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!”
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.
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.
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.