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Shared Stories: The Joy of Hiking Mentors

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Feb 10, 2023 10:54 AM |
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We asked our community on Instagram to tell us about their hiking mentors. The stories we heard were powerful and sweet. Here are three of those stories.

We asked our community on Instagram to tell us about their hiking mentors. The stories we heard were powerful and sweet. Here are three of those stories. One family recreated hiking photos from a beloved uncle. Two trip reporters connected online first before getting to explore trails together. And three friends have discovered that their individual strengths have made a perfect team for outdoor adventures.

A two part photo, one showing an adult man and one a teenager at the same lake, several decades apart.
Photos by James Dodge and Jaclyn Martin

This is my Uncle Jim/daughter Lucille at Park Butte. Both my dad and my Uncle Jim have been hiking together their entire lives. As I grew up and as my daughter is growing up, the two of them have fostered a deep love of and connection to the outdoors in us. Uncle Jim passed unexpectedly last October. It has left such a hole in our family, but it is most noticeable when we are hiking. If I was ever at a loss of what trail to hike, he always had hundreds of recommendations. This summer, Lu and I recreated some of his self pictures and it gave us a feeling of being closer to him.

— Jaclyn Martin

Two hikers smile together for a selfie.
Photo by Bonnie Rae Nygren.

I met Gretchen in 2016 while exploring trip reports on WTA. Her report for Tolmie Peak linked to a blog she kept as caregiver to her 99-year-old mother. It was through that portal we became fast friends. Caregiving can be extraordinarily difficult and Gretchen used her respite time to feed her soul on the trail. A brilliant writer, she spent her time in the wilderness sharpening those skills of attentiveness. She’s a solo hiker and has been my (s)hero for years. We always compare notes and have covered a lot of ground between us. She gave me the confidence to get out solo and inspired me to write about what I experience.

This photo is from a hike we finally teamed up for this summer to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground. It was our first hike together and we had a blast. We definitely felt "badass" after crossing Kautz Creek! While we both love the solitude of the trail it was so nice to experience the shared joy of it too. 

— Bonnie Rae Nygren, @insearchofthevery

Three friends smile big for a selfie on a beach backpacking trip.

I met Amanda Johnson and Katherine Walton through a mutual friend. Right away, I was blown away by their quick wit, engaged demeanor, natural ease of making folks feel comfortable and love for the outdoors. I thought it was amazing that they both hiked the PCT! On our first backpacking trip to the Olympics, we learned that the three of us make a good team. We had a helpful caretaker (myself), the natural navigator and hilarious storyteller (Katherine) and an empathetic and gentle soul who documented our travels and encouraged us to take in the experience (Amanda).

Since that trip, we have continued to hike and explore the outdoors together. Quite often you can find us single filing up mountains, indulging in alpine lake swims and being enthralled by gorgeous views. I really enjoy being outdoors with these women. They know what keeps me motivated, what sharpens my appreciation for nature, my sense of adventure and spontaneity. They know when I tend to power through, when I need a break, or I want to stop to notice a mushroom or a wildflower. They offer a hand to hold over river crossings, new perspectives to consider on life's trials and tribulations, and collaboration when it's time to start a fire or make a meal. 

This sense of community and being able to disconnect to reconnect to nature feeds my soul.

— Erica Chang, @ericachang__