There is a distinction, subtle as it may be, between a hike and a walk—here’s some information on that.

Germany:

On my first trip to Germany many years ago a friend invited me to, “Take a little walk.”

Leaving the heavy leather hiking boots behind, I put on a pair of light hikers and proceeded to follow the crazy German up a vertical path nothing more than a Montana mountain goat would climb. My hike was his walk.

Italy:

Seester and I faced this struggle with words when we went to the Cinque Terre National Park. We soon realized that the Park’s trail rating guide and our interpretation of “light, moderate and hard” were far different. When an Italian says a path is easy, ask them how many times that week they’ve hiked it. If they say several, don’t trust that the trail is for ambling. Even in shape, many of their easy to medium hikes have nearly killed every muscle in this American’s body! I’m convinced the Italians would call Kauai’s Napali Coast trail “light.”

We decided it was the language barrier in action. Trail severity simply did not translate.

Then we got to Wales:

Checking in at Customs at Heathrow, the agent asked our reason for travel. We answered that we’d be hiking some of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. He asked how many miles we planned on going each day. We exchanged concerned glances and wondered if this was a pop quiz what would happen if we gave the wrong answer. Jackie ventured, “Six?” The crinkle lines at the corner of his eyes showed he was trying hard not to laugh, as he remarked, “To a Welshman that’s a stroll.”

The distance and terrain debate arose a few times on our Wales Adventure.

Distance:

My ultra polite and introverted sister inquired of the taxi driver, “How much is the fare to Kilgetty?”

He pondered and replied, “Eight pounds.”

“Sounds like a lot.”

“It’s quite far.”

Since we knew the distance from Saundersfoot to Kilgetty, we assumed he misunderstood her accent and was thinking of a different town. Jackie asked, “How far is it?”

“Three miles.” He was dead serious.

We couldn’t help ourselves and burst out laughing. I said, “She’s from Montana,” and she added, “Three miles is a mosey.” We’d have walked to Kilgetty but were told the road was too narrow to be safe.

About the Pembrokeshire National Park.

The Park was officially designated in 1952, while the Pembrokeshire Coast Path opened in 1970 as Wales’ first national trail. To add to the challenge of that 186 miles, it’s now a part of the Wales Coast Path—870 miles of hiking that’s to be explored by those more stalwart than us.

The Coast Path can be rugged and is comprised of beautiful coastline. Their trail rating system goes from a one to a six. The mile from Saundersfoot to Wiseman’s Bridge was a leisurely saunter. The additional two and a half mile walk from Wiseman’s to the beginning of the Path at Amroth was between a walk and a light hike. None of it was terribly difficult, but hiking shoes were a must and being prepared for hills at the beginning and end was a good thing. This trek is rated a two. Okay, we can agree with that.

In 2014, our hiking took us along the western coast and stretches of the path from Newport to south of Goodwick. Some sections of those paths were relatively easy, with nothing that would keep you from enjoying the walk and waking up the next day unable to move. Some parts were a bit craggy and I didn’t mind huffing and puffing when two young fit women came along, backpacking the entire trail, huffing and puffing. The highest rating in this section is a four. We would have said a two.

The trail between Saundersfoot and Tenby, four miles west, was a hike, but not as grueling as everyone warned. It might have been even easier if we hadn’t gotten off the path in the beginning because of faulty signage and two extra path options lying in wait to deceive us. Everyone warned us how difficult it was, but the Welsh have a different standard of hard than the Italians. This trail is rated a six, the hardest, but we’d have called it a three.

When a Welshman tells you a hike is hard, ask for specifics. In this case, it’s not that the four miles were difficult, but the several ascents and descents made me glad for my trekking poles and required strong leg muscles. Take your weak ones on this hike and you mayn’t move quite right the next day. My theory is that the Welsh are so kind that they’d rather over-warn you than under-warn like those dastardly Italians!

This non-scientific definition of hiking versus walking grew of clues taken from Pennsylvania to Montana to Italy to Hawaii to Wales. For us, a walk is leisurely, usually on the shorter side, you work up a sweat from the heat of nature, and can talk the entire time.

A hike? One of my avid hiking friends has his own rating scale of:

  • Easy to Moderate being typically ten miles or less with no great height, maybe 1,000-foot ascent.
  • Moderate to Hard is more than ten miles, but with greater altitude, 3,000 – 4,000 feet.  Must be in good shape, but challenging and rewarding.

Jackie and I have come to this conclusion for defining a hike: You put your oomph into it and stop to rest quite a bit. And conversation? Well, maybe while your feet are moving. Whether it’s a short mile or an arduous trek—if you’re sweating to get the job done, it’s a hike, no matter what the experts rate it.

Opinions?

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