Hiking: A Sport for the Times

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The time-honored virtues of hiking have never been more apparent than during these challenging economic and social times. This activity delivers a targeted stimulus to each department of life:

Commerce. Hiking is affordable in that it can be practiced close to home, saving thousands of dollars on vacation airfare and motels. On the trail itself, the only hiking costs are footgear -- which, if fashionable, can double as street gear -- comfortable clothing, and a daypack or backpack, or no pack at all if the trail is a short one.

Education. High-quality information on both human and natural history follows the hiker throughout our park system. Accurate and well-researched brochures wait in wooden boxes at the head of many trails, while interpretive signs along popular paths explain significant natural features or historic events that took place where the hiker happens to be standing. The information attains documentary level when combined with personal photographs and often proves nearly impossible to find through other sources.

Health and Human Resources. A steady uphill hike represents first-tier aerobic exercise. Carried out in pleasant surroundings, it bears none of the tedium of health club workouts. The exercise enthusiasm that hiking generates is essential to restoration of our personal health. The most American model of physical culture, Charles Atlas -- and the Governor of California could testify to this -- repeatedly preached the connection between mental enthusiasm and successful exercise routines.