Sunday morning found me on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia just west of the Roanoke metro area. It’s a great moderate hike to one of the most famous places on the AT. The fame attracts sizable crowds, so I suggested the best times to go to beat the crush. Read the whole story at Two-Heel Drive.
The wilds of capitalism require a lot of skills that hikers take for granted. Among the habits we’ve acquired while walking in the woods:
There’s never only one way to climb a mountain, cross a stream or camp out for the night. There’s only the way that makes the most sense right now and further down the trail. How I hiked a trail last week is irrelevant if a 1,400-pound tree is blocking the trail today.
2. We don’t ignore what’s obvious to our senses
Hikers have to change our minds when the prevailing winds tell us we’re going south when we should be going north. We listen for distant thunder and prepare for rain as it gets closer. We stay off hilltops in electrical storms.
3. We don’t fear getting lost because we know how to get found
Hikers train themselves to watch for signs of wrong turns, pay attention to critical landmarks along the way, and have a turn-back plan in place if the trail we seek doesn’t show up on schedule.
4. We manage risk
Hikers know there are extreme dangers in the woods — snakes, bees, bears, mountain lions — but we also know the odds of these dangers hurting us are extremely remote. The most pressing dangers on a hike are falling, getting lost and succumbing to hypothermia. So we watch our footing, carry our maps and first aid kits, and make sure we’ve got enough gear to get us through a cold night in the countryside.
5. We respect balance
Hikers appreciate nature’s uncanny knack for nipping here, tucking there, and generally working things out elegantly and efficiently.
6. We embrace change
We never hike the same trail twice, even if it’s the 20th time on the same route. We watch for subtle shifts in the landscape because we know they are inevitable.
7. We don’t mind working up a sweat
Hikers crave the exhilaration of navigating a tricky scree field and huffing it to high summits. We know that difficulty is often what makes something worth doing.
It’s not just the quads built up on 13 percent grades or the cardio capacity elevated by 13 miles above 12,000 feet. It’s the character we build by setting a goal, crafting a plan and getting it done.
9. We travel light
We leave our baggage at home, take only what we need, and make do with whatever fits into our pack.
10. We look after our own
Hikers help each other. We warning passing hikers of washed-out sections of trail. We give backpackers rides into town. We send for help. We build karma with kindness.