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Hiking Fulfills Inner Need to Travel More Slowly

March 22, 1987|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

It was mid-July and the snows were gone from the ski slopes of the Austrian Tirol. We were hiking in the Alpine meadows near Igls, where only two winters earlier we had been cross-country skiing. Now the wildflowers of a late spring were still in bloom.

We ended our day's walk at the Igls Sporthotel, which was just as much of a picture post card Tirolean inn in the sunshine of a late summer afternoon as it had been during the early twilight of winter. The sun glowed on the mountain crests high above us. From somewhere nearby came the music of a Tirolean band.

Our hiking day had started after breakfast in Innsbruck at the Goldener Adler, an inn that traces its history back to 1390. We walked through the Gothic Old Town of this city, lingering at the 28 bronze statues around the tomb of Emperor Maximilian in the Hofkirche, one of the historic treasures of Europe.

My wife Elfriede and I had spent much of the day on this leisurely hike. I carried only a light backpack for our overnight needs in Igls.

Through the Vienna Woods

Two days earlier we walked for most of a day through the Vienna Woods around the wine village of Grinzing, along paths Johann Strauss must have walked for many a day before he composed his "Tales from the Vienna Woods" in 1868.

Next autumn, when summer is approaching Down Under, we plan our own walkabout in Mt. Cook National Park along the crests of the Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand. Options for hiking and climbing range from the maps of "Easy Walks" furnished by the rangers to glacier climbs.

Hiking and walking, like bicycling, have become major trends in world tourism of this late 20th Century, and the reasons why go far beyond fitness. Most important of all in this High-Tech Age is the inner need to travel more slowly.

During a hike from Los Angeles to San Francisco we found that everything is intensified when you slow the pace of travel. Each view becomes part of your senses, and there is time to touch other lives, even with a wave and a smile. A butterfly flickers by in the glow of sunlight and is not crushed against your windshield.

Favorite Routes

We'd like to share with you some of our favorite hikes around the world, as well as to update some of the hiking tours offered for individuals and small groups.

Hiking tours or hiking on your own can involve camping trips or non-camping trips with a wide variety of accommodations. Above all, hiking can be priced according to your travel budget.

"The Civilized Way to Rough It" is the 1987 theme of hiking vacations offered by American Wilderness Experience of Boulder, Colo.

"If you like franks and beans," this organization advises, "bring them with you. We serve hearty meals of steak, fowl, fish and pork with fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, Dutch oven biscuits, potatoes, homemade desserts and plenty of cowboy coffee."

On Wilderness Experience treks, roomy tents are waiting and dinner is being prepared while you relax after a day of hiking.

Mountain Travel of Albany, Calif., will conduct camping and non-camping trips in many parts of the world this year. "Hiking the Haute Route" is a trek with about 12 days of hiking along the high route that crosses the Alps between Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. Overnights include Alpine huts, pensions and mountain hotels.

Mountain Travel's nine-day walk deep into the Japanese Alps finds each day ending graciously at one of the traditional ryokan inns of Japan.

Last summer in the Black Forest of Germany we followed trails that linked nine Wunderhiking Inns during treks of 7 to 10 days, depending on your pace. Each day our baggage would be moved from one inn to another while we enjoyed forests, meadowlands and fairy-tale villages.

The California Office of Tourism in Sacramento has divided the state into 12 distinctively different destination areas. Each has many byways that await the walker and hiker.

The Mammoth, Mono and June Lakes area, for example, is a wonderland for summer hikes as well as winter skiing. The visitor center on California 203, operated by the U.S. Forest Service, provides trail maps. One day could begin with a hike to Devil's Postpile National Monument, with its basalt columns fitted together like the pipes of a great organ. Minaret Vista Nature Trail will introduce you to the grandeur of Inyo National Forest. Mono Lake so fascinated Mark Twain that he wrote of "Mono's Mountains of the Moon."

Stepping far back into history, we found that the Pyramids of Egypt can be part of an unforgettable hiking experience. The Avenue of the Pyramids from Cairo to Giza is a hike of only a little more than seven miles, but it is a walk back into the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, which built some of the finest of all the Pyramids about 2,500 years before the birth of Christ. When Napoleon stood here with his army he spoke of "40 centuries of history looking down upon us."

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