11 August 2007

Hiking. This is a blog entry I have written in my head many, many times over the past few months. That’s because I’ve had the opportunity to have a very clear head whilst hiking several miles. Now, one of the points of explanation must be to define “hiking” because it holds very different meanings for people. Purists may believe that it means being off-road and surrounded by wilderness. Here’s what I believe – a hike can serve many purposes and take place in many surroundings – just adapt it for YOUR needs. Personally, I appreciate what I’ll call the urban hiking experience – for many reasons.

The genesis of my interest came from too much sittin’ around. Take Si to Hula....sit around and wait. Take Ry to Capoeira....sit around and wait. I couldn’t take it any more. So I began walking during Hula in Hayward. Now this itself was a challenge. Have you ever tried to go for a nice walk or hike in Hayward? It’s not exactly walker-friendly. So out came my handy dandy Thomas Guide and I staked out some good walks from downtown into the hills. Then came Si going to Hula/Tahitian on Saturdays from 8a-noon. Uh huh. So Scott and I fought over who HAD to take her. Then we both wised up – hmmm, whoever takes her gets 4 hours to bike or hike – let’s fight over who GETS to take her! And so it began.....

I figured out quickly that it was interesting for me to walk where there is stuff to look at. And by stuff, I mean houses, yards, fences, businesses, views, etc. It kept my interest, and with my handy phone-cam, I could snap some pics for ideas. Then I figured, well, if I like to walk around the cities...why not make the walk part of my errand-doing. So, if I wanted to get some fabric, then why not walk to Poppy Fabric (3.1 miles one-way)? Or, if we all go to Capoeira on Friday nights, why not walk and meet the rest of the family there (6.9 miles)? I also found a couple of cool maps for doing this kind of hiking in Oakland and Berkeley.

One of my favorite hikes was when I had to get my brakes replaced a couple of weeks ago. I started out at San Pablo and Hearst in Berkeley, walked up to Grizzly Peak, and then circled back down. (See lame-o Google map above - their blue lines never actually land on the streets you actually travel on) Have you ever walked up Marin Ave.? Holy hiking hill, Batman. And 7.1 miles to boot. (Thanks to inl.org [what the hell is this?] for the photo [right] and grades).

So I wondered.....I’m obviously up for the East Bay hills, having tackled Berkeley and several Oakland Hills locations....but could I hold my own on the real deal.....Tahoe? Turns out....yeah baby, I could. I started in Squaw at the Village (6,200’ elevation) and hiked the Shirley Canyon trail to Shirley Lake and then up to High Camp at 8,200’. What’s that? A 3.6 mile hike with a 2,000 foot ascent? Like I said.....YEAH BABY! Did I have to stop and rest? Well, yeah. Did I at one point think I needed a beacon on my phone so that Search and Rescue could find me and bring me a Hyperbaric Chamber? Well, yeah. Altitude is a butt-kicker for sure. What would have taken me 2 hours or so at bay area altitude took about 3 hours in Tahoe because of all the resting to wait for my lungs to capture enough air. But I did it and would do it again.....but this time with another hiker.

Urban (and non-urban) hiking essentials? Fanny pack containing water, natch. Lip balm (preferably Scharffenberger Mint Chocolate – hey...we’re still in the bay area, right?), salmon jerky (the BEST quick protein fix ever during a workout as far as I’m concerned), breath mints (for actually talking to people post-hike) and the little clip-on shopping tote. See the tiny little purple flowery thing in the photo? Unsnap the little packet and out pops a full size tote. For when you run into a fruit stand, the Elephant Pharmacy, or any myriad of other shopping opportunities on your urban hike.

My view on hiking has evolved into believing that your perfect hike is being able to concentrate on what is important to you. If you want to be technically challenged by the terrain – always having to pay careful attention to where your feet are (as well as your body for fear you don’t get lost) and hone your tracking skills like Sacagawea – then hike those mountains, baby. If you’re more interested in learning about your own area where you live, and maybe get in a little shopping or idea-mining for gardens and fences (like this awesome purple artichokey-looking thingy) then do that urban hike. The bottom line is.....just get off the couch and go somewhere.

No comments: