I’m trending on TikTok and didn’t even know it.

The trend? “Soft hiking.” So titled by two sweet Manchester, United Kingdom-based gals on TikTok — Emily Thornton and Lucy Hird. In early April, the friends went viral for their freshly coined soft hiking method of taking their time to stop and smell the garlic patch, identify the mushrooms, or go off trail to investigate old abandoned churches while on walkabout in the woods.

Their motto? “Hiking doesn’t have to be hard.” And really, who can’t get behind that? Search @softgirlswhohike on TikTok for their leisurely strolls through forested areas.

Thornton and Hird have given their hobby a loose definition: Go slow and listen to your body. Take breaks when and where you see fit. Enjoy a slow roll through nature instead of getting all competitive and hardcore about it with your fancy hiking boots, hiking poles and liquid energy gels (yuck).

So, folks climbing the Manitou Incline are probably going to be the antithesis of soft hikers. Hard hikers, so to speak.

“A soft hike can be challenging, and it can be difficult, but it’s about being kind to yourself mentally and physically and not just rushing from point A to point B in record time,” Thornton and Hird said on the website Insider.com.

Upon reflection, I’m a medium hiker. Sometimes hard, sometimes soft. I’m the Goldilocks of hiking. I like a just right hike.

A just right hike for me is equal parts workout, rest and wander. I like the steep parts of a challenging hike and I also like for them to be over as quickly as possible. If I stop for too long of a break I lose momentum. Restarting after cooling all the way down isn’t my favorite. But I’ll make exceptions. For example, I’ll stop to search for a birdie in a tree if I hear a call or watch a herd of deer.

I fully admit the uphill part is where I’m kind of a jerky hiker. Thornton and Hird will probably want to meet me at the top. If I hike with someone I want them to pretty much match my pace for the above reasons. I don’t want to stop and wait five minutes for someone to catch their breath, unless said hiking partner is OK with me plunging ahead and meeting me at the top. Because once I’ve summitted and finished what I think of as the exercise portion of the hike, I’m a 100% slow hiker.

Much of the time I hike solo due to those slow hiking tendencies. Once the workout’s out of the way, I wander off trail to find a sunny or shady rock, unpack my backpack and pull out a book and a snack. I sit and stare, slowly chew an apple, read a couple of chapters, take some terrible-looking selfies I almost always delete later, and finally, maybe 45 minutes or even an hour later, if I’m feeling extra slow, pack it up and move down the mountain. And if I’m inspired, I might stop again next to a creek to soak up some negative ions or perch on another favorite rock for some horizon gazing. Last summer I found a secret wild strawberry patch, so you best believe I’m going berry foraging again this year.

I don’t enjoy conquering trails with a 100% hard hiker, who’s all about the time and pace, who doesn’t want to watch a spotted towhee dig through a pile of leaves or stop to inhale the vanilla-smelling trunk of a ponderosa pine. I cannot be rushed.

Long ago I was the victim of a hard hiker when I attempted to climb Pikes Peak with a love interest. Foolishly, I believed I needed to wear hiking boots, and as I didn’t have any, I borrowed a girlfriend’s pair instead of wearing my own nicely-worn in sneakers.

Thanks to those boots that were molded in the shape of another woman’s tootsies and that slowly and stealthily dug into my flesh and eventually my soul, I was forced to wave the white flag at Barr Camp. We did not summit. We camped and walked back down the next day, much to the extreme displeasure of my companion. Every step down the mountain was painful, both physically and emotionally, and also highly annoying to my hiking companion, who quickly abandoned me. I found him waiting not so patiently or compassionately at the car. I understood his exasperation. I also understood mine. To nobody’s surprise, ours didn’t become a great love affair for the ages.

And so I’ve found hiking alone a way to go at my own weird soft/medium/hard pace. And the more snacks the better. If I do choose to hike with another human, I accept, before we even take one step, that compromise will be the heartbeat of our journey, and really, isn’t that a bottom line in all relationships, romantic or not?

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270


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