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Miles Vs. Smiles

What happens when you take a very cliché saying, and change the interpretation slightly? What happens when it becomes a zero-sum game? Is there a balance that once shifted is irreversible and only feeds into one side? When you do more miles are there less smiles? When you have more smiles are there less miles? Or even better yet, does it have to be zero-sum or can we even unpack it further and have both sides build off each other?




Every hiker knows the term, " miles and smiles" or "miles of smiles." It is very cliché but it is cliché for a reason. When you spend so much time hiking, miles become synonymous with smiles. You smile because you are hiking, you smile because there is new and exciting sights to be seen in the next mile, you smile because you are sharing an incredible gift with like-minded individuals that you call your trail family. You smile because you are free from responsibility and obligation... or so you thought.

What if you are driven by miles? There are some hikers out there that are purely driven by this obligation and responsibility to do more miles. How can you go further? How can you go faster? More, more, more, more!!! Unless you are one of the cursed few, such as ourselves, that get enjoyment out of this type of hiking, you may look in and only see exhaustion. You may look inside this type of hiking and see less smiles, and even wonder how there are any smiles to be had at all.

Personally we can attest that it is not a zero-sum game. There in fact can be multiple smiles, infinite smiles found within this "responsibility and obligation" of chasing harder miles. To go harder and go faster does not automatically discredit and discard smiles. There is an enjoyment in each type of hiking.

When moving through the trail at a leisurely pace, you smile at the external stimulation. The curves of a leaf, the bending of a branch, the whimsical twists and turns of the trail. You find smiles in the hour long chats you have with others at a shelter. You find smiles in the hour long chats you have with the chipmunks of the forest. You smile in the activity of camping while there is still light out. You smile in sitting next to a spring or creek and watching the water continue its perpetual flow. You smile knowing anywhere you wish to rest your weary burdens you can plop yourself upon a rock and contemplate existential philosophies. There are a million ways and more to smile with the miles inside of leisure.