But what if the prescription is bogus?
I’ve heard people remark and imply that hiking is really only valuable or valid if you: hike a certain length of time or distance, visit a place that is well-known or uncharacteristically beautiful, wear or utilize certain clothing/equipment, go alone, go with a group, run the trail, bike the trail, walk fast, take difficult trails, and so on.
Beyond the fact that these are arbitrary, sometimes stupid, and unrealistic ideas, these parameters are problematic for even the most eager hiker. Who can always live up to those ideals? They also eliminate the participation of nearly anyone with kids. In a world screaming at us, “You’re not enough”, who wants to engage the outdoors only to find it rife with shaming? Yay! An unexpected side-adventure: the guilt trip.
So, let me be a voice that reminds you: You’re the boss. There are no rules (besides the ones posted on the trail/forest signs). If you go into the forest and sit down on the first tree trunk that you come to and then go home, that’s fine. If you walk past the trailhead with gusto, and 10 minutes later you walk back out because nope, not today, that’s fine. If you find yourself annoyed by trees and chirping birds one day, so you listen to a podcast and zone out the whole time, that’s fine. If you carry a tired kid part of the way, that’s fine. If you walk only one trail that is 30 seconds from your house every third Tuesday for the rest of your life, that’s fine. If you wear your office attire, bathrobe, or an oversized house dress, that’s fine. If your kids wear their Halloween costumes, that’s fine. Maybe not advisable, but fine. If “schlep” is your kind of pace, that’s fine. If you sit in the parking lot and have a picnic while breathing in pine trees from afar, that’s fine. If you drop Easter eggs at random intervals to bribe your children to finish the ¾ mile beginner trail, that’s…genius.
I’m giving examples which are on the end of the spectrum that we usually label in negative terms: lazy, cheap, boring, unmotivated, flaky, inexperienced, or unimpressive. We’re more liable to be accepting of those things that conceivably demonstrate the opposite. But what’s more important than taking ownership for what you (and your kids) want to and can do? What’s better than personally defining what brings you joy? What’s more empowering than deciding the values and manner in which you want to feed your body and soul, specifically through the recreation of hiking? There’s no downside here, except the potential lack of general admiration by others, which is irrelevant. You and your kids are hiking for yourselves.
Don’t let preconceived notions or someone else’s rules have a say in the manner in which hiking takes a place in your life. You may discover you are the one with rules that kill the joy, freedom, and good hiking is meant to afford. Toss them out the window. But, into a trash bag, not on the ground. Because: pack it in, pack it out. That’s one rule worth keeping.
Hope From the Trail
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