Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, (site and store here)
Like many of you, hiking is my passion. Probably unlike you, though, hiking is also my business.
I thought about the hiking business, most particularly my hiking business when my local bank called up to remind us that The Trailmaster Inc. was the “Business of the Month” for February. Would we please come over to the main branch of Montecito Bank & Trust on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara and set up a display about our business?
So off I went with Cheri, Mrs. Trailmaster, who, quick as you can say “Hike on,” threw a hiking-themed cloth over a table in the lobby, arranged an attractive display of our books, and popped up a poster that features hiking scenes, the Trailmaster logo and a tag line: “Publishing books that celebrate America’s most popular form of outdoor recreation—hiking!”
Books are a major part of The Trailmaster’s hiking business, which also includes public speaking, making videos and leading the occasional tour.
The Trailmaster has been banking with Montecito Bank & Trust for 20 years and it’s the kind of friendly, small town bank we like with friendly tellers and all the latest electronic banking methods. Of course anyone in the hiking business has just got to love the bank’s motto: “Pathways to Prosperity.”
The Trailmaster has definitely walked and written about a lot of pathways, though I’m still looking for the one that leads to Prosperity with a capital “P.” It’s difficult to have a conversation about the hiking business because almost no one believes me that I make a living telling people to “Take a hike!”
“So John, what do you do?”
“I’m a hiker.”
“Seriously, what’s your real job?”
If I had a pound of trail mix for every time I’ve been asked that question, I’d have a ton of the stuff by now.
The fact is, being a hiker is my job—and has been for more than three decades.
They say, “Do what you love and the money will follow.”
Uh, not always, but I still feel blessed to be able to share my passion with countless hikers and would-be hikers. I wouldn’t trade hiking for all the money in the world.
Answering “I’m a hiker” to one of society’s most fundamental questions provokes some interesting responses.
Some questioners suspect they’re being trifled with and stare right through me. Others figure I’m unemployed and my last employer told me to take a hike and I must have taken this edict literally.
I admit I sometimes choose to avoid this line of conversation and answer the what-do-you-do question with the gig of the moment: “I’m writing a book about hiking in California’s State Parks.” Or “I’m working with the County Fire Department to make a series of hiker safety videos.”
“I’m a hiker” is my most frequent response though, and the most honest one.
I am a hiker. By temperament. By orientation. By choice.
Hiking is my business.
And a whole lot more.