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.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reaching New Heights

Over Memorial Day weekend, second-year hiker Donna Whyte-English climbed her first 4,000-foot mountain. She describes the experience in the following summary. Above: Donna smiles as she reaches the top of the 4,003-foot Mount Tecumseh.

I’m relatively new to serious hiking. My first Wilderness Heals Hike was in 2005, and I’m pleased to be back this year.

I have several motivations for participating in the Hike. Because I am a survivor of childhood family violence, I feel passionate about supporting efforts that empower women and families. Additionally, as I approach my 50th birthday, I continue to challenge myself to get in the best shape of my life. I was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago, and exercise helps me maintain excellent blood sugar control and, thus far, has prevented any additional complications. As a healthcare worker who works with geriatric patients, every day I see the devastating effects of chronic illness. Strokes, heart attacks, and amputated limbs are preventable through lifestyle modifications, and I am committed to embracing positive changes that will result in lifelong fitness, vitality, and great health. The Hike in 2005 was my first backpacking experience, and I amazed myself at how far I was able to push myself while climbing mountains higher than I ever dreamed possible!

I did two training hikes prior to Memorial Day weekend. So far, I have not trained much, although I do take long walks with my dogs around the beautiful Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, and each day I climb my seriously steep 700-foot driveway. (Thankfully, nowhere I walk is flat!) On Saturday, May 26, 2007, I hiked Mount Morgan and Mount Percival with team leaders Sheryl Barnes and Eileen Twiggs, 10 other women, and a hoard of mosquitos and black flies. It was unseasonably warm and humid, and I struggled with the climb. I was glad to learn I was not the only one who found the loop to be difficult. Despite being described as an “easier” hike, most of the group was challenged by the elements. The support of the other hikers and team leaders reminded me once again why the Wilderness Heals experience is so special. The mantra Sheryl told me to repeat – breathe, relax, watch, feel, allow – helped me to focus and conserve my energy as I climbed up the mountains. The summit views of Squam Lakes and the surrounding area were spectacular – and well worth the bugs, heat, and humidity!

Thankfully, Sunday brought cooler weather, overcast skies, spits of rain, and no bugs. Six of us from Saturday’s hike and two others joined team leaders Eileen Twiggs and Susan Genatossio on the hike up Mount Tecumseh, my first 4,000-foot mountain! The trail crossed a small brook and then climbed steadily, leveled off a bit, crossed two more streams, and finally climbed steeply to the summit. Eileen reminded me to use my mantra, which helped regulate my breathing and allowed me to focus. Although the elevation gain was more than the day before (2,163 versus 1,400 feet), the climb overall seemed easier. The last quarter of a mile leading to the summit was quite steep, and the trail was narrow and icy – a reminder of how different the conditions can be in the White Mountains. After eating lunch at the summit, Susan suggested that we “mark the moment” by asking everyone to share her memory of her first 4,000-footer – another reminder of why the Wilderness Heals experience is so very special. I continue to be amazed at how far I can push myself, and I am grateful for the support of everyone who has hiked with me.

Thank you to all of the dedicated team leaders and fellow hikers for sharing the experience with me! See you on the trail!

– Donna Whyte-English

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