More Than a Mountain
Kyle Espinola, a hiker with philosophical tendencies, analyzes a mountain as a symbol of tradition and accomplishment.
How often do you hike?
I try to go as much as I can, if I had to put a number on it I would say that I try get up there five or more times a summer.
When was the last time you hiked?
I hiked Mount Monadnock in Jeffery, NH about a month ago. I hike it at the end of every school year. It’s a tradition.
How did that tradition come about?
I don't know. Honestly, it was a spur of the moment idea three years ago. I had texted all my friends urging them to come, but none of them could. It was cloudy and muddy, and I kept getting lost in the fog, but I still made it up and down the mountain. Looking back, it was incredibly dangerous to hike in those conditions, but I loved the feeling it left me with so I turned the hike into a tradition.
Can you describe that feeling?
You just feel accomplished. You spend two hours or more putting yourself through this tiring and sort of monotonous activity, where you sweat profusely and get eaten alive by bugs, and then you get to the top of the mountain. And it’s just beautiful. Between the view and the self-accomplishment, you forget all the bugs and sweat. You forget all your troubles. Your sole focus is getting to the top, and when you finally do, you’re so happy with yourself that whatever made you upset doesn’t even matter anymore. It’s like it no longer exists.
Do you think everyone else gets that same feeling?
I think so. At least I hope. One thing I love about hiking is how universal it is. I have met people who use hiking for more abstract purposes, like relieving stress or getting some alone time. And I’ve met people who use it for more practical purposes, like hanging out with friends or losing weight. That’s one of the reasons I don’t post long things on Facebook about hiking or blow up Instagram with all these pictures. I don’t want to take away from the accomplishment of it by making it seem like it’s only something to brag about it, and I definitely don’t want to make people think hiking is only for in-shape people. It’s not.
The physical benefits aren’t a motivator for you?
I mean there are plenty of articles about how great of a cardio workout hiking is, but I think it’s hard to compare it to something like running because I don’t think of hiking as a workout. Burning calories may be a result of the hike, but they’re not my reason for going. I could care less if I burn 200 calories or 2000. For me, hiking is more than an exercise or something physical.
So, a hike is more than a hike, and a mountain is more than a mountain?
Exactly. Whenever I look at a mountain, I don’t just see a mountain. Sometimes I see a challenge I have to prove I can overcome. Sometimes I see my own personal challenges in the mountain, and it’s like hiking helps me to overcome them. Like I'm hiking over and away from them.
Interview by Josh Baker