On November 7, I hiked my 52nd hike of 2017. As I stood on the top of Mt. Baldy under the northern lights, looking down on the city lights far below me, I felt like I had accomplished the impossible.
When I signed up for the 52 Hike Challenge last year, literally everyone told me that it was crazy. I couldn’t do it. What would I do in the winter when it was in the single digits or below zero? How would I have the time for that? Why would I even want to do something like that? No one would sign up with me, not even my husband who I hike with most of the time.
But once I heard about the challenge, I knew I had to try it. Signing up meant that I’d have a reason to hike all year long, try new trails, and spend as much time outside as possible. And honestly, my running injury was still mentally affecting me. I felt like I had nothing to train for and nothing to accomplish. I knew I needed something to get me back outside that didn’t cause me any pain, but still presented a challenge. My goal for the year was to do 52 unique hikes (not counting any hikes on repeat trails) that were at least one mile long. I didn’t want to make it too easy or too difficult, especially because I was pretty new to winter hiking.
My first hike of the year was on January 1st. It also happened to be my first backpacking trip ever. Luckily we were only walking one mile to get to our cabin, but it involved carrying everything I needed for the night on my back and dragging wood and water on a sled through the snow. My husband and I were definitely nervous before the trip, but we ended up having a blast out there and fell in love with backpacking.
After that first winter hike, I went on to hike some pretty epic things in the snow! I didn’t let cold weather or snowy skies stop me from hiking out to gorgeous locations. One of my favorite hikes of the entire year was our hike to Portage Glacier, even though we had to cross a frozen lake in single digit temperatures with crazy wind blowing in our faces.
Over the summer I got to hike all day and all night! I took a backpacking trip in the midnight sun on Solstice weekend, hiked to Spencer and Raven glaciers, and backpacked out to Caines Head on the hidden trail that’s only passable at low tide. I hiked to celebrate big moments, like the time my husband and I hiked Little O’Malley to celebrate our wedding anniversary and the time I went on my first solo backpacking trip. And let’s not forget my 30th birthday trip to Yosemite where I hiked as many trails as I could!
As the year wore on and I got closer to hike #52, I realized that I was getting better at hiking. I was still sweating and out of breath on every mountain, but I didn’t have to take nearly as many breaks and I didn’t feel quite so dead when I was finished. I started taking on bigger challenges and hiking multiple days in a row. I began to miss the outdoors whenever I went too long without a hike, and could feel a noticeable difference in my mood and stress level after a hike. It became a regular and necessary part of my life.
When I reached the end of hike #51, I realized that my final hike needed to be special in some way. I thought about hiking it solo, but while in the early stages of planning that hike I was invited to a moonlight hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy. That hike was my first mountain summit in the snow, my first hike with microspikes and poles, my first nighttime hike, and my first hike under the northern lights – but it was my last hike of the 52 Hike Challenge! It was an epic hike that I’ll probably never forget (especially the northern lights part) and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the challenge.
Completing the 52 Hike Challenge has taught me that I’m stronger than I think I am, braver than I ever thought I could be, and that I’ve got the ability to meet an epic goal. It inspired me to sign up for Kilimanjaro next August. And you better believe that I’ll be doing the 52 Hike Challenge again next year to train for Kili! If you want to join me, check out their website and sign up! It’s free and I know it will change your life. And if you want to see what trails I hiked this year, check out the 52 Hike Challenge 2017 page on my blog.
Are you signing up for the 52 Hike Challenge? Tell me about your favorite hike in 2017!