Wilderness Heals

Thank you for visiting the Wilderness Heals blog. Wilderness Heals is an all-women, three-day annual pledge hike that benefits the Elizabeth Stone House (ESH), a Boston-based emergency shelter, transitional housing program, and therapeutic community that provides services to women and children who are escaping violence and overcoming trauma. By encouraging hikers to set challenging physical, emotional, and financial goals, Wilderness Heals mirrors the experiences of hundreds of women who have sought help from the Stone House. Committing to hike is a way to grow personally while simultaneously standing in solidarity with women of the Stone House and women everywhere who are working to overcome the effects of violence in their lives.
Wilderness Heals 2011 will take place July 15-17, 2011. Registration materials may be downloaded here.
Go here to view the 2011 routes, and visit our Who's Who page to meet this year's team leaders and Recruitment Committee members.
Want to learn more? Visit our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Still have questions? Contact Erika Whyte, Wilderness Heals event coordinator, at 781-726-0551 or ewhyte@elizabethstone.org.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

V-Day Tabling Help

With another Wilderness Heals Hike quickly approaching, we need your help in getting the word out about the Elizabeth Stone House and this year's Hike. We are looking for volunteers to staff tables for a few hours at area showings of the Vagina Monologues.

It only takes a few hours of your time, and you can watch the show for free. We need two people per event, and while we want former hikers at the tables, you are more than welcome to bring along a friend to help and hang out with you.

Interested, but not sure which dates to pick? We’ll need more help on 2/16 and 2/17, as both MIT and Northeastern University have named the Elizabeth Stone House as a beneficiary for their events!

Please look over the dates and times below and e-mail Monica at mchopra5@yahoo.com if you’re interested or if you have any questions.

**Some things to note are: 1) Monica will send out individual e-mails about the specificities of the event. 2) Plan on arriving 1/2 hour to 1 hour prior to the event.

**If you are available between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the week of February 12, Amherst High School is holding an Awareness Week and would like for us to participate in it. Please let me know if you are able to attend any of these hours during this week.

Dates/Times of Shows
2/8 West End Theater @ 7:30 p.m.
2/9 West End Theater @ 7:30 p.m.
2/10 West End Theater @ 7:30 p.m.
2/11 West End Theater @ 5 p.m.
2/12 College of the Holy Cross @ 8 p.m.
2/13 College of the Holy Cross @ 8 p.m.
2/15 MIT @ 8 p.m., Northeastern University @ 8 p.m., Amherst High School @ 7:30 p.m.

*2/16 Simmons College @ 8 p.m., MIT @ 8 p.m., Northeastern University @ 8 p.m., Mount Holyoke College @ 8 p.m. West End Theater @ 7:30 p.m., VDay Plymouth @ 8 p.m., Babson College @ 8 p.m.

*2/17 Simmons College @ 2 p.m., Mount Holyoke College @ 2 p.m., Simmons College @ 8 p.m., MIT @ 8 p.m., Amherst High School @ 7:30 p.m., West End Theater @ 7:30 p.m.

2/18 West End Theater @ 5 p.m., MIT @ 2 p.m., Amherst High School @ 7:30 p.m.
2/22 Greenfield Community College @ 7 p.m., Pine Manor College @ 7:30 p.m.

*2/23 Greenfield Community College @ 7 p.m., Pine Manor College @ 7:30 p.m., Germaine Lawrence (venue is in Cambridge ) @ 7:30 p.m., Boston University @ 7 p.m., Casa Myrna Vasquez @ 8 p.m.

2/24 Pine Manor College @ 7:30 p.m., Germaine Lawrence (venue is in Cambridge ) @ 7:30 p.m., Boston University @ 2 p.m., Boston University @ 8 p.m., Casa Myrna Vasquez @ 8 p.m.

3/1 Brandeis Univeristy @ 8 p.m.
3/2 Westfield State College @ 7 p.m., Brandeis University @ 8 p.m.
3/3 Westfield State College @ 7 p.m., Brandeis University @ 8 p.m.
3/7 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts @ 7:30 p.m.

Thanks in advance for all your help!
WH07 - Recruitment Committee

Saturday, January 27, 2007

My First Wilderness Heals Hike, and How It Healed Me

I moved to Boston in January of 2005, four months after my grandmother passed away. My grandma was an extraordinary person, and for nearly 25 years, she was an integral part of my life. While her death came as no surprise, it was nonetheless devastating.

Shortly after coming to Boston, I spotted an ad for Wilderness Heals in a local newspaper. Being new to the area (I’m originally from Ohio), I registered for the event in the hopes that I would make a few friends while doing something I enjoy and helping raise money for the Stone House. At the time, I never dreamed that Wilderness Heals would turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Not only would I make dear friends and learn to reach deep inside myself for strength I didn’t know I had, but the peacefulness I encountered at the top of each mountain I climbed allowed me to gradually come to terms with my grandmother’s death.

The following letter was written on the first night of my first Wilderness Heals three-day hike. Earlier that day, my team and I had climbed up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to the Lakes of the Clouds hut. After dinner, when I went outside to write a summary about the day in my journal, I found myself writing to Grandma instead.

June 24, 2005

Grandma, I feel you near me. I am as close to the heavens as I’ve ever been. The wind is whistling through the grass on the side of this mountain…it is so beautiful, Grandma. I can see for miles, and all I hear is the wind—swooping, roaring, strong but warm. It is a perfect day—sunny, but not unbearably hot. The mountains extend for what seems like an eternity. Behind me is the rocky peak of Mount Monroe. We will climb it first thing tomorrow morning. To the right of me is Mount Washington, its summit brown and bare. And directly in front of me, the mountains fade to green, then blue, then gray, until they finally disappear altogether.

I miss you. I think about the photo albums I will compile when this trip is over, and I want to show them to you. I want to mail you a postcard for each day that I’m here. You never saw these mountains, but perhaps you can see them now, through my eyes. I wish you could feel the wind—it’s so pure. And the rocks—whoever knew that boulders could be so beautiful?

Jenn just joined me. She’s sitting a few rocks away, a rosary clasped between her fingers. We spoke a few words, but at this moment, conversation is not necessary. We are both content to simply sit and reflect upon the beauty surrounding us.

The sun is beginning to set, casting shadows across the valley. A haze has settled over us, and the mountains look as translucent as watercolors—except for the mountains to the left of Washington. Their ridges are sharp against the sky, like a cardboard cutout.

My life has changed so much since you left. Sometimes I barely recognize it. For the first time in nearly three years, I feel as if I’m actually living my life instead of watching it pass by. The sun is setting quickly. Since Jenn joined me, it has gone from being a white sphere blazing high above the mountains to a huge magenta circle hovering just above the horizon. Now it has all but disappeared. And so it is twilight. Twilight…the time that you, Grandpa, and I would sit on the back porch and tell stories while you drank your coffee and Grandpa smoked his cigarettes. The backyard in Fulton had no mountains—no waterfalls or lakes or giant boulders—and yet it evoked the same sense of peace that I feel now. Years from today, if someone asks me to name a place where I feel safe—a place that I love—I know that I will think of your home in Fulton. The love that you and Grandpa had for me has carried me through so much. I still believe that it was the two of you who made it possible for me to move to Boston. It was your faith in me that gave me the confidence to get the job at BU. And it is for you, Grandma, that I am doing this hike.

They call it Wilderness Heals, and indeed it does. Being here tonight and gazing at the mountains, I think of you, and I know how incredibly proud of me you would be. Did you ever think that your only grandchild could scale a mountain as steep as this one—while carrying nearly 30 pounds on her back? I never imagined that I could do this—any of this! In less than two months, I have learned to hike with a pack. I have climbed some of the most rugged terrain in the United States. I have embraced—and allowed myself to be embraced—by an amazing community of women. I have been terrified atop Cannon Mountain. I have tumbled across ice and rocks, so petrified that my knees could do nothing but shake. I have led a team up a mountain, and I have doggedly followed that same team down, and it was okay that I was last. And tonight I sit on this mountainside, in this beautiful place where the wind dries my tears and the earth and sky heal my heart. Oh Grandma, if you could see me now, you would see how much I’ve changed in the nine months since you left, and I think you would like who I’ve become.

About the Hike

Thank you for your interest in Wilderness Heals: Women Hiking for Women Healing. Wilderness Heals is an annual pledge hike that benefits the Elizabeth Stone House (ESH), a Boston-based emergency shelter, transitional housing program, and therapeutic community that provides services to women and children who are escaping violence and overcoming trauma. Over the past thirteen years, more than 600 women have raised more than $1 million in support of the Stone House.

Wilderness Heals is a three-day hike that takes place every summer in the stunning White Mountains of New Hampshire. Women of all ages, backgrounds, and hiking abilities are encouraged to take part in this unforgettable adventure that has proven to be a transformative journey for many past hikers. Participants will share three incredible days filled with laughter, intimate conversations, gorgeous forest trails, cool mountain cascades, and pristine alpine summits. The hike is not always easy, but it is a rewarding and noble challenge. Wilderness Heals is an opportunity for women to find their inner strength by helping end violence and trauma in other women’s lives.

The Fundraising

While climbing mountains and making new friends is an integral part of the Hike, Wilderness Heals is—first and foremost—a way to raise money for the women and children of the Elizabeth Stone House. Thus, each hiker is required to raise a minimum of $1,200. For many women, this challenge proves to be even more intimidating than carrying a 30-pound pack up a 4,000-foot mountain. Hikers raise money in a variety of ways, and the Elizabeth Stone House fundraising staff provides participants with important fundraising tools, tips, and information. Raising $1,200 may seem like an impossible task, but remember, over the last thirteen years, the Stone House has helped more than 600 women reach their fundraising goals. In fact, many women actually raise more than the required amount! In 2008—the most successful Wilderness Heals hike to date—50 registered hikers raised $115,000.

The Routes

Wilderness Heals is designed for hikers of all abilities. Some women are seasoned backpackers, while others have never set foot outside the city of Boston. The beauty of Wilderness Heals is that its all-encompassing design allows anyone to participate.

Wilderness Heals offers a range of hiking routes that are uniquely tailored to a variety of skills and interests. Teams of four to six women—comprised of hikers with similar styles and abilities and led by an experienced team leader—go on one of four trips that differ in mileage, difficulty, terrain, and lodging. Four of the six trips utilize Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts for overnight accommodations. The fifth itinerary uses backcountry campsites, and the sixth is a front country option where hikers stay in the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch. For a description of the 2009 Wilderness Heals routes, click here.

The Training

Training for the hike is imperative. Wilderness Heals is not a stroll through the woods. It was designed to be a challenge, and that’s what it is. Hikers are expected to train on their own, as well as attending at least one training hike. Training hikes, led by experienced team leaders, begin the first weekend in May and are held every weekend leading up to the three-day event. Although hikers are required to attend only one training hike, they are welcome and encouraged to attend more for additional training and to meet different team leaders and other hikers. Training hikes are only open to registered Wilderness Heals hikers. To see a list of scheduled 2008 training hikes, please mail your registration packet to the Elizabeth Stone House.

Safety is an extremely important part of Wilderness Heals. Hikers are required to learn and adhere to the Wilderness Heals safety rules described in the safety meeting and included in the registered hiker packet. In order to ensure safety in the mountains, hikers must prepare for emergencies, bad weather, and other unexpected events by bringing essential clothing and equipment. For a list of required gear, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the event called Wilderness Heals?
Conservationist John Muir once said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

For centuries, people have sought solace among the world’s forests, mountains, oceans, and deserts. The serenity that many encounter in the wilderness has a calming—even healing—effect. Similarly, the wilderness forces all who seek it to become self-reliant. Although beautiful, the wilderness can also be a harsh and unforgiving place. Hikers who take part in Wilderness Heals will develop the skills necessary to survive three days in the alpine wilderness. Women who have never before climbed a mountain will find strength and support among their teammates and in the beauty around them, thus enabling them to accomplish things they never thought possible. Triumphs such as these are healing experiences in and of themselves.

Why is Wilderness Heals an event only for women?
Wilderness Heals mirrors the philosophy and mission of the Elizabeth Stone House, which believes that women, through peer support, can help each other through episodes of trauma, crisis, and violence in their lives. By working together as a community, women find support among themselves to overcome these obstacles. The Hike operates in a similar fashion; women are grouped into teams, where they help one another overcome the challenges each encounters during the Hike. No one hiker is stronger than the other. Although there are many men who support issues of mental illness and domestic violence, it is through this bond that women share with other women that makes Wilderness Heals the empowering event that it is.

How can men help?
Men can support the Hike in a variety of ways. They may sponsor a hiker, sponsor the event in general, or volunteer throughout the recruitment season by posting fliers, tabling at events, and encouraging all of their female friends and family members to take part in Wilderness Heals.

I’m not much of an athlete. Can I still hike?
Of course! Wilderness Heals is designed so that women of all backgrounds and athletic abilities may participate. In previous years, women as young as 18 and as old as 70 have hiked. Regularly scheduled training hikes throughout the spring allow hikers to test their equipment—and their muscles! And once you register, the Stone House will provide a pamphlet of recommended training activities that will prepare you for the Hike.

How much of every dollar raised directly benefits the women and children of the Stone House?
Wilderness Heals raises 5 to 10 percent of the Stone House’s annual budget. While the cost of the Hike can fluctuate from year to year, approximately 25 percent of every dollar goes towards administrative costs of the agency, including, but not limited to, Wilderness Heals.

May I bring a guest or my dog on a training hike?
Unfortunately, no. Guests and pets are not permitted on Wilderness Heals training hikes. Everyone who attends a training hike must have registered for the event prior to hiking. Although your dog may be extremely well-behaved, it is for the safety of the animal and other Wilderness Heals hikers that they are not allowed.

Can my child hike with me?
Daughters 12 years or older may participate in the Front Country option. Participants for all other routes must be 18 or older.

I don’t live in Boston. May I still participate in Wilderness Heals?
Absolutely! Women throughout New England take part in Wilderness Heals. While most hikers live around the Boston area, others live in Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and even New York City! You can live anywhere in the world and participate, as long as you meet the requirements of the event.

How will I get to New Hampshire?
The Elizabeth Stone House provides round-trip transportation to New Hampshire from Boston on the first morning of the three-day Hike. A bus departs from the Riverside T-stop outside of Boston at exactly 6 a.m., and the Stone House provides complimentary bagels, coffee, and juice. All hikers are required to ride the bus to New Hampshire. The ride provides an opportunity for teammates to get to know one another and allows hikers to discuss any questions or concerns with their team leaders. Although teams will have the chance to meet each other at the mandatory safety meeting held prior to the Hike, coming together Friday morning allows team leaders to check all packs for required gear and go over last-minute safety rules. If you're coming from out of state and you're concerned about driving all night in order to make it to the T-stop by 6 a.m., don't worry! In previous years, local hikers have always hosted out-of-state hikers the Thursday night before the event.

On Sunday evening, hikers may either take the bus back to Boston, or they may catch rides home with friends or family members who drove up for the reception.

While hikers must provide their own transportation to the training hikes, many hikers from the Boston area carpool the morning of the training hikes.

What are the Appalachian Mountain Club huts?
There are eight Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts located in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Huts are owned and operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club, an organization committed to promoting the protection, enjoyment, and wise use of the mountains, rivers, and trails of the Northeast outdoors. Located in spectacular locations above treeline or near mountain lakes or waterfalls, the huts provide a unique backcountry adventure for novice and experienced hikers alike. Visitors stay in comfortable, shared bunkrooms and enjoy family-style dinners and full breakfasts prepared by the hut staff members, or “croo.” For more information about the huts, click here.

Are there showers at the huts?
No, there are no showers, but the huts are equipped with solar powered lighting, cold-running water, and composting toilets.

I’ve never raised money for charity. How will I do this?
Raising money for a cause is not nearly as difficult as you might think. Although for many women who participate in the Hike for the first time, it in fact seems like a daunting task. However, upon registering the staff at the Elizabeth Stone House provides hikers with a plethora of material to aid in this process, including sample letters, sponsorship forms, donation tracking logs, and a fundraising booklet. In addition, we discuss a number of different ways hikers can fundraise at our Informational Hiker meetings. For more information about fundraising, contact the Elizabeth Stone House.

Gearing Up for the Hike

Wilderness Heals hikers must have all of the following equipment and clothing with them during training hikes and the three-day event. While it may sound like a lot of gear to carry up the mountain, it is imperative that hikers remain warm, hydrated, and safe throughout the event. Here is a list of mandatory gear:

• Internal or external frame backpack with padded hip belt and padded shoulder straps, at least 3,000 cubic inches
• Light-weight sleeping bag or sheets for sleeping at the hut
• Sturdy, comfortable hiking boots meant for multi-trips with a pack (no sneakers or fashion boots)
• Wicking long underwear, bottoms and tops, polypro, capilene, bergaline, or silk (no cotton or cotton-blends)
• Synthetic underwear bottoms and sports bra (no cotton)
• Waterproof jacket with hood and pants, coated nylon with ventilation or Gore-Tex (no ponchos)
• Two pairs of hiking socks and sock liners (wool, polypro, or nylon—no cotton)
• Fleece or wool hat (no cotton)
• Glove liners and warm outer gloves (no cotton)
• Insulating fleece or wool shirt or sweater (no cotton)
• One or two polypro/quick-dry T-shirts (no cotton)
• One pair polypro, Nylon quick-dry shorts or zip-away pants (no cotton)
• Flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries and bulb
• Water containers to carry at least 96 ounces of water (three Nalgene bottles or bladder-type system, ie: CamelBak)
• Enough food for three days of snacks/lunches (only one days’ worth of food for training hikes)
• Personal toiletries kit and small washcloth/towel
• Personal first-aid kit with Band-Aids, Ibuprofen, moleskin
• Three days’ supply of any prescription medication
• Sunscreen, lip balm, and bug repellent
• Bandana
• Emergency whistle
• Rain cover for pack or three large trash bags
• Plastic bags to carry out trash
• AMC White Mountain Guide maps (available for discounted price of $15 from the Stone House)
• Photo identification and insurance card

*Please note that the backcountry route requires additional gear, including tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment. The backcountry team leaders will contact hikers to let them know what gear they must bring.

Other suggested—but not required—gear items include:

• Pocket knife
• Sunglasses or sun hat
• Extra boot laces
• Gaiters
• Powdered energy drinks
• Trekking poles
• Sandals or slippers (to wear at the huts)
• Compass
• Journal and non-leaky pen
• Lightweight camera and film
• Tampons or sanitary napkins (these must be carried out with you)
• Lightweight binoculars
• Lightweight water filter or purification tablets
• Biodegradable soap and toothpaste
• Hairbrush
• Waterproof matches
• Tissue or toilet paper (these must be carried out with you)
• Ear plugs
• Clothes for comfort and warmth at the huts (cotton okay)
• Cash for purchases at the hut

The Elizabeth Stone House will make every attempt to assist hikers for whom purchasing or renting equipment presents a financial hardship. Please contact the Stone House for more information.

Please note that when fully packed, hikers should have extra room in their packs for a share of group gear.

Here is a list of camping stores throughout the Boston area where hikers can purchase gear:

Eastern Mountain Sports
Hilton’s Tent City (all registered hikers receive 10 percent off of purchased gear)

2007 Hiking Routes

Wilderness Heals offers a range of hiking routes that are uniquely tailored to a variety of skills and interests. Routes are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the easiest and 5 being the most challenging. Routes for Wilderness Heals 2007 are listed below:

Itinerary 1: Southern Presidential Exploration, Two Nights in Mizpah Spring Hut

Summary: This route takes hikers into the Southern Presidential Range to the AMC's Mizpah Spring Hut, where teams will stay for two nights. Depending on the teams' trail choices, this itinerary can be less physically challenging, more physically challenging, or quite challenging. Teams will have the option to summit up to six mountains that exceed 4,000 feet. Hiking in the Southern Presidential ridge on Day 2 provides stunning views of the surrounding Presidential Range. By staying at Mizpah Hut for two nights, hikers can carry slightly less gear and food in their packs on Saturday's adventure.

Rating: 2-5

Day 1:
Leave from the Crawford Path trailhead or the Webster-Jackson trailhead (off of Route 302). Hike directly to the hut OR summit Mount Jackson and/or Webster on the way to the hut.

Day 2:
Enjoy day hikes in the area by hiking north on the Crawford Path as far as the team desires, with possibilities to summit Mounts Pierce, Eisenhower, Franklin, and Monroe. Teams will then head back to Mizpah Hut using the same route, or they will follow a different route that loops back to the hut.

Day 3: Hike out to Crawford Notch with options to summit Mounts Webster or Jackson or swim on the way out.

Itinerary 2: Pemi Ridge Traverse, Zealand Falls Hut to Galehead Hut

Summary: On this traverse, hikers will have the opportunity to travel through the Pemigewasset Wilderness, one of the most spectacular regions in the Whites. Hikers will hike into Zealand Notch over Mount Hale, or for a longer first day, over Mount Tom. Zealand Falls Hut is located next to a spectacular waterfall. On Saturday's adventure, hikers will have the opportunity to hike along a beautiful ridgeline, with views into one of the most remote parts of the White Mountain National Forest.

Rating: 3-4

Day 1: Leave from Zealand Road (off Route 302) and follow a route over Mount Hale to Zealand Falls Hut OR leave from Crawford Notch and hike the Avalon Trail to the A-Z trail to Zealand Falls Hut (optional summit of Mount Tom). Spend the night at Zealand Falls Hut.

Day 2: Hike on the Twinway from Zealand Notch to Galehead Hut, summiting three mountains over 4,000 feet on the way. Spend the night at Galehead Hut.

Day 3: Hike out the Gale River Trail to the trailhead.

Itinerary 3: Northern Presidential Adventure, Madison Spring Hut to Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Summary: The Northern Presidentials are the home of Mount Washington, New England's highest peak. On Friday, teams can hike up either the peaceful forest or take a more thrilling hike up a steep trail that brings them above treeline and offers beautiful views into King's Ravine. Satursday's adventure will bring all hikers to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, located at 5,050 feet on the Southern shoulder of Mount Washington. In the case of severe weather, hikers will not hike across the exposed ridge; instead, a bus will pick up hikers at the Appalachia trailhead and shuttle them to the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead. This route offers incredible views and the opportunity to observe rare and delicate alpine flowers.

Rating: 4-5

Day 1: Leave from the Appalachia trailhead on Route 2. Ascend to Madison Spring Hut by way of the Valley Way, Airline, or other trails. Stay overnight at Madison Spring Hut.

Day 2: Traverse the challenging and beautiful Northern Presidential Range on an almost completely above-treeline ridge. Teams can summit all, some, or none of the following mountains: Mounts Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, and Washington. Stay overnight at Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

Day 3: Hike down the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to the Cog Railway parking lot. Possible hike up to Mount Monroe first thing in the morning and opportunities to swim on the way out.

Itinerary 4: Backcountry Camping

Summary: There are no huts with running water and prepared meals for this option. The Backcountry Team will have the opportunity to plan and prepare meals together on portable stoves. The White Mountains offer a range of backcountry camping possibilities with great day hikes from the established camp. No prior experience in backcountry camping is required. Hikers who choose this option should be prepared to carry tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment, and they must contribute to the route-planning each day. This route offers a great opportunity for hikers to learn about backcountry camping experience in a supportive environment.

Rating: 3-5

The team leader(s) will determine the actual schedule and itinerary for this route closer to the date of the hike. A minimum of three hikers and one team leader is needed for this route option to take place.