In the last 200 years or so, modern modes of transport shrunk the Earth, until traveling to the other side of the world can take as little as a day. But to me, the best way of traveling is still on foot. It’s the most analogue way to travel.
I love hiking. It hasn’t always been this way. As a child, I would hate it when my parents dragged me along to go for a walk. But you know how it goes, you grow up and discover that whether you like it or not, in some ways you’re turning into your parents. So now, I’m an avid hiker. But what is it, that pulls me away from beaches, hotels, and civilazation?
For starters, there’s nature. In case you hadn’t noticed: it’s beautiful. Mountains, forests, grassy hills, flowers, animals… Looking at all that beauty, walking among it, just makes you happy to be alive. Looking at a pretty flower ar at an impressive waterfall gives me the same pleasure as looking at a beautiful painting, of listening to good music. A sense of well-being and calmness. It doesn’t even need a nice weather. Trundling through a damp forest, muddy field, or a over a cold and windy mountain pass makes me just as happy.
Plus, you can take some pretty amazing pictures in nature. Just look at the pictures of Ansel Adams for examples.
When you go on longer hikes, chances are you’ll have to camp out. That, I even loved as a child. But when I used to camp on proper campsites, I have since discovered the joys of camping in the wild. I love it when I get up early, crawl out of my tent, and the first thing I see is an impressive mountain, of a misty, dewy forest. If you’re lucky (and silent) you might even spot a deer. I like cooking and eating outside, and later on sitting in front of the tent with a book and a drink. It’s so cozy at night, when you’re huddled up inside your sleeping bag (preferably with a significant other huddled up next to you), listening to the rustle of the wind or a nearby stream, or maybe the tick-ticking of the rain.
Another nice thing is the sporty element of hiking. Firstly, walking makes you appreciate how big the world really is. Twenty kilometers is peanuts by car, or even bicycle, but walking it may take you all day. Hell, when the conditions are hard, you might be lucky to walk even 10 km in a day. I think it’s good for your mental health to realize once in a while that the world is big, and you are small. Especially in winter, it can be quite a challenge, carrying all your gear, crossing mountains, walking trhough snow. Staying warm when your camping in winter, pitching a tent and cooking food when it’s below zero can be difficult. But a good kind of difficult. You against the elements, that kind of thing. It helps, of course, to know what your doing.
Not only will hiking test your own limits, it’ll test the limits of your photo equipment as well. How does film behave when it’s -20 degrees Celsius? How do I keep my camera dry in the pouring rain? How many camera’s will I be able to cram into my backpack after first stuffing in a tent, sleeping bag, extra clothes and food for a week?
Last, but not least: hiking is great to do with friends. Sure, you can hike on your own, but I prefer company. It’s safer, easier (you can share tents, food and other stuff, so you don’t have to carry as much), and more fun. You can sit around a camp fire, telling stories or playing games. Struggling up a mountain together, helping each when things get tough really makes you get to know each other. Sort of like a team building exercise, but with better scenery. Plus, seeing beautiful things or doing really cool stuff is always better when you’ve got someone to share it with. Or to take a picture when you’re standing on top of a mountain/struggling with your tent/falling into a creek.
There is only one problem with hiking. I alway have difficulties trying to decide what kind of film to take. Do I want crisp, National Geographic style color pictures? Black and white would look pretty good with all the snow as well. But what if there’s no snow yet in Luxemburg? Slide film to cross process? Redscale for some warmth? Tungsten? I can’t take it all with me because of all the food and camping gear I also have to carry. Help me out! Take a look at these pictures and help me decide what film I should take on my next trip! Keep in mind it’s going to be short days — dark around five, sun up around eight; woods, maybe snow, maybe not.
Photos and words by Maaike van Stratum. Located in flat and crowded Holland, Stratski loves to go hiking in empty mountainous regions, especially when it’s cold.