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Why We Hike: 5 Stories to Get Inspired

From connecting with strangers to playing with tiny dolphins, we all have different reasons to get out and hike.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Since 1920, Eddie Bauer has been getting folks outside. And now, they want to know more about what it is that drives you to hike. These five authors, photographers, bloggers, and filmmakers have their own reasons. What are yours? Share, and you could win the adventure of a lifetime.

Leon hikes to connect

Leon McCarron is an Irish author, filmmaker, and “chancer,” or, in other words, he’s willing to take risks worth taking. McCarron’s latest book, The Land Beyond: A Thousand Miles on Foot Through the Heart of the Middle East, chronicles his hike on the new Jordan Trail from Jerusalem, in the West Bank of Palestine, to Mount Sinai in Egypt.

“Walking is such a simple way to travel. It’s probably the slowest possible way to go through a place, and that means that you see it in a much deeper way.

It’s all connected—people, nature, culture. I grew up in the countryside and I’ve always felt most comfortable, most at home, when I’m in the outdoors doing something quite active. I enjoy the freedom of being outside and feeling connected to nature. But walking also has a sort of vulnerability and simplicity to it, which makes conversations and connections with people a little easier.

The idea of hiking for pleasure is relatively new in some parts of the world, where people have always used walking as a means to get around. When I was hiking from Jerusalem to Mount Sinai, people often offered to give me a ride, because they thought maybe I couldn’t afford to drive. Why would I walk, if I didn’t have to?

But I’ve had so many incredible experiences on foot. On the Jordan Trail one day, I was so tired and just wanted to get through town to sleep in my tent. But a man named Mahmoud stopped me and insisted I stay and eat with his family, and then he asked if he and his son might be allowed to wash my feet, because they must be so sore after such a long journey. What a crazy kind gesture that is, to a complete stranger. It never fails to amaze me that someone could really be that genuinely generous and giving. Hiking is full of so many pleasant surprises.”

Louisa hikes to celebrate growth

Louisa Albanese is the assistant photo editor for BACKPACKER and makes it a priority to adventure with her kids, Max, 3, and Sofia, 5. They’ve been in climbing harnesses and hiking boots pretty much since they could walk. “Go camping!” was in Max’s vocabulary at the age of 2. The whole family crushes it on Instagram at @WildAcornsMedia.

“The outdoors have made Max and Sofia so much more resilient. Even when things are hard and they want to quit, they have to push through because we’re still three miles from the car. I love seeing them realize that, yes, they can do it.

We’ve hiked Sanitas, a pretty short but steep climb here in Boulder, probably a dozen times. But it was just this summer that Sofia did the whole thing by herself. We didn’t carry her at all, and she did it in her red sparkly, sequined dress and was determined as anything that she was going to do it on her own. Sanitas takes an hour for a lot of people to trail run, and with two small kids it’s almost a dayhike for us. But seeing Sofia realize she had just done something really hard was so rewarding.

You have to be willing to let go of a lot fears as a parent to take your kids camping and hiking. Food falls on the ground a lot, and they’re going to get dirty. You have to let them take some risks. And you have to know how much you can handle—how far you can carry them, and how much encouragement you can muster.

But it is so satisfying to watch them learn something really valuable that’s hard to learn even as an adult: You’re stronger than you think you are.”

Peter hikes to understand

Peter Amend is an adventure photographer. He’s always off on dreamy shoots on the beach, in the mountains, and underwater. Being outdoors is a huge part of both his work and his life beyond Instagram.

“I love hiking in the wild because it reminds me how small we are, and yet also of our own significance. I’ve always been fascinated by humans’ interaction with nature, and as a photographer, it’s so beautiful to construct these elements into a reminder of our connection with the Earth. It’s often the subtle moments of a hike that are most memorable to me, like my one-year-old daughter running her fingers through my hair while she sat in her baby backpack on a hike through the New Zealand Fiordlands. To me, hiking isn’t necessarily something amazing in itself, but a vehicle to greater understand the world.

I recall my first backpacking trip so vividly: A disastrous multi-day trip in Sequoia National Park during a torrential High Sierra rainstorm. Waking up to a stream of rainwater pooling in my tent, with nowhere to hide, was certainly a way to usher me into a lifetime of outside discomfort and outdoor amazement. 

One of my favorite local backpacking trips is a summit called Sawtooth, a peak in the backcountry of Mineral King that requires an off-trail scree scramble to get to the summit. As my buddy and I made our basecamp in preparation for a summit one autumn morning, a current of clouds rushed in to where our tent was half-pitched. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I can remember, a tsunami of clouds rolling in and retreating, as if a winter storm on the North Shore. They lapped up to the base of our camp, teasing us like they might swallow us up and suck us into the sky. While it’s not a story of an epic disaster or skillful summit, it’s one that stands out in my memory as a literal jaw-dropping moment, where time stands still and you can fully appreciate your surroundings.”

Liz hikes to feel empowered

Liz Carlson probably has your dream job: she travels the world blogging along the way, from a home base of the real-life fairy tale that is New Zealand. On any given day, the Young Adventuress might be heli-skiing, backpacking, frolicking with penguins, road tripping, or cruising in any part of the world—including Antarctica. But no matter what else she gets to do and call work, hiking still holds a special place in her heart.

“This past summer, I was hiking the Hump Ridge Track in New Zealand, on the bottom coast of the South Island, and it was the hottest, sunniest couple of days on record. The last day is a 20km slog that winds along a beautiful, remote beach. I was eating my lunch alone, sitting on a log, when I noticed a pod of Hector’s dolphins—super-rare to spot, and some of the smallest dolphins in the world—playing in the surf. I ran into the normally freezing water to splash around with them for half an hour.

There is something profoundly rewarding about getting somewhere beautiful of your own accord and stumbling on an experience like this. When I hike, I have to physically earn the views and the experience. Knowing that I’ve accomplished something physical maybe I didn’t think I could do, or that I’ve overcome some kind of fear while on a hike, is a powerful feeling. It’s actually a bit addicting. I always do my best thinking while I’m hiking, alone with my thoughts for hours on end.”

Ambreen hikes to be humbled

Ambreen Tariq was born in India and moved to Minnesota when she was 8. Her family started hiking and camping because, well, it seemed to be the American thing to do. And Ambreen loved it. But she quickly realized she was pretty alone out there. So, she started Brown People Camping a couple of years ago to encourage more people of color to explore the wilderness, too. 

“Every time I go out for a hike, my heart is pumping from the hard work, and I just love it. I love that nature humbles me. There’s something very addictive about that humility—you can go as far as your feet will take you.

I honestly cherish my “failure” in the outdoors, like when I got altitude sickness hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and when I got stuck in a hail storm at White Sands National Monument. These memories remind me about how hiking constantly challenges  all of my weaknesses, and each experience is like this tangible thing I can hold in my hand and say, “yes, I did that. I survived that. I made it, and it’s a part of me now.”

Hiking connects us as people in such beautiful ways, too. We share moments of joy out on the trail, whether we’re picnicking along the way or going all the way to the top of a summit. There’s an immediate connection when you smile at each other on the trails, and this unspoken kinship and bond between you and the others you pass. Without having to say a word, we know we’re finding joy in that struggle, together. We gain strength from it.”

Why do you hike?

Feeling inspired? Post your best hiking photo on Twitter or Instagram with the tags #WhyIHike, #contest and @eddiebauer for the chance to win a $100 Eddie Bauer gift card and an epic hiking adventure for two in Yosemite, Whistler, BC, or Kauai. 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) & CA (excluding QC), 18 years or older. Enter Contest by 9/30/18. For Official Rules, including prize descriptions, visit 25 winners each month (prize valued at $100 USD/CAD) and 1 Grand Prize (valued at approximately $16,000 USD). Void where prohibited.

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