The Infinite Stupendousness of Hiking

By Owen Andersen

There’s a certain catharsis with hiking. A lot of people suggest hiking as a means of “reconnecting with nature,” whatever that means. Reconnect? With Nature?  I see trees and bushes wherever I go—breathe their air, step on their leaves, hide under their shade. In my eyes, reconnecting has never posed much appeal. The view, on the other hand, remains one of the most enticing prospects of hiking. Every trail boasts a personal collage of visages; self portraits catered by changing climate and fellow hikers, working unaware of each other in the creation of outlooks onto the sprawling landscape, like watchtowers gazing down upon the valley. 

The weather accents every hike’s features, reminding onlookers what inspires the dramatic depictions of Earth’s vistas, decorating museum halls. The way the fog floods up a mountain, engulfing every crevasse with mist, the refreshing moisture entangling with the air. The way the sun bleeds through the leaves, sweltering the dusty path edges uncovered by shade. Every hike’s condition lies at the mercy of the clouds, whether or not those fickle heavenly bodies want to do their damn job or not. 

Don’t get me wrong, hiking can be a very alluring pass time, but also very masochistic. Every hike has a different flavor of suffering. Ask Veronica Azimov. For gratification, pain contributes just as much as the views though. Just getting the scenic destinations would be too easy, thus less valuable. No, all the best panoramas are hiding at the top, and you gotta work for them. You’ve gotta downright bleed for some. Usually, The pain really kicks in around halfway, when turning around will be just as hard as moving forward. Perfect timing! But there’s pride in that pain. Every necessary pause taken for stretching out or collecting oxygen marks progress. The agony perfects every scene, making summiting the mountain and finding your car the two most satisfying parts of the hike.

Still, why do we hike? It’s just walking for semi-athletic people (and Veronica), and I already walk every day. Views? The sun rises and sets literally everywhere, and both are always gorgeous and readily available from my couch. For me, the real reason has always been one simply profound gesture: we get to go to I-HOP afterwards. A tradition sparked last summer; Faith Gonia, Anjali Nayak, Keira De Vita, a few others who cannot be named for legal purposes, and myself would pile into Faith’s car at hours God would not approve of and venture into the hills. We’d disappear for hours, emerging from the vast forests rugged and ravaged by mother nature’s luscious torment with a single thought on our minds: I-HOP. Screw journey over destination, I can get an affordable yet hearty meal plus a drink for under twenty bucks. Magical. Sorry, I’m too busy thinking about I-HOP to sound more pretentious. But really, there’s a certain emotional experience with hiking. Every watchtower gazes down upon the valley, and from every angle I examine a miasma of smog layering the lower echelons of the sky, still hearing the percussion of traffic. My garden of Eden disturbed, in theory. In reality, the metropolitan aspects do not ruin the hike for me, they are beautiful in their own way. There is a juxtaposition sure, but also a certain harmony that makes me think everything will be alright. I just really like hiking, and more than that I love spending time with my gaggle for Dr. Doofenshmrtz LARPers.