A day in the life of a Training Hike

Good morning everyone! Erika, here. Ashley & I have concluded that I am definitely the more verbose writer so “bear” with me.

I’d like to give more information about training hikes. You will get most, if not all, of this information from your Team Leaders before hand when you chat with them on the phone.

Training Hike (Night Before)

It usually starts the night before (sometimes several nights before) it actually happens.

I know, I know, how is that possible?

Well, you see, a big part of backpacking is self-care. And taking good care of your self should start no later than the night before a hike. Here is a list of what you should do the night before:

  • Begin hydrating (especially if you are someone who doesn’t drink a ton of liquids except coffee.)
  • Pack your bag & put your boots, water & food someplace where you will not forget them
  • Eat a good meal filled with protein (pretend it’s the night before a big game and you’re starting)
  • Sleep (you will be getting up early and pushing your body all day the next day with lots of driving.)
  • Plan your meal for the following night (I highly recommend takeout or grabbing something on the way home.)
  • Don’t make any plans for when you get home (we can not guarantee a time that you will return AND you will be emotionally and/or physically exhausted when you get home.)

Believe it or not, your investment in caring for yourself the night before will ultimately support the group the following day!

Training Hike Day (Morning of)

It will be an early morning! I encourage Team Leaders to have their groups meet no later than 9:00 am. Sometimes, if the completed hike consists of a lot of mileage or a lot of elevation gain or difficult terrain then the meeting time might even begin earlier.

THE DRIVE: most of our trailheads are located at least 2.5 hours from Boston. There are a few hikes that might require a 3-3.5 hour drive both ways. A couple of tips about this:

  • See if someone wants to carpool so that you have someone to keep you company and possibly drive one way for you. It’s nice to have someone to debrief the experience with at the end of the day, too.
  • Find a campground/lodge/motel near the trailhead to stay the night before or the night of your training hike to limit your time in the car that day.
  • Make time to stop for a meal half way to the trailhead or half way home to break up the drive.

Before you get to the trailhead:

  • Continue to hydrate (I always have an extra water bottle to drink for the ride up.)
  • Eat a good breakfast (if you eat early, be sure to bring a good snack for when you get to the trailhead to get another boost of fueling before heading out on the trail)
  • Make sure that you have your bag, boots, food & water for the day!
  • Leave with plenty of time to get to the trailhead with a possible stop for a pee/coffee/stretch break (or several) on your way up.

At the trailhead: When you arrive at the trailhead, you will probably see a couple of women milling around (unless you’re super early.) Don’t be afraid to ask if they’re with Wilderness Heals. Often times, your team leaders will be wearing some identifying shirt/fleece that has the Wilderness Heals logo on it.

Upon everyone’s arrival, your team leaders will ask the each hiker to take a piece of “group gear” to carry for the day. Group gear is essentially emergency gear that would be necessary due to an injury. Wilderness heals requires each group to carry two sets of emergency gear. This includes tarps, parachute cord, a stove, a groundpad, a sleeping bag, First Aid kits and a few smaller miscellaneous items. Then you will circle up to do a quick “getting to know you” exercise before starting out on the trail.

While you’re hiking: Please remember that this is a “training hike.” It is an opportunity for you and for other participants to “practice” hiking. The challenges that hikers face during the training hike vary greatly but with each challenge, each hiker learns more about her needs for the three-day hike in July. Wilderness Heals is committed to making this event an inclusive experience. That means that we have hikers coming to us with a great deal of passion for the work of the Elizabeth Stone house but potentially no hiking experience whatsoever. We also have hikers come to us with extensive experience hiking and backpacking but limited experience hiking in a group and/or fundraising, etc.

Mt. Tecumseh Trail Training Hike 2014

Mt. Tecumseh Trail Training Hike 2014

With that being said, EVERY hiker will experience her own challenges. Your challenge might be accepting that the group will not summit while another hiker’s challenge might be learning that her boots are just not the right fit. The training hike will provide the opportunity for each hiker to learn how to overcome her individual “challenge” while establishing relationships with the rest of the community!

Lunch on the Hi-Cannon Trail

Lunch on the Hi-Cannon Trail

Although training hikes are an opportunity to practice using hiking gear while practicing hiking within a group led by Wilderness Heals volunteer Team Leaders, it is important to us that each and every participant feels successful. Team Leaders do their best to create a community of women who will hike for several hours with one another while learning from and leaning on one another. But most importantly: HAVE FUN!

Courtney Whyte on top of Cannon Mtn. 2014

Courtney Whyte on top of Cannon Mtn. 2014

Here is a quote from one of our veteran hikers, Meg Costello:

Let me say this: I went into the Mt. Willey hike with some trepidation. Specifically, I was concerned that I’d bitten off more than I could chew in terms of both my own physical stamina and that nagging fear of heights that follows me around. As it turns out, I was in over my head and I definitely slowed the team down but, I was able to summon enough energy to reach the summit of my first 4-thousand foot peak! Without the strength, support, and encouragement of the women around me, it absolutely wouldn’t have happened. I’d say that’s a pretty good metaphor for way that the Elizabeth Stone House enables residents to scale their own mountains.  Woohoo!

Meg Costello (L) with Team Leader, Jess Cook (Middle) and fellow hiker, Ginny Mooney (R)

Meg Costello (L) with Team Leader, Jess Cook (Middle) and fellow hiker, Ginny Mooney (R) 2013

At the end of the day: Your Team Leaders will circle the group up to do a quick debrief of the day.

  • Continue to hydrate! Just because the hike is over doesn’t mean that you should stop nourishing your body.
  • Have a good meal for dinner!
  • Get some decent sleep to allow your body to recuperate.
  • Drive safely!

The week after the Training Hike: Team Leaders will touch base with you regarding the hike. This is a really important time for us to gather information and to address any concerns that you may have. Please be honest about how you were feeling physically & emotionally about the day. This is the information that we use to place you in the best group and on the best route for the event weekend- so, it is critical that this information is exchanged.

I hope that this provides some additional details about the training hikes!

It would be great to hear from all of you-

What are some things that you learned from your training hike that you think would be helpful for others to know?

If you haven’t taken your training hike- what are your concerns?

Happy trails!




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