As a young member of the hiking community, I was obnoxious. I cared only for the numbers, “How far did you walk?”, “How high did you go?”, “How long was it?” The implication being that day hikes, or those that did not make one wish for two extra pairs of lungs were unworthy. I was of the belief that if one did not emerge crawling on the other side of a trek, having expended all of one’s will power and water supply over that last hill, why even be there?
And then I got older, and possibly improved upon my Neanderthal understanding of how to enjoy the outdoors.
Advancing age and the hard realization that elevations beyond 5,000 m above sea level were increasingly physically punishing on me made me appreciate the “day hike”. While it is true that longer hikes take one deeper into landscapes and places where very few have gone, day hikes can also be immensely rewarding if one’s aims are the same as mine — solitude, quietude, a nice, shady tree for a spot of lunch, and a water body as an added bonus.
As I have slowly and sadly come to grasp the ever-diminishing wilderness on this planet, I have simultaneously begun to value any semblance of nature in our midst, be it a local park, someone’s garden, a small patch of woods on the city fringe or a wetland bordering the freeway. We can no longer afford purity when it comes to the wild. A month, a week, a day, or an hour, I will take them all.
On a short hike to the nearby Griz waterfall, we met Aqif, a local shepherd from the village, which is situated in an extremely picturesque “bowl” in the mountains.
The Laguna Torre walk is special because it transports one from the dry plain through dense, bird-call saturated forests and charming stream shores to the surreal lake bed at the top.
A very bumpy four-hour ride from Azerbaijan, parts of which can also be hiked for spectacular scenes in the Caucasus Mountains, takes one to the Griz Valley.
Horse trekking the Shamshy Reserve in the grandiose Tian Shan range of Central Asia. These are extraordinary areas of natural beauty rarely visited because of tough road conditions.