Hiking (or walking as kiwis so optimistically call it) is one of my favorite challenging activities. Along with a certain level of self punishment comes stunning views, a satisfying feeling of accomplishment, and really nice legs. Yesterday, however, as I was hiking the Coromandel Pinnacles, I came in close contact with my biggest hiking enemy.
Stairs. In every day life, they are merely an annoyance, or at best a simple choice to improve your fitness. As a hiker, with a 30 pound backpack, on a rainy day, they’re absolute torture.
I have three problems with stairs:
- They’re uneven. The ones above are an extreme example, but even the best laid stairs of mice and men often go awry.
- They’re slippery. Wood stairs, stone stairs, random rocks made to resemble stairs – IT DOESN’T MATTER. Limiting options for foot placement causes increased rubbing, which wears away at any texture that was once there, leaving nothing but a smooth surface of death.
- They tell you when and how high your next step is going to be. Easily the most condemnable offense, stairs offer no options for where to place your foot next. You will either stay on the same plane as your currently forward foot, or you will rise precisely how high and far the stairs mean you to. Stairs are trail dictators, and I won’t stand for it.
I don’t like being told what to do.
There is hope though. Often, alongside the very intentional staircase, is a second, more traditional path, usually created by like-minded hikers who prefer options on their trails. I like to think of these unassuming heroes as “Liberty Paths.”
Liberty paths don’t pretend to know your hiking preferences. They realize you may want to shuffle your way to the top, or take huge distance-conquering steps, or even crawl on hands and knees if the situation is desperate. They don’t judge. Liberty paths are your friend.
I realize these paths can lead to erosion and trail damage, depending on the composition of the soil – and I absolutely try to stick to the Leave No Trace guidelines – but it seems to me the mere fact that they exist is a call to trail maintenance everywhere: Give me liberty paths or give me death.
Wait, what? That’s not where this rant was suppose to lead…shit.
Stairs are the worst.