You know, I’ve been active with a local walking group since 2009, started organizing events for the group a couple years ago, and finally took over the group (i.e., paying the bills) last Fall. Over time, the group redefined itself into a walking and hiking group, which makes you think about the difference between walking and hiking. You can hit a dictionary if you like, but hiking usually refers to walking in the countryside on trails, rather than a level of difficulty. There is often little difference in difficulty between a walk along a section of the Fairfax Cross County Trail and a day hike along a trail in the Shenandoah Mountains, for example. Aside from the drive to the trailhead, there’s not much difference in the amount of preparation either, so maybe the difference is mostly a frame of mind – whatever it takes to reach the level of immersion that you need to benefit from the experience. Personally, I’m pretty easily amused.
Recently I was gratified when the author of Hike Mt Shasta happened to visit and post a “like” on one of my blog posts about a day hike. A visit to that website underscores the fact that hiking on Mount Shasta and hiking on a mountain in my area are two different animals altogether. The top of Mount Shasta is over 14,000 feet; Hawksbill Mountain, the highest peak in the Shenandoah National Park at 4,050 feet, is less than a third as high. It’s easy enough to take a day trip to go hiking on Hawksbill Mountain, but you’d better mount an expedition to go mountain climbing on Mount Shasta!
In fact, if you stacked Hawksbill on top of Mount Shasta, you’d just about reach the height of Mount Kilimanjaro, at over 19,000 feet! At this point you’d better start interviewing participants to determine whether they are qualified to go, and whether they have any skill that might be useful during the expedition:
“The object of this year’s expedition is to see if we can find any traces of last year’s expedition.”
Anyway, it’s all good, and will help me field questions that pop up from time to time like why we don’t bother to split up into separate ability groups, assign group leads, sweepers, etc., etc., etc. If we’re going to do that, we may as well start interviewing Sherpa guides: it would be like pole-vaulting over mouse turds. We’re just doing a casual day hike, not mounting an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!