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10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Apr 13, 2020 07:56 AM |

The surprising ways that being a hiker has helped prepare us for a stay-at-home lifestyle.

It's day whatever-it-is-now of staying home and staying safe, and while we might have lost track of time, it's easy to see how hiking has helped us out in this unique time in our lives. Here are 10 ways that being a hiker is making staying at home and social distancing a little easier.

Leg stretch! By Larry Neubauer
We'll get through this! Photo by Larry Neubauer.

1. Flexibility

Hikers are adaptable, and our current situation certainly requires that trait. You've got a backup plan for the backup plan, and when something happens it doesn't get you downyou figure out how to solve it. Closed trail? No problem; you’ve got a plan B. Pika chewing a hole through your hiking boots? No problem; you’ve got duct tape. Times like now are no different, and your flexibility will help you tackle the challenges that come with our changing times.

2. Endurance

Going the distance is the name of the game whether you're out in the backcountry or hunkering down for some good ol' fashioned social distancing. Endurance helps us get through the tough times, those uphill stretches of switchbacks that never seem to end. That is, until you emerge into that alpine meadow with birds chirping and the wild call of an angry marmot echoes out from somewhere near you in the underbrush. That's when you realize that your endurance made that moment possible. We can’t promise alpine meadows, but it’s good to know we’ve got the mettle to do our part. Hang in there!

3. Living in small spaces

Just like crawling into your tent at night, our current situation requires us to make the most of our homes, and for some of us (cough, definitely not me, cough), that might mean somewhere smaller than we'd prefer to be in for extended periods of time. But the good news is, since you've spent nights smashed up against a condensation-laden tent wall, you're used to this.

Stuck inside? No Biggie! Photo by Steve Kennedy.
What's being stuck inside when you can handle a tent? Photo by Steve Kennedy.

4. Tolerance for eating weird things

We've all been there. Things have gotten desperate and you reach into your backpack to find a smashed granola bar, two saltine crackers, and a messy pulp of something that might be berries but you're not entirely sure since the trail mix bag broke and spilled into the jerky. Given that we can handle all sorts of odd trail creations, it's really not a stretch to think we can handle a bit of odd cooking at home when stores or inspiration run low on our favorites.

5. kindness to each other

From trail angels to giving directions to the trailhead, to lending some hiking poles, hikers are some of the friendliest and kindest people out there. In a time when we're all needing a bit more kindness in a our lives, we're equipped to lend a hand where it's needed.

6. bartering

"If I make it up these switchbacks I'll treat myself to a milkshake on the way home..." Sound familiar? Hikers are amazing at bartering, and usually with ourselves (though I have seen some epic trail mix deals take place) or the hikers we’re trying to bribe just over the next rise. This situation's really no different. When we get through this, treat yourself to an amazing hike, why don't you?

Switchbacks! Ah! By Tonya Christoffersen
Make it up those switchbacks and the milkshake is yours! Photo by Tonya Christoffersen.

7. appreciating the little things

Social distancing might be reducing our ability to get out into expansive views, but one thing it's helping with is letting us appreciate the small things in our lives. Maybe it's the towering pine tree on the corner you've never noticed, or the patch of flowers blooming in the garden. Whatever it might be for you, embracing the change and enjoying the small things is a quality that hikers certainly possess.

8. excellent research skills

Finding directions to the trailhead, how long the trail is, and how much elevation gain to expect are all research skills that a hiker needs in order to be prepared for their next adventure (hey, i know a website that might help with all that...). Times right now aren't all that different. You can flex those same muscles (and count on WTA to help) to find out what's closed or open, what best practices To keep each other safe, or maybe just planning your next hike for when we can get out on trail again. 

9. Ingenuity

Duct tape and a ball of twine never look the same to a hiker once they've been caught in a downpour with a torn tent roof. Kind of like how that cardboard box and tinfoil don't look the same to my cat after I dressed up like a robot for her and pretended to be her new caretaker. But outside of traumatizing my cat, ingenuity and a bit of resourcefulness go a long way when we're staying at home and trying to find a way to keep ourselves entertained. Hikers are some of the most ingenious people out there, so there's little doubt we'll find a way to stay busy and solve problems. 

Torn pants! By Alex Siefert
If you can find a way to get out of this one, your ingenuity skills are definitely ready for just about anything. Photo by Alex Siefert.

10. risk management

Hikers work hard to avoid getting stuck on a mountain peak with an injury, waiting for search and rescue. All those smart decisions you regularly make on trail to keep your friends (and the strangers who would have to rescue you) safe suddenly feel very relevant in everyday life. As hikers, we’re prepared to recognize risk and how to manage or mitigate it. We may be more used to using those skills at a dicey river crossings, but the habit of keeping yourself (and others!) safe is second nature to most hikers! 

Have you found your hiking life has prepared you for this moment in other ways? Tell us how. 

Comments

Wilderness Photographer on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

For anyone who has gone solo backpacking where it feels like the rest of humanity is an entire solar system away, having neighbors next door and staying 6 feet apart when you go out really doesn't feel that isolating.

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Wilderness Photographer on Apr 13, 2020 04:39 PM

Johnstraillog2 on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

As someone who is constantly seeking out new and different places to go hiking-I am finding myself ill-prepared for being completely stir crazy! What I am finding is that more and more people are on neighborhood walks, biking and walking trails and beaches, because there is just no place else to go unfortunately. Does it qualify as social distancing? Sometimes. Sometimes not. But I am finding that those are wanting to get outside are still finding ways to do it, without crowding the popular trails. If it is safe to do so, I am hoping that, our local Forest Service, and DNR managed trails are reopened in May even on a limited basis.

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Johnstraillog2 on Apr 13, 2020 10:59 PM

rebadeba on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

This is so funny! And so true!! We hikers & campers know how to do this “pandemic thing”.

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rebadeba on Apr 16, 2020 12:58 PM

Johnstraillog2 on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

Under the category of “risk management” and things like dicey river crossings, sprained ankles or or any other crazy thing that happens to hikers and campers-They still qualify as far more risky than passing a handful fellow hikers on a trail(usually what you see on a lot of trails) in the era of hiking in a pandemic. Which is why the outright ban of hiking in the outdoors on all trails all of the time as just ridiculous.

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Johnstraillog2 on Apr 16, 2020 01:08 PM

Go4Hike on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

All those bandanas, balaclavas & buffs provide for some variety of face coverings.

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Go4Hike on Apr 16, 2020 02:20 PM

Go4Hike on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

All those bandanas, balaclavas & buffs provide for some variety of face coverings.

Posted by:


Go4Hike on Apr 16, 2020 02:20 PM

JasperHiker on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

I appreciate the warm humor in this piece - but after 6 weeks I am really starting to go crazy! Keeping my chin up just isn't doing it anymore. All this gorgeous sunshine, many trails are opening up - but it is all inaccessible....I feel like a little kid looking in a closed candy store.

It doesn't help that Seattle has closed all the city parks for the last week, not even allowing us to take a walk in huge parks such as Magnuson and Discovery Parks where it is easy to stay more than 6' from others.

The real spirit0-killer for me was - in the hope of maintaining sanity - I tried last week to venture a little ways out of town only to discover the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road is closed. We simply wanted to walk on the road while honoring trail closures. But the road is blocked off - complete with a security guard taking photos of cars who pause for 5 minutes to consult a map. Then we tried the Snoqualmie Valley Trail - it is closed too! I mean, come on! The trail is at least 10 feet wide - it is wider than my neighborhood streets in north Seattle that have no sidewalks and the cars all park on the road with less than 6' clearance. How is it safer to walk in my narrow neighborhood streets than take a stroll on a Forest Service road or rail-to-trail path?

The current restrictions make no logical sense from virus containment point of view. We use 1/4 tank of gas and bring a lunch so we don't have to stop anywhere; we maintain more than 6' distance, use face masks and hand sanitizer. In trying to keep us physically healthy they are killing our souls. I sure hope this situation is reviewed with a logical approach and at least the forest service roads and rails-to-trails paths can be opened up.

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JasperHiker on Apr 18, 2020 05:13 PM

Johnstraillog2 on 10 Hiker Qualities Coming in Super Handy Right Now

JasperHiker: You could not have stated your point more eloquently: I completely agree with you

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Johnstraillog2 on Apr 18, 2020 07:35 PM