Since launching the GetHiking! program in 2013, I’ve learned one key thing: being on the trail makes us better. It makes us better physically, emotionally and spiritually. Even on a hike where the weather turned vile, I’ve never had a hiker say, “That sucked. I’ll never do that again.” Granted, it may be a day or so before a soaked hiker comes around, but inevitably they emerge with a positive take on the experience and, more importantly, they return to hike again. Considering the main target of GetHiking! has been new hikers, that says a lot.
While GetHiking! has grown significantly since that first chapter opened in the Triangle — we now have more than 6,000 members in North Carolina (Charlotte, Greenville, the Triad and Triangle) and Virginia (Charlottesville and Virginia Beach), I’m always looking for ways to reach new hikers. So when BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina approached me in August expressing interest in a statewide hiking program aimed at cultivating a new class of hikers, I jumped. In part, that was through a matter of loyalty: when I left The News & Observer in 2009, where I’d spent most of the 17 previous years writing about health, fitness and outdoor adventure, BCBSNC quickly moved in to sponsor the blog I had in mind (the one you’re reading). But truly, the opportunity to tap into their vast network of customers — they had nearly 3.9 million members in 2015 — was a proselytizing opportunity too rich to pass up.
In the ensuing month and a half, we’ve partnered with N.C. State Parks, Friends of State Parks, N.C. Recreation & Park Association, Great Outdoor Provision Co. and others to create Hike NC, an ambitious statewide hiking program consisting of more than 60 guided hikes. The program began this past weekend (with hikes at Fort Fisher, Haw River and Jones Lake state parks) and revs up with eight hikes this weekend, Matthew permitting.
Why should you consider signing up for Hike NC? Glad you asked.
- Hiking offers a wealth of health benefits, from reducing your chances of heart disease to lowering your cholesterol levels. Learn more about the health benefits of hiking, here.
- Hiking clears your head. When I started the Corporate Wellness arm of GetHiking! I assumed most participants would be interested in losing weight and improving their overall physical health. In fact, the vast majority sign on to let go of workplace stress.
- We’ll be hiking on some of the best trails in North Carolina. One of my key roles in Hike NC has been to select the trails we will hike. I have a bit of experience exploring North Carolina (the aforementioned 17-year gig at The N&O; writing two trail-specific books, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina” and “Backpacking North Carolina;” leading scores of hikes through GetHiking!) and I can assure you there isn’t a dud in the lot. Our hikes are a great representation of the North Carolina hiking experience.
- You won’t find more helpful and knowledgeable hike leaders. A good number of our hikes are in North Carolina’s state parks: most of those hikes are led by park rangers, who know the terrain as intimately as anyone, and some are led by members of the local “Friends,” group, people with a remarkable passion for the parks they support. We have hikes on local land trust properties; those hikes are lead by the folks who helped save these special places and, as is the case with park rangers, know the land better than anyone. And, we’ve got hikes lead by our own GetHiking! hike leaders, who are eager to share their love of hiking.
- You can’t hike too slow. Most of our hikes are less than 4 miles in length, we allow plenty of time for the hike, and, perhaps most reassuring of all, our hikes are led from the rear, meaning you’ll never be the last one in line — the hike leader will always be behind you.
- Incentives. We’ve got cool gifts for folks who arrive at the trailhead. (You’ll have to come to find out what.) Plus, hikers will qualify for weekly prizes and one grand prize.
- Hiking is inexpensive. All you need to start: a decent pair of walking shoes. Once you get into it, you can explore the various gear options (which we explore for you, here).
- Hiking is a lifelong pursuit. Unlike a lot of what goes on at the gym, hiking is something you can do late into life.
We could go on, but there’s really only one way you can appreciate what hiking is about. And we’ve got more than 60 opportunities for you to do just that. Visit Hike NC, click on “Find Your Hike,” and join us.
We’ll do everything we can to make you glad you did.