Let me preface this with a demand: Don't bushwhack in your local park. City, state or national, I don't care. Note that I use the word demand, not request. Stay on the trail your tax dollars paid for. Stamping trails over delicate flora will endear you to no one. I'm talking to you, Community-Forest-hollow-stump hotboxers.
But if you have access to a decent swath of private land, a good pair of hiking boots and a repository of geographical knowledge in the form of an old-timer or a GPS device, off-road is the way to go. Forget those old logging roads, sheep trails and ATV paths. There's something special about setting your sights on an under-explored destination and forging your own route through the trackless wilderness. Bring along plenty of water and get ready to practice the following moves:
The Tuck: This is when the more savvy members of your crew tuck their pant legs into their socks. The tenderfoot scoffs at their lack of fashion sense. The tenderfoot is wearing a fancy pair of $40 "hiking" shorts. The tenderfoot will live up to his or her title by the end of the day.
The Gaze: Set your sights on a far-off ridge or intriguing hollow. Decide to get there as the crow flies, come hell or high water (probably both). Lift your index finger and point. Stride forward.
The Debate: No trails means plenty of contention among a group's blowhards about how best to get to wherever it is you're going. The Debate is usually cut short by an exasperated old-timer shouldering his or her pack and commencing The Slide.
The Slide: The quickest way to the bottom of a ridge, preferably down a steep grade covered in slippery oak leaves. Bushwhacking etiquette dictates that you stagger your trajectories so as to keep your hiking boots from making contact with your fellow sliders' heads, and that you yank some habitat-encroaching baby firs out of the ground during your descent to the creek bed. At least tell your fellow bushwhackers that's what you were doing, anyway, not that you were grasping at firs in an attempt to slow down.
The Wobble: Creek-poppin' is real, y'all. Not recommended for delicate fish habitats, but damned good fun otherwise. Balancing on slippery rocks as you make your way upstream is a great way to build your core muscles, and the concentration required keeps you completely in the moment. The repetitive nature of your standard hiking stride will allow for a little daydreaming, but challenge of creek poppin' means you'll be immersed in the unique beauty of our region's riparian zones: seasonal waterfalls, deep dark pools and eerie tangles of accumulated woody debris. And of course, sometimes you get fully immersed. In water.
The Scramble: You have no idea what your leg muscles are capable of until you're hauling your waterlogged butt out of the creek bed and up a ridge, hoping that once you reach the top you'll end up somewhere near where The Gaze landed.
The Crawl: You are not Danny Trejo. Leave the machete at home. Brush-poppers with a true love of the land do not hack through the huckleberry brush, but wiggle through its sinewy grasp, letting it spring back as though untouched. Get ready to get up close and personal with the ground, because huckleberry brush does not favor the upright biped.
The Lurch: The final few steps to the top of the ridge. At least we're pretty sure it was the original ridge we'd aimed for. Close enough. Take a seat and enjoy the view.
The Strip-Tease: This is what happens when the scratched and limping tenderfoot discovers that crawling through huckleberry brush (where deer occasionally bed down) is a great way to pick up ticks, especially if you haven't performed The Tuck.
The Sigh: After sufficient view-appreciation, this is an appropriate reaction to realizing you'll have to do it all over again to get back. Repeat from The Slide before the sun sets. l