A Sweetheart of a Hike

The following was written by TWS intern Amy Hoeschen, after an advocacy event to promote America's wonderful hiking trails

February 14th is a day full of love, appreciation, chocolate and…hiking?   On a refreshingly sunny Monday morning (which also happened to be Valentine’s Day), I joined a throng of outdoor activists showing their love of trails by participating in the annual “Hike the Hill” trails advocacy event.  Sponsored by the American Hiking Society (AHS), “Hike the Hill” united activists from around the nation to raise awareness for trails and wild lands conservation.  Participants gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, hiked the length of the national mall to the Capitol building, and kept right on hiking into its marble halls where the group brought its trails message into meetings with members of Congress and the Administration.

Before the hike, Greg Miller, American Hiking Society president, spoke about the power of hiking and green spaces.  “Trails can help transform an individual, a family or a community and are available to people regardless of age, ability, or background," said Miller.  Miller emphasized why we were hiking today: to advocate for increased funding, promotion, and protection of our national system of trails and our natural heritage.

Before even taking my first steps to the Capitol, I met a writer, a woman from Colorado working on International trail development, an attorney from New Mexico, a couple working for Osprey Packs, a man working for The North Face, and a woman (in cowboy boots) from Florida Trails.  Their backgrounds were diverse, and each new acquaintance infused me with more passion for hiking and the outdoors.  I could feel the power of coalition-building right there on the Lincoln Memorial steps, and as we started the hike, our energy was tangible as we headed toward the Capitol in a crowd full of ideas and diverse experiences.

The transformational power of trails and the outdoors that Miller spoke about earlier was evident in author Kara Richardson Whitely’s experience.  Kara spoke with me about her book titled “Fat Woman on the Mountain”.  Kara’s book talks about her experiences with her weight; she lost half her body weight while climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro.  Instead of putting focus towards numbers on the scale, Kara told me she focused on her accomplishments.  This is a lesson many of us could learn from.  The numbers are important (and the federal budget crunch will surely take a heavy toll on trails), but if we took more days than just last Valentine’s Day to share our love of trails with decision-makers and talk with them about our transformative experiences and accomplishments in the great outdoors, perhaps the numbers on Congress’s budget scale would begin to fall into line.