Avon Trail members, Meg Westley and Tracy Halliwell, are recent graduates of the Hike Leader certification course offered by Hike Ontario. I interviewed both to learn more about the course and the “take aways” this one-day course provided.
Their expectations of what the course would cover were addressed:
- What I need to take on hikes
- What kind of challenges/issues I might face leading a hike
- How best to avoid and handle emergencies
- How to plan effectively for different kinds of hikes.
They both agreed that the course was well worth the time. “Absolutely. It was a fantastic course, with a great leader and varied, engaged participants,” said Meg. “Even if not the hike leader, the course helped my knowledge in terms of equipment, but also in relation to taking rests, drinking plenty of water, eating snacks, being aware.”
Meg added, “A few eye-opening learning moments. In particular when the leader led us a few blocks over to a park to practice some scenarios. On arrival he asked, “What did you notice on your way here? What buildings did we pass?” We all stared at him blankly. We hadn’t noticed a thing because we were chatting and following. His point was that, as leader, you are really the only one paying attention, so you have to be super alert.”
I asked if they learned things they had not expected. Both said yes to this. Meg replied, “I learned about things to bring along I’d never considered (and now I wonder if I am strong enough to carry all the requisite materials!). Also about the importance of never letting someone leave the group, being very aware of where everyone is, not dividing up, etc. Setting the pace to suit the slowest group member. Beginning a rest break when the last person arrives at the chosen spot.” Tracy felt the same way and added, “The Leader can lead from anywhere in the group (not just from the front), important to get the waiver signed, and the most terrifying thing .… having to give a thorough talk at the beginning outlining what to expect on the hike, Yikes!!!”
Meg, although always a walker, only became interested in hiking about 8 months ago. “I did most of my walking in the country and there is a slim difference with this and hiking as I see it.” She recently returned from a hiking experience in Portugal along the Camino Coastal route so has not yet had the opportunity to lead an Avon Trail hike. She looks forward to doing this in the summer.
Tracy led a hike on the Thames Valley Trail in May. “The trail had to be upgraded, unexpectedly, to “challenging” due to damages incurred from the spring ice storm. We were climbing over and crawling under trees blocking the path. The hikers were very gracious and good sports about the obstacles that we encountered.”
Both women look forward to leading members in longer, more challenging hikes (8 – 15km) through varied landscapes with scenic views. “And more often”, said Tracy.