I feel bad for people who live in big cities. Sure, the allure of the large metropolitan life can be tempting. I lived in the burbs of New York City for the first 18 years of my life. It gets old very quickly. I appreciated the sheltered, upper-middle class life, but I did not enjoy the traffic, driving at least 20 minutes to anything, or the cost of living. And while living in the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania tristate area has some wonderful stuff to offer, there are just too many people.
Ever go out to the bar and reach a point where you’re just fed up with being around people? I’ve had many Irish exits occur right around this time. But I get Thoreau’s Walden. The man lived the dream that I hope to have one day: be a curmudgeonly old man with a bunch of land, a pond nearby and plenty of woods.
This is why I love hiking. When I was growing up in the burbs, any halfway decent park was oversaturated with loud, obnoxious families with their shitty kids and awful pets ruining the majesty of the wilderness. These people run around with their expensive cameras that they have no idea how to properly use because they are “amateur photographers” and talk with their eyes closed about saturation and exposure instead of enjoying themselves. It makes me furious when I would go hike in the NY-NJ-PA area and people would be taking selfies while they let their rat creature dog run loose, prompting my large dog to give it the business after its attempt to attack him. There is nothing natural about small dogs. They don’t belong in the outdoors.
I am lucky enough to live in an area where there are over 15 parks within an hour and a half radius. After spending 40 hours a week in a cubicle with no windows, I look forward to my weekend in the woods with Mrs. Madoff and my 75 lb. pit bull. It’s nice to get away, a reprieve from society, and just me and nature.
There are many great things about the outdoors. It’s easy to enjoy the green trees and go at your own pace, marveling at the great gorges, the high vantages and smoky mountain tops to the winding rivers and valleys. I could never move somewhere without mountains because flat land feels unnatural and foreign. That John Denver guy was in fact, not full of shit when he enjoyed the Rocky Mountain highs.
Hiking isn’t just meant to be mountains and valleys. Explore Civil War battlefields, landmarks, rivers, lakes, caves; pick your poison. As humans, we aren’t meant to be desk jockeys, staring at screens and sitting for upwards of eight hours a day. The drive to be in the wild, to explore, is innate. A brisk hike up and down the side of the mountain does it for me much more than running through a neighborhood or on an elliptical with a barely working T.V. There’s also a smugness about the running community that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. People that hike don’t have stickers on their car proclaiming their love for hiking because hiking is a journey, not a bumper sticker or participation trophy.
One of the most fulfilling things about hiking is that you feel like you actually did something with your day. Each hiking experience is different. I’ve seen rattlesnakes, bears, hawks, trout and turtles. You name it, and I’ve probably seen it. I enjoy nature, I love animals, why not put them together with a little exercise and a dose of fresh air. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it snows, often, it’s a beautiful day and everything is copasetic.
America has some great places to hike. Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Appalachian Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains and many smaller and equally beautiful parks, sites, preserves, etc. Bring your dog, or use the great outdoors as an excuse to get a dog if you are too spineless to tell your girlfriend/boyfriend you want one. Find some time this weekend, lace up some old shoes, fill your pack with jerky, an old Leatherman, some water and head out to the trails. Sometimes, the world drags you down, but a personal hero of mine, Anthony DeMartino, put it best:.
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