Johnson: Setting the pace in 2019
As the older brother, I always set the pace on our hikes. Like our Dad, who was always at the head of the pack, I was always in front of my little brother, until my sophomore year in high school, his freshman year. How humiliating!
I first noticed him gaining on me during a hike in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Something was different/wrong. Could it be that he was no longer smaller with a shorter stride? It was getting harder and harder to stay ahead of him. Then, on that fateful day in the Superstition Wilderness, I knew it was over. If I continued to try and stay ahead of him, I would surely die. So, I stepped aside and said, “See you later.”
More often than not, the people we hike with do not all hike at the same pace. We all have a natural pace like we have an inborn personality. For me, it is generally two miles/hour regardless of whether I am going uphill, downhill, on a wide open trail or obscure path. It is fairly constant. Regardless of our pace, trying to speed up or slow down to match another’s pace takes its toll. This plays out in various ways on any group hike.
Surprise! My niece invited me on a group hike up Mt. Wilson near Sedona via the south trail. I was surprised because she is not a hiker. I prefer the north trail since it is the path less traveled and is shadier. But, since it’s winter, the sunnier aspect is probably a better route and we agreed to get an early start, 8:00 am on a Saturday, way ahead of the normal crowds. I had no idea who else was hiking with us that day.
After I purchased my RedRock Pass at the trailhead for $5.00, twelve people gathered at Midgley Bridge. The ages ranged from 10 to 60. Some were quite out of shape and did not, in fact, reach the summit. Hiking experience ranged from extensive to novice. Some wore tennis shoes though there was snow approaching the summit plateau and the winds picked up. While it could only be called a gentle breeze, it was a little chilly, especially for some who brought no wind protection.
We spent a few minutes before we started, discussing our plan on how to stay together. My Brother took the lead and I brought up the rear, as usual. Groups can get strung out under these circumstances, so we had to be conscientious about regrouping at staggered intervals.
Once we reached the bench, some thought that was the summit. When I pointed out that it was further and rose above us, they got discouraged and about half the group decided they had had enough. Two adults, three kids and the sole dog turned back at that point. Apparently, attitude/enthusiasm affects not only your pace but whether or not you care enough to reach the designated destination.
Thus far, we’ve seen that experience, equipment, the people you hike with, weather, physical condition and build as well as attitude can significantly affect your pace on a hike. Why does pace matter anyway? Simply put, pace may be the deciding factor as to whether or not you reach your desired goal on a hike, just like in life.
Next: Additional factors affecting our pace on Mt. Wilson and why pace mattered on a hike/climb on Red Mountain east of Phoenix.
Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at email@example.com.