Dave: I hope I'm not partially responsible for your lack of enthusiasm for hiking. I know I planned a fairly demanding trip in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. You would have liked the Deadman Canyon trip! A much more reasonable pace. And no flooding or snow.
Anyway, to address your question. All the things you mention are important to me too, but the actual hiking is unquestionably always at or near the top of the list. My favorite part of any trail day is the first steps out of camp, with a whole day of adventure ahead. Each day presents unanticipated challenges, and beauty.
Also, there is something about the pace of hiking - the act of walking - that stimulates the mind. Walking is the pace our brains are evolved to experience. I find joy in watching the landscape unfold at that pace. I also enjoy the way the mind and body fluctuates throughout each hiking day, experiencing frustration, ecstasy, joy, sadness, excitement, pain, etc. all flowing through me as I walk. A microcosm of life really.
In addition to backpacking, I day hike, city walk, neighborhood walk, dog walk, whatever, as much as I can every day. I find even a 20-minute walk at lunch enriches my day.
So for me, the hiking is central, though all the other things matter in their own way, but I'll save that for other posts.
Thanks for raising the issue, though, it's worth considering.
Ps. I'll keep your preferences in mind for future trips. You're still invited.