Running a Course in the Middle of a Pandemic

Hear what it's like to kick-start a course just before the pandemic hit - and how our leaders were able to stay involved, stay excited, and get folks outside.
Carlanna Livingstone Carlanna Livingstone
Tacoma Conditioning Hiking Series Leader
December 23, 2020

This story starts back in 2019 when, as the Hiking Chair for the Tacoma Hiking and Backpacking Committee, I had the idea of offering a Conditioning Hiking Series (CHS) in Tacoma. The goal of a series like this is to help casual or new hikers increase their mileage and elevation gain in a fun, community-oriented way, and I had a feeling it would be popular at our branch. 

I reached out to Donna Kreuger, who spearheaded the CHS course in Olympia, and signed up for their course so that I could get a feel for it. Donna knew my goal was to bring a course to Tacoma and was so supportive and helpful in sharing all her resources, knowledge, and experiences in order for us to be successful. I graduated the Olympia CHS course in the fall and couldn’t wait to get started on putting things in motion for Tacoma!

In September I asked any hike leaders willing to listen if they wanted to get involved in leading hikes for a new CHS course in Tacoma, inviting them to join me for a meeting at the clubhouse (remember when we used to go to the clubhouse?). I was blown away when over 20 leaders showed up, and even more impressed when almost every one of them later agreed to be part of our inaugural course in 2020. Registration opened February 1, and the course filled quickly and had an extensive waitlist. I was so excited we had pulled this off, and were well on our way to offering CHS for the first time in Tacoma!

Our course was set up similar to Olympia’s. Students were required to complete two hikes a month from May to September, with a graduation hike in October. Each month the hikes increased in length and elevation requirements. The progression was significant; in May the hikes ranged from 4-7 miles and 500-1000 feet of elevation, and our graduation hikes in October were 9-12 miles with 2000-2500 feet of elevation. Students were also required to complete a one-day stewardship activity and earn their low impact recreation badge. Each month we focused on new skills like the 10 Essentials, navigation, staying found, nutrition, and hydration.

Then the pandemic hit. We were told to stay indoors and stay isolated. Over the next month the waitlist shrank, and then the course roster shrank. But what never changed were the hike leaders that agreed to join me on this journey. They all stuck it out. In April we successfully held our classroom session over Zoom, letting students know that we were not sure what the future of the course would be, but we were going to try. I was determined (and probably a little stubborn) to have a course if there was any way possible.

By May we were still not allowed to hike with The Mountaineers, so we told students to “hike from home” and let them know that they were on their own to complete May hikes. By June we were back on the trails with The Mountaineers, accommodating with smaller groups, social distancing, hand sanitizer, and masks. We all missed carpooling and going out for burgers and beers after a hike, but this was better than nothing, and we were still running our course (yay!).

I'm happy to report that we were able to offer almost 70 CHS hikes last summer, and when we didn’t have students to fill the hikes, we opened them up to any Mountaineer that wanted to join us. In October students completed their graduation hikes, and we are now in the planning stages of our Conditioning Hiking Series for this coming summer.

Our list of students shrank significantly, and we had more hike leaders than students in the end. I am so proud of all of them for sticking this out, and so grateful that they stayed on this journey with me.

We’re excited to see what next year’s course brings - hopefully those burgers and beers after our hikes! We already have lots of great hikes planned. Registration opens January 15 at 8am sharp, I hope you can join us.

Sign Up for Tacoma CHS 2021


Course Graduates

I would like to congratulate our Inaugural Class of 2020 Tacoma Conditioning Hiking Students!

Laura D'Arcy, Sue Little, Marc Lower, Kim Mace, Peter O'Connor, Judy Peterson, Vanessa Phillips, Barbara Prine, Dani Repp, Shelley Sipila, David Van Reeth, Tina Wang, Sheila Williams, and Luciana Wright

I would also like to express my sincerest thanks and gratitude to the amazing hike leaders that stuck it out with Tacoma CHS:

Kim Britcher, Danny Casady*, Lesa Chase, Michael Chase*, Sylvia Dingwall*, Jacqueline Fritz, Megan Hartness*, Lisa Hayek, Rebecca Jacobsen, Andrew Lee, Jerrick Linde*, Lara Linde*, Frank McCracken*, Lisa McPeak*, Katrina Nellenbach*, Emily Smith, Cheri Solien, Don Thompson, and Marilyn Thompson.

*Also completed the graduation requirements and earned their CHS Badge.

Lead image of CHS students on their graduation Hike, by Don Thompson. 


Add a comment

Log in to add comments.
Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Dec 31, 2020 12:53 PM

Grand work and what a terrific spirit of cooperation and support OLY to TAC -- we are stronger, smarter, and more creative when we work together across branches. CHS has great power to build a hearty hiking community.