Being a volunteer hiking or backpacking leader takes a lot of work. You need to reserve a day months in advance, plan a trip, advertise it, screen the people who want to come, get everyone to show up on time, make sure everyone sticks together and has fun during the hike, and gets back to the trail head in one piece. Why would anyone do that for free?
Still, I know dozens of people who volunteer to lead trips for Meetup.com hiking groups and the Appalachian Mountain Club year round.
Why do they do it?
I recently asked my friend Bill this question and he replied “I wanted more.” A typical understated Bill answer, if you know him.
He’d recently finished the New England 100 Highest peakbagging list, which is a pretty tough list, but still felt there was something missing from his hiking experience.
Two years earlier, I’d encouraged Bill to enroll in the Appalachian Mountain Clubs Leader Training Program because I thought he’d make a great leader. He’s organized and personable and a skilled hiker. He’d deferred gracefully, so I was surprised when I saw his name on the new co-leader list earlier this year. He’s in the final stages of qualifying to become a full leader now, a process that requires taking two evening classes, attending the AMC’s leadership training weekend, running several trips under the supervision of senior leaders, and getting a Wilderness First Aid Certification. It’s a lengthy process and requires real committment to complete.
Bill’s answer caused me to reflect on my own reasons for becoming an Appalachian Mountain Club Hiking and Backing Leader.
I’d wanted more too:
- To be a part of my local hiking community
- To always have people to hike with when I want company
- To teach others to be better hikers
- To develop my trip planning and group management techniques
- To promote a low impact wilderness ethic with hikers I meet
- To help train new leaders
- To join the ranks of other leaders that I look up to as my hiking mentors
I honestly had no idea how fulfilling becoming a volunteer trip leader would be when I started down this road, but that’s why I lead hikes.