March 6, 2014
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I'm a 33 year-old tech writer living in San Jose who enjoys long hikes and the outdoors in general.
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US Hiking is the premier volunteer hiking organization in the United States. We organize hikes to many of the most beautiful and iconic locations around the country.
We promote hiking as a tool to improve physical and mental fitness because hiking is a process of overcoming challenges. To hike up a mountain is to conquer one's physical and mental limitation. We believe hiking could be a process to discover ourselves and to push the boundaries of our potential.
Our goal is to educate and train a new generation of hikers who are physically fit, mentally strong, and confident to face life's challenges.
US Hiking currently has 4 chapters: Los Angeles, Bay Area, Monterey and Orange County, serving over 5,500 members. During hiking season, nearly 100 new members join our group every week, making US Hiking the fastest growing hiking group in the U.S.
Join us today, and help us spread the message of self-empowerment through hiking.
To lift people up through hiking.
On our hikes, the hike leader is the host, and hikers are guests. All socially appropriate behavior and etiquette must be observed.
From signing up for a hike through its conclusion, you will learn about the trail system, weather, terrain, geological formation, flora and fauna of that particular locality. Your hike leaders will advise you what to bring and how to prepare for the event. From them, you will learn skills necessary to complete hikes starting at difficulty level of 1 and gradually advancing to the extremely strenuous level 10 hikes.
If you are diligent, and we hope you are, you will see your body and your physical and mental fitness transform in front of your eyes. In as little as 3 months, you will notice a positive change. In 6 months, you will be much stronger, physically fit, and more positive and confident. Over time, a new person will emerge through the process of self-discovery through hiking.
Two 6-Month Cycles
We divide our yearly program into two 6-month cycles. January and July mark the beginning of each cycle, with hikes starting easy and escalating upward, in terms of difficulty, until the end of the cycle.
Individual Time Trial
To quantify physical improvement over time, near the end of each 6 month interval, we will hold individual time trials on one particular trail for hikers to mark their performance so that they can compare their progress over time. Individual time trial is a powerful tool at your disposal.
We offer two types of membership: Trail Member and Sustaining Member. Trail members can participate in all of our local hikes and do not need to pay any membership dues. However, only sustaining members can RSVP out-of-town hikes, including Yosemite, Zion, Joshua Tree, Whitney, White Mountain, etc. Sustaining membership dues are $ 25 annually.
Money raised from the dues will be used to pay for program and support services. None of it will be paid to the Board of Directors, organizer, co-organizers, assistant organizers and event organizers. They will continue to serve our membership as volunteers.
Hiking is Good for Your Mental Health
It has been our long held belief that hiking has the power to lift people up, enhance one's mental health and sense of well-being. We are gratified to know that this belief is now scientifically proven by a June 2015 study conducted at Stanford University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) titled "Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation"
According to the study, rumination (the repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self) is a known risk factor for mental illness. This study shows that participants in a 90-minute walk in the wilderness reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.
A Commitment to Physical Fitness
It is not uncommon for us to see someone with little hiking experience signing up for some of the most advanced hikes their first time out.
Even though we state clearly that these hikes are extremely difficult and risky, it does not seem to deter them. If we do not allow them to participate, their reaction could be rather dramatic sometimes.
Physical activity is discriminating by nature. It is not something one should jump straight in at the most advanced level and expect instant gratification. Rather, conditioning should be done gradually over a long period of time.
That is why our programs are divided into two 6-month tracks. It is designed to be a gradual but escalated conditioning process. We ask our hikers to stay with the program and not to skip events as to give back what they have achieved.
When you hike with our group, your progress is important to us because we want you to succeed. Behind the scenes, hike leaders are observing and exchanging thoughts on suitability for a particular member to take the next level of challenges. If you stay with the program, hike leaders will guide you through an appropriate series of hikes that will provide the challenge and safety needed to ensure your continued progress and success on trail.
One feature unique to US Hiking is that our hike leader's pace is not constant. They vary their pace according to level of difficulty. Their pace will be pick up as the level of difficulty increases. The pace of our level 8 hikes is fast, level 9 hikes are faster, level 10 hikes are very fast, only suitable for elite hikers.
Our monitoring process usually kicks into high gear when you sign up for an advanced hike. Many of you are new to our group and may not be familiar with our screening policy.
For advanced hikes, everyone will be on the waiting list first. Your name will be added to the list after the hike leader reviews your hiking history and determines that you are able to complete the hike within the expected time frame.
It is not uncommon for hikers to stay active for a while and then drop off for one reason or another. If achieving physical fitness is your goal, we encourage you to stay with the program. Even if the hike is not your type of hike, sign up anyway. Stay active to keep your body in shape. If you stop, you will lose what you have accomplished so keep it up.
If you aspire to do advanced hikes but haven't hiked much recently, we recommend that you start with our recreational hikes. Complete a few of them so that we know what you are capable of, then join a level 7 hike, our entry level advanced hike. Once successfully completing your first advanced hike, it will be much easier for your hike leaders to add you to other advanced hikes.
Outdoor activities are inherently dangerous. For hikers who hike half a dozen times a year, these risks may seem remote, but for hike leaders who lead hikes regularly these risk factors are clear and present.
Looking at our own experience on trails, we have seen many hiking accidents, including death. Fortunately, they did not occur on our hikes. As hike leaders, it is our responsibility to foresee what could happen and devise a plan to avoid or minimize danger.
We can categorize risks into two groups: environmental and human.
Environmental risks are dangers inherent in the wilderness. It could be the trail, falling rocks, slippery slope, mercurial weather, heat, cold, ice, etc.
Human risks are dangers inherent with a hiker. They range from physical conditions, known or hidden health issues, thrill seeking nature, carrying less water to reduce weight, fasting before hikes to lose weight, or willful disregard of basic safety protocol.
If there is one area that we have more disagreements with hikers, it must be issues of safety. As far as we are concerned, there is no higher priority than ensuring a hiker's safe return.
If you look at our scheduled events, you will see that we have more level 9 and 10 events than most hiking groups. Naturally, that also means the risks we face as a group are much higher than other groups. To make sure hikers can complete the hike and go home safe, we must have a higher safety standard.
It is common for hikers to take on higher risk in a group setting than he/she would have at home. As hike leaders, we need to have a clear head so that we can see the danger and advise hikers to avoid them.
Hike leaders are not police. We have no legal authority to force anyone behave or act in a certain manner. If a hiker intends on doing something dangerous, there is little we can do to stop them. That said, if a hiker refuses to follow a hike leader's instructions to avoid danger, he/she may not be invited back again. The bottom line is by the end of the day, we all want to go home safely.
We are volunteers: Our organizer, co-organizer, assistant organizers and event organizers receive no monetary nor in-kind compensation for organizing events.
Profile photo: Anyone interested in joining US Hiking must have a profile photo showing his/her face. This is a requirement of our group. Without it, you will not be allowed to sign up for an event.
Waiting list priority: People who hike with US Hiking regularly will be given priority when they are on the waiting list.
Advanced hikes: Anyone interested in participating in advanced hikes (>3,000' elevation gain or distance > 10 miles or Difficulty Level > = 7 ) will be screened before his/her name is added to the list. Therefore, interested hikers must share with the event host his/her recent hiking background to establish proficiency before his/her name will be added to the list. Guests are not allowed on advanced hikes.
Early departure: If a hiker needs to leave the group for any reason before the end of the event, he/she must inform the event host. Not knowing a hiker's whereabouts may prompt the event host to report a hiker as missing to proper authority for further action.
No show: If you sign up for an event but do not show up, you will be removed from the next event you sign up.
No minors: Meetup user agreement and our liability waiver cannot be agreed to by a minor. Therefore, you and your guest must be 18 years of age to participate in our events.
No drugs: Zero tolerance for any illegal drug use.
If you have a prior medical condition or a family history of illnesses pertaining to heart, lungs, brain, etc. that can be aggravated by heat or physical exertion, this is not the group for you.
If you have never completed a hike of a particular distance or difficulty before, then a similar hike with US Hiking will likely be very difficult for you. It may well be your death march. The mountain is not going anywhere. We will schedule these events again in the future. Do it when your mind and body are ready.
Hiking is a recreation, not a suicide mission.
Release of Liability:
The organizer, co-organizers, assistant organizers, event organizers and Board of Directors of US Hiking are volunteers and are not professional guides. The function of the organizer is to organize this group, and the function of the event host is to organize events. Each person who signs up for a trip/hike/or outing is responsible for his or her own safety and the safety of his or her guests.
By signing up for an event or outing organized by US Hiking, you acknowledge that you are aware and have made your guests aware of the risks, dangers and hazards associated with any outdoor activity and freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards, and further agree to release and discharge US Hiking, its organizer, co-organizer, assistant organizers, event organizers and Board of Directors from and against any and all liabilities arising from your and your guest's participation in the group activities.
US Hiking, its organizer, co-organizers, assistant organizers, event organizers and Board of Directors are not responsible for any injuries or accidents that may occur carpooling to and from the event, or for any injuries or accidents incurred before, during, and after the event. If you sign up or participate in an event or outing you acknowledge that you freely and voluntarily agree to assume all risks of injury and damages arising from and as a result of your association with this event or outing.
In addition, you and your guests acknowledge that you agree to the Meetup terms of service especially paragraph 6.2:http://www.meetup.com/terms/
All of our events have a Liability Waiver requirement, meaning you will need to have a signed waiver on file to RSVP. It is a good idea to get it done ahead of time. You can sign it electronically. This is the link: Waiver .
Becoming a Hike Leader
Our organization is operated by volunteers. It is the tireless efforts of volunteers that make our events possible. We are always looking for qualified individuals as future hike leaders. To become a hike leader, you will need to lead at least 1 hike every month. If you are able and willing, feel free to contact our Organizer or Co-organizer.
Starting a New Chapter
We want to spread the message of self-empowerment through hiking beyond its present chapter locations. If you are interested in starting a new US Hiking chapter, please contact our Organizer or Co-organizer.
Trademark and Copyright
US Hiking and Hiking Trails of Empowerment are trademark and service mark of US Hiking. Copyright 2016 US Hiking. All rights reserved.