Hike Your Own Hike

“Hike Your Own Hike” is the first principle in Francis Tapon’s 2006 book, cleverly titled “Hike Your Own Hike.” Tapon hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, and more, in an effort discover how to take his life to the next level. In a nutshell he decided:

“Thru-hikers don’t blindly do what people tell them they should do, they do what they know gives them pleasure. Those who just do what society expects them to do, thereby ignoring their inner voice, are missing the point of life. A pilgrim’s voyage is to enjoy life now and not to put it off for retirement.”

His quote has more to do with life, in general, than hiking or thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in particular. In a broader sense he’s saying live your own life and make of it what you want rather than what others expect.

In more common usage among hikers, the phrase has come to mean something more like “live and let live.” “I won’t bug you about the ridiculous things you have hanging from your backpack if you don’t question my goal of living for a week from a 15 pound pack.” Hike your own hike – I won’t concern myself with your style since I’m hiking my own hike.

Still, the phrase does not suggest a license to to ignore proper behavior. Just because you can cut across those switchbacks or camp on the beach or play your boombox in the wilderness doesn’t mean that you should. “Hike your own hike” is more about common courtesy and your own safety than that. It engenders concepts of self respect, respect for others and respect for the land and everything that depends upon it.

You might be able to get away with camping in a designated no camping area, but that designation was put there for a reason, usually to protect some aspect of the environment that you may, or may not, recognize. It can help you implement the “leave no trace” ethic. If you chose to ignore it, don’t use “hike your own hike” as an excuse.

Instead, retain respect and revel in the joy and freedom that you can find when hiking your own hike on the trail or in your life.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost –


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