GoHike Course – Helping Novice Hikers find a Trail to Success

Foothills' newest course, the introductory GoHike course, experienced great success in its first year. Learn about the course and its outcomes for both participants and leaders.
Lori Heath Lori Heath
Foothills Hike Leader and Super Volunteer
November 08, 2021
GoHike Course – Helping Novice Hikers find a Trail to Success

The Foothills Hiking Committee is excited about the success of their new beginner hiking course, GoHike. The course was carefully designed by Foothills Hike Leaders Christina Buckman and Liz McNett Crowl, who fervently believe that everyone belongs outdoors, regardless of their abilities, limitations, or experience.

The origins of GoHike

Christina and Liz aspired to provide an opportunity for new hikers, or any hikers looking for guidance and support, to build the confidence and skills needed to enjoy the great outdoors. The course was designed so that participants could join at their own pace and in their own way, without feeling self-conscious about knowing the “right gear,” being too slow, or just not fitting in. Their careful consideration of each component of the course helped them achieve their goal of turning any fears or barriers that keep someone from hiking into confidence and success.

Course Progression

The course kicked-off in March with an online orientation session that set expectations and introduced students to some of the essentials of hiking, including preparation, safety, and general fitness tips to make hitting the trails less daunting. To graduate from the course and earn a GoHike Badge, students were required to complete at least one hike per month from April through September, and to complete the online Low Impact Recreation Course. The first month of the GoHike course featured hikes ranging from 2-4 miles, with less than 500 feet of elevation gain. Hikes of increased distance and elevation were featured each month, culminating into hikes of up to 8 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Although there was a steady progression in mileage and elevation, students could stick with easier hikes if they chose. The wide variety of hikes offered each month, including weekday and evening hikes, allowed the course to meet the personal goals, skills, and fitness level of each student.

A total of 64 hikers participated in the course and 24 of these hikers earned a GoHike Badge. The 13 hike leaders in the course led a total of 92 hikes. Some of the more popular hiking destinations included Cougar Mountain, the Tiger Mountain lowlands, and Poo Poo Point. While students were happy to discover so many beautiful hiking trails close to home, many ventured to locations far beyond the Issaquah Alps region, including Bridal Veil Falls in the Central Cascades and Clover Lake in the Mount Rainier area.

Success stories

Many students learned much more than they expected during the course. Kathy Plakovic claimed to have no hiking skills prior to the course, but by the end she wanted to be a hike leader! Liz Tidyman said that in addition to learning how to use hiking poles and be comfortable on the trail, she also learned how to collaborate with other hikers and how to enrich her experience by engaging her curiosity and senses to appreciate tiny details along the trail.

Of course, the students were not the only ones who gained something from the course. Many hike leaders found happiness and satisfaction in guiding the students. Dori Gillam said she felt inspired by the gratitude of the students at the end of each hike. Some hike leaders had unforgettable experiences during the course. For example, Susan Krienen will always remember how the smiles of the hikers at Bridal Veil Falls, conveyed both their awe at the natural beauty surrounding them and their pride in accomplishing the hike.

Both the students and the hike leaders deserve a lot of credit for what they accomplished during the course. But none of this would have happened without the hard work and thoughtful leadership of Christina and Liz. They should be happy and proud of what they accomplished. As Liz said, “We had an idea and got to run with it. How much fun is that!” 

Lead image of course participants on the North West Timber Trail, June 2021. 

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