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, May 19, 2008

Sneak Peak: Margaret Moore

Name: Margaret Moore

Years Hiked: 2

Positions: Hiker

Day Job: Bookkeeper

Total Contributions to the Stone House: Approximately $6,200

Why She Hikes: "I hike to raise money for the Elizabeth Stone House. It is the only charity I have ever felt comfortable raising money for."

Favorite Hike: The Lafayette Ridge and Mount Moosilauke

Most Memorable Wilderness Heals Experience: "Hitting the summit of Mount Washington with Vicky Waltz."

Most Challenging Moment: "One of my teammates had a bit of a meltdown during our ascent to Madison Hut on the first day, and I was doing my best to encourage her to stay positive."

Favorite Hiking Snack: Almonds, M&Ms, cran raisins, dates, and general gorp

Favorite Piece of Gear: "Gortex outerwear--when it rains, there is nothing better. If the weather would only stay perfect, then it would be a tank top and shorts."

Words of Wisdom: "I was born on third base in terms of opportunities. Those for whom we hike are not even in the dugout. We need to find a way to give everyone the basic opportunities of being safe, loved, fed, clothed and housed--but most especially being safe. The words of one ESH resident haunt me. She said, 'The Stone House is the first place I have ever lived where I felt safe.' She was over 30 years old. That statement was pretty scary, and yet profound. What we take for granted is sometimes elusive to non-existent for far too many people. Let us spread the wealth wherever we can and give the opportunity of success to as many as we can."

Note: In an effort to allow hikers to get to know one another before hitting the trails, the Wilderness Heals blog will feature weekly 'Sneak Peak' hiker profiles. If you would like to be profiled, please contact Vicky Waltz.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wilderness Heals Hikers 'By the Great Hill'

On a rainy Saturday morning, seven Wilderness Heals hikers set off for Wachusett Mountain in Central Massachusetts. By the time they reached the trailhead at ten o'clock, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining--a perfect day for a training hike. Hikers who scaled the 2,006-foot mountain included first-year hikers Linda Ballance and Megan Foret, and veteran hikers Susan Genatossio, Jenn Guiry, Vicky Waltz, Anna Wells, and Donna Whyte-English.

In Algonquin, Wachusett means "by the great hill." It is the same root as the word Massachusett, which means "people of the great hill." Although there are many moderate trails that lead to the top, hikers chose a more challenging route to the summit. Following the Bicentennial Trail, they wandered through a forest of tall oak, maple, beech, and hickory trees before turning onto the High Meadow Trail, which led steeply uphill.

Next, they turned onto the Jack Frost Trail, which led into a thick grove of hemlock trees that quickly gave way to a series of smooth, pillow-shaped bedrock that was polished by the glaciers that retreated more than 10,000 years ago. Wachusett is the remnant of a lone peak that once rose high above the surrounding plains, independent of any other mountain range. According to geologists, the peak was once a towering 23,000 feet, but was gradually worn down by glaciers and erosion.

After a short stretch on the Lower Link and Harrington Trails, hikers enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the summit, where Megan and Linda had their pictures taken. Afterward, it was only a short, half-mile jaunt back to the parking lot.

Megan stands on the summit of Mount Wachusett.

Linda stands on the summit of Mount Wachusett.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dear Veteran Hikers...

Dear Veteran Hikers,

I came across my hiking boots today. They were jammed in the back of my closet, buried beneath a bag of clothes that I’ve been meaning to donate for the last nine months. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve barely looked at my boots since last fall, and the mud from an August hike through Blue Hills is still caked on their soles. Digging deeper into the closet, I pulled out my backpack and began rifling through it. Remnants of last year’s Wilderness Heals Hike cluttered its compartments: a Luna bar wrapper, an extra pair of socks, a pebble from the summit of Mount Washington.

My pack—a royal blue Gregory Deva 60—is like a diary of past Wilderness Heals Hikes. A logo patch, given to me after my first Hike back in 2005, is sewn tightly onto a back pocket. A necklace that I made during my 2006 Hike dangles from a zipper, and the beaded blue bracelet that my team leader gave me last year is clipped to a purple carabiner key ring.

Sitting on my bedroom floor, surrounded by these relics of summers gone by, I close my eyes to better recall my first Wilderness Heals Hike. I remember standing atop the bald summit of Mount Eisenhower, gazing upon the valley far below. The blazing June sun beat upon my bare shoulders, and a gentle breeze blew across the barren ridge, rustling nearby patches of diapensia and alpine bilberry. I can almost hear the shouts and laughter of my teammates as we made our way down the rocky trail.

The next afternoon, after a thoroughly refreshing swim under a mountain cascade, my team leader gave me a pinecone. “A seed,” she said, “because on your first training hike, a seed was planted—in you. And I’ve watched it grow and blossom into the young woman who just jumped into that pool. And I’m so proud of you.”

Wilderness Heals embodies many elements: teamwork, camaraderie, self-reliance, perseverance, and self-discovery. And while climbing mountains is indeed an integral part of the event, Wilderness Heals is—more than anything—defined by the women who return year after year to raise money for the Elizabeth Stone House. Without them, there would be no Hike. And without a Hike, I would have a lot fewer joyous summer memories.

The thirteenth annual Wilderness Heals Hike will take place July 18-20, and registration is currently under way. In the upcoming weeks, I hope you’ll dust off your hiking boots, cinch up your pack, and follow me into the woods. This summer, I challenge you to climb one more mountain—and be reminded anew of why Wilderness Heals.


Vicky Waltz
Team Leader and Recruitment Committee Member

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sneak Peak: Beth Grierson

Name: Beth Grierson

Years Hiked: 10

Positions: Hiker (2), Team Leader (5), Team Leader Coordinator (3), and Recruitment Committee member (3)

Day Job: Manager of Development Operations at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston

Total Contributions to the Stone House: Approximately $12,000

Claim to Fame: Her propensity to jump into water, her ability to bounce on impact when falling, and ginger fudge, made by her loving partner, Julia

Why She Hikes: "Why did I start? Part of it was my interactions with a woman I’ll call Jane, who was a frequent customer at a coffee house I used to work in. She’d spent time in a number of mental wards and halfway houses, and seemed totally brutalized by the process–to the point where she often refused to seek medical care, because she worried that if she got upset or emotional, she’d be labeled as unstable and wind up in restraints rather than say, getting treated for her cough. It seemed to me like she was learning how to cope with the mental health system, rather than life outside of it. And I would look at her and wonder if I could just as easily have been looking at my own mother or grandmother–if, at crucial moments of their lives, the support systems around them had fallen apart or disappeared, or if they had never had them. If, for example, my father’s first–and thankfully last–attempt at slapping his wife into submission had ended, not with him cooling his heels in a police car, but with the cops turning away from 'a private matter,' which was a far more common response at the time. I also kept thinking there had to be a better way to help women like Jane.

Then I got to know Laurie Holmes, who was very involved with ESH and the first Hikes. I was really impressed by what she told me about the Stone House, and how peer support was an integral part of the program, how the idea was to help women help themselves. It just seemed like such an amazing organization. And then my friend, Linda Platt, and I started talking about how the Hike seemed like a really fun and challenging thing to do for a really great cause, and we kind of goaded each other into doing it.

I keep doing it because it has been a really fun and challenging thing to do for a really great cause. The Hike pushes my buttons sometimes, and it’s helped me learn a lot about myself over the years (some lessons were more fun than others). I love introducing other women to hiking and/or the Stone House, and being able to help people face their own challenges the way the Hike has helped me face some of mine. And even with occasional button-pushing and drama, I just have such a blast doing it."

Favorite Hike: "I tend to love anything with the opportunity to get some great views, and/or scramble on some rocks. And water. There are few things more enjoyable than being able to soak your feet–or your head–in nice, cold water after a long hike."

Most Challenging Moment: "Asking for money is a huge challenge for me. The closest I come at my day job is writing appeal letters–but that’s different. I do most of my asks face-to-face. It ties my stomach in knots, but it’s usually very productive. And I think the fact that I’m clearly nervous helps! Because people know I don’t ask for donations for just anything.

On a Hike, it was probably having to convince one of my teammates that she really was too sick to continue hiking to the hut, and that we needed to get her off the trail. I felt awful because I knew how important being able to finish the Hike was for her, and she’d worked hard to get as far as she had. I felt even worse realizing I probably should have convinced her to hike out that morning."

Most Memorable Wilderness Heals Experience: "This ties in with my answer above. So, we hiked out. Once I knew she was safe with the basecamp crew, I trekked back up the Mitzpah cutoff to the hut. I wanted to get back to the rest of my team, and more than that, I wanted to get back to my partner, Julia, who was also hiking that year (same leg, but with a different team). As soon as I walked in the hut, everyone from Wilderness Heals got up (it was the end of dinner) and started cheering. I really wasn’t expecting it, and I was so touched and overwhelmed, I think I started to cry.

Also, a few years back, we had one leg of the hike starting at Madison Hut, and one at Mitzpah Springs Hut, with both teams meeting at Lakes of the Clouds Hut on the second night. Somehow, groups from both legs wound up converging on the summit of Mount Washington at about the same time. We were everywhere! This big swarm of incredible, determined women–we took the place over. It was an amazing feeling."

Favorite Hiking Snack: "Ginger fudge. Or Sweet, Salty, Nutty trail mix from Trader Joes. Or avocados. Or sopressatta. Or Toblerone. I could go on, I like food."

Favorite Piece of Gear: "My backpack. It’s a Gregory Shasta–bigger than I really need, and it’s not the lightest pack on the market, but it fits me perfectly, and I love the suspension on it. I feel like I could carry a small Volkswagon in the thing."

Words of Wisdom: "You don’t need my words of wisdom–you’ve got everything you need inside of you. You might just need a little help remembering it’s there."

Note: In an effort to allow hikers to get to know one another before hitting the trails, the Wilderness Heals blog will feature weekly 'Sneak Peak' hiker profiles. If you would like to be profiled, please contact Vicky Waltz.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Team Leader Training Weekend at Lonesome Lake Hut

Recently, ten Wilderness Heals hikers spent two days at Lonesome Lake Hut for the annual Team Leader training weekend. Workshops were led by Tim and Kate--two Appalachian Mountain Club staff members--and included sessions on first aid, outdoor leadership, Leave No Trace methods, and how to plan, pack, and prepare for a backpacking trip. Pictured above: Eileen, Susan, Liz, Vicky, Beth, Karin, Wendy, Mischa, Anna, Danielle, and Tim.

Although it's spring in Boston, there is still a lot of snow in the White Mountains--even in lower elevations. The hike up to Lonesome Lake required trekking poles and lots of warm layers. Pictured above: Kate, Eileen, and Susan.

Anna is expecting her first child in September, but that doesn't stop her from strapping on her pack and hiking up to the hut.

Hikers take a moment to gaze upon the partially frozen Lonesome Lake.

The westernmost hut on the Appalachian Trail, Lonesome Lake Hut (elevation 2,760 feet) is an hour's hike from Lafayette Campgrounds, and is nestled against the flank of Cannon Mountain.

Shortly after hikers arrive at the hut, Mischa and Susan prepare a lunch of hummus and tabouli.

Note: The first training hike of the 2008 Wilderness Heals season will take place on Saturday, May 10. Training hikes will occur every weekend until Saturday, July 12. Don't forget to contact a team leader to sign up!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hiker Featured in Women's Health Magazine

Anyone who opens last month's issue of Women's Health magazine will see a familiar face. Because of her commitment to the Elizabeth Stone House and to the Wilderness Heals Hike, Anna Wells was featured as the magazine's Action Figure for the month of April. At age 17, Anna joined her mother on her first Wilderness Heals Hike. In the nine years that she has participated in the event, Wells has raised more than $17,000 for the Stone House. In past years, she has served as a Team Leader, and this year she is a Team Leader Coordinator.

This is the first time that the Wilderness Heals Hike has received coverage in a national publication. To read the story, click here.