Hiking versus Sauntering

Part of the theme update for 2018 was the retirement of the Hiker Book Register and its replacement with a register with the following (rather long-winded) prompt:

John Muir was once asked: “Someone told me that you do not approve of the word ‘hike.’ Is that so?”

Muir replied: “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of the word ‘saunter’? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘to the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”


As with the 2017 Hiker Book Register, I supplied the first entry:

As I pondered what I should select as the prompt for my hiker register in 2018 — the year celebrating the 150th anniversary of John Muir’s arrival in California — I stumbled upon the quote about the difference between hiking and sauntering, and thought that might serve as a good springboard to get visitors to my hiker oasis (especially thru hikers) to reflect upon and share their thought on their relationship with the landscape through which they are passing on this epic journey.

For myself, my outdoor adventures are typically a bit of both. I find that maintaining the “sauntering attitude” through the grinding miles (and, frankly, the monotony) of distance travel by foot is beyond me; however, on almost a daily basis, I experience something … a beautiful vista, an interesting rock, a phalanx of ants marching by the thousands across the trail … that snaps me back into a sauntering attitude. One of the local vistas that works this magic most reliably in me is the one due south of here: four receding ridgelines that, in the early morning or late afternoon, become a play of light and shadow as the sun illuminates the deeply-furrowed mountain faces. I sense (to paraphrase Muir) “the radiant face of God” in this vista and it gives me goose bumps.

Trail Angel Mary
January 1, 2018

Time will tell whether this prompt sparks the same enthusiastic response from hikers as the one generated by the prompt for the 2017 Hiker Book Register.

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