Setting Goals to Explore the Outdoors
I was moving back to Syracuse, NY, where I lived for 23 years before I was ready to try something new. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to moving home, a place that has more farms than mountain peaks, so I knew I needed something to keep myself busy and adventuring. I came up with a goal of 52 hikes in 52 weeks.
Of course, that meant one hike a week for an entire year. Sounds excessive to some, sounds perfect to me. I chose that goal after having a kick-ass time completing My Maine (Bucket) List while I lived and volunteered in Maine for a year. I’ve learned that setting outdoor goals are the perfect solution for me to keep exploring every free minute I get.
How I Made 52 Hikes Work for Me
I chose to set this goal up a bit differently from before. Instead of creating a list and checking items off, I added to my list each week, or whenever I could hit a trail. The only requirement was that each hike needed to be in New York and that, by the end of the year, I needed to have hiked 52 times. This option gave me the most flexibility, which I desperately needed since I was working and attending class full-time. There were some days when I hiked as many as 8 trails and there were some unfortunate weeks when I couldn’t get out at all. In the end, I was able to complete all 52 hikes before moving to Colorado around week 40.
Searching for hikes wasn’t as easy as I had thought. There were many Adirondack peaks and gorges that I’ve been dying to hike for some time now, so those were easy choices. But most of my must-hike destinations were 2-5 hours away, which wasn’t always feasible. Finding hikes closer to home was much more difficult. But, as it turns out, these were the most rewarding.
I grew up in Syracuse, so of course I know the area well. Wrong. While chipping away at my goal, I came across dozens of trails and parks that I’ve never been to before; some I didn’t even know existed. Others were places I’ve been to plenty of times before, but I had the opportunity to check out new trails within all the corners of the park. I’ve since gained a much better appreciation for my hometown. Though I don’t want to live here anymore (I crave the mountains), I can definitely give you a pro/con list heavy on the pro.
52 New Experiences
Besides being psyched that I’ve completed my lofty goal, I now have 52 new hiking experiences under my hip belt. I learned a lot about myself and my passions; each time I got outside reaffirmed my love for the outdoors.
One expedition always comes to mind when I’m asked about my experience. This was number 22, a short but snowy hike up Owl’s Head Mountain near Long Lake in the Adirondacks. At only 3.1 miles, with most of the approach relatively flat, it shouldn’t have been a problem. Except, my friend and I were the only hikers to hit that trail for at least a week, according the trail register and lack of footprints. Oh, and 2 feet of fresh powder gave us quite the challenge, even with our snowshoes. Due to the snow large boulders and wooden boardwalks were fully covered and regularly tripped us up. The amount of time we spent sideways in the snow attempting to get back up on our snowshoes rivaled that of when I was learning to snowboard as a child.
At about 2 miles, we made it to the foot of the mountain; now we’d have to start climbing. Lots of trails in the Adirondacks require some hand and foot climbing over boulders–this day required a lot more from us. Specifically, learning how to get up large boulders in snowshoes, which were covered in a thick sheet of ice. Essentially, it just meant more time spent laying in the snow. But the crazy thing was, our adventure didn’t truly start until we reached the foundation at the old observer’s cabin, just tenths of a mile away from the firetower and summit.
It was here that we couldn’t find any more trail markers. I read the directions for reaching the summit, I took another look at the trail map, I even found enough cell service to look up extra information. Everyone noted how difficult it was to find the trail in the winter and they weren’t kidding. I chose to go forth and break trail. But it wasn’t long before I started sliding back down the mountain and was literally unable to walk forward, so I turned back to the observer’s cabin. Then came attempts number, 2, 3, and 4. At this point my friend was exhausted and ready to give up. But I calculated the amount of time until the sunset and when I’d have to be back to my car. I told myself I wouldn’t give up until the very last minute. Thankfully, an hour later, attempt number 5 worked.
So glad it did.
It’s Time To Create Your Own Outdoor Goal
52 Hikes in 52 Weeks is the second outdoor goal I’ve set for myself and it absolutely isn’t my last; I’m brainstorming for my Colorado one now (suggestions are encouraged)! Creating these goals have truly transformed my life. I get outside way more than I used to and I try so many new things that I’m sure I wouldn’t if they weren’t written down. Creating a goal makes you hold yourself accountable for something you want to do, making it much more likely that you’ll succeed.
So why not start brainstorming what your outdoor goal will be? Here’s some ways to make the most of it:
Make sure it’s achievable and short-term. Make it last roughly a year or less. Bucket lists are awesome, but how often do people actually check items off of them? Maybe not until they’re older? Keep it short term so you keep adventuring now.
Toss your goal online. Make it public, for the whole world to see. This will ensure even more accountability because now you can gain an awesome support group of others who would like to follow along and see you succeed.
Bring friends (and strangers) along. Adventures are fun even when alone, but they’re definitely much better when shared. Have your friends help to brainstorm your goal then bring them along for the fun. And who knows, maybe you’ll even meet tons of new cool people like I did. If you do, bring them along, too.
Reflect on your experiences. Whether you blog, Instagram, overshare on Facebook, or journal with a pen and paper, make sure you’re reflecting on your experiences. It may sound a bit sappy, but I can assure you that it’ll only better your experience and self-growth. And you know, maybe get yourself published on Misadventures.
Do it. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Laurie Tewksbury is an adventurer, student, and lover of all things orange. She creates outdoor goals to encourage her to always adventure and explore. She also just recently moved to Denver, CO to play in the mountains as much as possible.