What’s your favorite hike,” asked the young man as we walked down the trail. This is a common approach to identifying potentially likeable hikes, yet how can my favorite hike become your favorite hike? Does my favorite restaurant imply that it too might be yours? There must be a better way to get a hiking recommendation that works for ME.
Initially, I need to know what I like. Then I might ask, “Since I like hiking in shady forests, what’s your favorite hike under these conditions?” Now we are getting somewhere, as I would respond with, “You might like the Cabin Loop Trail or the Highline Trail on the Mogollon Rim.”
Better yet, if I had a tool to help me match my preferences with potential sites, I might hike with a lot more satisfaction. Of course, I need to leave room for surprises, taking a risk, and trying something new because I may discover a preference that I didn’t even know I had. Using a compare and contrast approach to hiking, like we do in so many other areas of life, has helped me to better understand what I like, hence target future hikes with greater confidence.
Remember those books on opposites for kids? How about the age old approach of comparing one thing with another to better understand them both? Didn’t Solomon compare the wise with the foolish 3,000 years ago? Ever use the expression, “as different as night and day?” How long have we sought to understand evil by comparing it with good? Politically, we talk about left and right, even though we generally live somewhere in between. I recently applied this approach to a couple of hikes in southwest Utah.
Never having hiked in Cedar Breaks, I checked the National Park Service website to get a handle on what trails were available: Ramparts Trail and Alpine Pond Loop. Each one is about four miles round trip. As I left the Ramparts trailhead, I approached a sign warning me about cliffs and was thrilled to see the world fall away before me in brilliant colors of red, yellow, and orange. Recent snowfall lingered in the shade of some conifers lining parts of the trail at 10,000 feet. Hiking along this ridge was magical, uplifting, and breathtaking. I felt totally free. If you have a fear of heights, this is not the trail for you. The Alpine Pond Loop would be better, especially since it’s not an alpine pond but a small lake tucked away in a cozy forest.
Buckskin Gulch is a very narrow slot canyon near the Arizona – Utah border between Kanab and Page. Some years ago I hiked about five miles one way and enjoyed it immensely. Not so this time. I felt like I was hiking in a tomb. Some parts are less than three feet wide and the walls rise to at least 100 feet, so all you can see of the greater world is a tiny sliver of blue sky far above your head. If you get claustrophobic, this is not the hike for you. Comparing the two hikes side-by-side, I now understand why my favorite hikes are those with expansive views. This is common in Arizona where I have grown up. Buckskin Gulch is still worth doing as it is such a unique experience, but it’s not my favorite hike. I’ll expand on this approach next time comparing ovens and refrigerators.
Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at email@example.com.