As I think back upon 2018, the one thing that stands out is the need to hike your own hike (HYOH). There is no one size fits all to hiking. Just as no two trails are the same.
At the root of it all, HYOH is meant to signify that you don’t need to conform to what everyone else might be doing but simply to focus on your own hiking experience without comparing yourself to others. Of course this doesn’t mean that one should be disrespectful, ignore leave no trace principles or do something dangerous on the trail.
So this is what HYOH means to me.
The miles I put in on a hike are enough for me.
I know how much my body can handle. When other hikers or people push me to go further, I know what’s in my limits. Stretch goals are fun and great….and necessary. However, I’m not less of a hiker or my accomplishment not worthy because I didn’t match someone else’s time or distance. So instead of comparing ourselves to others, it’s important to understand our own bodies and work hard to improve what we can.
The gear I needed wasn’t always the gear I wanted or that everyone had.
I returned a backpack twice because I was too impatient to wait to get fitted. Lessons learned. I spent forty five minutes working with an outfitter who fit me for shoes. He even showed me the best way to tie them so they weren’t coming undone every other mile on the trail. I could read all the reviews, watch videos, and scroll through influencer feeds. But in the end, I realized being comfortable and familiar with my gear was essential to the hike.
It’s okay to go it alone and it’s okay to not go it alone.
Hiking is such a personal activity. Being one with nature, observing surroundings, gaining mental and physical strength each time on the trail. There is a lot of fulfillment I’ve found personally in solo hiking. At the same time, I learned that there is also something beautiful in a shared experience of the hike. Camaraderie of having another person to stumble over roots and rocks with. Someone to share a summit beer with or simply inspire you to keep on going when your legs ache. For me, I’ll continue to have both solo hikes and partner hikes, and it feels like it gives me the ability to have the best of both worlds.
I still have a responsibility to hike ethically.
Hike your own hike doesn’t mean I can blaze new trails, throw trash and my worries to the winds or put myself knowingly in danger in the name of individuality. I need to always have the 10 essentials, know the trail I am embarking on and the weather conditions, and also practice leave no trace. And I also have a responsibility as a member of the hiking community to share that knowledge. Whether I volunteer time, money or other resources – it’s important as give back as a way to help maintain our trail systems for generations to come.
At the end of the day, the number of “likes” don’t count.
My hikes are just as meaningful when I don’t share them on social media. There were many times that my hikes didn’t end up with photos shared or tagged. But those were some of my most intimate and favorite hikes. I still bagged those peaks and took in those vistas, even if it was simply myself or just my hiking partner who knew. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of comparison when looking at some of the perfectly curated Instagram feeds out there, and start to feel this inner pressure to somehow get as many likes, followers, etc. When I start feeling that way, I take a step backward to remember why I’m hiking in the first place and the unique message I can share as part of it.
I didn’t tally up the number of miles I hiked in 2018, but I may end up doing that in the next few days. It would be great to say that I accomplished a certain goal (a mile a day, a hike a week, or some number of miles in my favorite national park), but right now I think I’m just going to let myself focus on my New Years Day hike.
Thank you for following my adventures on the trail. I wish all of you the happiest of New Years.
I sit here in my windowless office, staring at the photos that I’ve placed on my desk of happy moments. Hikes at Mount St. Helens. Ones with majestic views of Mt. Jefferson. Feeling that pull to be somewhere so far away from where I am. Sometimes it feels so impossible, yet I know that shouldn’t be the case. But there is a sadness in knowing my heart is somewhere else my body is not.
There is an overused quote that is slapped on everything from books to t-shirts – “The mountains are calling and I must go.” For me though it isn’t the mountains. It’s my heart. It’s my heart calling me back to places that feel like home. Roots gnarled and rocks that are sure to trip me. The feeling I get when I walk along a ridge line. The layered vista of mountains rolling like gentle waves in the distance.
Many hikes have been alone with my soul finding refuge in the spaces between the blazes. Somehow it’s on those mountain walks where I feel strongest and most alive. It’s in those moments that I forget about the insecurities that are threaded through me – attaching themselves into every fiber within my body. I stop comparing myself to the ones who came before me and seemed to have what I cannot hold. In the mountains, I find my worth.
Yet, it’s in the shared hikes where love shines. In the mountains, it’s goofy smiles at the summit. Eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sipping water from our Nalgene bottles. Heads resting on shoulders and hands pulling each other up when our bodies need help.
I hike for those moments. I set my boots to the trail for the strength it gives my body and the clarity it provides my mind. I hike because my heart needs to write these love letters when my mouth has no words.
And it’s in these afternoons when my mind drifts to dreams of the crisp mountain air, I realize I hike to remember the love that surrounds me on the trail.