I took this up as an answer to the question floating around the hiking blogosphere. Tom Mangan actually challenged us to answer the age-old question on his blog, Two Heel Drive. The idea was to just shoot from the cuff. Here goes.
I hike like some people golf. You know, I only compete against myself. Often, the competition doesn't bring his 'A' game. In truth, it's just that out there, nobody is richer than me, or better looking. They're not more athletic, or smarter. They're not blessed more than I am. There's nobody to impress besides myself.
It's supposed to be fun, yet there are moments on each hike when I ask myself,"why did I come out today?" The answer is usually the same. I don't go out to conquer a hill(wheezing and puffing). I don't go out to take a picture(I'm not that good). I don't go out to be with my friends(they go out with me). I don't even go out to get in shape(it isn't working). All of those are just the fringe benefits. I go out because I am in control out there. Not over the weather or water availability mind you. Just over my own reaction to it. I can challenge myself if I choose to, or take it easy. I can practice a new skill. I can hum to myself or just sit in solace. It's all up to me. I don't take a phone or an iPod. I don't take a book. I just let my mind roll. Or not roll. Sometimes, I can't even tell you what I've been thinking about.
Occasionally, there's some new piece of gear to be tested. That gives me an excuse to play outside. Or, there's some destination that I really want to see. By 'see', I mean take that mental snapshot that will last a lifetime. Not the posed one. Not the same one I record digitally. The first view of a waterfall. Or a clean running stream. Even the view of a valley when I first crest the bluff line. Those pictures never come out well anyway. But those are the ones that stir my soul. The pictures I take are only to remind me someday to remember the one my mind took. The one that matters.
Why do you hike?