The phases of hiking uphill

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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After Thursday’s festivities and food, you may be thinking of a way to get outside to negate the onslaught of calories consumed. Hiking the day after Thanksgiving is a popular pastime and there are many hikes to choose from. I’m not writing this to tell you spots to hike, but to explain what you may experience if your hike goes uphill.            

The first part of the hike will be carefree. Those first steps off of pavement rejuvenate the senses with the sounds of birds and the smell of good old-fashioned dirt. Lots of chit-chat will occur on this part of the hike.               

Jockeying for seniority among veteran hikers occurs here. “I’ve done this trail before. Just follow me,” “Hiking Harry” may say, only to be outgunned by “Trailmaster Tommy” who says, “I’ve hiked it too while I was training for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike.” Trailmaster Tommy threw the Appalachian trail trump card to become the trip leader.            

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After the hiking hierarchy is established, the deliberate part of the hike ensues. The group will get into a rhythm and knock out some mileage. The ones in your group that are in shape will keep chatting but as the steepness increases, the talking decreases.            

At this point, you are at the trudge portion of the hike. Here, “Hiking Harry” has a name change to “Harry Huff and Puff.” He will start to make comments like, “I don’t remember it being this steep,” or, “Did we make a wrong turn?” During this part of the hike, be glad that Trailmaster Tommy is in the lead.            

A good trip leader like Tommy will start to tell stories of other tough hikes as the rest of the group trudges behind, slowly walking and heavily breathing. This hike may remind Tommy of the approach trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia at the start of the Appalachian Trail. He will probably have some stories of animal encounters while sleeping in huts. These stories will do little to soothe the burn in your lungs, but it makes the trudge tolerable.           

Trailmaster Tommy’s story will abruptly end with a phrase like, “Well here we are!” You are now at the triumphant point of the hike. The gorgeous mountain view you worked hard for is laid out in front of you. A late fall view in the mountains is not as colorful as it was a few weeks ago, but is just as fascinating. With the leaves gone, you can see the bones of the mountains. Valleys, ridges and gorges cut up the escarpments adding appreciation for the rugged hills we call home.            

The triumphant part of the hike lasts the rest of the weekend. “Harry Huff and Puff” becomes “Hiking Harry” again on the hike back down. The whole group will point things out they missed on the hike up. The burning lungs were worth it for not only the view, but the sense of accomplishment. Anyone can search for a pretty view on the internet, but you worked for it.            

So, skip shopping on Friday and hike to an overlook. Enjoy being carefree at the start and determined in the deliberate phase, embrace the strain in the trudge, and feel triumphant the rest of the weekend knowing what you have accomplished. 


The view from the top after an uphill hike is always worth it.