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A Non-Hiker’s Terms and Conditions for Hiking

By Sarah K. Runnels

5 August 2020

Photograph by Jacob Lund / Alamy

Thank you so much for inviting me on a hike! I’ve been meaning to explore the unbelievable landscapes surrounding my urban abode and move my body in a way that isn’t just thirty minutes of tweeting on the elliptical—presuming that you agree to these modest, reasonable conditions, of course.


These Hiking Terms and Conditions constitute a legally binding agreement entered into by the Friend Who Hikes Often (you) and the Friend Whose iPhone Auto corrects “Hike” to “Joke” (me), concerning our Hiking Adventure (death march).


When you say “hike,” I know you don’t mean a stroll through a nearby park––you mean a lengthy trek with intense elevation and multiple threats to my precious bones and organs. I am willing to accept this dicey proposition, so long as nothing on the Internet describes the chosen path as “hard,” “unforgiving,” or “featured on an episode of ‘​Unsolved Mysteries​.’ ”


I’ve heard that getting an early start to avoid “trail traffic” is ideal, but 8 a.m. is the earliest I am willing to embark on our uphill battle. This does​ not​ include the time needed to stop for an egg sandwich and latte, but it ​does​ include the extra time I’ll need to stretch and put finishing touches on my last will and testament.


I have purchased a pair of hiking boots that look the most like Cheryl Strayed’s in “Wild​.” (Don’t worry—I broke them in by walking to the nearest grocery store to buy eleven days’ worth of snacks for our three-hour excursion.) If we are hiking in the spring/summer/fall, I will dress accordingly, in seasonally appropriate colors and styles that are somewhat practical for traipsing through the woods and ideal for a nature photo shoot. (See CONTENT for more information.) If we are hiking in the winter, I will be wearing a weighted blanket on the couch, and you can text me and let me know how your hike went.


By taking me on this hike, you guarantee to provide me with quality content for Twitter and Instagram, and possibly a personal essay on Medium. The view from the top must be so incredibly worth our labor that my #NoFilter pic gets more likes than my latest-friend-to-get-married’s wedding portraits. I must also return home with at least one (1) perfect photo of me looking outdoorsy as fuck for my Tinder profile, or why did we even do this? Thank you in advance for capturing me out of my element.


I am not out of shape, but I am not in shape, either, which means I am just kind of . . . a shape. Please respect this as we ascend the mountainside, and pause with me as often as necessary to say a small prayer, hydrate, briefly lie down, or check if we have magically entered an area with cell service. If you hear me breathing heavily, I’m just doing it to be dramatic, but if you ​could​ pack a travel-size oxygen tank in your nature bag, that’d be great.


Owing to breath-conservation, let’s not talk much on our way up, unless I ask “Are we there yet?” and your answer is “Yes.” I might also ask “What’s the Wi-Fi password on this mountain?” several times until it’s no longer funny, or someone actually gives it to me. Please note: you will be the designated greeter of passing hikers, as I am too busy making sure I don’t die in an off-brand way.


Content-wise, I am open to having an encounter with chill wildlife from a safe distance, but if this is the type of hike where a bear or snake could make a startling appearance, you should be prepared to summon the strength to run with me on your back. Bugs will be tolerated on a case-by-case basis.


My fanny pack will contain snacks, celebratory beers, and several portable iPhone chargers. Your military-grade, waterproof camping backpack should have a first-aid kit, a second-aid kit, a keg of water, sharp knives (for the gourmet cheese I brought), and fireworks, in case we can’t drop a pin on Google Maps.


I have watched enough episodes of ​“Naked and Afraid” ​to understand how to use the forest as a toilet, but if at any point my latte kicks in, I will stop, drop, and roll back down the mountain to the nearest formal commode.


If we get lost and our hike becomes newsworthy, please let me have the spotlight after we’ve been rescued. This could be my only shot at stardom. If there are any hot park rangers or first responders—I call dibs. If something worse happens, please have Margot Robbie play me in the bio-pic. If everything goes according to plan, then cool—this was fun!


By inviting me on this Hiking Adventure, you agree to read, understand, and be bound by all of these completely valid Terms and Conditions.

☐ I agree.

☐ I would rather risk hiking alone.

☐ I would like to take this opportunity to opt out of our friendship entirely.

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