The GoodHiker.com Story
Back in the spring of 2008, my sister Lisa said she’d like to come visit me in Boulder, Colorado, with her two girls, Katie and Susie. “Great idea,” I said. “Let’s plan some outdoor fun.”
As we started planning their visit, I realized I was a little worried about Katie and Susie going for hikes. They were pretty young at the time (ages 8 and 6), and hadn’t done much, if any, hiking. Certainly they had not done any hiking in an area where mountain lions and bears are known to live! I worried about them running ahead of us on the trail and possibly getting lost. Kids (and adults) get lost in the mountains all too often here in Colorado.
I was also thinking about the hiking basics and trail etiquette that I wanted them to learn. It’s all simple stuff, like “bring extra water and clothing,” “keep your voice down on the trail, so you don’t disturb the animals,” and “don’t pet the bears.” It’s all stuff that those of us who hike regularly take for granted. But how was I going to get it all across to the girls, without scaring them about the wild beasties or making hiking sound like no fun at all?
Enter the Certified Good Hiker Kit. With a little research, I put together a fill-in-the-blanks “class” for them. After they arrived in Colorado, we spent a fun half-hour or so going over the class, writing in the answers, and even acting out what they should do if they got lost (“sit down, stay put, and blow your whistle three times!”). Then I graded their answers (everyone passed, of course!) and awarded them their Certified Good Hiker certificates. They had great fun, they learned a lot, and they loved their very official looking certificates, signed by Ranger Aunt Cathy!
Best of all, we had a great time hiking that week, and Katie and Susie were great hikers out on the trail. They stayed close to us, made sure they didn’t litter, and they didn’t even pick any flowers, although they were tempted! They even picked up a little trash on the trail. At one point, some rowdy teenagers rushed past us on a trail: they were carrying on with very loud voices, they had wildflowers stuck in their backpacks, and they never bothered to say hello. “They don’t have very good trail manners, do they?” asked one of the girls. Yes! I thought. They get it!
This year, I decided to make the Certified Good Hiker program available to others. It’s a simple, fast, and fun way to teach kids the basics of hiking and trail manners. You can download the entire Certified Good Hiker Kit.
I love hiking. And I love seeing others enjoy hiking. So my vision is that this website will grow to help everyone have fun while hiking, while also treading lightly on the Earth. I’m including hiking stories, hiking resources (such as links to trail guides), photos and videos from our hikes as well as from readers, more detailed information on how to stay safe and tread lightly, commentary on environmental issues, and links to environmental resources and organizations. (If you have any ideas, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The four of us are still hiking together — this summer, we had our Third Annual Girls’ Adventure Tour, in Moab, Utah. We had a blast. And Katie and Susie still remember their trail manners.
A little more about me:
I’ve been hiking in Colorado for more than 15 years. I’m a freelance environment and health writer living in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve written about endangered species, global warming research, how search dogs find lost people and many other science topics for national magazines, government agencies and corporations. I’m a former editor at Audubon magazine and a former staff writer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. I also spent several seasons as a volunteer with the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance, acting as a “trail host” for the U.S. Forest Service. I have a master’s in science journalism from New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and a bachelor’s in environmental biology from the University of Colorado.
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Boulder, Colorado 80306
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All content copyright © 2010, by Catherine Dold, Catherine Dold LLC, Boulder, Colorado. May not be reprinted or reused without permission.