push myself because I want to do this patrolling program and didn't want there to be any question about my eligibility.

(look at how jaunty I am in this picture, I mean, jaunty!)

Knowing you are hiking against a clock (whether you are trying to best a personal time or hiking for a test) completely takes you out of the natural element that hikes are meant to put you in. Whenever I read about hiking trails like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail what strikes me about many of the write-ups is how often the hikers are focused on "making their miles" and while appreciating the natural beauty of the trail, you can read between the lines and almost see the ticker in their mind about whether they will get to 15-30 miles that day (whatever their goal is).

This internal tick list is dangerous as it is helpful. The danger is in losing the reason why you are on the trail in the first place. I have been guilty of wanting to make miles or thinking about hike times and I haven't appreciated nature, being out of the office, deer and sometimes you wonder if you should be doing something else instead. We only get so much time on this Earth, whether you can only hike during the morning, whether you can get away for the weekend or even if you can do an extended backpacking adventure. The key is when you are given those opportunities to enjoy them not get caught up in tick lists.

I had no choice this weekend and I did complete the hike in well under the allotted time which made me feel all Rudy-like. However, hiking in this way made me want to go back up the same trail and hike it "slow" to see everything I missed.

(one more glamour shot, I couldn't resist)


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