The anticipation excites me as I think about the hike. I’ve heard stories of an uncanny ability to tirelessly scale miles of trail in search of the unknown. 5 mile hikes that turn into 14 mile hikes — that kind of thing…
More often than not, I find myself lost in the captured visuals of endless waterfalls rocketing years of snowmelt into the foreground watering this side of the Cascades. These trails are the paths of legends, and the way of our Hiker. If only the trees could tell stories.
Long gone are the days of left, right, left, insane hikes with no mission (but attrition), repeatable landscapes designed to break fire, and screaming lunatics charged with keeping things tight. As I consider the geography for our destination, I consult the wall of technical equipment that flanks my workshop wondering just how crazy this one’s gonna be.
We’re in Estacada, Oregon this morning where we’re supposed to meet up with our guy. The temperature is a cool 48 degrees; not too shabby for this time of year, but I sure am hoping it warms up. Temperatures for today are expected to creep into the mid-70s accompanied by a steady breeze from the west.
I finish putting on sunblock like I’m about to be handed a gold star for effort — remembering the early years in life where my grandmother would put so much sunscreen on that it’d bring tears to my eyes. Maybe that’s the gold star effort I feel deep inside.
Since we're talking about feelings, I feel saturated with water and breakfast too. Hydrate or die is the saying. Sometimes I drink too much water and end up feeling like a fat camel, if you know what I mean!
The Hiker pulls up in his rig. I’m thankful I beat him here as it allowed for a few extra minutes of morning quiet, that stuff is priceless these days. It’s go time! Exiting from the vehicle, he wears a slight grin almost in anticipation of what he’s about to deliver. Or rather, what this section or series of trails is about to impart upon me.
I consult my daypack, ensuring my snacks have all made it along for the ride. My hydration pouch contains a liter and a half of water. That should do. The worst thing I’ve experienced on a hike until now has been minor cramping and hunger. Having a steady supply of nutritious snacks that taste good along with nature’s finest H2O is a good start toward staying fueled. Keeping up with what the body needs is normally a big challenge for me.
I jump out of the truck to greet The Hiker.
“What’s up brother! I hope you’re hydrated and ready to keep up”, I say, as if I’m going to show this guy how to hike. Right… My light-hearted approach and banter reflect my slight nervousness. His coy smile tells me he also has some pre-conceived notions about our upcoming experience together, and maybe he thinks he’s going to crush my soul. The thing is, I live for this stuff! Not necessarily the hike per se, but the challenge. I love the idea of opening yourself up to someone else’s regimen and idea of an insane outing on the hill. I prefer two wheels and pedals as opposed to this walking thing, but hey, that’s me. What’s your preferred mode of travel?
“For the record, and in case they have to come looking for my body, where can I tell my wife we are headed on this fine day”, I ask. The Hiker replies as if though addressing a tour bus full of wide eyes. “This morning we will depart the Memaloose trailhead and step off toward Clackamas Falls.” The hiker goes on to mention that this is his favorite hike. Knowing this, I feel a bit more comfortable with the knowledge that we’re destined for a scenic hike instead of a more mundane forest cardio session, which I’ve experienced a time or two myself.
As we prepare to kick this evolution into gear, I suggest we conduct a quick gear check to make sure I’m dialed before stepping off. Water, snacks, and a change of socks, I’m good. I look at The Hiker, he looks back at me. I nod my head like we just had a conversation… We both know it’s time.
As we step off now with the vehicles in our rear view, our Hiker begins to share with me almost as if prompted. “A good hike is anything with a view, that you’re not going to find really anywhere else. Something that many people aren’t willing to do because it tests their limits.” I chuckle because I agree. Testing limits and leaving comfort zones; much of America has gotten soft and wouldn’t have the sack to meet this challenge. The pandemic sure didn’t help with that. If anything, the lack of togetherness and increased exclusion have amplified how lazy society has gotten. While I’m sure you could experience this hike via video or some other method, but there’s nothing like immersing yourself in nature. It’s just good for the soul.
In response to the Hiker’s claim about people and their limits, I casually say, “We’ve dubbed you The Hiker. Is that what you are, or what do you call this hobby thing of yours?”
“Crickets”, I mumble. We used to say that in the Marine Corps when we’d say something to someone or a group, and get no response. A bit sarcastic, absolutely.
A few minutes pass as if though he had to reset his brain to adequately respond to my silly question, and responds as if though he’s been asked this question before. I also get the feeling that he’s mocking me. “I’m not a hiker. I like to call myself more of an adventurer. Sometimes, I gravitate towards hikes that are classified as hard or very hard through an app that tells me the details of each hike.” So the chances are that this hike we’re on is either Hard, or Very Hard. Oh goodie!
So The Hiker and I have a very short history together. Having worked alongside this hard-charger for a few years now, much of his reputation precedes him, but I don’t really know the details of that history. Since we’re pounding down this trail getting real together this morning, I dive in to discussion because I am naturally curious and want to know more about this character. “Tell me something about yourself that most don’t know”, I say.
Without delay he responds, “I live with an eating disorder where I can’t tell when I’m full. It was much more complicated at a younger age. Now I know when I’m full, but it’s usually after I’ve already eaten too much. I’m getting better at portion control.”
Okay… I was expecting to hear something about hiking or nature considering what we’re doing, but right on. “Thanks for sharing”, I say. We continue rumbling down the trail and I dwell on his comments about eating. Naturally, I consider that we’re on this cardiofest outing and homeboy has an eating disorder. You wouldn’t know it by looking at The Hiker. I’d be hard on myself too if I had to compete with something like that.
“Why hiking? What’s the big deal”, I inquire, as if though looking for a way to connect hiking to his eating disorder. I am naturally curious about what drives this motivation to hike. As a kid, I hated hiking. What’s the point? Hills, dirt, rocks, whining people… there’s so much more to enjoy.
“I don’t know why hiking. I didn’t choose to like it. It’s just something that I enjoy doing more than 95% of other activities,” he says. “What about the other 5%, what are those activities”, I laughingly ask. The Hiker responds, “I like being outdoors where I can escape from the realities of the real world while catching some good views and getting a workout in.” So there’s much more here than hiking to this outdoor calling, as is the point.
Ninety minutes into our nature walk and my excitement pings! We round a bend and the sound of the falls consumes me. The air is damp with moisture and the slight breeze created by the falls calms me. I make a move to pull out my phone for a selfie but instead I just stand in appreciation.
Too often I feel that life is captured by smart phones and other electronic devices with the desire to relive this event later and/or through social sharing. Have you actually tried soaking every ounce of that experience up first without the aid of any electronic devices? I challenge you to do that. That’s what we’re here for today. Let’s also acknowledge that there are people out there that would do a hike of this nature just for the selfie. Heck, maybe they’ll even launch themselves off the falls for a few extra likes. Good for you! Maybe we’ll give you a LIKE on social if your picture’s worth the energy.
Interested in joining us for the rest of the hike? That may just be possible. In order to make the most of your hiking experience, we suggest you insert the following lower body workout routine into your regimen.
And here’s a damn good playlist to listen to during that workout or next solid hike. We call this our Friday playlist. Aloha and enjoy!
THE HIKER’S WORKOUT.
Active warmup with banded hip circles. 60 seconds, then reverse direction.
Squat Circuit (5x rounds)
- Squat bar, no weight, 15-20 reps to get into a good groove.
- Add 2x 45 lbs. plates to the bar, squat for 10-15 reps.
- Add 2x 25 lbs. plates to the bar, squat for 8-10 reps.
- Remove 2x 25 lbs. plates, add 2x 45 lbs. plates, squat for 6-8 reps.
Bodyweight Step-ups, each leg, 50x each leg.
Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells, 3x15.
Weighted calf raises, 5x10-15.