One of the questions I get most often concerns how I’m preparing physically. I think most folks expect to hear that I’m running marathons (I’m not), or mountaineering (yikes!), or bench pressing my grandmother (sorry grandma). And although I try to exercise most days of the week, it’s not as intensive a process as most seem to think.
I like to jog through my Seattle neighborhood, usually between three and six miles, and not very fast. Sometimes I hop on my bicycle or visit the dingy local YMCA during the rainy season, but I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, think of myself as an athlete.
I do focus a lot on hills. Running up them. Walking up them when I get sick of running. Or really going anywhere by foot in Seattle, which is a city of San Fransico-worthy inclines. Running down hills (just as important). Or skipping the hills altogether in favor of the myriad public stairs carved straight up the steepest ridges in the city.
It helps that I’m accustomed to long hours on my feet, between work and my commute. I know to get extra large shoes (1.5 – 2 sizes larger than usual to accommodate swelling feet. Weird. I know), and how to use trekking poles (another name for fancy walking sticks–you think they’re dorky, I think they’re incredibly practical), and how to land on my feet to minimize impact.
I also plan on being that strange lady who walks around urban areas with a full pack and a GPS as I get closer to my departure date.
Backpacking is, I think, less a physical exercise than a mental, especially when it comes to steep climbs & long distances. Hiking 20+ miles a day doesn’t intimidate me. I can already do that. (And likely, so can you).
A drive through the mountains is full of cheap views. They can be astonishing and breathtaking, but they cost no more than an afternoon and a half tank of gas.
I like to walk. I like knowing that I can trust in my own human strength and resourcefulness.
Setting out for several days or weeks with a pack on your shoulders, finding purchase on the slippery stones leading around a basin, struggling with your tent or your stove or the incessant rain, accidentally straying from the marked path–these are the things that add value to a landscape. The best vistas are the ones that require a little extra sweat, a dedicated step, and maybe even a little fear.