Finding Your Challenge

I set a goal last year to do 52 hikes in 52 weeks.  I found an online hiking group called the 52 Hike Challenge and signed up to participate. After learning about the challenge my good friend and fellow Forward Fitness member Denise Golden signed up to do the challenge as well. Our first hike was on Jan. 18th. It was a cold day and there was snow on the ground as Denise and I hiked around Queeny Park.  It was a much warmer and foggy day today as we finished our 52nd hike at Pere Marquette State Park.  52 hikes in 51 weeks and all I can think is why didn’t I do more?  No that is not self-criticism, this thought actually comes from a place of joy.  

Hiking is an activity that brings me joy.  I love trying new trails or revisiting old favorites.  I take way too many pictures of random trees or flowers and I have learned to love going up hills because most of the time when you get to the top there is a view waiting for you that makes you forget all about the hill you just climbed. There is something about being out in the trees, even if you know that there is subdivision right behind you, that just makes me happy.  

Joining the 52 Hike Challenge gave a beginning hiker like myself access to some good resources through their website, newsletters, and social media pages.  I now hike with a small backpack that has some essentials that hopefully I won’t ever need but I’ll be glad I have them when I do.  I invested in trekking poles this year and they have been a game changer.  They make going up and down hills so much easier on the knees.  I always have an extra bottle of water with me and when it is hot or if I’m going on a long hike, I’ve found that adding electrolyte powder to my water can help to keep me going.  

I kept a log of my hikes this year, which has been fun to look back at. I tracked the dates, location, length, time, and elevation gain of each hike. My average length was a little over 3 miles and my total miles hiked this year was 167.67. My longest hike was a 7.4-mile hike in Tennessee with an overall elevation gain of 1200 feet.   In Arizona I hiked a 7-mile trail with an overall elevation gain of 1700+ ft.  A year ago, I was very happy with a 2–3-mile hike.  Now I prefer a 3–4-mile hike and my goal for this year is to start adding in longer hikes on a more frequent basis. I’m also learning to pay more attention to the elevation gains on hikes.  This year has taught me how to better prepare myself for new hiking challenges.  

I have come to realize that I enjoy hiking in the winter, spring, and fall.  I really struggled to get hikes in during the summer months.  Being consistent with my hiking during the summer is going to be one of my goals this year. 

My favorite hike was one that I did in Arizona over winter break.  The Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial Trail is in Yarnell Arizona and is the site of a wildfire where 19 firefighters died in 2013.  Early in my dad’s career with the Forest Service he was a smokejumper, and I was always fascinated with his stories about fighting forest fires. Hiking this trail was personal for me and I knew that I needed to be physically prepared for it.  There is an elevation gain of 1200 feet in the first 2 miles.  I took my time. Rested when I needed and didn’t let it bother me when other hikers passed me up.  I did this hike solo.  A lot of times when I hike or walk by myself, I listen to audiobooks.  On this day I did listen to music part of the time, but a lot of the hike I took my earbuds out and just listened to nature. It was a beautiful day and when it was time to head back down the 2-miles I trusted my trekking poles and just had fun. 

Locally there are so many great places to hike that it would be hard for me to choose a favorite.  Greensfelder has so many good trails and the views at Castlewood are hard to beat. Rockwood Reservation and Don Robinson State Park also have some of my new favorite trails. The Bootlegger Trail at Creve Coeur Park is my go-to in a pinch trail.  It’s a 5-mile trail close to my house and my plan is to revisit it several times throughout the year just to keep an eye on my stats and see if they are improving.  The Lewis and Clark trail and Quiver River State Park are just two of the many new hikes I want to do on my list for this upcoming year.

I have signed up to do the 52 Hike Challenge again this year and I’m excited about all the new places that I will get to explore and I’m looking forward to going back to some trails that I love.  My goals for myself this year are to increase my mileage.  I’ve noticed that a lot of people in some of the hiking groups that I am a part of set mileage goals, so that may be something that I eventually do as well.  I want to start doing some journaling of my hikes to go along with all the pictures that I plan to continue to take.  And I know that I need to find ways to keep the hiking going during the hot summer months when I am way less motivated to get out there. 

There will be solo hikes and there will be many more hikes with friends. Denise and our friend Karen are doing the challenge again this year and as we hiked today, we came up with lots of new places to try.  One idea we had was to revisit some of our favorite trails in each of the seasons.  I have loved the idea of hiking for many years. Finding this challenge helped me push myself from being an occasional hiker to a regular hiker.  I’d still say I’m a beginning hiker but I’m eager to keep learning more and finding new hiking adventures.  I hope you find a challenge this year that allows you to spend time doing things that you love. 

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