1. OMG—You must be SO strong and fit. I could never do that.
People don’t really mean this. What they mean is that they are so lazy and comfortable sitting on the sofa that they don’t see any reason to get up and get out into the mountains. But they can’t say that, so they say this instead.
And no, we are not Olympic athletes. We are in pretty good shape, but we have met lots of people who are not in great shape who have a wonderful time backpacking.
And here is the crazy part. People who quake at the thought of hiking four miles through the mountains will then spend six hours walking through a shopping mall carrying bags full of unnecessary stuff. Which is harder? We’d have a much harder time doing the shopping! And in six hours, they will certainly walk more than four miles--and possibly carry more weight than we do. Go figure.
How many miles do we walk in a day? The most we've done with packs is about 13. Without packs, about 16. (Well, P did over 20 one day--but he was much younger then.) If you figure that we're walking two miles an hour, the distance isn't so much about how hard we are working, but simply how many hours we continue to put one foot in front of the other. Hiking at the very relaxed pace of a mile and a half an hour, you can easily hike five miles before lunch. And camp right then if you want to!
On the other hand, it is amazing to us how few people actually get out and walk even two miles. When we went to Yellowstone National Park a few years ago, we were warned that all the good hiking is in the Grand Tetons. Nonsense. We got out of our car in Yellowstone, hiked about a mile, and suddenly found ourselves alone--no people, just wonderful scenery and an occasional wild animal.
You don't have to walk far to get that kind of experience. But you do have to take the first step.
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