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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Buyer

#16: Honest Hiking Review

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

I did my first hike in Washington this weekend—Which also happens to be my 3rd of 4th hike in total. (Don’t tell that to the rest of Seattle or I won’t fit in here.) We were scheduled to leave at 8am Saturday morning, which meant that I was rushing to get myself to bed on Friday. Luckily, we were delayed a few hours thanks to several flat tires. Part of me wanted to chicken out. Mount Si is labeled “hard” on the allTrails app. It’s 7.5 miles and close to 4,000ft elevation. I’ve learned that it’s almost impossible to find a hard hike in the Midwest or even East coast on allTrails. If it is labeled “hard,” it’s the equivalent of moderate in the PNW. When I did my first 3.5-mile hike in Vermont, I thought “oh that’s nothing, I’m in great shape…” Until I realized that hiking a mile NOT the same as walking a mile. A mile takes closer to 30 minutes rather than 18-20. I have yet to find a hike that’s as boring or difficult as 10 minutes on the stair master though.

Nearly everybody in the PNW says they love to hike. Do they really love to hike, or do they just want to fit in? I hope that I catch the bug too—and I’m starting to understand, although I’m still trying to figure out exactly what about hiking everyone enjoys. Do people enjoy the struggle to get up the mountain, the workout they get from it, or just the views? Why do I want to wake up early, drive at least two hours to get sticky and dirty huffing and puffing up a mountain? Is it because it’s cool to say I did the hike or is the view really worth it? With all that being said, I had about as good of a time as possible this weekend and would do it again. (Lol.) I DEFINTELY earned my shower.

As much as I think I’m in good shape, I learned quickly in Vermont that hiking shape is completely different. I’d describe the physical challenge of hiking as similar to tennis— Neither are straightforward cardio. You do have to be in good cardio shape, but it’s like running with lots of knee bending. Once you start, you must be committed for the long haul, especially with a group. Similar to tennis, it takes mental toughness to push forward at a constant pace and not get sidetracked by the long journey ahead. There’s nothing worse than constantly waiting for someone or listening to complaints the whole time. (To my family… don’t @ me for that.) I’ve gotten to be a pro at motivating myself to go to the gym, so hiking will be a new mental exercise in determination and persistence. There were times on Saturday that I wondered if I’d make it, but I knew the only option was to keep going and I’d hate myself if I didn’t. You know how the first few blocks of a run can be the hardest without a warmup? I might do a few jumping jacks in the future, just to get my heart rate going and focused on something other than panicking.

I’m grateful that I was with people that knew what they were doing and pushed me to go faster. Speed never comes easy to me, but I’m not one to admit to weakness so I forced myself to keep up… or maybe they slowed down for me and didn’t say anything. There’s a fine line between getting any group to agree on something because they genuinely agree and agreeing because no one wants to chicken out. I might as well agree whenever I can so that I can feel comfortable saying no when it’s important. (Like running down the mountain) I didn’t feel the air get thinner on this hike, although technically it did. At one point I felt light headed, but luckily it was only a second. I do want to be mindful of dehydration and oxygen level changes. There’s a difference between pushing myself and being stupid. My peers would rather me be a buzzkill than pass out and make it their problem.

Even though there was no view, the temperature and greenery were perfect. The smell of the woods was calming in exactly the way I strived for when I attempted and failed to keep houseplants alive. I’m nowhere near ready to go camping, but hiking is something to do besides shopping and eating. Is there a “hiker’s high” similar to a runner’s high? I don’t think I felt it, but I have a sense of accomplishment getting to the top of the mountain. I didn’t know that Mount Si is one of the harder day hikes until someone told me later. I’m capable of so much more than I think—In life and in the gym. I’m giving myself an extra pat on the back for a few reasons. 1. My first hike in Washington was 7.5 miles, and without hiking shoes. 2. I went with a group of entirely new people, which adds the social dimension of censoring myself and making a good first impression. 3. I managed as the only girl in a group of all guys. As much as I’m a feminist, I’ve it before and I’ll say it again: Genetically, guys are stronger and faster, but I held my own.

We saw every type of person on this hike. Short, tall, overweight, underweight, all genders, old, young and dogs. It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that so many different types of people are capable of completing such a hard hike, but nonetheless I’m impressed and reminded to check my biases.

I expected that the way down would be almost as difficult as the way back, since that’s how it was in MA and VT, but it wasn’t. It only took us an hour to get down, and I was never nervous that I wouldn’t make it. I think it’s the rocks and slipperiness that made the difference. Climbing down rocks might be harder than climbing up, but we didn’t have to do that this time.

Because we left early and my gym closes early, I didn’t make it to the gym on Saturday. The hike was tough, but I still would’ve done my normal lift if I had time. I was less upset than expected, but it still makes me anxious that I missed something scheduled. I spent most of the way down questioning if I did enough, especially because my sweat dried by the end so I wasn’t able to remind myself how much I was sweating on the way up (gross, I know). If I’m going to hike more often, I’ll have to get used to missing a lift or two, despite still technically working out. The change in pace is probably good for my mental health and reducing burnout.

According to this article, hiking uses all leg muscles. What Muscles Does Hiking Work? The Answer May Surprise You ( Intuitively, this makes sense, although I felt each movement in my hamstrings. My front squat is my best lift, but I usually feel things in my hamstrings. Lucky for me, hamstring workouts are the only part of leg day I look forward to. Nothing feels better than the stretch on an RDL or good morning. I’m constantly afraid that I’m not doing enough quad exercises, so I’m disappointed that hiking will only contribute to this problem.

Here’s a quick recap of my thoughts during the hike: Start line: I hope I don’t have to go to the bathroom on this hike. Maybe I should’ve chickened out. No, I have to be here to meet people. I’m in great shape, there’s no turning back. 0.7 miles in: Sh*t, this is tiring, when does the hill stop? I’m never going to make it.

1.5 miles: Another hill? Don’t be a baby. You’re not even going to the gym today suck it up. 2 miles: How long has it been? It smells nice. It looks like twilight. I should probably drink some water? What if I pass out? I need to wash this backpack. Ok, I won’t pass out. This is fun.

3 miles: F*ck, we aren’t there yet? This is only almost halfway. Maybe someone else will give up and then I don’t have to. I wonder if I’ll make it to dinner on time.

4 miles: Wow, I can’t believe we made it. I’m hungry and cold. But this is great. I can see why people do this to themselves.

At the end: Wow, I can’t believe I did it. I could go to the gym now. Did I even do anything? I'm not sweaty anymore. Good thing I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I haven't checked my phone in so long, I hope I have texts.

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