The 52 hike challenge 2018 kept us fit for backpacking

The 52 hike challenge 2018 kept us fit for backpacking

A blue sky with puffy white clouds hangs above a bright green mountain
The beautiful mountains of Virginia – perfect for the hiking challenge!

I love a good challenge! For that reason my husband and I hike between 300 and 500 miles each year, the majority of those miles in the spring, summer and fall months. With the exception of a couple family hikes in December, an annual New Year’s Day hike, and a vacation hike somewhere warm, we historically take time off from the trail December – February.

A creek water fall zigzagging down the side of a hill
Waterfalls make any hike spectacular.

Taking off 3 months from hiking means that we need to get back into shape once we resume our treks. To prevent the loss of our hiking fitness levels in 2018, we committed to completing 1 hike per week for a minimum of 52 total hikes. We registered for the 52 hike challenge and added our own rules to the adventure. We agreed that every hike needed to be at least 5 miles and original. In other words, no repeat hikes. We also agreed to complete one international hike, trek out west and finish our Appalachian Trail hike through Virginia.

A woman and dog, both wearing back packs, sitting side by side on a large rock and viewing the valley of trees below
Me and my girl, Faith, enjoyed a well earned view in Virginia.

Our 2018 stats

We completed 59 hikes in 48 weeks. We missed 4 weeks due to some pretty important events on our calendar: our youngest daughter’s college graduation, our oldest daughter’s baby shower, and an unexpected surgery for me at the end of the year.

Only one hike was less than the required 5 mile minimum. On a brutally cold and windy day in February, my youngest daughter and I hiked 3.2 miles to Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The hike was a favorite of the year because of the beautiful landscape and the unique experience. There were 44 inches of snow on the ground and the lakes were frozen solid. We used snow shoes to reach our destination at 10,169′ above sea level.

Huge evergreen trees, deep white snow, a bright blue sky and a lone hiker walking across the unmarked snow
Navigating the deep snow in Rocky Mountain National Park

During a winter vacation in London, we hopped a train to the south coast and hiked the lovely downs from Seaford to Eastbourne. The view of the English Channel and the constant rolling hills of the downs made this hike great fun. Once in Eastbourne, we explored the town and stopped into a pub for pints and food. A memorable experience indeed!

A smattering of hikers walking un and down grass covered hills along the cliffs overlooking a vast body of water
Hiking the downs between Seaford and Eastbourne, England

In November, we completed our Virginia Appalachian Trail quest, finally finishing the 554 mile section. Virginia is a beautiful state, and I loved (almost) every minute of our hikes through the glorious mountains and pastures.

Grey stormy skies hover above a trail cut through rolling green mountains
The lovely mountain against a stormy Virginia sky

I had expected the challenge to keep us committed to hiking every weekend, regardless of weather, and it did. I had hoped that the weekly mileage would make the transition to backpacking easier and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy our first long weekend was to complete. I had not expected that it would compel me to find unexplored trails within an hour’s drive of my home. Through research via AllTrails.com, I found great long trails (Tuscarora) and some fun state park loops (Boyd’s Big Tree Preserve).

Our 2018 hike challenge by the numbers:
– 59 hikes
– 531.8 miles
– 91,952′ elevation change
– 235.5 moving hours
– 142,542 calories burned
– 1 international hike (England)
– 7 US states (Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado)

Lovely mountain lake surrounded by a variety of trees
Island Pond, Harriman State Park, New York

My 2019 goals

I have once again registered for the challenge and have some similar goals in mind: 5 mile minimum, no repeats, 1 western US hike, and 1 international hike. I also aim to complete Appalachian Trail hikes from Standing Bear Farm to McQueen Gap, TN, the 100 mile Wilderness of Maine, and the gap between the Hudson River, NY and the Connecticut Border. Listing my goals is both exhilarating and frightening because most require a large commitment of time, crazy logistics and physical strength.

A male hiker and 2 labradors, all 3 wearing backpacks and trekking under a tunnel of large rhododendron shrubs

I am excited to continue with our weekly hiking schedule and look forward to exploring even more trails and wilderness regions near home and throughout the states. My husband has committed to my plan and I am 100% sure the dogs are all-in for more adventures in 2019!

A light brown dog licks the face of a man who is posing for a hiking selfie
Faith is always grateful for the miles on the trail!

Commit to complete the 52 Hike Challenge

Hiking opens up a new world to those walk in the woods. Why not give it a try? If you have never hiked, start small. Commit to walking a mile in a county or state park each weekend. If you are a seasonal or vacation hiker, commit to hiking all year round. If you are experienced, set lofty goals and make it happen through training and planning. If you want advice or just someone to share your new enthusiasm, post to my facebook page or direct message me through instagram or facebook. I am happy to reply with my opinion and encouragement.

Register for the 52 Hike Challenge

Invite a friend to register, too!

2 backpackers and 2 hiking dogs walk at the top of a mountain during sunset


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