Since I was a boy growing up in Gatlinburg I have loved to hike. I’ve have hiked all over the Smokies and Tennessee. I have hiked in the rain forests of Alaska, and the volancoes in Hawai’i, in the Olympics and Cascades in Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, in the Red Rocks of Utah, in the Rockies in Colorado, in the woods of Kentucky, in the tall pines of Georgia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and the highlands of Virginia—to name a few. In other words, wherever I go you are liable to find me strapping on the boots and heading out the door and down a trail. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done for decades now.
More often that not that means I’m out there alone. Hiking and hanging out and backpacking are some of the ways that I find solitude and silence. I walk at my own pace and make my decisions along the way. I make camp alone and listen to the world around me. I receive a good bit of refreshment from these hikes. I experience the woods and the world in a more intimate and intense way when I’m on my own. I will always have those who say I shouldn’t hike alone, but there is much I would miss otherwise.
But I’m also a social creature and there are others who like hiking. During the pandemic we formed a hiking group at our church so that we could be together. We found trails nearby that were accessible for our varied group. We have all ages, and yes, we include dogs on occasion as well. Hiking with a group is different. I have to take into consideration the fitness levels of those involved. I have to think about what would make an interesting hike for everyone. I have to think about safety issues. I have to watch the weather and plan accordingly. What might be a fun challenge for me might prove to be difficult or even a disappointment for others. Social hiking is radically different from solo hiking.
What if there were a way to combine them—to get the best of both worlds, so to speak? What if it did those things but also made a difference to others? How to put all of these things into one?
I give you the TennGreen Land Conservancy Hike-a-Thon (https://tenngreen.org). This event started a couple of years ago as a fundraising effort. It does that, but it is also a ‘fun-raising effort’ for me and others who participate. Individuals and teams can set goals and have adventures and collect donations from supporters so that TennGreen receives valuable financial help. It has been very successful in the first few years of operation. There are incentives for those who are adventuring. Everyone gets to follow along and see who is hiking the most miles, or trail-running, or paddling the most miles.
In my mind it does a great job of inspiring folks to compete against one another. At one point this year I had the most individual donors—I was pleased with that. But I lost that badge to someone else who had more. So be it! Competition is part of who we are and a contest brings out a certain energy that would be missing otherwise.
But it is also very much a cooperative event. I was fortunate to do several hikes with our Pathfinder’s group—great bunch of folks. I also appreciate all the ‘team members’ who contributed to the event in support of my efforts. Yes, I was the one who was logging miles, but others were making it worthwhile. I had a real sense that it was a team doing this event together. Family, friends, hiking buddies, church members—lots of folks were backing my cause. More than 32 folks got behind this. I would name them, but I worry that I might miss someone. Also had numerous folks who donated anonymously—team members that I don’t even know perhaps. Knowing that others were cheering this on was beneficial.
So I ended my Hike-a-Thon this year with 55.9 miles, 8,506’ of elevation gained, and $1,042.16 raised. I take a sense of accomplishment in those numbers. It was a substantial undertaking and it was good for heart and soul and soles! I had many hours of enjoyment. I also take a sense of humility in them as well. I’m grateful for family and friends who are willing to give to something about which I’m passionate; it was a successful team effort.
My plan is to do the Hike-a-Thon again next year—maybe even for years to come. It did me good and will hopefully do good for others as well.
One thought on “Happy Hike-a-Thoner”
Impressive list of hikes, exciting hike-a-thon stats, beautiful pictures, and a great group of Pathfinders, too! Thanks for including us in it all…