Playing a Hiking-Themed Game of "Would You Rather...?"

Sometimes things go as planned. Sometimes, not so much!
When it comes to outdoor adventure, we don't always get to choose how some scenarios we encounter play out. But during a recent #trailtime Twitter chat I co-hosted with Sierra Trading Post, that's exactly what we did.

"Would you rather?" is a game I remember playing growing up. My friends and I would throw out questions like, "Would you rather eat a worm or a caterpillar? Would you rather find a dead rat in your closet or in your shower?" Silly, harmless questions. Turns out, it's a pretty fun game to play when you relate all of your questions to outdoor adventure!

As a Twitter chat co-host, I don't often get to answer all of the questions, and if I do, I only have 140 characters to do it in. So I'm taking the opportunity to think harder about some of the scenarios we Twitter-chatted about, explain what I'd rather in each scenario, and I'd love to hear if you agree or disagree with my choices!

Would you rather hike less than five miles with over 2,000' of elevation gain or 10+ miles with no elevation gain?

In this case, and in most cases, I'll take shorter hikes with elevation gain. Typically, if you're climbing, you'll end up with a view at the end of the hike, and once you're at the top, you get to go back down! I always feel accomplished when I've climbed something hard enough that my legs burn. One of my favorite Philly-area hikes, Mount Tammany, gains over 1,200' in less than two miles, and I often choose it over another favorite, Sunfish Pond, which gains around 1,000' in 8-10 miles, depending on the loop.

Would you rather post-hole for half of a hike or wear snowshoes on a trail with spotty snow cover?

Spotty snow cover in snowshoes is no fun, but I'll take that any day over post-holing. On an early spring trip to the Adirondacks several years ago, my group and I post-holed all the way down 5,344′ Mount Marcy while battling severe rain and wind, and it was one of the most miserable, ye memorable experiences of my hiking life. I was wet, cold, and the descent took us twice as long as it should have. Snowshoes may have helped us on that trip!

Hiking in this kind of weather is pretty much terrible. Post holing is no fun!

Would you rather encounter a bear at a “safe” distance or a bull moose at a “questionable” distance?

While living and working outside Denali National Park after college, I used a few easily accessible day hikes to keep my fitness up. I became familiar enough with one of them, climbing Mount Healy from near the Murie Science and Learning Center, that I'd opt to run down once I reached the top. One one of those runs down, I came around the corner and nearly ran right into a moose. I was lucky; I backed away slowly and the moose continued on her way, stomping through the underbrush.

Moose are huge, and dangerous, especially during rutting and calving seasons. I'll take a bear from a safe distance over a questionably close moose.

Would you rather have to slow your pace significantly for hiking buddies or work hard to keep up? 

If slowing down means forefeiting a goal I'd set for the day, or not making it to camp in time, or puts my group in danger, I'd absolutely rather have to work to keep up. But generally, as part of pre-trip planning, I make ever effort to avoid any of that happening! So if it means my hiking buddies and I have a good time if I slow down, I'll absolutely do it.

Working hard to keep up can mean you're getting a better workout in on a given day, but it also might mean you're missing enjoying the scenery; not all hikes need to be challenging workouts! And I've been in situations where a hiking buddy left me behind to tag a summit, then came back for me. It was humiliating, and I wouldn't want to put myself through that again. This is one of the questions I copped out on during the chat because really, it depends!

Would you rather have to deal with a downpour or extreme wind on a hike?

Neither option is particularly pleasant, but in general, I'd pick rain over wind. If I know it's going to rain while I'm out, I can bring a waterproof jacket, a pack cover, rain pants, waterproof boots, and more. But wind is just plain annoying, especially if you're in terrain with a good bit of dust, dirt, even snow.

This was the wettest I've ever been on a hike. But at least it was warm and there wasn't any wind!

Would you rather forget to pack snacks or forget to pack your camera?

There's no contest and no "it depends" on this one for me - I'd absolutely rather forget my camera than to forget food. It doesn't matter how long the hike is, where I'm going, or what the terrain looks like; if I forget food, I'm likely going back to get it! Supposedly, humans can survive three weeks without food, but when I'm out on the trail, I feel more like I'd last about three hours. The memories I'll have will always be there; I'll forgo the camera if I get to eat.

Would you rather cross water by hopping rock to rock or by balancing on a log?

I've done both numerous times, and I've ended up in the water numerous times, but if I have a choice between rock hopping and walking across a log, I'll take rock hopping. Logs can be slippery, and if I've got a pack on, balancing can be a significant challenge. When I'm rock hopping, pausing in between hops to collect myself makes a big difference. So assuming the rocks are big enough and appropriately spaced, I'll skip the log crossings.

Log crossings look cool, but I always feel as though I'm seconds away from eating it!

Would you rather reach an alpine lake or a scenic vista at the end of your hike?

Living on the east coast, specifically in Pennsylvania, alpine lakes are tough to come by. So if I had to choose between a sweeping landscape view and an alpine lake, I'd take the lake. A number of folks on our Twitter chat pointed out that "alpine lake" can be synonymous with "scenic vista," and if that means I don't have to choose, I'm all for it!

What do you think, if you had to choose in each of these scenarios, would we agree? I'd love to hear from you!