Why This Hike?
There are many reasons for any hike. You may be working on “Trail Tracing” the Blue Hills. You may be leading a local trip to a favorite state forest or park. The trip may not be ‘destination’ driven, as on a beginner backpack, where ‘staying out’, not the destination, is the motivation. All of these are valid reasons for a trip. What matters is that the leader, leader-in-training, and all of the participants are on the same page. You may not have been involved at all in the choice; your leader or leader-in-training may have chosen the trip before you became involved. It can lead to friction if the leader wants to lead a fast-paced hike, and the leader-in-training signs up several slow hikers who want to stop and smell every flower! (Or vice versa.)
So, the first step is for the leader and leader-in-training to discuss and agree on their expectations. The second step is to develop a trip description and ‘info sheet’ that express those expectations. Next the leader and/or leader-in-training must use these expectations in screening potential participants for the hike. (Or assure that the description is clear enough for participants to ‘self-screen’ for a ‘Show & Go’ hike.) Accepting participants without the proper qualifications may be putting them in ‘over their heads.’ Equally important it can threaten the enjoyment for all of the other participants.
On the other end of the spectrum accepting participants who are ‘over qualified’ may be OK, but only as long as they understand that the trip may not be challenging and can truly enjoy the slower pace/objectives.
If they can’t enjoy the trip they shouldn’t come, as they will detract from the enjoyment for the others.
The Trip Description
We already mentioned the need for a realistic description of the trip objectives. What else should it contain?
· Trip name
· (Be careful of words like “Easy” I used that word once… your easy might be someone else’s ‘quite difficult!’.)
· Information about any costs for the trip. This should address the costs, payment terms, a reminder that their reservation is not confirmed until payment is made, refund policy, etc.
· Leader and leader-in-training names, numbers and/or email addresses. For a strenuous hike you may not want to register unknown people solely based on emails, but email can be a convenient way to make first contact and pre-screen to answer some basics about the hike and potential hiker.
The ‘Info Sheet’
In addition to the information in the trip description the Info sheet should also contain:
· Start time and meeting location. (This information should not be provided to anyone until you have accepted them for the hike. The last thing you want is someone showing up at the trailhead unexpectedly.)
· Required, and recommended, equipment.
· Weather information: What cancels the trip? Threat of rain, showers, heavy rain, snow, hurricane, bad driving conditions?
· The Info Sheet should be emailed to the participants as soon as possible. This allows the participants to review and assure that their understanding is in line with your plans. (If you send these more than a couple weeks before the trip, you may wish to re-send them a week or so before the trip.)
· “No pets allowed.” AMC generally discourages, but allows with the leader’s permission, pets on trips. I do not normally allow pets on most of my trips, as I believe that it adds additional, unnecessary, risks (and aggravation for me!). There is the risk of the dog biting a participant, other hiker or other animal. There is the risk of the dog chasing a wild animal and getting lost. (Or getting bitten by a coyote, as happened on one trip!) There is the risk of the dog being hurt, becoming tired, or not being able to handle the terrain. It may detract from the other participants’ enjoyment. And it is one more thing for me to worry about. I’d suggest new Leaders hike without dogs, as you will have enough to think about. Once you are established, you’ll have time to think about dogs.
Note: Service dogs are not ‘pets’, and are allowed on trips with proper notice.
Another thing that needs to be thought about is how many participants will you accept for the trip. This is something that the leader and co-leader should discuss when they are planning the trip.
The number of participants can affect the atmosphere of the trip: A large group may promote the ‘party’ atmosphere; while a smaller group is quieter, allows more personal involvement and may be more relaxed.
Also, the Blue Hills has a 24 hiker limit, for instance. Know the rules for your destination. LNT guidelines may also affect your thinking on group size.
Entering a trip into the AMC computer system
When a new Leader is approved, they are given access to the AMC system so they can enter trips. As a Leader-in-Training your trips will normally be entered by the approved Leader at first.
Well, now we have our trip, with its published description, and Info sheet. Let’s sit back and wait for those calls and emails to come in.
Next up: 102 Screening potential participants.