A few days ago I was on my way to the library, listening to iTunes shuffle through my earbuds and speed-walking in time to the beat down shady suburban streets. I wore an empty backpack for my books, and my pace glided over the gently-sloping asphalt. Despite the 90-plus temperatures, I hardly broke a sweat. Sometimes I forget how easy walking is for me.
I used to say, “I can’t do a push-up, but set me on a road and I can walk forever.” Now, that statement has been modified to, “I can’t do a push-up, but set me on a flat road with a light backpack and adequate water, and I can walk forever.” Not very catchy, I know, but more accurate.
In short, I’m an accomplished walker, but I’ve quickly learned that I’m still a beginning hiker.
Yes, I can walk 13 miles with a 15-pound backpack through rugged terrain (though hardly any elevation gain). That wipes me out. My muscles ache. I pant for water and get a headache and sometimes I feel too sick to eat. If you throw any hills in there, I can barely walk 50 yards without stopping to gasp for air. I’m a walker, not a hiker.
This gives me something to shoot for in the next year: become a good hiker. With limited long-distance hiking trails available, this is a challenge. But I’m determined to make it happen.