Outside Insights | Let’s GoHike!

In this piece from Mountaineers magazine, we share the origins of our introductory hiking course, GoHike.
Christina Buckman Christina Buckman
GoHike Leader
April 30, 2022

Written by Christina Buckman, Liz McNett Crowl, and Lori Heath, GoHike Leaders.


At 50, Liz McNett Crowl started hiking. She met Dave on a guided snowshoe trip of Mount Baker who, through a fateful invitation, would become her hiking mentor. They hiked together for years throughout the North Cascades, exploring places like Yellow Aster Butte and beautiful alpine ridges. Then, Dave moved out of state. That’s when Liz discovered The Mountaineers, exploring longer-distance hiking in our Conditioning Hiking Series.

Christina Buckman remembers when she first started hiking. She was plagued by feelings that she wasn’t fit enough or that she would be the one to slow the group down. Christina continued hitting the trail anyway, eventually finding an encouraging community within The Mountaineers. Compelled to give back, Christina became a hike leader with the goal of providing body positivity and inclusiveness on her hikes.

Liz and Christina have both been active Mountaineers leaders for years, and noticed a gap in education for those just beginning to hit the trail. They wanted to create a program to help more people, especially newcomers, feel belonging on the trail.

The origins of GoHike

In late 2019, after several conversations about the need for an introductory hiking program, Liz, Christina, and Cheryl Talbert, Foothills Branch Super Volunteer and backpack leader, put their heads together. The result was the GoHike: Beginning Hiking Series Course. Lori Heath, Foothills Branch Communications Committee member, later joined the team to provide support with registration coordination. Their intention was to create a gateway program to help participants break through the hurdles keeping them from realizing their hiking goals. These volunteer leaders wanted to offer a space for community, inclusiveness, diversity, and body positivity.

GoHike at Mount Erie State Park_Photo by Christie Aesquivel.jpgGoHike participants at Mount Erie State Park. Photo by Christie Aesquivel.


GoHike was launched in March 2021, and was met with enthusiasm. From April to September 2021, 13 hike leaders led a total of 92 hikes for the inaugural GoHike Course, rewarding 24 hikers with a GoHike Badge. An online orientation session set expectations and introduced students to the essentials of hiking, including preparation, safety, and general fitness tips. The course was designed to steadily increase distance, mileage, and knowledge for the GoHike students. 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 complete the Low Impact Recreation Course. The first month’s hike options ranged from 2-4 miles with less than 500 feet of elevation gain. Hikes with increasing distance and elevation were added each month, culminating in hikes of up to 8 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Although a steady progression of mileage and elevation was offered, 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.

Rediscovering a passion for the outdoors

Stuart Lutzenhiser was active in hiking clubs throughout high school and college until a climbing accident curtailed his outdoor pursuits. He spent the next 30 years living a sedentary life that focused on his family but neglected his own physical health. His father’s death in 2019 was a harsh reminder that life is precious, and he felt called to make changes in his life so that he might enjoy more years with his own family. Stuart began looking for ways to become healthier and remembered how much he enjoyed hiking in his youth. His search for a new hiking community led him to The Mountaineers. He couldn’t find Mountaineers hikes that seemed accessible for his fitness level, but his determination to get healthy motivated him to register for a hike along the Bullitt Fireplace Trail to Debbie’s View. The hike was a tremendous struggle. Stuart only completed it thanks to the encouragement of his fellow hikers.

Stuart’s search for a re-entry into hiking continued until he found the GoHike Course. He started the program with relatively short hikes before progressing to more challenging ones. One of the things that drew Stuart to GoHike is how it meets participants where they are. He continued hiking every weekend after graduating, and has lost over 100 pounds since enrolling in GoHike. While the goals of GoHike are not tied to weight loss, the high graduation rate of GoHike shows that students are finding a community centered around body-positivity where they feel belonging.

Stuart recently re-traced his first Mountaineers hike along Bullitt Fireplace but this time, instead of feeling completely exhausted once he reached Debbie’s View, he decided to keep going. Stuart is setting new goals for himself and plans to hike Mount Pilchuck soon, and is looking forward to participating in the 2022 GoHike Course as a leader.

Carol Johnson grew up in Bishop, California, with Mount Whitney just 60 miles away. As a 17-year-old high school intern for the Forest Service, she hiked Mount Whitney and realized how much she loved being in nature. Today, she is grateful that her participation in the GoHike Course inspired her to bring that love of nature back into her life. Her daughter, a GoHike leader, was a source of encouragement as well. During her progression through the course, Carol remembers an “ah ha!” moment when her leader offered an easy conditioning tip on the trail. That tip opened a floodgate of possibilities. From inexpensive rain gear tips to trail safety, these little nuggets of shared knowledge encouraged her throughout the course to achieve her goals and become a GoHike graduate. Carol is now working to complete the final steps needed to become a leader in the 2022 course, alongside her daughter.

Welcoming to all

The secret to the success of this program is our volunteer leaders. GoHike leaders foster a welcoming and supportive community for beginner hikers, while also serving as an example through their own love of the outdoors. Our course also seeks to be self-sustaining, creating leaders for our program through the successful experiences of each year’s cohort.

The GoHike Course seeks to provide a safe space for participants to grow, be part of a community, and build leadership skills to pay it forward. We aim to accomplish these goals by meeting participants where they are and emphasizing a sense of belonging. Participants join at their own pace and, coupled with wilderness safety, gear knowledge, and conditioning tips, they are supported by their peers and leaders as they achieve their outdoor goals.

As Christina, Liz, Stuart, and Carol can attest, being able to explore the outdoors and grow yourself in a fun, supportive environment can make all the difference. We are thrilled with the successes we found in 2021, and look forward to another year of community, support, and welcoming spaces in 2022.

Get involved

Ready to kick-start your own hiking journey? To learn more about GoHike and upcoming hiking courses and activities, visit the Foothills Hiking Committee page.

BECOME A GOHIKE LEADER

Are you interested in volunteering as a hike leader for the GoHike Course? Contact Christina Buckman at christina.buckman.2011@gmail.com or Liz McNett Crowl at beactive30@earthlink.net for more information.


This article originally appeared in our Spring 2022 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive

Lead image by Jenelle Barkley.


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