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Time to Hike!

Last month at our “Unpacking Your Hiking Hesitations”  Clinic at Midwest Mountaineering, Ruth and I were asked a question:

“How do you make time for hiking?”

I responded almost automatically: “you make time for the things you love”.  But the minute those words left my mouth I realized that was kind of an easy answer, and that it also exposed my tendency to defend the amount of time I spend outside.  You protect the things you love…

Almost immediately, that question also reminded me that not too long ago, I didn’t feel like I had time to do the things I love. Or that I had kind of forgotten what I enjoyed for a little while and that its ok to do things that I enjoy and love, just for me.

I backtracked a bit in our clinic and tried to genuinely answer the question the best I could with some concrete and encouraging examples instead.

But, a few days later, it was still mulling around in my head on a hike…

“how did I get here, and how do I actually make time to go outside?”

fullsizeoutput_3532So, here are some things that I do to make time for hiking.   Its not in order or an exhaustive list by any means , but hopefully it will inspire you to get out even more and have fun!

  • Build a Routine
  • Find a Community
  • Challenge Yourself | Set a Goal | Celebrate!
  • Hike Your Own Hike

Build a Routine

Routines don’t have to be boring; they can be really effective ways to build consistency and ‘normalcy’ to an activity or behavior that you may not already have. We all have other routines in our lives; why not build one around the outdoors?


The 52 Hike Challenge is a fantastic way to start hiking on a consistent routine, at your own pace and keep yourself accountable. This is my 3rd year participating in the 52 Hike Challenge and it has been one of the biggest drivers of consistency in getting outside.  Its great if you are just getting started or need a framework/incentive for training for a big trip.   In addition to other physical conditioning during the week (stairs, biking, yoga, more stairs), the 52 hike challenge was basically my training plan for my Superior Hiking Trail LASH. 

We are all wired differently, but it is super motivating to me to know that I have a reason to get outside every week.  And my family has seen me hike almost every weekend for the last 3 years, so it’s part of their routine now too.

Find a Community

If you have read my story, you already know that I didn’t start hiking until I turned 40 and that my hiking community was a bunch of Boy Scouts!   I loved those early days of Hiking Merit Badge and High Adventure Treks. I still love it when I get to hike with the Scouts, but I didn’t really fall in love with hiking until I started to connect with other adults that had similar interests. Finding a community allowed me to shift from leading others to dreaming up my own adventures. My first hiking community was my Ultimate Hike Training Crew. I made fast friends with Coach Holly and the other Ultimate hikers, and we are still friends today!

Since then, I have found amazing support and female friendships through Women Who Hike – an organization that seeks to empower women on and off the trail. I became an ambassador after benefitting from these connections in my own life and wanted to help bring them to others.   We hike and/or encourage each other every week, 12 months a year!   I am also part of a Wisconsin based group called THRIVE-Women’s Outdoor Adventures, and a handful of Facebook Hiking Groups that continue to inspire and build a sense of community virtually and on the trail together.

I love meeting new friends and connecting with old ones on the trail, and believe the trail opens up conversations that may not happen elsewhere. If hiking solo is your thing, being part of an online community can be a way to feel a sense of connection while retaining your solitude.

Challenge Yourself | Set a Goal | Celebrate!

If keeping track of hikes, miles or challenging yourself to see new places takes the fun out of it for you, then by all means, don’t do it! But setting a goal or challenge for yourself can be a great way to discover new adventures and accomplish things you never thought you could!

Isle Royale Hiking Journal. I usually make lists and notes, but added some sketching on this trip.

Write Your Own History

Don’t forget to reflect back once in a while to see how far you’ve come.  Think about what you are most proud of, how you’ve grown, and enjoy the journey. One way I like to do this is by keeping a hiking journal and reflecting back at the end of the year and setting some new intentions for the next one. That’s exactly how this blog started almost 3 years ago (See my very first post).

I also like to keep track of the nights I’ve camped (194 nights since 2012!).   Some years I keep track of the number of bald eagles I see (111 in 2017), or miles hiked, and new for this year I am writing down how many pounds of trash I’ve hauled off of the trails as a Granite Gear Groundskeeper!

My patch blanket, packed for Winter Camp!


Patches and hiking stick medallions are also a fantastic way to celebrate and commemorate those hiking milestones and destinations. I stopped buying T-Shirts a few years ago, because it was impossible to wear them all and I ended up eventually donating them.  Patches and medallions are small, inexpensive and easy to keep around.  My friend and Women Who Hike Co-Ambassador, Ruth just wrote a great post this week on her patch obsession, check it out!  

Our son’s patch blankets

I typically like to buy a patch or a hiking stick medallion from each park I visit. Since Scouting is where I learned to love collecting patches, I combine my hiking and travel patches with the Scout Camp patches I’ve collected over the years and sew them onto a blanket.  I’ve got another stack of patches to add this winter.  Both of our sons have their own patch blankets to remember their adventures, and I hope they will share them as a family keepsake some day.

10935D5E-8373-4A1C-82AE-4D51E3A6BE49Patches also get sewn on my packs and I keep the ones I like to flash in pictures pinned to the outside with a heavy duty sweater pin so I can easily remove them.

If you are into patches like Ruth and I are, you can also earn them by hiking the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club, North Country Trail- Hike 100 Challenge, 52 Hike Challenge and being a member of Women Who Hike. If earning patches and free nights of camping aren’t your thing, find something that motivates you and keeps you heading outside!

Last Hike of the Year! Snowshoeing at Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Hike Your Own Hike

One of the best things about hiking is that a hike can be anything you want it to be.   I like to define a hike for myself as at least 3 miles long and mostly on dirt. For you it might be something entirely different, you get to define it.

Your hike can be a long multi day trek or a short and spontaneous walk on a local trail; it can be a contemplative stroll, mountaintop summit (see my 52nd hike-Eagle Mountain post) or an all-out-sweat-your-brains-out-suffer-fest. The main thing is to get out there and enjoy!

Fall on the Superior Hiking Trail

Prioritize and Be Intentional

This year, I have worked on being more present with all of my senses while hiking.  I’ve also increased the frequency and tried to think less about the distance. Hiking is good for my well-being, it helps me focus and combats stress. The more stress I feel, the more I try to prioritize hiking (and why I hit my 52nd hike June – there lots going on right now in the Wandering Pine brain). I’m proud to say that I squeezed in a hike on my way to the grocery store last month and often wear my dirty hiking shoes to church so I can go run around on a local trail afterwards.

Playing at Elm Creek Park Reserve

Hiking for me, might mean that I hit the trailhead at sunrise and hike 15 miles before my family wakes up so I can spend time with them. It might also mean that I hike alone even if I prefer to hike with friends just to receive the mental physical and spiritual benefits of being out in nature. I might walk around on the grass in the Cemetery for an hour or so and call it a hike (its great perspective).  Or hike in the rain, sub-zero cold, heat, while picking up other people’s gross trash and straight through water and mud… basically any condition that I can tolerate, just to get those benefits that only come from being in nature. I’ve learned how to adjust to the things that used to scare me off, define my own success and its still worth it, every stinkin’ time. How cool is that? And so can you!

Type 2 Fun on the SHT

Its worth it

In the end, the list of benefits from hiking every week far exceeds the list of things I may have missed out on. I may be wasting money on the Netflix subscription, but prioritizing my well being though making a regular practice of getting outside has given me stronger connection to my Creator and Creation, given me more energy to devote to my family, and has assured me that I can do hard thingsIts worth it.

Are you looking for more ways to get outside?  Or have any helpful tips to share or things you’ve learned along the way?   Feel free drop a note in the comments below or continue the conversation on the Wandering Pine Facebook page. 

Happy Trails!




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