When you see the words Easy, Moderate, and Difficult in a hiking book there’s always a moment of grave self-assessment that defines you as an adventurer. It’s not merely an appraisal of your athletic ability, it’s a rating of just how many fucks you give today.
Contrary to the brutal photo spreads in Backpacker Magazine, not every hike has to be a Baton Death March through Mordor. You don’t need blood-splattered Merrells and sweaty selfies to prove your worth. You’re allowed to take the easy route now and then, your body actually needs it. Bodybuilders call it grow day, CrossFit psychos call it rest day, and you can call it a “walking meditation” to shut your yoga buddies’ self-righteous pieholes.
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the Columbia River can help. It’s as low key as a house cat on Ambien. It’s quiet and accessible and there’s never a crowd, at least not on weekdays. To be sure you’re ready for that level of relaxation, take the quiz and see if Steigerwald is right for you.
(1) Do you like open areas without a lot of trees?
a. Sure, it’s a nice change of pace from the office.
b. Sure, it’s a nice change of pace from the Pacific Crest Trail.
c. Sure, you can really get a feel for global warming that way.
(2) How much elevation gain are you looking for?
a. I get vertigo in platform sandals.
b. I’m good for several flights of stairs, especially if Nordstrom’s escalators are broken.
c. There better be the word “summit” on that trail map or I’m gonna be pissed.
a. I keep a travel umbrella and spare mittens in the Audi.
b. I re-waterproof my shell every season and dress in layers.
c. I do the Polar Plunge in flip flops and a Speedo.
a. I appreciate them a hell of a lot more than sunrises.
b. Sunsets are the best time to see wildlife and nesting birds.
c. Sunsets mean I’ve got 20 minutes to pitch my tent, gather wood, and lower the level of Johnny Walker Black Label in the Nalgene by an inch and a half.
(5) Are you a birdwatcher?
a. As long as they’re not pooping on my car, we’re good.
b. I hike with binoculars and a birding app.
c. I bet I could get that Bald Eagle to come closer if I mimic it’s call.
a. I burn faster than microwave popcorn, so yes.
b. I look good with a little color.
c. My tan helps fill in the patches of bare skin I have left between road rash scabs.
(7) Do you like fresh air?
a. Absolutely, I open my windows whenever the neighbors run out of cigarettes.
b. Absolutely, everybody should hike regularly to cleanse their immune system.
c. The air above treeline is so pure.
(8) Can you hike without your dog?
a. What dog?
b. Sgt. Pepperpaws can survive sitting this one out.
c. We’re inseparable, I let my dog lick pizza and beer out of my mouth.
(9) Are you a wildlife fan?
a. Do butterflies carry rabies?
b. As long as it’s not comin’ at me with claws and fangs, we’re cool.
c. Rattlesnake tastes like chicken.
(10) How are you set for hiking gear?
a. I have tennis shoes.
b. I have last year’s Vasque hiking boots and this year’s Columbia zip-off hiking pants.
c. I have separate packs for climbing, backpacking, and the Canon EOS.
(11) How aerobically fit are you?
a. I can walk really fast if Starbucks is about to close.
b. I can take stairs two at a time to a staff meeting without sweating through a button down shirt.
c. I can do CrossFit better’n you.
(12) How do you feel about large metal art sculptures decorating a trail?
b. I don’t get it.
c. Unless rusting metal attracts women and beer, nobody needs this on a hike.
Mostly “a” answers: You are ready for Steigerwald.
Mostly “b” answers: You would totally own Steigerwald.
Mostly “c” answers: You are only reading this because your knee hasn’t healed up yet from that suspicious climbing incident on Mt. Sonuvabitch.
Mostly “d” answers: You are ready for therapy.