Courtesy of Amanda Sandlin

TRAVEL FEATURE - - LOUIS LA PLANTE

Why I Hike - A City Lover’s Tale

Once, when I was in college, I tried to exit the campus’s television studio. But there, standing in front of the glass doors was a hungry raccoon chowing down on a dropped burrito like no one had ever taught it any manners.

It was a strange sight considering my university was in the middle of a city neighborhood where crushed beer cans were more commonly found on the ground than vegetation. So what did I do when I learned a salsa-loving critter was blocking my way?

I did what any other urban-dwelling man would do when facing down a predator: I ran to the fire exit. It was the only other door that opened to the outside from the studio. But before taking that route, I changed my mind. I feared firemen would burst on the scene when the door’s alarm sounded, and I would have to explain my reason for using a door specifically made for emergencies was that a spicy-food-loving raccoon was blocking the front entrance. I assumed that guys who run into burning buildings didn’t share the same fear of overgrown rodents that I had.

Instead, I tried another alternative. I called a friend who lived in the building next to the TV studio and complained about my situation. Five minutes later, he was standing outside 30 feet from the raccoon who had finished his meal and was now rolling a cigarette on the ground. This creature didn’t give a damn about the surgeon’s general warning.

My hope was that my friend would be able to shoo the raccoon away from the door so that I could make a quick departure. But he chose to laugh at me on his cellphone and brag about the freedom he had to go where he pleased.

I had no other choice but to wait this raccoon out and hope that it would perhaps develop lung cancer soon.

My Fearful Friends

It’s not as though I was the only one who made this decision to remain inside.

One by one, students inside the studio would walk to the door, ready to leave. I warned each one about the possible rabies fate waiting for them outside. Everyone scoffed, but once eye contact was made with the raccoon, every student quickly remembered they had more work to do.

A particular brash student laughed so condescendingly at me I felt like he snatched my man card right from my hand, ripped it apart and threw the pieces in the air like he was LeBron James before a game. Then he took one step outside, and the raccoon spun its sinister grin at him so quickly that even Evil Squirrel would have been jealous. He ran back inside, apparently realizing that he, in fact, wasn’t “that hungry and could wait for his video to render in the studio.”

On the outside, passersby were just as startled by the raccoon. It was a mere 12 pounds of fur that sent students scurrying in the opposite direction.

After 15 minutes of terrorizing, the animal’s dominance ended rather anticlimactically. The tough-as-hell raccoon just got bored of the whole situation and walked off to better things. In my mind as a I recall the story, the raccoon flips me the bird and tells me to tell my mother hi for him.

What I've Learned

If this story makes it sound like I am not an avid hiker who faces and embraces the wilderness head on, you are right. I’m not that type of hiker.

That doesn’t mean I don’t hike. On the contrary. It might be the only reason I step foot on any trail: to prove I have any manhood at all.

Even when I want nothing more than to lay in luxury, I find just a little time to hike. In May 2014, my wife and I spent eight wonderful days in St. Martin. Most of it was on the beach where our only worry was whether or not we would drink our beverages quickly enough before they got too hot in the sun.

But one morning, we found ourselves on a trail that hugged the coastline and scaled the Red Rock Mountain. Sure, the animals found hiking here were not predators like the fierce raccoon. There were some cows like these. And some crabs.

Yet we hiked, climbed, sweated and took in beautiful views. All because some raccoon scared me in college. That’s why I hike now.

Why You Hike

You don’t have to be Henry David Thoreau to love nature, to love hiking. Nor does your love for hiking have to be motivated by something as shallow as my furry inspiration. It just has to be yours.

So we want to know: Why do you hike? Tell us why on Twitter. Be sure to include #whyihikenow. Join the conversation.


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