Picking your next adventure can be daunting, especially when you are starting out. There is just so many good choices and they are just spread out all over our great country. Trying to pick one, and plan all the logistics to pull it off can be a great challenge within itself.
I’m going to cover how I plan for my hiking trips and hope that it will give you some good tips for planning your next adventure. I have had to change this process over the last couple of years as I am now married and have a two-year-old. These changes tend to impact my available time for this hobby. I still obviously get some time get out and enjoy my time out in the mountains, but I just have to be more purposeful when I do it.
With that in mind, here is my process:
✓ Searching for the next adventure
✓ Make a short list
✓ E-Scout and whittle down
✓ Make a decision
✓ Inform the family and make plans
Searching for the Next Adventure:
Most of us have that resource that got us into hiking and camping in the first place. There are online forums, most of these will have reviews on hikes that people have done. YouTube is full of hikers chronicling their journeys. Social media is also a well-used resource.
The point is, if you are reading this post, you obviously have a few recourses that you use regularly for finding your next hiking adventure. That is the easy part, finding out where you want to go. There are thousands of places that we all want to go. The trick is narrowing that list down into something that is useable.
Make a Short List:
Again, I have thousands of places that I want to see. Time and responsibilities however, make visiting all these an impossibility to see within even a calendar year, much less next month. So how do you turn your wish list into something that is able to be tackled? I am glad you asked.
First off, I like to sort out my adventures by the distance away from where I live. The further away that a trip is, the more logistics that it will require, while the opposite is true of trips that are in my backyard. Next I break these groups out by how long the hiking trip is. Again, this will impact not only my time away from work and family, but the amount of money that I will need to fund the trip. Last, and most importantly, I rank them on how important the trip is to me. Hiking the Appalachian trail, while it would be a great accomplishment, it is not something that is really on my bucket list. My life priorities have shifted and taking 5-6 months off from my family and work is just not in the cards.
Hiking the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming however, is something that I have much higher on my list and therefore am willing to syphon recourses into that goal.
E-Scout and Whittle Down:
Now that you have prioritized your goals and have made lists of the hikes that you want to accomplish, now is the time for scouting. I like to bring all the possible hikes for the year to the computer. I first look at the difficulty of the terrain. While a difficult hike doesn’t scare me, it does mean that it will take longer to hike that trail, and that has to be put in the consideration process. Time of year that the trail will open is also a large consideration. A lot of the higher elevation hikes in my area are not snow free until the middle of July. While my wife is very supportive of my hobby, we still have to fit in family vacations as well and the summertime is busy anyways. To take time for a hike in the middle of July is a big decision in my family. Last thing I look at for the E-Scouting is danger level. While most hikes in the US are pretty safe, we are still accepting a certain level of risk every time that we go out. I look at the wildlife in the area, condition of the trail, and search for any deaths on that trail recently. These should all be researched for your hikes. While you may still consider going on the hike regardless, you are at least informed of the possible dangers that trail holds, and you can make a plan to overcome them.
Make a Decision:
Now that you have made your list, E-Scouted the trails and learned all that you can about them, now is the time to pick out your next adventure. I have my own process that involves the step below as well, but you will have to develop your own here. What you pick and why will have to be up to you as YOU are the only one that knows what hikes are the most important to you. Regardless of dangers or demands on your schedule, if an adventure is important enough to you, you should find a way to sacrifice to make it happen.
Inform the family and make Plans:
Once you have decided on the hike that you want to take, now is the time to sit down with another person. Be it your family, friends, or whoever, at least make it someone you know. Tell them your plans and lay out the route for them. Tell them when you are leaving, when you should be back, what they should do if you are not, and what dangers you might encounter. This is an important safety step and one that is often missed. Telling someone at home your plans is the best way to ensure that someone is going to come looking for you if you get lost or hurt, regardless of what technology that you take in the backcountry. Equipment fails, but a loved one that has instructions to send out the troops on this day rarely will. I mentioned above that I use this step as well to decide what trip that I want to take. After I have made my decision, I bring that to my wife. Along with when I want to go, how long it will take, how I am planning to do it, and who I am going with. She then gets veto rights.
My wife is not a dictator that has the power to chain me to the basement, but I do respect her opinion and she is also the one that plans our social calendar. If I plan a hike when she has already planned something else, then I am back at the E-Scouting phase. This can be frustrating at times, and we have had our own struggles with melding our schedules, but this system works well. If you are single and have few commitments, then this step is a lot easier. If you have a family, then you probably are already working on a system that is a lot like this one.
Once you have gotten permission from the boss, or broken out of the basement, now is the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Go out and enjoy the trip. I add this step into the process more to remind you that you picked this trip from thousands for a reason. Take the time to enjoy these moments and experience them fully.
Picking your next adventure can be a daunting process, but if you break it down into a step by step process, it becomes much easier. First start by building a list of hikes that you want to go on, then prioritize them based on the importance to you, scout them out, pick out the one that you want the most, inform some people, and last get out there and enjoy it. Have fun out there.