Walking is experimental.
It is cliche, but when Tolkien wrote of traveling, “there’s no knowing where you might get swept off to”, he was exactly right.
Each time I plan a hiking trip, I have pages of notes: topography charts, mileage marks, food orders, gear checklists, maps, contact information, reservation confirmations, backcountry permits, etc. And despite all of this planning, a backpacking trip still eludes pre-figuration.
Because each step contains an entire world of possibility. And once one foot is set on the trail, it becomes instantly apparent that all the research and preparation only set a loose boundary in which a contingent infinity occurs.
This is exactly what makes backpacking simultaneously anxiety-producing and magnificent.
When walking, it is impossible to know whether it will be a good experience or a bad one. It is an experiment in what can happen when exposed to the fickle elements.
But it has to be an experiment without a hypothesis. If the goal is go somewhere, one might be better suited to go by vehicle. What is there to be proved by walking?
Each time I embark upon a hike, regardless of the length of it, I find out something new. If my mind is open, I can find answers to many of life’s hypotheses. Is it possible for me to spend a significant amount of time alone without going crazy? Is it possible for a person to carry 40 pounds up a 2,000 foot ascent despite being out of shape? Will I quit when the going gets tough?
Walking is an experiment that provides us with proof of all kinds of things as long as we are willing to see them.