Monday, November 5, 2007

NPR - Hiking and walking

Why this photo about hiking and walking? Ok, I'll explain. First, I've hiked in Mt. Rainier NP on and off since 1977 - photo of Mazama Ridge Trail, one of my personal favorites. And for a number of reasons, but mostly getting older and saving miles on my VW Syncro for short trips - ok, to stay fit too, I began walking around the area I live to the various places such as the small commerical center and downtown Gig Harbor. It's a 6-9 mile round trip walk to each, respectively.

When I do hike in Mt. Rainier NP I usually hike 4-6 miles but have hiked 8-12 on occasion to get to a destination to photograph. All of these trails usually involved 1-3,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss on the return hike), while my walks are usually about 400 feet of elevation gain (and loss). And my walks have a destination, like the Starbucks above with their great staff. The coffee is ok, but I like the smaller coffee importers and roasters. Starbucks is the largest of the Arabica coffee importers and they roast their coffee darker than many for the mixed drinks.

So there's a difference between hiking and walking then? Well, like Duh? To me anyway. Ok, it's still one foot in front of the other, but they're different. For one, the shoes are different, if you're smart anyway. But then I've seen some really dumb tourists hiking with the worst shoes miles from the trailhead. Hiking takes good boots for foot and ankle support and for durability and ruggedness in all terrain. Walking can be done with a variety of shoes from athletic shoes to lightweight boots.

Other differences? Hiking is endless. You start with the goal to hike. Nothing more than simply going somewhere alone (for me anyway being a solo hiker) with no idea of what or where, just follow the trail - I don't have good directional senses off trail as I talk about in my nickname. I usually have a turnaround location, but often my photography guides the time and distance.

Walking isn't endless. It has goals, to go and do something or be somewhere. The Starbucks above is 3-4 miles, depending on the route, from and a place for newspapers and a doppio con panna, a double espresso with a dollop of whipped cream - a coffee lover's dream drink. It's also in a small shopping center with other stores I can get other stuff and a short walk to two other larger shopping centers. So it's take the backpack and a list. Just remember to buy only what you can fit into the pack and carry home.

Downtown Gig Harbor is a 4-5 mile walk with its small shops and stores, all different than the centers near the highway. And I get the nice walk all along the way there and back, the rural roads once I get away from the commericial areas. It's always amazing what you see along side a road people miss while driving, some may you stand there and wonder how and why, like all the trash people jetison from cars, the tire tracks going off the highway into the brush destroying a telephone box and some signs, or like a headless dog carcess.

Personally I'll take hiking any day, but it's an hour or two drive to Mt. Rainier NP and $50 in gas these days, so I have to plan the trips accordingly, meaning within the budget and bills. And being retired on a fixed annuity, that's important, but doable some months. The plan is to work on walking and exercises this winter to resume hiking trips next spring and summer, along with some trips to places on the West Coast or Pacific Northwest.

Anyway, that's the thought, just one synapse in front of the other. Mental hiking about the body moving in the world under its own power and control. Something evolution gave us a long time ago. But we have Starbucks now.

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