Jobs, kids and lives in general provide a zillion excuses for not hiking (and a raft of other nots: eating right, exercising, calling your mom). I needed to hang around the house this weekend, so the least I can do to atone for not hiking is to suggest how to stay inspired and keep a hike in your life every weekend.
1) Set an annual mileage goal
Plan to hike 200 miles in the next 12 months. That’s 52 3.8-mile hikes, very doable.
Create an Excel spreadsheet and update it when you get home. Works best if you’re the kind of person who likes to create to-do lists and actually do the stuff on your lists.
You don’t have to invest in a pedometer or GPS unit to record your mileage down to the last inch. A ballpark estimate is fine.
2) Get a hiking partner who is neither friend nor family
Fess up: Friends and family are one of the reasons you’re not hiking. They are all good people who deserve a fair share of your waking hours. If they were hikers they’d be glad to join you for a few hours in the woods. But they aren’t. Dragging them along just makes your hike (and their life) a drag. Don’t do it.
Instead, find somebody in your neck of the woods who’s already hooked on hiking. Awhile back I hiked with a cool Winston Salem guy named Chris I met on EveryTrail, which has social-media functions like Facebook’s that allow you to “follow” other people’s adventures. Chris and I have been hiking many of the same trails for months; this spring we started swapping e-mails about sharing our gas costs on our next 350-mile round trip to the mountains and back.
The result was last month’s excellent hike at Panthertown Valley, where neither of us had hiked before.
We’ve got another hike penciled in for next weekend. Why this works: Once you have something scheduled with somebody, it’s harder to talk yourself out of it. And with just one person, backing out is, well, more personal and you’re just less likely to do it.
3. Join a hiking club AND volunteer to lead a hike
Joining a club is standard advice, but here’s why it doesn’t always help: If the club has dozens of members, you can always rationalize that one less person hiking this weekend won’t hurt anything.
But if you sign up to lead a hike, you’re committed. You have to go. There’s a risk of making your hike a chore, but there’s the reward of being in charge for once in your life.
Bear in mind you should do this only for a trail you know by heart, and you should pick the brains of other hike leaders to make sure you know what you’re doing before you head out. Sure, it complicates your hike, but it’s better than no hike at all, right?
4) Volunteer with Scouts or take inner-city kids out hiking
After you’ve led a few group hikes and have a feel for it, you can kick it up a notch and volunteer to help other grown-ups take kids out on the trail.
Signing up for a lot of volunteer programs requires major fortitude because groups create obstacle courses to a) find the committed volunteers; and b) keep the creeps and flakes away. So be prepared.
On one hike, I happened across three guys who were talking about how long they’d been sober so I figured they must’ve been a subgroup of a local 12-step program. So there’s another option.
You might even think about contacting local senior centers and see if they need help taking local folks on easy hikes nearby.
5) Start your own hiking group
Now that you’re an Authentic Leader of Hikes, you can start your own group. Sites like Meetup.com and EventBrite make it easy to automate the logistics of getting people to the trailhead.
The key is to start with people you already know or share at least some common bond: co-workers, people from your church and so on. Google “hiking clubs” and e-mail their leaders for tips on how to do it right.
Leading a club is fraught with complications, for sure; if you’re not a natural-born-leader type it might not be the thing for you. But it would definitely remove most of your excuses for not hiking.
6) Start a hiking blog
As Gomer would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” (that’s a local reference, by the way: all the regulars on “The Andy Griffith Show” had North Carolina accents of varying authenticity). Anyway: having a hiking blog forces you to:
- Pick someplace to hike.
- Hike someplace new every week.
- Keep a lookout for new/novel/nifty things that didn’t happen last week.
- Keep the customers satisfied.
I’ve gone weeks at a time where I’ve hiked mainly to have something to write about here.
Fortunately, I have amassed a wealth of tips on starting a hiking blog.
- The case for starting your own hiking blog
- How to start a hiking blog
- Tips on writing about hiking
- How to guarantee your blog doesn’t suck
- A hiker’s guide to Twitter
So there, you’re all out of excuses.