I'm a Hiker. This is What that Means to Me.
What does it mean to be a hiker? The question is our own to answer.
By Erika Haugen-Goodman
I consider myself a hiker and, the truth is, I haven’t set foot on a trail outside of city limits in almost 2 years, and pretty infrequently at that. There are a lot of opinions on what makes a hiker a hiker. Some people associate it with how often you go, or what trails you visit. Others think it’s how you dress, or what gear you have. But the truth is, a hiker can be whatever you make it to be, whether you’re hiking once a year or you’re outside every week. Enforcing a specific look, destination or frequency to hiking doesn’t actually impact our experiences, it only offers us a way to define the things we enjoy. And we should be able to define the things we enjoy for ourselves.
About 2 years ago I realized my time to enjoy the outdoors was becoming more limited. Between a job, a child and other hobbies and demands, time to hike became a luxury. I’d fit hikes in at the local park in the evenings, or if I was feeling adventurous I’d walk the extra half mile to link up with another greenspace I enjoy. As I went on these quieter strolls, I had time to reflect. I asked myself if I missed the alpine views (and long drives that went with it). I asked myself if what I was doing was actually hiking. But those questions only led to a bigger question: did it matter, so long as I was enjoying myself?
It can be easy to keep ourselves from enjoying the things we love. Feelings of not belonging are insidious. Instead of telling ourselves we can, we often offer up reasons why we can’t, or shouldn’t. Hiking is not immune from these kinds of thoughts. Which is why I offer the idea that if we free ourselves from looking at hiking or being a hiker in one specific way, it opens up a whole world of possibilities in the outdoors. It doesn’t matter if you hike a neighborhood park once a month or if you’re the slowest person on the trail. It doesn’t matter if you like to hike the same trail over and over, or if you prefer an easier stroll instead of a tougher summit.
I call myself many things. I’m a queer woman, a nerd, a mom, a friend, a reader and someone who only burns instead of tans. But I also call myself a hiker, because no matter how often I get out, or where I go, that label belongs to everyone who wants to claim it.
Did you take a hike recently? Writing a trip report might help inspire another hiker (like me!) to get outdoors.