On Rating Hikes

On Rating Hikes

Above: No one said anything about snow on July 31 in Mount Rainier National Park!

I am a journalist, so I am accustomed to researching the bejeebers out of everything, including my outdoor experiences. So imagine my surprise when I reached Third Beach in Olympic National Park at pre-dawn, and found not a few beached logs, as my reading indicated I would. Instead, there was a big, slippery pile of them blocking my access. And there I was, in near-darkness, hauling a heavy pack full of camera gear and just weeks removed from knee surgery.

That’s when the most spectacular light began to glow upon a parade of otherworldly sea stacks off in the distance. I was resolved to avoid taking many risks, but that light was why I hiked 1.4 miles in almost complete darkness. So I risked injury and possibly worse, and climbed over the pile. When I was finished taking pictures, it was lighter so the climb back over the pile was a little less daunting. A little.

That was when I noticed a small stream off to the side, with the logs laid across. Out of curiosity, I crossed – and found the unobstructed trail to the beach. A left turn, never mentioned in any descriptions, was all I needed to spare me the risk of scaling the pile of logs.

(NOTE: Clicking on an image will launch a larger-sized viewer).

So I’ve vowed to be the guy who writes about the left turn. The Trail Posse is a website devoted to encouraging the diversification of the outdoors, which means encouraging people who seldom or never have ventured to a trail of any kind. And that means making certain that use of a given trail is as accessible and feasible as possible, that the barriers and fears are wiped away.

Of course, that means identifying all the left, right and wrong turns. It also means curating hikes. This website may not be as hiking-centric as others, but it certainly is hiking-emphasized. Hiking, after all, is the best way to experience the outdoors, in terms of return for effort. County, state and national parks are formed with an important task of protecting the landscape and its wild inhabitants from the impact of humans, meaning roads are not built directly to a place’s most interesting and stimulating features. Ya gots to walk.

Also hiking speaks to the object of getting outdoors – unplugging from civilization and into nature, its wonders and clean air, sensory stimulation and its part in a journey inward as well. There definitely are amazing drives that we will write about, which we’ll endorse as long as it’s agreed that you’ll occasionally leave your vehicle for a closer look, listen or sniff. Otherwise, you might as well watch a nature video and defeat the whole purpose.

The Trail Posse is choosing hikes, instead of blanketing this site with them. The intent is to get people to try hiking, so the hikes can’t tear you up physically or offer nothing compelling in return. The ideal also is to help people build a lasting, fulfilling relationship with the outdoors, which means hiking again. And again. There are, after all, people who climb mountains just because they are there. That isn’t our audience. That said, there will be moderately more difficult hikes presented from time to time because people want to push themselves and grow.

My entire career has been in sports media, so I know people love to have things rated and ranked. We’ll find things to rate here, but hikes and gear won’t be among them, at least for the foreseeable future. An audience just getting started doesn’t have the context to know why someone thought a hike was worth two stars. Two stars? Out of what? And why? The Trail Posse is going to describe and show.

I’m also not going to put down an expected time. How can I really know? All I do know is that hikes that might be expected to take, say, two hours might take me four or five. That because I’m taking pictures, or shooting video, or just hanging.

The same goes for “difficulty.” Guides like to tell you that a hike is easy, moderate, or hard/strenuous. Shoot, there are folks I know for whom an easy hike would be strenuous. I took a hike in Mount Rainier National Park that was rated “moderate,” which I certainly can handle. It was so taxing, I saw people quit midway up, I drank all my water (though I almost always have half a container left) and I was seriously struggling during the final yards back to my car. That hike was nobody’s “moderate.”

I can guarantee that I never will tell anyone that a strenuous hike is moderate or easy. First of all, I’m going to describe the difficulty, not rate it with a system many won’t understand anyway. Secondly, I make every hike weighted down. Check out What’s in My Pack, just look at the picture even, and see what I haul every single time out. And then tell me that I’ll underestimate a hike.

And don’t even get me started on rating drives. No way, I’m ever going to know if your annoying cousin will be sitting in the back seat.

Click Here for Common Hiking and Landscape Terms

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On Rating Hikes
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