Hikers, let us celebrate the hike-ku, uh, haiku. I confess I always have a lot of fun modifying (some purists might say mangling) the ancient eastern art of haiku to express the sometimes profound and sometimes questionable joys of hiking.

April 17, Haiku (Let’s make that Hike-ku) Poetry Day is a good day to celebrate this short-form style of poetry–or compose and recite a hike-ku anytime the spirit moves you.

Some of my hike-kus, published in the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, were a hit with readers, and over the years, when the muse strikes, I’ve written more. One of the great benefits of my profession as a nature-hiking writer is that it gives me plenty of time to think (and compose hike-kus) while out on the trail…

Find a moment of zen or sheer silliness on the trail and compose a hike-ku.
Find a moment of zen or sheer silliness on the trail and compose a hike-ku.

Hike-kuing isn’t as easy as it looks. One needs to get into that three-line-five syllables-seven syllables-five syllables groove and the form demands clever word-smithing. A good one expresses a slice of life or a universal theme and a great one goes beyond this to leave the reader with a transcendent moment.

It was while hiking along the rim of the Grand Canyon with my then 10-year old son scampering along inches from the edge of a 4,000 foot drop, my teenaged daughter sulking along because that’s what teenagers do, my wife demanding that promised iced frappucino, and all the while passing one close-to-sunstroke sojourner after another that I began searching for a way to express the poetry that is in moments such as these.

And so the haiku hike-ku was born.

I find a lot of humor in hiking, America’s most popular form of outdoor recreation. I hope you do, too.

Hike-ku by John McKinney

Thighs burn on switchbacks

no stairs escalator here

quads don’t fail me now


Looking good on trails

wearing trendy hiking gear

great designer shades


We hike all morning

And finally reach the top

Joyous mountain high


Rubbing the wrong way

my new boots look wonderful

blisters temper joy


Trail mix by handful

healthy nuts and raisin crunch

eat M and Ms first


Mosquito drilling

Through arm skin effortlessly

Energy transfer