Walking vs Hiking

I’ve been enjoying Craig Mod’s Ridgeline newsletters, which cover various topics but particularly Japan and walking. There has also been some fascinating discussion of process – Craig is working within a young medium and leaving a clear trail for other people who want to follow. While I can’t justify the expense of the Explorer’s Club Membership, the free and paid access seem incredibly well-balanced.

There’s a real joy to reading these mini-essays, and seeing how they expand into larger pieces, such as a recent article on Pizza Toast in Japan. But, for me, the best bit is the insights into walking, such as Craig’s discussion of the difference between walking and hiking:

I suppose technical definition separates the two. Walks are what you might do in your average suburban neighborhood. Hikes, in the mountains. But “walk” is chosen deliberately, meant to be inclusive. By even just using the word “hike,” folks drop off: Not young enough, not strong enough, not ready for the bugs. You can trick a person into hiking by calling it a walk. I’ve done so many times. And “walk” denotes a thing to be easily grabbed. A walk is there to be taken.

Also, there is the contract. I would describe the contract of a “walk” as relatively clear. One foot after another. You leave your home, you walk along the Brooklyn Bridge, you eat some pizza; a walk thus completed. “Hike” is perhaps more fuzzy, the breadth of potential much wider — embark on a hike without double checking and you may end up on the summit of Kilimanjaro or in Berkeley Hills or eating apple pie on Pike’s Peak. On my long walk a man gave me frozen bacon on a mountain pass. But even there, even then, it never felt like a hike. I was walking, the day was bounded, a few more steps and I’d be heading down the other side, and few more steps after that, would be at my inn for the night. The contracts were clear, the bacon cool against my knee.

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