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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States
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23 January 2012

Abstract Pleasure from Off-Trail Hiking

On-trail hiking provides a means to easily access scenic destinations, and I derive great pleasure from this type of hiking.  Equally pleasing to me is off-trail hiking, also known as bushwhacking.  Some of my off-trail adventures have elements that appeal to a general audience.  However, many of my ramblings are truly of no interest to anyone, and therefore they are not presented in my Blog or elsewhere.
I suppose an attempt could be made to provide vivid and educational narrations about commonplace things that are seen during my off-trail wanderings through the forest, such as a gnarled tree silhouetted against the sky, etc.  Some people (such as Tom Ryan, Ellen Snyder and Steve Smith) have a real talent for writing about such things in a very descriptive and entertaining manner.   Me . . . not so much!
During the winter months, I find off-trail travel to be particularly appealing since the frozen earth provides the opportunity to explore places that are difficult or nearly impossible to access at other times of the year.  In particular, I'm referring to areas that are prone to be mucky and yucky in warm weather months.    As indicated earlier, it's difficult for me to put into words the personal pleasure derived from this type of adventure.   It's like trying to describe why, for example, I might like a blue shirt versus a shirt of another color.  There are some things that you just simply like . . . end of story!
A few days ago, I did an off-trail trek in an area surrounding Pondicherry that would be unreachable at any season of the year, other than winter.  Photographically, there isn't much that I can show which would provide some insight into the enjoyment that was experienced during this trek.   I mean, there were a few "showy" things such as the red berries of the Mountain Ash contrasted against the white snow (photo below).  For certain, this was a delight to the eye.  However, the greater pleasure for me was something that couldn't be captured in a photo, i.e. the inexplicable joy of being atop the frozen edge of a swamp that would be inaccessible at any other time of year.  Go figure!

Of course, it's often possible and even desirable to combine off-trail hiking with an on-trail experience.  To obtain some more conventional views of the Pondicherry area, I emerged from the swamplands at two locations that are accessible by trail and snapped the photos shown below.
Big Cherry Pond and Presidential Mountain Range

Little Cherry Pond

To sum it up, off-trail hiking is perhaps an acquired taste, much like attaining pleasure from drinking coffee.   I find it difficult to describe abstractions, such as the pleasure derived from drinking coffee, or the enjoyment of off-trail hiking.  Therefore, many of my wanderings are unreported.  But perhaps, if nothing else, this article will provide some impetus to consider responsible off-trail hiking as a means to enhance the overall hiking experience.   Even if your photos are few, and you are at a loss for words to adequately describe your off-trail experiences, you'll at least have the pleasant memories in your own mind to reflect upon.


Rita Wechter said...

My favorite type of off-trail hiking during the winter is snowshoeing. Tim and I have accessed fabulous spots on snowshoes, places that are not as much fun to hike during the summer—and not because they're swampy but because they're too full of undergrowth. Some of the places we snowshoe have literally 6-10 feet of snow accumulation so all that brushy, scratchy, weedy stuff is buried under the snow and we walk right over it to get to the top of a mountain!

1HappyHiker said...

EXACTLY! You understood precisely what I was driving at! Be it a swamp, or a brushy/scratchy/weedy spot, it is super-awesome to snowshoe to places such as these during the winter season!

On the particular bushwhack that I highlighted in my Blog, it just so happened to be a swampy area. However, like you and Tim, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed winter snowshoe bushwhacks to mountaintops via routes that would be impractical or impossible in warm weather months.

Thanks once again Rita for your very insightful comments.


Grant said...

Off trail hiking in the summer can be torture with bugs, branches and sharp bushes but off trail in the winter is pure bliss! There is nothing like being able to go anywhere with perfect traction in snowshoes! Nice report!

1HappyHiker said...

RE: “. . . off trail in the winter is pure bliss!”
Well said, Grant! Complete agreement here!


Rita Wechter said...

I agree with the "pure bliss" sentiment. I can't explain it, but—while I certainly enjoy summer hiking—I usually feel so much better (rejuvenated) after a winter's snowshoe hike.

Summerset said...

I think this is a great post! Although you are certainly not obligated to quantify your hiking experiences in terms of pleasure giving to any of us, I'm glad you shared this. There are some obvious advantages to a little winter wandering as stated by you and the other commenters and your post is a good introduction to those advantages.