Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Six Kinds of Hikers You Meet on the Trail

One of my very favorite pasttimes is hiking. Hiking is particularly enjoyable when the scenery includes the Grand Tetons! Many, many others share my sentiments; I've taken the liberty of categorizing them....

Newbies are first-timers. Newbie women may be wearing flip-flops or flats, make-up, even sundresses. The men are recognizable by a certain softness of skin and muscles normally not present in hiking types. The ranks of newbies thins rapidly the further you get from the trailhead.

Some newbies fall in love with hiking, study some books, and invest in hiking boots and fashions, which, incidentally, are remarkably pricey. These novices look the part but give themselves away as amateurs when they point at horse manure and say, “Look! A moose was here!”

A few novices evolve into forest-ranger-want-to-bes. These gregarious folks love to give trail advice and nature lessons to anyone who’ll listen. They almost always wear safari hats and some shade of khaki or green.

Other novices progress into hobby hikers. These types are passionate about hiking but still enjoy it. They smile a lot and greet other hikers cheerily. This is in contrast to the semi-pro hikers, who are too serious about their chosen sport to be friendly; in fact, many semi-pros barely tolerate lower-caste hikers taking up space on the trail. Semi-pros are very fit, knowledgeable, and experienced, however. If hiking was a profession, they could and would do so for a living.

Mountain men/women are easily distinguished by their sinewy legs, deeper-than-skin-deep tans, and trail-worn clothing and equipment. Mountain men can be further categorized into backpackers, trail runners, and climbers. Wiry and strong, they bound up the rocks like so many mountain goats, traveling in a super-human gear that makes other hikers feel as if they’re walking on a treadmill. Although they’re too speedy to be chatty, they’re generally quite polite and considerate of others.   

Above: Hidden Falls, Jenny Lake Trail. Below: peaks partially obscured by smoke from forest fires.


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