There is a distinction, subtle as it may be, between a hike and a walk.
Here are some opinions on the differences.
On my first trip to Germany many years ago a friend invited me to, “Take a little walk.”
Leaving the leather hiking boots behind, I put on a pair of light hikers. Following the crazy German up a vertical path nothing more than a Montana mountain goat would climb killed my feet. My hike was his walk.
Jackie and I faced this word-struggle when we went to the Cinque Terre National Park. The Park’s trail rating guide and our interpretation of “light, moderate and hard” were different. When an Italian declares a path easy, ask how many times that week they’ve hiked it. If they say several, don’t trust that the trail is for ambling. Even in shape, many of their easy to medium hikes nearly killed every muscle in this American’s body! I’m convinced the Italians would call Kauai’s Napali Coast trail “light.”
We decided it was the language barrier. Trail severity simply did not translate.
Then We Got to Wales
Checking in at Customs at Heathrow, the agent asked our reason for travel. We answered that we’d be hiking parts of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. He asked how many miles we planned on walking each day. We exchanged concerned glances, wondered if this was a pop quiz. What would happen if we gave the wrong answer? Jackie ventured, “Six?” The crinkle lines at the corner of his eyes showed he was trying hard not to laugh, as he remarked, “To a Welshman that’s a stroll.”
The distance and terrain debate arose a few times on our Wales Adventure.
Distances Differ in Meaning, Depending on Where You Are
My ultra polite and introverted sister inquired of the taxi driver, “How much is the fare to Kilgetty?”
Pondering, he replied, “Eight pounds.”
“Sounds like a lot.”
“It’s quite far.”
Since we knew the distance from Saundersfoot to Kilgetty, we assumed he misunderstood her accent and was thinking of a different town. Jackie asked, “How far is it?”
“Three miles.” He was dead serious.
We burst out laughing. I said, “She’s from Montana,” and she added, “Three miles is a mosey.” We’d have walked to Kilgetty but were told the narrow road was not safe to walk.
About Hiking in the Pembrokeshire National Park
The Park was officially designated in 1952, while the Pembrokeshire Coast Path opened in 1970 as Wales’ first national trail. Adding to the challenge of that 186 miles, it’s part of the Wales Coast Path—870 miles of hiking that’s to be explored by those more stalwart than us.
The Coast Path is both rugged and comprised of beautiful coastline. Their trail rating system goes from a one to a six. The mile from Saundersfoot to Wiseman’s Bridge is a leisurely saunter. The additional two and a half mile walk from Wiseman’s to the beginning of the Path at Amroth is between a walk and light hike. None of it was difficult, but hiking shoes were a must. Being prepared for hills at the beginning and end was a good thing. This trek is rated a two. We agree with that.
In 2014, our hiking took us along the western coast and stretches of the path from Newport to south of Goodwick. Some sections of the Pembrokeshire path are easy, nothing to keep you from enjoying the walk. You’ll awaken the next day being able to move. I didn’t mind huffing and puffing when two young fit women came along, backpacking the entire trail, huffing and puffing. The highest rating in this section is a four. We would have said a two.
Pick Your Pembrokeshire Hiking Treks
The trail between Saundersfoot and Tenby, four miles west, is a hike, but not as grueling as everyone warned. It would have been even easier if we hadn’t gotten off the path in the beginning. Darned to that faulty signage and two extra path options lying in wait to deceive us. The Welsh have a different standard of trail heartiness than the Italians. This trail is rated a six, the hardest, but we declared it a three.
When a Welshman tells you a hike is hard, ask for specifics. It’s not that the four miles were difficult, but the several ascents and descents made me glad for trekking poles and strong leg muscles. Take your weak ones on this hike and you mayn’t move quite right the next day. My theory is that the Welsh are kind and would rather over-warn you than under-warn like those dastardly Italians!
This non-scientific definition of hiking versus walking grew of clues from Pennsylvania to Montana to Italy to Hawaii to Wales. For us, a walk is leisurely, on the shorter side, you might sweat from the heat of nature, but easily talk the entire time.
A hike? One of my avid hiking friends has his own rating scale:
- Easy to Moderate is typically ten miles or less, no great height, maybe 1,000-foot ascent.
- Moderate to Hard is more than ten miles, with greater altitude, 3,000 – 4,000 feet. Must be in good shape, but challenging and rewarding.
Jackie and I came to this conclusion for defining a hike: You put your oomph into it and stop to rest quite a bit. And conversation? Well, maybe while your feet are moving. Whether it’s a short mile or an arduous trek—if you’re sweating to get the job done, it’s a hike, no matter what the expert’s rating.
Next: Shut up. I love you.