Mr. Charlton Goes Hiking. By Himself

Anyone who knows me understands that, for the most part, Mr. Charlton gets around by putting one foot in front of the other. That’s recently changed now that I started biking to work, but for literal decades, if I was getting from point A to point B, I was walking. When people said they were headed to the country to go for a hike, I was always like, “Hey, good for you, but EVERYDAY is a goddamn trek for me. I just spent an hour getting groceries with a backpack, and you’re lecturing me on the benefit of trudging up a mountain? Go eat a bag!”

Look, I used to fill this bad with gross things to eat, like dicks or spiders. But really? A plastic bag on it’s own would be pretty fucking terrible.

Alright, I’m obviously suffering from a little PTSD – People Telling me Stories about their Day-Hikes. When living in Calgary, going out to Kananaskis country and hiking up the mountains was the thing to do, and I was quite often ridiculed for taking my hikes in the city. “Those aren’t REAL hikes” I was told again and again. And truthfully, it got under my skin. I started to not only hate that culture, but I started to hate the look they were rocking, the I just bought everything from Mountain Equipment Coop look. Here I was, hating people wearing clothes. Looking back on it, it now feels like a very Un-Mr.-Charlton-like thing to do.

Anyways, for years I dismissed hiking. If I was going to walk, it wasn’t going to be in a forest with zero martinis and mud on the floor. I went for hikes all the time when I was a kid. All the time! How many hikes did I go on when I was in scouts? I trekked up every mountain in the area, twice. A normal walk with the family was fifteen to twenty clicks (kilometers for anyone who doesn’t use the metric system). I camped in the goddamn middle of winter and our shelter was a snow cave. And it took hours to get there!

For the next fifteen years, I basically swore off the outdoors. Now, part of that was due to the fact that A) I lived in the city, so besides a bunch of nature walks and a few parks, there wasn’t a whole lot of nature in the area and B) I didn’t own a car, so getting our to those areas was basically impossible unless someone decided to go out hiking, which I did occasionally do. But then you’re paying for gas, it was a good hour, hour and a half to get somewhere, and you had to walk for eight hours with someone telling you how amazing everything around them is. So I never went too often. The flip side of this is that even though I did pretty much a handful of hikes in the full splendor of nature, I was walking through the cityscape like a madman. I wasn’t uncommon for me to pick a point on a map, take the bus there, and then hike back to my home, stopping at little interesting spots along the way. The city was new to me! I had been through every back country trail in and around my hometown, I had been to the top of all of the mountain ridges in the area, and none of those places has a pub where I could stop in and have a beer.

Does nature have pints along the trail? I don’t think so.

For a good decade, I hiked through the city. I went through parks, I found weird little niche communities, ate at amazing little tiny bakeries, and located some of the best hole-in-the-wall joints in the metropolis. I genuinely loved every bit of it, and even though most people scoffed at my idea of my “city hikes”, I was still telling people “I am a hiker”.

I move to a new city. A somewhat tiny city. A city that, while charming, is a lot smaller than what I’m used to. A city with less niche communities, less hole-in-the-wall joints. This wasn’t a bad thing, no, but suddenly my idea for city hikes kinda sorta dried up. I mean, even though I was busier than spit for the last three years, it feels liked I’ve already walked a good section of the city. And I haven’t even BEGUN to get my walk on. But things are a little different now. This city in the middle of the wilderness. I’ve got access to a vehicle. And getting to the hiking location isn’t an hour drive, it’s a fifteen minute one. So last Sunday, Mr. Charlton gets his rain jacket on, fills up a water bottle, makes sure he has a first-aid kit, and heads out to the wilderness for the first solo nature hike he’s done in years.

Goddamnit, I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have one of the best experiences of my life. I mean, look at some of these pictures.

Alright, so I have now gone and purchased a better rain jacket, because as fun as this escapade into the mountains was, I still got pretty wet, and that’s not a great thing if you’re hiking in unfamiliar territory. I’ve also decided to bring food, as maybe not bringing anything wasn’t the smartest choice either. In fact, I went to the inter-tubes and looked up “Essentials for hiking” and got some extra stuff, like a little flashlight and a compass.

Yeah, I totally know how to use one of these. All that training from when I was nine and in boy scouts will come right back to me, I just know it.

Seriously though, I make maps for a living, so it might be worthwhile to watch a YouTube video on how to use a compass properly. But as I type this out, I’m also getting ready to go out tomorrow. This hike is going to be a little longer, a little steeper, and might end in a swim. Doing all of these things are definitely out of my comfort zone. But you know what? That’s the only way I know how to grow.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Losing weight? Going hiking? Shit, is Mr. Charlton going to get in shape next?

p.s.s. Yes, I am going to try and get into shape. Might wait a while to write about it though. Need some of those sexy before and after pictures.

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