“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.” John Muir
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life walking long distances through wild places, mostly as part of my job. This can be a thousand miles or more some years. Walking gives you a lot of time to think or meditate and is really a lost art to modern folks. We have college students who don’t know how far or fast a human can even walk in a day or even an hour.
I find that I walk a little slower than most of my colleagues and friends. I am a natural saunterer and like to look around which is maybe why I find a lot of artifacts and cultural features when I walk. I want to take in the landscape, the plants, animals, the geology, and the smells of a place. I like to walk in silence. It is rarely a race for me. So many people I know walk with a pack by putting their head down and looking at the ground while trying to walk as fast as their bodies will take them along. This is no fun to me. Walking is about the most enjoyable thing I can do. That’s why I’m so fond of writers like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. They loved to walk and see its value on so many levels.
When I’m asked if I want to go hiking or backpacking I usually say no but I’ll walk around with you while you hike. I’m strange that way, I know.