It should be no secret by now that I like to hike, even just for the day. There are a few circles I run in--or at least around the edge of--that are pretty hardcore about the wilderness, about getting outside in big ways. People who don't consider anything less than multi-day mountain expeditions a valid way to spend time outdoors. I get that, more or less. I can be dismissive of "easy" hikes, or people who say they're hiking in Forest Park. You're not. You're going for a walk. I try not to say that out loud, but there it is. When I see people on short hikes with poles and boots up to their shins I laugh a little internally. Relax, I want to say! It's no multi-day expedition, after all. I've been known to be perhaps a little too cavalier about getting outside, which I think is actually in my blood (many family hikes have been undertaken with too little water and no food), but it's always worked out, and in large part because I am very tough. I have no qualms about making that claim anymore--I have grit to me, the ability to put my head down and power through. That kind of mentality is well-suited to the same one that says that an overnight backpacking trip hardly counts as backpacking at all, and that car camping is basically a hotel. So I get it, coming from my hardcore friends. I do.
But then I go on a day hike, a little romp up to the mountain, and I think how much they miss out on. Or I haul a group out to a favorite waterfall, a nice measured hike through old growth forest along Falls Creek, and even though it's only three miles roundtrip it still feels like my legs are stretched. My lungs are filled. The cobwebs of city life have begun to be shaken loose from the dusty corners of my primal brain, and I remember how to connect better even when I'm on a sidewalk. Think of how much worse life would be if we always had to wait for our chance to do a big trip, a big time adventure. It would be awfully gray in between those bright days of hard work outside.
Even now, I'm texting back and forth with a friend about a trip we're leaving for tomorrow. We're going to bomb out to eastern Oregon for the long weekend, squeeze in an overnight trip to an alpine lake and then make it back for work on Monday morning. I keep thinking it won't be enough, that we're crazy to do it for such a quick trip. But I know I'll wake up in my tent on Sunday morning and breathe in the cool mountain air, and know that it's worth it. I'll have a seven mile downhill hike and a six hour drive staring me in the face, but I'll be so much better next week for the effort. I'll carry the brief memory of outside with me, even if it wasn't for long, and trust me, I'll be better for it.