Generalizing about people is risky, to say the least. But after many years on our trails, I’ve observed several types of recreationists.
I thought it might be fun to light-heartedly point some of them out.
Casual strollers – Radio music and iPods might accompany these adventurers who challenge our trails while singing or conversing on their iPhones. They generally seem to be having a good time, however, so it probably it doesn’t matter if they’re hiking in Chugach State Park or on the streets of downtown Anchorage. They just like to be on the move.
Exuberant walkers – These folks are family-oriented and come out in mass with kids and dogs. They are genuinely a hardy lot. I doubt that lower 48 hikers, who are accustomed to well-established, Class-A trails, could keep up with the kind of folks who grace our comparatively rugged, primitive hiking venues. Men and women routinely backpack their toddler children and it’s apparent they are all having fun.
Purposeful hikers – You can tell by the quick pace and also by the state-of-the-art clothing that these people are serious hikers and trail runners. They generally wear tennis shoes and travel very light. They seem to be Point A to Point B recreationists, goal oriented and in a hurry to get wherever they’re going. Youth is generally on their side as they require fewer rests than the older crowd.
Seasoned recreationists – Larger packs and hiking boots are seen with these folks, who generally comprise an older age group. Some are retired and with time on their hands, are in no hurry to reach their destinations. They pause often to rest and look for wildlife. Their gear is good, but well worn. They like talking to folks they meet along the trail.
Backcountry hardcores – These folks have a highly focused, piercing, hawk-like look that suggests they are venturing very far into some quite serious terrain. They have the very best outdoor gear and everything fits neatly. Their gait is strong and steady and they generally do not have much time for idle trail chatter. They travel vast distances and are sometimes referred to as “animals” by less ambitious hikers. They are known to hike the Crow Pass 24-mile trail both ways in one outing.
Whatever kind of hiker or climber you are, I’m sure that by now you’ve come to realize how important our trails are to our quality of life here in the 49th state. One very active organization in the pursuit of establishing and maintaining sustainable trails is Alaska Trails. To learn more about the organization and ways to support it, go to: http://www.alaska-trails.org
Frank E. Baker has been an Alaska resident since 1946 and is currently a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebakah, a retired elementary school teacher.