Back in the 1980s, my New Year's Day tradition was hiking up the Holy Jim Trail to the summit of Santiago Peak — often referred to by locals as simply Saddleback Mountain. It's the tallest peak in Orange County, and some years there is even snow up there. It's a long, 16 mile round-trip with over 4,000 feet of vertical gain. But what really made the annual trek special was the satisfaction of starting off the new year on the right foot — active, outdoors and healthy.
Here are 15 ways to inject 2015 with more outdoor adventure.
1. Join a First Day Hike
In 2014, more than 27,000 people participated in one of over 800 'First Day Hike' events held at State Parks in all 50 states. This year, they are looking to increase this and help showcase state parks as a close-to-home option for connecting with nature. Find a First Day Hike near you.
2. Take the Hike-a-Week Challenge
When I lived in San Clemente, for several years I hiked a trail I called Roller Coaster Ridge every Wednesday night. Various friends would join me each week, and afterwards we'd all go out for fish tacos. It was one part social event, one part fitness hike, and all good.
Doing a hike a week is a pretty easy goal to achieve and it is a great way to build-in a habit for getting outdoors more. You can hike the same trail, or get creative and mix it up. If you want, you can apply additional "rules" on what constitutes a hike (at least 3 miles, must be on dirt, etc.) but the key is to do it weekly.
3. Create Your Own Challenge
A hike-a-week not your thing? Design your own challenge! I have friends who have created personal challenges to summit 100 peaks; hike all the buttes in Oregon; or visit all the National Parks in their state. Make it fun, share it with your friends and get them in on the action.
4. Join a Hiking Club...and Get on the Trail!
You might be stuck for ideas of where to hike. Or you might want to push beyond your comfort zone a bit. A hiking group is a great way to explore more in 2015. I've hiked and led hikes with a number of hiking groups in SoCal. You can find many of them through Meetup.com or your local Sierra Club chapter. It's a great way to connect with like-minded people and discover new trails.
5. Start Planning That Big Adventure
Have you had a big adventure that's been on your life-list for a while? One trip that's been on my list for a few years was the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California. Getting there is a logistical challenge and required the right planning, preparation and timing. In 2014, we finally backpacked this epic trail, but it took a lot of work well in advance. Trips like that don't happen on a whim. The first step toward checking that big adventure off your life list is to start the detailed planning. Get a guide book. Do the homework. Reserve your permits. Begin.
6. Improve Your Skills
Is there a new skill you've wanted to try? Maybe you've never gone snowshoeing? Wanted to try ice climbing? Or looking to learn how to tie the perfect fly for a fishing trip? When you think about what's on your adventure list for the year, what skills do you need to build to help make the trip a success? List two or three, then develop a plan to learn them. You might take a winter skills course, or an orienteering class at a local outfitter. Or you might research online and find guidance, videos or books that can help. Take the step, and increase your outdoor skills. Your adventures will be forever enriched.
7. Get Inspired
Follow the #TeamSierra bloggers here at the Sierra Social Hub, and be sure to check out their blogs. This is a great group of outdoor adventurers from all around the country. It's an excellent way find inspiration for your 2015 adventures.
8. Try Something New
Always a day-hiker? Maybe 2015 is the year to try your hand at backpacking! Or get on a kayak or a paddle board and learn to blaze your own "trail" across the water. Trying something new can be an adventure in itself!
9. Get Organized
Last week, I went through my outdoor gear and organized it. It feels good to be organized, but it feels even better knowing that you are ready at a moments notice to take off when a last-minute weekend adventure opportunity arises. Don't fumble through your gear. Be ready for adventure.
10. Set a Stretch Goal
What is a stretch goal? Something that you've got to work up to. Right now, my stretch goal is training for the Zion Half Marathon. It means putting in a lot of miles each week so I'll be ready when race time rolls around in March. Your stretch goal might be your first 10+ mile hike, summiting Mt Whitney, or hiking a Six-Pack of Peaks. Having a goal helps get you excited and motivates you to do the training and preparation that is necessary.
Trails don't maintain themselves. They require constant maintenance or else they begin to disappear. Hook up with a local volunteer groups for trail maintenance opportunities. The American Hiking Society even has volunteer vacations. It's a great way to give back and help maintain our wilderness for future generations.
12. Take an Armchair Adventure
My wife sprained her ankle last month playing squash. It's put a crimp in her hiking routine, but she's been able to enjoy some great armchair adventures to whet her appetite while her foot heals. Backpacker Magazine compiled a reader-recommended list of the top outdoor movies to fuel your imagination when you can't get outdoors.
13. Earn Your Trail Angel Wings
Wherever there's a long trail, there are thru-hikers. And one thing thru-hikers love is a little "trail magic." Add a little magic to your adventures by bringing along some goodies to share with a weary thru-hiker. I did this last summer on the John Muir Trail with a couple friends, and I can tell you that nothing beats the smile you'll bring when you share some special goodies with someone who's been on the trail for weeks.
14. Join the #Trailtime Conversation
I'm always encouraged by the #Trailtime community. What is #Trailtime? A weekly, online chat held via Twitter every Thursday at 11am MST (a new time for 2015). It's a great way to connect with other outdoor-loving people and share ideas for injecting more adventure into your life.
15. Share Your Adventures
You've been inspired. You've taken the challenge. You've pushed the boundaries of your comfort zone and experienced new adventures. Share them! Share your photos and stories with your friends and family. You'll not only inspire others, but also your future self.
A year from now you can look back and say "2015 was my best year of adventure yet!"
15 Ways to Jumpstart an Adventurous 2015
By Jeff Hester
December 30, 2014
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