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Lisa Maloney

The Speed Issue

By January 31, 2013

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Baby porcupineSomeone, somewhere, once told me that 3 miles per hour is the typical person's average walking speed on a flat, paved surface. (It was a wilderness guide but, now that I think of it, I'm not sure why that makes him such a great source for information about citified walking habits.)It stands to reason that the average hiking speed would be a bit slower. Not only are you contending with uneven terrain and working your way up and down slopes, you're also surrounded by all kinds of fascinating, living things that deserve -- no, demand -- your attention and wonder. An informal poll of hiking buddies tells me that 1 to 2.5 mph seems to be the typical range.

I've gone for both extremes. In my contemplative, ambling phase I averaged about 1 mph due to the aforementioned distractions; it didn't take much for me to plunk my butt down beside the trail to sit and watch something -- anything -- that moved. Some of my observation subjects were less than amused. Grouse have tried to drive me off and once, years ago, squirrels pelted me and a friend with spruce cones until we left. I know how crazy that sounds, but I swear I'm not making it up.

Upon exiting my ambling phase, I entered an athletic phase in which I'm pretty sure I hit that 3-mph average on the gentler trails and kept it around a minimum of 2 mph on the mountains. I loved pushing myself to see how fast and far I could go before stopping to rest. I never stopped enjoying my surroundings -- I just didn't stop to enjoy them very often. Nowadays I've been clocking my trail speed with a really cool GPS app, and I'm still hovering around that 2-mph mark on relatively mild trails... unless something neat wanders by.

Your turn: How fast do you hike and why?

Photo Lisa Maloney: Come on, admit it -- you'd kick back and watch a little guy like this for a while too, wouldn't you?

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