Walking & Hiking
Beginners sometimes ask about the difference between hiking and walking.
Hiking IS walking, of course. But it couldn't be more different from the everyday walking many of us do on sidewalks or city streets, or in shopping malls, or even along country roads.
As we use it around here, the word "hiking" usually refers to walking at length in the natural world, far from the noise, buildings, highways, and other signs of civilization -- totally immersed in the beautiful and unspoiled world of wild nature.
The hiking we do usually takes place on "unimproved" trails that often lead over rough ground. Hiking trails are frequently rocky and include exposed tree roots. Walking on such trails requires a degree of fitness and reasonably good balance (active people usually have no problem with this).
Easy, soft-dirt hiking trails exist as well, and here in the mountainous northeastern U.S. they're mainly found in valleys and low-elevation areas. We follow such trails on many of our easy hikes. But in local mountain ranges the majority of hiking trails are at least intermittently rough and rocky.
While a hike can be short, most hiking, by definition, involves walking a minimum of a few miles. On our easy hikes, for example, the typical distance we walk during the day is 5-6 hilly miles. On our strenuous hikes, at the other extreme, we hike as much as 10-14 miles -- which often includes steep climbs, major elevation changes, and especially rugged trails.
Almost anyone who enjoys walking is a good candidate for hiking. If you know someone who says they don't like hiking, chances are they don't like walking much either. Or they may have had a bad experience, perhaps being dragged too many miles over especially challenging trails by friends (anything can be spoiled by overdoing it). Or they may be allowing fears to color their choices (some people have been falsely led to believe, in part by our media and the movies, that the woods are full of dangers -- whereas experienced hikers know that civilization is actually a riskier place!).
The human body couldn't be better designed for walking or hiking, and this kind of physical activity couldn't come more naturally to us. Most people find hiking or walking in nature to be a thoroughly pleasurable, fulfilling, and even exhilarating experience, one that's capable of leaving us with a feeling of contentment and well-being that can last for days.
If you've never hiked or spent much time walking in the woods, foregoing the flatness of sidewalks for the bumpiness of mountain trails may require a bit of adjusting. But the rewards come quickly: you're soon immersed in wild and gorgeous mountain scenery of the sort you'll never see from a sidewalk. As long as you're sufficiently fit for the level of walking/hiking you'll be doing, and don't mind being stretched a little, and are up for a taste of adventure, it's hard for you to go wrong.
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