A Good Day For A Long Walk – Becoming a Hiker

I’m gonna get a little deep here, but what is adventure? We can do a quick definition and find out a relatively generalized version: Adventure is defined as an exciting or unusual experience. So if we adventured all the time, is it still adventure just because it’s dangerous? Because it’s risky? Actually, it’s not.

What we crave is structure. We’re social creatures. I can talk a lot about this, and I can point you at a bunch of great research that indicates this is incredibly true, and you will likely not believe me, but I don’t have to because Jane McGonigal did it and wrote a God Damn Book about it. Plus, she Talks about it (capital T indicating a TED affiliation – what you know about links, son? Best be clickin’ that) in a way that’s way more compelling than I can. Trust me when I say this: I’ve lived The Aimless Life before. It’s terrible. I sought and continue to seek out structure and form that empower and drives me. We’re lucky enough to live in a world that enables you to do those things with a little help, a lot of patience, and varying degrees of luck.

Since starting my new job, incidentally, my workouts have become more regular and I’m getting back into journalling my food consumption a little bit better. So Fat Nerd to Chic Geek is likely to make a comeback (Don’t call it a comeback/I’ve been here for years.) avec le vengeance. This concept of structure is something I champion to a lot of my nerd friends. It’s not adventure if it’s just random all the time. You have to break up the monotony of whatever your life is with other activities, even if your life is really enjoyable – but the dark secret is that if you break up structure with something structured, chances are you’re going to have an even better time.

Enter Hiking. Or as I call it – taking a long walk. Those with powerfully generous definitions of the term might call it hiking.

My belief is, to some degree or another, playing games with my high school friends rekindled my love affair with entertainment as an idea. That got me started and looking into indie development. That got me programming. That got me thinking about games from a different perspective, and when I did that, I suddenly started thinking about everything from a new perspective. It was sort of a weird abiogenesis of the entertainer I never knew I always wanted to be. From distinct floating fragments of thought and directionless interest emerged the ambition of a person, whole and true. I don’t just owe that to video games. I owe that to the structure and sense of camaraderie that emerged from hanging out with those dudes.

So now let’s fast-forward ten years. Life does this – we all wound up moving apart and getting into different things. I chased that initial dream all the way to Florida and then (I thought) back to Pittsburgh before realizing I was chasing the shadow of a dream. Now I’m in recovery mode, building my reserves, waiting patiently, doing interesting things in preparation for round two of that great hunt. Some of my friends have missed that since we left it behind all those years ago. I got lucky – I kept going places where I had that sense of drive and focus around me all the time (until I got to Pittsburgh, really). I really won out there. I transplanted myself from one place that invigorated me to another place that invigorated and inspired me, but not everyone had that. Not everyone could access that. At least one friend joined the Army twice trying to rekindle it, and to his unending displeasure (and, I suspect, shame. There is no shame in it, but I sense it lives within him. My wish is to burn it from him), his body failed him both times.

Now we’re all – more or less – back in the same area again. We’re all in the period of the long inhale. It feels that way – everyone is actively working toward something larger, but we’re doing it disparately. That displeased this friend of mine, and he suggested we find something to do together as a unit.

None of us left here are particularly outdoorsy. Some of us pretend to be. I’ve been camping, I have some scouting under my belt, and I know basic crap about man reckoning, but I’m not a hiker. None of us are. We don’t even know what a hike is. We came way over prepared for this thing – packs full of water bottles, granola bars, hatchets – a god damn Kukri was present.

All told, we might have walked eight miles. That’s not especially a lot. We spent some time going off-trail and just wandering around up on the mountain. We were shamed by several silver-haired gentleman several years our senior who were running the paths we were trudging along through. But we had a good time with it. We communed with nature. At least four times, Zach declared his love for the outdoors. Then we’d occasionally be reminded via uphill slogs that we were on a fucking mountain, and Zach would turn coat on nature real quick – cursing it as the very air he breathed (poorly and raggedly). I was really happy that my workouts up to this point put me in good enough shape that I wasn’t truly tired until about the end of the thing, but that also means we didn’t work hard enough.

The trails we walked were relatively tame – safe for dogs and families out for a walk during the day. All of our gear and our backpacks were woefully unnecessary, but kind of fun to haul around. Plus, I can lie to myself and say the added weight of the equipment made for a more strenuous day. In the end,  we felt good having been out together, wandering around the mountains that had limned about in the backgrounds of our childhood memories. It was an especially Good Day for a Long Walk.

But we have a lot to learn. So! If you happen to be a hiker and you know anything about hiking, please – inform us via the comments below or messaging via social networks. We want to gradually ramp up our difficulty so that we’re actually hiking by the end of the summer and not just walking around in the woods.

Swing back tomorrow for a FNtCG update. We about to get regular up in this piece again.