Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Hiking With A Purpose"

Skip to the random thought

Early Saturday morning while in State College, Amber and I decided to hike up the landmark mountain formation in the area, Mount Nittany. (Well, it wasn't that early - we left at about 1000a. But it was earlier than most people in town woke up.) This was the first time I had been up to the mountain, and I was impressed. I just expected a little dinky trail that went up a little bit, and that was it, but nope - there is quite a nice network of trails back there with multiple overlooks of the surrounding landscape. We didn't have time to go all the way around the mountain, but we did get a couple of good overlooks in, including the one of Beaver Stadium (which looked quite similar to the "glamour shot" they show during many Penn State football games on ESPN). And, of course, I don't have any pictures. So I'm just going to speak in general hiking terms.

I like being outside and walking around in the wilderness (otherwise known as "hiking"). But I think it's more enjoyable when there's a specific goal in mind. For example, "let's get to the top of that mountain", or "there's a nice waterfall at the end of the trail". It seems to validate the hike. Otherwise, it's just walking without much of a purpose. Purposeless hiking can be fun, too, particularly if it's a loop trail. Loop trails are nice, because you don't see the same stuff twice. (The Mount Nittany trails we took composed a loop trail.) But a hike without a main goal in mind, where you simply end up turning around and heading back at some arbitrary time...I don't know about that. I guess what I'm saying is, if I'm going to go on a hike, I'd rather it lead to something cool, or at least be a loop. The Mount Nittany hike was both - the "top of the mountain" hike is about as classic as it gets. Work your way up the mountain, and you're rewarded with a nice view, as well as a sense of accomplishment. While the scenery pales in comparison, at least you can hike to the top of these Appalachian mountains without too much trouble, as opposed to the Rockies. You can even drive up to some of these mountains. Mount Washington, here we come!

"Hiking with a purpose" doesn't have to imply there's a goal at the end. What if you're doing something fun along the way? That's kind of how I view disc golf. It's not "hiking" in the traditional sense, but it is walking around outside, either in the woods or in open fields. And during the walk, you're throwing a disc and keeping score. The Blacksburg disc golf course I played the previous weekend was actually kind of a hike - with the elevation changes and thick woods and all, it seemed like a hike. (But it wasn't a disc golf course arbitrarily placed along a nature trail with no sense of planning. They did a decent job planning the course.) And, disc golf courses are, in a way, "loop trails", although you're often within view of the holes you already played.

And, speaking of disc golf, that's what we did after hiking Mount Nittany - a bunch of us drove to the Williamsport area (Hughesville, specifically) for a "real" round of disc golf (as opposed to a "fake" round at the local State College course, where we have to make up our own holes just to play 9). The Williamsport course is my favorite kind - mostly open, but with enough obstacles to make it interesting. But looking back at my course rankings, I found that I only ranked this course 19th best out of 39. Why did I do that? I think it deserves a better ranking - the tees are well marked, and the course is a lot of fun. I think I'm going to have to re-rank all of the courses I've played, because these rankings are temporally biased. I often rank a course after the first play, before it really has a chance to "sink in". I often hesitate to place a course near the top right away. And, I've also tended to overrate some other courses that seemed fun at first. I can tell you for sure that contrary to my rankings, the IUP College Lodge course in Indiana, PA is not the 4th-best course I've ever played (although it does have the some of the most fun holes). Expect an update to the rankings later this week, because I need something to write about for Thursday.

Like how the post smoothly transitioned away from hiking and onto disc golf?

Today's random thought:

- A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I've managed to collect 40 of the first 41 commemorative state quarters, with the lone exception being Iowa. Well, Amber managed to find an Iowa quarter for me, so now my collection is complete through the first quarter of 2007. Thanks, Amber!

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