The difference between hiking and hiking

So I wanted to talk about the difference between hiking and hiking. Can you see it? There are some significant structural differences; hopefully the next few paragraphs should make that a little bit clearer.

One neat form of hiking might focus a bit more on speed. Perhaps you’re hiking to a destination; maybe a waterfall or to a scenic spot. Maybe you have an ambitious miles long route in mind and you are limited by daylight. Or perhaps you simply want to beat your previous time.

Another form of hiking is for the plants. This way tends to be a lot slower. When I hike for the plants, there have been occasions when I stop ever few feet. It can make a 1 mile hike take 8 hours.

The difference is perspective. I say that with a finality and rhetorical flourish that, to some people, might make the title seem like a tease and this post nothing more than a joke. But, frankly, it’s an important designation. Because one of those big structural differences is footfalls.

In many forms of hiking where you place your foot is processed subconsciously. Your immediate goals for your feet can typically be (a) stay on the trail and (b) don’t fall. The wonders of human body allow that fairly complex biomechanical process to be accomplished without you even giving it much thought. It can jump to active thinking in instances like large obstacles, say fallen trees or slippery rocks, are blocking the path which make the chance of falling much greater.

Here at Manoa Cliff, when I hike, I add another goal: (c) don’t step on the native plants. It can fluster some people initially because now that subconscious process is taking more thought. It can be especially frustrating when you’re not sure what plant is what. Our wonderful group of volunteers do what we can to make that process easier. We flag a lot of plants and help with plant identification. If you do it long enough, even (c) starts becoming intuitive.

There is room for error though. This isn’t like a form of hiking where you are going through a minefield or even free scaling El Capitan. In those instances, every single footfall is calculated and thought through well in advance. There are only a few places around some endangered native plants where you have to hike in that form, but for the most part, we are more forgiving than a landmine.

So, there’s hiking, then there’s hiking, and then there is hiking. You can hike this way, it is preferable to hike this other way and perhaps hiking the last way is overkill. I hope after reading this post, those differences are a little more apparent.



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