I was all set to write about the New York Times’ coverage of “Speed Hiking,” a new fitness phenomenon threatening to turn our precious backcountry into the world’s largest Bally … then Tom beat me to it.

I can understand how gyms and outdoor fitness are cut of the same cloth – and I’d much rather spend time in a forest than I would in a stuffy gym. And while I do generally exhaust myself when I’m out on the trail, that’s never my intent when I go there. The gym is for physical maintenance. Hiking is for mental maintenance.

Tom agrees, saying:

I never deluded myself that (speed hiking) was hiking, which to my mind is a condition of being in the wilderness rather than passing through it. It requires letting go of your hard-charging, achieving self and giving at least four of your senses a workout (I draw the line at taste).

I’m all for people getting fit. And I’m really all for people enjoying the outdoors. But I remember hiking Mt. San Antonio last year during a trail race, and having to stand on the side while dozens of runners made their way downhill.

It’s a scene I’d rather not see again while I’m out in the woods.

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