In the past few weeks, I have twice seen in print, “Walking is the best exercise.” The statement seems reasonable. It is what we have been doing since the beginning of time. Or is it? When I think of walking, I think of walking down the street, walking from my car to the supermarket, walking through the mall, etc.
“Hiking” conjures up a different image. I am now in the woods or perhaps coming out of the woods, making my way along a ridgeline. I am coming to a stream, or a vista. Or perhaps I am surrounded by thick foliage. I am in nature.
The difference is important. While walking, I hear man-made sounds. I see man-made structures. My feet feel a man-made treadway. And I see people near and far, going about their business. All these associations stimulate me with pluses and minuses, most I’m not consciously aware of, but they matter nevertheless.
On the trail, I may be alone. Only the trail itself may be evidence of people. It is being maintained by someone … and I am grateful. If I see people on the trail, they are usually going the other way and pass with a “hello” or a smile. If I am hiking with someone, I have chosen him or her for companionship. But nature is the dominant feature. There are no saber-toothed cats; I have no weapon. Nature embraces me peacefully. It holds me in thrall, winding upward or switching downward, by still water or a torrent, under a royal sky or a nimbus cloud, my cares fall away and I am renewed. Hiking is the best exercise.
To be continued….