… or someone who hikes?

I wondered about this the other day after noticing Cutter’s blog had links to a couple sites dedicated to climbers and mountain bikers. The sites, called yourclimbing.com and yourmtb.com, are a business venture led by Steve Outing, a former newspaper guy who refashioned himself as a new-media guru back in the early ’90s. For the heck of it, I sent Steve an e-mail asking when he’s going to launch “yourhiking.com.”

I’m a bit dubious about hiking, but maybe you can convince me I
shouldn’t be. With MTB and climbing, people who are passionate about
the sport really identify themselves with being part of a tribe, so
they seem willing to join a community of people who share a common
obsession. If you’re a climber, runner or an MTBer, you probably
subscribe to the magazines and use the websites and forums. You
identify yourself as MTBer/climber/runner.

But what about hiking? Is that true? I think of hiking as something
most of us do when we go on vacations — an activity as opposed to a
passion. With your blog do you think that there are enough people as
passionate about it as you are to make a strong community?

A fair question. The profusion of backpacking forums suggest lots of hikers are getting together online. And lots of local hiking clubs are using the Web to plan outings. But is there a community of true believers?

I wonder. Hiking doesn’t generate fanaticism, compared to climbing, mountain biking and board sports like surfing, all of which require major commitments of time, money, energy and education. Heck, most of us combine our hikes with other stuff — photography, birdwatching, blogging — and the walk is almost a second thought.

Hiking doesn’t seem sexy compared to those extreme sports with their extreme hype. Not complicated enough, not difficult enough, not expensive enough. Meanwhile, Americans by the millions get fatter and fatter, wearing out ever more couch cushions. They don’t have to learn to climb mountains to turn things around — all they really need to do is go on some hikes.

Hiking did turn my life around, which is why I’m one of the true believers. We may not have a tribe but we have our trails, and our tales. That’ll do for now.