Visiting various hiking forums I often see posts that follow this format, “Hiked X miles in just Y days!”. While that is certainly an athletic feat are they able to enjoy their trip as much if they are constantly pushing for distance? When you slow down you reap many benefits.
- Wildlife: Crashing through the woods you make enough noise to be heard from far off. When you slow down, take breaks, sit still, nature comes alive. Relaxing in a hammock you may look over to see a deer grazing next to you. Staring into a creek you may suddenly notice the crawfish dotting the bottom. Watching the treetops you start noticing the different bird species.
- Flora: When you walk slowly through nature you start to notice the different plants. You might see that those round things you’ve been stepping on are walnuts or pecans. If you walk slowly you don’t have to concentrate on the trail so much so you can look overhead. You may see you are passing under a mulberry tree and stop for a snack. You will have time to forage along the trail. Maybe you can suppliment your dinner, with some wild grape leaves substituing in for tortillas, in your Chicken Fajitas. Even if you’re not foraging noticing the unusual wildflowers, the colorful mushrooms, or even that you are about to trample through some poison ivy, is valuable.
- Vistas: If you aren’t pushing to meet that distance marker for each day, you can take a break and sit and enjoy the view. Maybe you make a cup of pine needle tea from the needles you collected on your slow hike. You can sit and sip and soak in the sights.
- Quality Food: Going slowly allows you time to make good meals, not just some rapid boil mush. Many of the recipes on this site take around 20 minutes to cook but they are worth the wait. Wouldn’t you rather have Chicken and Dumplings instead of Mountain House Mac and Cheese? Granola bars certainly sustain your body but isn’t a hot cup of coffee and some fresh biscuits more enjoyable?
- Personal Comfort: If you make camp early enough you have time to see to personal hygiene. Maybe wash out that sweat soaked shirt and dry it for the next day. Heat some water and bathe. Soak your sore feet in a cool stream. Time to take care of yourself at night, means you will have a better time hiking the next day. It also means that by the end of your trip, you aren’t so looking forward to that hot shower that you forget to enjoy your last day. Hiking doesn’t have to include enduring unhygenic conditions.
So the next time you are planning a hiking trip try reeling back your distance goals. You might be surprised at how much more you enjoy your trip.