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Guide to Tuolumne Meadows Trails (1960) by Allan Shields


APPROACHES TO HIKING

There are several ways to approach a hike. Mountaineers recommend different attitudes to strike. It is largely a matter of objectives and values.

For example, the geological surveyor needs to ascend mountains, thoughtful of getting his job done. Carrying equipment to the summit of Mt. Conness or Mt. Hoffman requires a unique route, timing and physical training that most people do not desire.

Further, the endurance hiker takes pleasure in ascending and descending as much terrain as possible in the shortest time, if we are to believe his conversations. Let us denominate this person “the austerity hiker,” reminding ourselves what may be missing in his approach.

Rock climbers are a sort apart from our considerations. In addition, considerable mountaineering skill is required of the fisherman, that single-minded devotee of sport, of the cross-country skier, the mule string driver, and the fire fighter.

For the hiker who wants to know in some detail the birds he hears and sees, the flowers nodding to him in the meadows and on rocky slopes, the meanings of the geological signs in the rocks and mountain formation, the human history of the region, the character and marks of the trees, shrubs, and other plants—for this person John Muir set the pattern. Muir’s habit was to walk up mountains, observing very closely whatever chanced to stop him — a new flower, a rock formation, a bird — and to give little thought to his pre-arranged schedule. Though some hikes require fairly careful planning, all of these trips described here need only a rough time-table, and a minimum of physical conditioning. Since Tuolumne Meadows lie at 8585 feet (at the Campground Ranger Station), a day or two of adjustment will usually be required. After that, the graded hikes themselves will provide all the physical conditioning necessary. The primary principle that is recommended to follow is to take plenty of time for each trip. Rest when you feel like it. Stop to look and listen. Saunter when you can. In this spirit, your hiking will prove most rewarding.

More specifically, what are some reasons for hiking?

Not necessarily in order of importance, these are some reasons which people give for hiking:

Recreation - Pecple enjoy being outdoors, with all of the excitement of novelty, hazards, and simple physical well-being which accompany the experience. A few recognize that the outdoors exertion at high altitude actually helps in recreating their personhood, helps them to find depths of feeling, emotion, contentment, and inspiration not conveyed by the term recreation alone.

Knowledge - Being on the spot, seeing the evidence before one brings the perennial thrill of original discovery to each searcher alone, no matter how many times previously the discovery has been made. On hikes we can learn the terrain, gain an intimate association with the mountains and natural features in general, including plants, trees, and animals. A knowledge of the human history can greatly enhance the simpler pleasures of hiking.

Appreciation for conservation The natural features of the region mutely teach their own eloquent lessons in balance of forces to those ready to learn. The keen specialization of nature, the inter-relationships among plants, birds, and insects can be studied casually or profoundly with profit by the discerning hiker.

Esthetic delights - To relearn the sensitivities that may have been unused recurs to many as an annual revelation. Sounds, sights, odors, feelings, and other sense stimuli all seem heightened by the mountain atmosphere. It is as though, by sloughing our overcivilizing encrustations, we have suddenly become hyperaesthetic. And since we cannot fill our eyes to satiety, we return often to seek again, and possibly to enlarge the aesthetic delights of former experiences.

Getting away - Some have given this reason for going to the mountains. This negative approach seems warped, if really held. Rather, we may take our postive cue from Muir, who felt that going to the mountains was going home.



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