Why we are hiking.

Today I want to take time and remember WHY we are spending hours fundraising and prepping for the hike. This hike means so much to the participants but all of our hard work fundraising is really in the spirit of the amazing Elizabeth Stone House. So instead of me telling you what this organization does and why the money we raise is so important, I would like to show you this video and hear from some of the clients and Stone House staff.




Thank you for all of your hard work fundraising so far! We have about 6 weeks until the hike so I encourage you to work on your fundraising goals this week, by planning a fundraising event, send out your fundraising email, or just talk with friends and family about the Stone House and maybe even show them this video!

Happy Wilderness Heals Wednesday!



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Training Hikes!

I had such a great training hike filled weekend and I am so excited to tell you all about it!

Saturday- Mount Percival and Mount Morgan Loop


On Saturday Katie Kozin and I got to lead our first training hikes for the year, which coincidentally we had lead this same hike together two years ago! We had a wonderful group of 7, four of which were new hikers to Wilderness Heals. I am excited to tell you that all of our participants were early to the trailhead and we got on the trail 6 minutes before our agreed upon meeting time at the trailhead–a new record in WH history. This hike was amazing but Saturday presented us with two challenges: 1) The mosquitos or biting flies were AWFUL and 2) We had much warmer weather than we had been used to. The flies were so bad it tested all of our patience and mental well being but I can tell you that everyone was a trooper and pushed through and didn’t let the flies ruin our day! The second challenge came more as a reminder and even though you may not think that you will drink the required 3L’s of water on the training hike, many of us finished our 3L’s and some needed extra water after they had drank all of their own. But let me assure you, even with these challenges beyond the climb to the peaks of Percival-Morgan we had the best day.

If you have ever done Percival-Morgan Loop before you may know that it is a moderate climb with amazing views. At about .1 mile before the peak of Percival you come to a fork where you can take the caves route or the cliffs route. Once the team thought about it we decided to try the caves! I think the caves are a bit of a mental challenge because it is unlike any other part of a trail in the White Mountains but it also promotes team work as you pass your backpack through holes so you can shimmy your body through these puzzle like spaces that you could not fit through with a backpack on.

We then had some lunch on the top of Percival before we headed to the peak of Mount Morgan. We got to see some amazing views on the top of Mount Morgan and take some photos before we headed down to complete the loop back to the parking lot. All in all the loop is about 6 miles according to my watch (but in the book it says its 5.6 miles) and is definitely is a one of a kind hike and I HIGHLY recommend going on this hike!


Sunday- Welch Dickey Loop


Sunday Beth Grierson and I led the Welch Dickey Loop, we had a team of 5 including the team leaders. The weather held up even though it had been forecasted to rain, and so we definitely wanted to try and be off the rock slabs if it did start raining. If you have ever done Welch Dickey, I would say at least half of the trail is rocks slabs and steep and so it would be dangerous and very slow moving if had been raining. Luckily, we had no rain and just heard from grumbles of thundering out in the distance. Welch Dickey affords some AMAZING views for much of the hike, which is really nice so you can enjoy the views for much longer than other mountains where the best views are usually at the top. For a dry sunny day I also HIGHLY recommend this hike and it also is on the list that people try and do which is called “52 With a View.” The list is 52 hikes to do that may not necessarily be 4,000 feet like the 48 4,000 footers list, but is a list of the mountains with the best views! We got up to the top of Welch and sat in the sun and had our lunches and lingered to enjoy the day.

When we got moving to go to the tops of Dickey it came up pretty fast and then we  headed down soon after while still enjoying all of the views that it has to offer. The roundtrip for this loop is 4.4 miles, and takes about 3-4 hours to do. If you haven’t climbed Welch Dickey yet, you must as it is a loop that is always talked about among hikers! We had a solid day and even got to get on the road so we could all get home before 5pm!

Send us your training hike pictures and a description of your hike and we will feature you in the blog! Happy Wilderness Heals Wednesday!



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How to prepare for a training hike

It’s training hike season, and so far we already have had one successful training hike weekend! So what do you need to do to get yourself ready for your required training hike? Today let’s go over what you need to do and some tips on making the training hike day run smoothly.


After you have sent in your waiver to the Elizabeth Stone House you are ready to sign up for a training hike! You should have received a copy of the training hike guide in your email from Jess Cook, WH coordinator. There you will find some tips on how to decide what training hike to choose. This lets you know about elevation gain and mileage and how those two things can make a hike moderately challenging or most challenging. After you have chosen a training hike, sign up with the Team Leader that is listed at 1., feel free to CC: 2.the team leader but it is not needed. Hikes can fill up so sign up early to ensure you get on the hike you want.

Once you have heard back from the Team Leader you will set up a time with the leader for a phone call that lasts about 20-30mins. During the phone call you will go over your hiking experience, the required gear list, hike logistics and the general principles we follow as a hiking group.  Feel free to ask questions and this is a great time to get to know one of your team leaders before you meet at the trailhead.

Before the training hike I recommend doing some exercise leading up to the hike. Biking, running, yoga, gym classes, whatever works for you but get your body used to moving for a bit especially after coming out of the sedentary winter season. I recommend trying to “sneak” in some exercise whether you take a walk during your lunch break or something before work that way when you get home from work and are exhausted you will have already taken care of your activity.

Make sure you have ALL of the required gear, the team leader will go over these items but really think about other things you may need that are not on the required gear list. Will your hike be exposed and you need to bring and apply sunblock? Pack all medications you require and as a good practice pack your health insurance card in case there is an emergency. Also, if you are buying and trying NEW gear, make sure if it needs to be broken in you take care of that before the hike. If you get a new pair of boots, I highly recommend walking around in them either in the neighborhood or even wearing them to work a few days if your workplace has a dress code that allows you to do that.

The week leading up to the training hike can be hectic. If there is one piece of advice I would like to leave with you it is to pack early. Try to pack your backpack 1 or 2 days early. This alleviates stress, and also gives you the opportunity to go to bed early the night before and relax before waking up early the next morning. There is nothing worse than getting done with packing at 10pm to go to bed and have to wake up at 5am. You will start your day off tired and won’t be able to fully enjoy the hike!

Carpooling is a great option if other folks are interested in carpooling. Ask the team leader if they can send an email to connect you to the other team members to see if anyone is able to carpool. Having a person to help navigate directions and DJ the car ride is always a plus and is a safer option so you aren’t too tired at the wheel on your way home.

The night before the hike, try to get to bed early, you will be so much happier in the morning. Also make sure to start hydrating the night before and have a filling breakfast in the morning. These steps will ensure the most pleasant hiking experience. Lastly, do not make big plans for after your hike. This is just a recommendation, but after a long day of driving to NH and back and hiking a full day your body will want a really yummy dinner and some Netflix.


Enjoy your training hike, and enjoy meeting other amazing women who also committed to supporting the Elizabeth Stone House. If you have pictures from your training hike please send them to me at azullo@elizabethstone.org and I will feature them in the blog and Facebook! We love seeing your hiking photos! Good Luck and see you on the trails!

Happy Wilderness Heals Wednesday!


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10 Reasons Why I Hike With Wilderness Heals

This week I found an article that talked about 10 Things Only Female Hikers Will Understand, and so it got me thinking about putting together a list for Wilderness Heals, so here it goes 10 Reasons Why I Hike With Wilderness Heals.

  1. The community of Wilderness Heals.10986628_886846124702464_7792841223076440920_o
  2. The feeling that I am making a change in the world.sleep1
  3. The views. 2013-08-25 13.00.40
  4. The struggles we encounter climbing a mountain mirror the mountains that the clients face in their choices and decisions to make a better life for them and their families. This makes me feel connected with them as I am hiking and fundraising for the Elizabeth Stone House.2013-08-25 10.49.53
  5. The route options for the three-day event: there is a route for every hiker whether that is a two night stay at the same hut, a hut to hut or the backcountry camping option.IMG_5824
  6. Training hikes: A good way to get in shape, meet people and get more hiking in!IMG_3392
  7. Strong Women, may we know them, may we raise them, may we be them! Wilderness Heals is an all women three-day pledge hike to raise money for the Elizabeth Stone House.(null)
  8. Learning about other women and their stories. I am truly amazed by all of the women that hike with Wilderness Heals, we have women who are 12-80 years old, and we all have the love of hiking and many other things in common. Wilderness Heals 2
  9. Challenging myself to raise money and hike up many mountains.Each hiker is responsible to raise $1500 and participate in a training hike and the three-day event.IMG_4942
  10. Supporting the work of the Elizabeth Stone House and the programs and housing they provide for individuals and families to get them back on their feet after trauma such as domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness.logo-elizabeth-stone
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Team Leader Training

This last Saturday the Team Leaders of Wilderness Heals went up to Mount Cardigan for a training hike! To better prepare our team leaders for leading groups on the training hikes and for the three-day event we went over our first aid kits, tarps and knot skills, Wilderness Heals’ policies and had some good ol’ bonding time too.


We started the day with circling up where Jess outlined what the day would look like, there would be some hiking, there would be a lot of information and that this year we were getting back to basics (as far as learning some hard skills like setting up a tarp). Jess and I sometimes modeled what team leaders should do on a hike, but mostly the learning was collaborative and we heard from veteran and new team leaders about their experiences.


Before we headed up the trail we let folks know we would be pulling off the trail throughout the day for scenarios or discussions. About 15 mins into hiking we came across the new tent sites at Cardigan and pulled off at the picnic tables to take a quiz and talk about leadership styles. There are four leadership styles that we talked about: Directing, Selling, Consulting, and Engaging, we often lean toward one but usually your style changes if there is high risk or low risk involved. This is a good exercise to get people to start thinking about how you work with others and what you need to be a successful pair co-leading. After the quiz and some discussion, we headed up the trail. We got to shuffle the hiking line and talk with new and veteran hikers, some folks I have hiked with before and some folks I have not had the chance to hike with before.


The weather was perfect and we reached a ledge that we pulled off to sit and eat lunch and continue discussions and give folks the opportunity to ask questions. The sun was so warm, it definitely felt like a nice spring day (I even got a little bit of a sunburn, so remember to bring sunblock on your training hikes). We started on our hike down, and about 3/4 of the way down we pulled off to work on tarp and knot skills. We learned about the tautline hitch and the trucker’s hitch knots and started to hang some tarps. Hopefully we won’t have any rain this Wilderness Heals so we won’t even need to use these skills! After tarps, we refilled our first aid kits so that we were ready for our training hikes!


We finished the day by circling up and highlighting the skills each team leader brings to the table. I am so excited for this year’s team leaders and all of their experience they are bringing to this event and I can assure you that you are in good hands no matter what team leaders you have on your training hike or three-day event. It was such a pleasure to get to know all of the team leaders this weekend and spend a great day learning and bonding with each other.

Thank you to all the team leaders for taking a Saturday away from your busy schedules to take this on, you are all amazing and I can’t wait to see you all on the trail soon!

A reminder that we have a warm up hike (does not count as a training hike) this Saturday (May 7) at the Middlesex Fells RSVP to azullo@elizabethstone.org if you are interested!


Happy Wilderness Heals Wednesday!






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My biggest struggles on the trail.

This is a repost from May 2014, but I think it is a good reminder as training hikes are approaching! Enjoy and feel free to share your struggles in the comments below!

My biggest struggle as a new hiker was being so worried about how loud I was breathing. This may seem silly, but as a new hiker, I thought that the volume of my breathing showed how out of shape I was. So, to try and make other people think I was ok and in good enough shape, I would try to quiet my breathing and hold my breath. Let’s clear up any other ideas like this and you should know two things: 1.) Everyone breathes loud while hiking. (And it’s good for you! Think about how yogis always practice loud breathing.) 2.) You will always huff and puff on the trail because if you are in better shape you will just move faster until you huff and puff. So don’t make hiking any more difficult and especially don’t try and make yourself pass out, breathe loudly and soak up all that the fresh air has to offer you! Something I have learned through yoga is that by making your breath audible, you can check on yourself and more easily identify that you are more out of breathe than you would like to be and maybe decide on a quick water break to rest for a minute to catch your breathe.


My second biggest struggle is something I come across on every hiking trip. I am totally my own worst enemy. It is so very easy to get the voice in your head saying you should be moving faster or the voice that’s telling you to give up and its too hard. This voice cycles its way into my head at different points throughout the hike and I can easily get that feeling of defeat. Well, I have hiked with some amazing women over the years, and I know that every one of them has had that voice in their head that they fight with. Remind yourself that you are a strong woman climbing mountains. Most people can’t even wrap their minds around carrying a pack up a mountain, let alone hike for 5-9 hours in one day! I find that turning to my hiking buddies and sharing stories, taking in the scenery around me or singing a song can help get the little voice out of my head. Also, just remember that this feeling of defeat can be temporary, if you push through another 5 minutes you may have the incline let up on you to remind you, you are strong and you can push through. This is my biggest struggle but it also is the reason I keep hiking. Because the feeling of climbing a mountain and looking over the side of the mountain and realizing you climbed that far is the best, most accomplished feeling you can get.

What is your struggle on the trail?

Happy Wilderness Heals Wednesday!


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How To Choose A Training Hike

Last week the Training Hike Guide was released to participants that have sent in their signed waiver. (You can also sign it and scan it in and email it to sschultz@elizabethstone.org) When you receive your training hike guide it will have a few pages where is helps you break down how to choose the right training hike for you but today I want to break that down even more. I hiked for awhile not really understanding the break down of miles and elevation gain because I had always hiked with hikers who had more experience than I did and knew they would pick a hike that would be good for us. Since this is my 4th year team leading I have had plenty of practice choosing hikes and needing to use my experience to be able to correctly read a map and check resources to make sure conditions are ok for that trail.


Every hike is challenging.

The White Mountains are…. Mountains! For this reason, our use of labels such as “moderately challenging” or “challenging” are not the result of an exact science. They are an attempt to draw some distinctions, based on information from the White Mountain Guidebook, our experiences on these routes, and factual information: such as mileage and elevation gain/loss.

Mileage and Elevation

Mileage presented for each hike is the round-trip total for the planned route. Each training hike may not complete the mileage that is listed because of the weather, the pace of the group or other circumstances, this is totally ok and still a successful hike. The mileage that is listed is what the goal for the day will be. It is good to have done some training on your own before the hike, but you probably can hike more than you think, currently I am working on getting back into shape and running a 5K (which I need to still stop and walk), but in the last few weeks I have done hikes that range from 7-10 miles. This is very dependent on elevation, but know that we take breaks when we need to and the pace is set by all the members of the group, we hike as a community together and I love the support this creates.

The elevation is presented as the total gain experienced over the course of the hike. Since what goes up must come down, you will experience that elevation as an overall gain when heading up the mountain, and an overall loss when heading down. This does not mean entirely up in one direction, or entirely down in the other. There can be rolling hills, flat stretches of trail, and even significant drops and gains in elevation between the parking lot and the summit – the total gain loss simply tells you the overall difference in elevation.

Hikes can vary significantly in terms of how steep they are. 1,200 feet in elevation gain over the course of 5 miles presents a more moderate grade than a gain of 2,100 feet in elevation over the course of 5 miles.

Estimated Time

We provide an estimated time for each hike, referencing the “book” time presented by resources such as the AMC’s White Mountain Guide. Still these are estimates, since factors such as the size of the group, the weather, the needs of the group and even traffic on the trail can cause the actual time it takes to complete a hike to vary greatly. These time estimates are still useful, however, as they can help you to compare the duration of one hike, relative to the others on the list. Always prepare for full days of hiking, and try and get a good’s night rest before heading to your training hike(s).


Two of my favorite resources are my Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maps and Guide Book. This is where I usually start when choosing a hike, the guide book has descriptions of the trails and for their recommended hikes they provide a difficulty level, similarly to our training hike guide. If you are buying maps my recommendation is that you buy  the waterproof maps which are super durable (the paper ones can rip holes in them after one hike and you need to make sure to keep it in a ziplock bag) and the new waterproof maps also have a breakdown of the mileage which is helpful on the trail to see how far you have gone. Your team leaders will have copies of maps, so no worries if you do not have your own, although if you hike on your own, this is an essential piece of gear. Another few things I do before a hike are checking http://www.newenglandtrailconditions.com/nh/ to see if other folks have hiked the same trail recently and if they report any special gear or anything to note about the hike and check the weather–I always carry my rain gear but other kinds of weather that is expected is helpful, for instance if there are projected thunderstorms, it would be best to stay away from ridge lines. Team Leaders are trained to do this sort of research before your training hike and will inform you of any concerns or are information to better equip you for the day, but if you look into some of these resources it is helpful in choosing a training hike.

If you have any questions or want to see maps of the training hikes before you decide feel free to reach out to me at azullo@elizabethstone.org or the team leaders listed for the hike you are interested in. I highly recommend participating in more than one, it offers you more training and the chance to meet more Wilderness Heals hikers!

Happy Hiking!



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