What is Strenuous?

But what is strenuous?
I find characterizing hikes as easy, moderate, or strenuous one of the most difficult part of leading. Yet everyone expects each hike to have such a rating. In my hiking guides, I resisted labeling hikes this way–and my wise publisher, Milestone Press, was OK with that. Instead, I gave all the numbers I could think of–distance, elevation gain and some idea of the terrain.

MSTbookpicThe latter can be subjective but you can distinguish between smooth dirt trails or rocky surfaces. Is the trail well maintained like in the Smokies or will you have to go over and under blowdowns? Is the trail well marked, again like in the Smokies, or will you spend time and energy trying to find the trail?

Most Smokies trails are well switched backed so hikers just have to plod along uphill instead of climbing straight up. Ever hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire? After hiking in the Northeast for years, I thought that I had died and gone to hiking heaven when I started hiking in the Smokies. Still that doesn’t help those who hike in the Park almost exclusively and want to differentiate between hikes and figure out if the hike is too strenuous for them.

When you define strenuous, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to get tired and sweat. Do you look at being tired as good or bad? What is your tolerance for exhaustion?

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