I have seen the phrase Hike Your Own Hike (or HYOH) used quite frequently on hiker forums and Facebook groups when it comes to various hiking issues. It appears to be the pet phrase of choice whenever there are issues that crop up, including anything from water treatment to bear bagging to camping illegally or using drugs trailside. There is a reason to say “Hike your own Hike” (HYOH) and a reason not to use it as an excuse for something illegal, immoral or downright dangerous. It would be akin, I suppose, to saying – “Hey do whatever you want.”
But you can’t just do whatever you want if it restricts another’s enjoyment of the woods, if it will destroy or harm wildlife and or the trail or wilderness, if it will endanger your life or someone else’s, or it’s just plain against the law.
I once saw this phrase used when someone, for instance, instead of following the white blaze of the Appalachian Trail, decides they feel like a wander down a blue blaze trail to see other scenery, or they decide maybe they would rather canoe the river instead of hiking or bicycle or road walk a portion. In that instance they are doing their journey the way they want without the legalistic approach following a white blaze or the trail. They are hiking their own hike.
Contrary, a hiker says he’s going to forgo Maryland’s rules of no camping between designated areas and set up his tent wherever he chooses. That is not HYOH. That is disobeying a posted regulation which is put there for a purpose. It’s not to restrict but to protect both the hiker and the wilderness experience from the multitude of other hikers also looking for a pristine place to wander. Or a hiker plans not to bear-proof food from wildlife which is against the ethics of Leave No Trace and protecting wildlife. This is also not Hiking your own Hike.
It is hoped people will use the wisdom of HYOH the way it is meant to be used – to enjoy the trail and the journey that best suits your needs and plans. It should not be used as a catch-all phrase and excuse that can potentially harm you, another hiker, or the wilderness.