It's true. I'm not; I am not good at hiking. I often decline offers to hike with friends (as much as I love to!) and shy away from inviting friends on hikes with me because I'm embarrassed by my pace.
"But there is adventure written all over my heart and soul..."
Aside from dancing through grade school and a stint of rugby in high school, I have not been much of an athletic person. In fact, in junior high school, my doctor diagnosed me with exercise induced asthma. That was pretty much the end of me participating in an active life, outside of the occasional dance class. But there is adventure written all over my heart and soul, and it is impossible to deny.
The truth is: you don't need to be an athlete to hike. Just like you don't have to be flexible to do yoga. So I did yoga. It was and still is "my thing". And now, I hike too.
Here's the thing: you don't really need any specialized or fancy gear to hike. Depending on what you're doing and where you're going, it is wise to carry a day pack with snacks (read: chocolate), water, an extra layer or change of socks, and bear spray (depending on where you're hiking). But none of that will make you any better at hiking, because technically you hike every day already! Hiking, simply put, is walking. Just... in a much more scenic environment!
You may be thinking I'm crazy and very much wrong, and believe me, the first time a friend tried to show me this perspective, I thought the same of him at first. But he is right. Whether you are gaining elevation or not, all it takes to get from one place to the next is putting one foot in front of the other. And we all do that every day.
Despite my self-perceived inability, it is not necessarily hiking, but my curiosity and ambition that takes me to some pretty wild places. I like to avoid crowds and follow trails a little less traveled. It's not uncommon for me to find myself staring fear right in the face. Sometimes even alone. After a particularly traumatizing and muddy descent off a col behind Mount Fortress last fall, I discovered a profound fear of going down. Sure, it's a struggle to hike up, but suddenly it's utterly TERRIFYING to come down. (I also love laying in the sun - does all of this mean I was a cat in my past life??)
This new-found fear made for a challenging winter once the snow started falling, making me even less sure of my steps. I still feel a pang of terror coming back down off of an icy or rocky trail. But it's that "one foot in front of the other" mindset that gets me down through it all, the same way it got me up.
It's all about pace. I said before that it's not unusual for me to feel embarrassed by my pace. Solo hiking has been a powerful tool for overcoming that insecurity. Just like there's no light without darkness, there's no slow without fast. When it's just you and the trail, there's only one pace, and it's yours! Embrace it!! Take baby steps if you need to. It's easier on your muscles when you're going uphill anyway. And it doesn't make you any worse or less of a hiker, because hey, you are still doing it... one step at a time!
Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.