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Making Hiking Sexier than Oatmeal

If done thoughtlessly or imitatively, the sport of hiking is about as exciting as a breakfast of store-brand instant oatmeal that is prepared with luke-warm, soft water. Of course oatmeal can be sexed-up with more texture, fruit, nuts, and yogurt. Learning how to do the same to hiking has been a long-term project for me.

One of the tricks of the trade is to take a more "naturalistic" approach. Recently I had an opportunity to do an unusually fine job of that with two boondocking friends, of bus crash fame. We walked toward some jagged Yuma mountains, right from the front door, at sunrise, with tribal "associate members," aka dogs. 

But we weren't on our way to a stereotypical peak-bagging hike on an official list of Top Ten hikes in the area. Rather, we were headed up a large arroyo, delineated by harsh brown mountains. When you look at the area on Google maps, you can't tell ridgelines from declivities. It's as if the land was a piece of crumpled aluminum foil that was illuminated with a flashlight in a dark room. You must move Google's hand icon to the spot and read the altitude.

Let's hope they weren't just doing this hike to humor me.  The scenery turned out surprisingly good. We were also relieved to find/lose/re-find a faint trail (made by whom?) along the arroyo. (There were no signs of course.) This made walking easy, both directions. The mountain walls on both sides were almost canyon-like. The rocks were so sharp to touch that you would have needed gloves. But the rocks in the arroyo were half-rounded and easy on the dogs' paws. 

There was precious little vegetation except along the arroyo, where the trees were surprisingly large. Even though the weather on this winter hike was perfect, the morning sun eventually climbed over the ghastly walls to heat up the trail, enough to imagine the horror of Yuma's summer heat. 

We had already been surprised a couple times, would we be lucky enough to stumble onto a spring or even the tiniest trickle of that magical liquid dribbling out of an untouchably sharp rock? 

Alas, that didn't happen. Nor did we find the fabled Southeast Passage through the mountains, despite some false hope along the way. It didn't really matter. When we had had enough, we sat down and enjoyed a snack in the shade. The descent was pleasant as it always is, in an arroyo.

I am not anti-camera, and in fact, even brought mine along. There would have been a couple opportunities to use it, too. But I didn't. Visual entertainment is not rubbish, but it is irrelevant. The satisfaction to be gotten along the arroyo is an autochthonous one: a Dread of sun and heat and the Ecstasy of water.  


I had promised my friends that rains were soft at this time of year, the secondary rainy season in the Southwest, and that they should camp right down in the arroyo, on the nice rounded cobble. A couple nights later they claimed to hear a foot of water flowing over the nice rounded cobble. (It was the middle of the night, and I suspect they were dreaming.) What could be more wonderful than to wake up to water flowing over your campsite? Shame on them for not appreciating that. Still they won quite a few brownie points for their camping and hiking skills over their two week stint. 


John V said…
Hearing water rushing on either side of your rig will definitely wake you up. I went out there with a flashlight to see those two arroyos full of runoff. It's good we only had 3/4" of rain. At 1.5" of rain it would have gotten interesting!

Hiking is fun, but not much of a "sport". Now put some defenders on the trail trying to block your passage and that would make it a real sport.

That's true. A person need not think of hiking as a sport, but as a certain type of activity.
Ed said…
Sport usually defined as “any activity that gives enjoyment or recreation,” therefore hiking is a sport according to Webster’s and other dictionaries. However, our culture has more narrowly defined sport to include only those athletic activities that include competition and even more narrowly still when you read the Sports Page or TV Sports. The other things that Sports require in our culture are rules and some governing body.
John V said…
I still think bowling would be much more sporting if you placed a goalie in front of the pins.
Ed said…
I was a pin boy for two years. That is the equivalent of a goalie that is in back of the pins. A hockey goalie has to try and stop one flying puck a pin boy has to deal with 10 flying bowling pins and a big heavy ball.