What it Means to “Hike”
When we think of hiking, most of us envision dramatic mountains covered in deep green forests with narrow dirt trails winding through them. And most of us feel that if you aren’t in such an epic location, and instead you are on city streets, you aren’t really hiking. But is that true?
Some people are lucky enough to have that kind of place right in their backyards. But not all of us. In fact, I might go so far as to say most of us don’t. The majority of jobs are in cities, therefore the majority of people are also in or near cities. I am one of them. I live outside of Chicago. And the Chicago area landscape is anything but epic. So does that mean its not possible hike except in the mountains?
The Value of Any Outdoor Time
The definition of ‘hike,’ according to the Oxford Dictionary, is: “A long walk, especially in the country or wilderness.” It says “especially,” not “only.” So going by that definition, yes you can hike anywhere that you can go for a long walk.
It may not feel like the hiking we imagine—walking through developments, waiting for pedestrian lights to cross roads, and passing crowds of people—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Or that we shouldn’t do it. There are endless studies which all agree that being outside is good for you. And even in a suburban, or urban setting, that is still true.
Just taking a walk around your home block is good for you, and for your kids. Though I must confess, I have a hard time viewing a walk around the city block as hiking. Even though it does fit into the definition. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. But I do see it as valuable outside time. And as practice for when we do find ourselves in the wilderness.
Especially for my kids. If we only go for long walks while on vacation, how can I expect them to have the stamina to go for long hikes in the woods? But if they can walk two miles at home, they can definitely walk two miles on a trail.
Use Your Local Resources
If you want to see a little more nature than your neighbor’s gardens, another option is making the most of the public parks and/or forest preserves that many cities and suburbs have. Generally speaking, they have well-manicured trails, either paved or gravel. And that makes the city parks and preserves very stroller friendly. This is also easy hiking for young kids who may not yet be up to climbing mountains. And again it’s good practice, and time outside, for both you and your kids.
Moral of the story, yes you can hike in suburbs and the city. And you should! Living in a densely populated area makes it far too easy to believe that hiking is impossible unless you travel far out of the city. But that’s just not true. It is still good for you, and your kids, to get outside and hit the ‘trails.’ Even when those trails are paved.
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