Adventure Specialist Best Practices

ROLE OF THE ADVENTURE SPECIALIST

CVT would be nothing without our Adventure Specialists!  We encourage you to take an active role in organizing activities that you and other Trailblazers will enjoy.  This can be a big responsibility, but it should never feel like work. That said, we do have some rules and guidelines that you should keep in mind before jumping in. Many are common sense and fairly standard for hiking groups.  They exist to a ensure a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.

PREREQUISITES

All potential Adventure Specialists should:

  • Attend a few of our events to get to know the members and observe how other Adventure Specialists run things.
  • Set a good example by showing up to events on time, being prepared, practicing “Leave No Trace” principles, and being friendly and welcoming to everyone.
  • Have reliable transportation.
  • Have a cell phone capable of receiving text messages.
  • Own or have access to a printer.

For outdoor events like hiking, camping, and kayaking, potential Adventure Specialists should also:

  • Have some experience with the events they are organizing.
  • Be in good health and physical condition for the event.
  • Have the proper clothing, gear, equipment, and supplies for the event.

Gear – stuff you “wear” like hiking boots and crampons
Equipment – stuff you “use” like water filters or tents
Supplies – stuff that gets “consumed” like water, food, insect repellent, and stove fuel

Nice-to-have items for Adventure Specialists:

  • First aid kit
  • Water filter
  • Flashlight
  • Two-way radios
  • Whistle
  • Flags/trail markers
  • Matches, fire starter

Those needing to purchase any of the above are eligible for partial or even full reimbursement.  This is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on availability of funds and the individual’s level of commitment to the group.

Several of our Adventure Specialists have completed Wilderness First Aid certification. This is not a requirement, but it is strongly encouraged for anyone who spends a lot of time in the wilderness. We recommend the SOLO WFA course.

PLANNING OUTDOOR EVENTS

For hikes and backpacking trips, know the trail and route the group will be taking. Some Adventure Specialists scout hikes in advance, which can be very helpful, but is not expected.  But at the very least you need to be familiar with the area where you will be hiking and the route you will be taking to get there.  Trails can be found in city, county, state, or national parks, in national forests, in nature preserves, or wildlife management areas.  Visit the appropriate website and check for any alerts like trail closures.  Reputable sites like HikingUpward have detailed trail descriptions and can be very useful in planning events. Study the descriptions carefully and read the most recent reviews for current trail conditions. Check the elevation profile for steep sections. Note any potential water sources and spots for lunch breaks. For longer hikes, note any potential shortcuts or bail-out points and have alternate plans in case of an accident or injury.

Prepare a write-up for your event and submit it to us.   Review our calendar for examples. For hikes, describe the mileage, elevation gain, trail rules, location, directions, etc. If you are following a hiking route described on HikingUpward or another site, you can provide a link which will cover most of these details. If it is a repeat event, you can include a link to the previous event along with any necessary changes. Describe the clothing, gear, equipment, and supplies that are needed to safely participate in the event.  Don’t assume people know what they need.

A few days before the event:

  • Call or visit the appropriate website to find out the trail conditions. This is especially necessary for hikes in the mountains where snow and forest fires can cause road closures.
  • Monitor weather conditions in the days leading up to the hike.
  • Follow comments on the event page and try to answer any questions that arise from members.
  • Print a few copies of trail maps and driving directions to pass out.

PLANNING SOCIAL EVENTS

Planning for social events can vary greatly depending on the specific location and activity. For dinners or movie nights, it can be as easy as choosing a location, time, and meeting spot. For group dinners at restaurants, make a reservation if possible and ask if they can do separate checks. If you have to split a single bill, tell participants to bring cash.

For public events like outdoor concerts or festivals, traffic and crowds can make things more challenging. Members need to know what to bring, where to park, and how to find the rest of the group. You may want to describe what you will be wearing. Fundraisers, volunteer events, and classes may require participants register on a separate website, so those instructions and relevant links should be included in the event description.

For events at private residences, we often omit the address from the event description for security reasons. Instead we send the address to participants via email a few days in advance. Include any parking restrictions your neighborhood or HOA may have.

ARRIVAL ON EVENT DAY

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early at the meeting location to meet and greet members.
  • Take attendance. Note crashers and no-shows.
  • For hikes and such, screen participants to ensure they have what they need. Get a head count.  If something is critical, make sure everyone has it. Participants who are unprepared pose a risk to themselves and others.
  • When you’re ready to begin, gather the group, allow everyone to introduce themselves, and review the plan.

CARPOOLING

  • Remind everyone of the recommended carpool fee.
  • Make sure drivers know the destination as well as any planned pit stops.
  • Make sure drivers and passengers are in agreement regarding optional stops (for example, we often stop for dinner after day hikes).
  • If entering a state or national park, consider having park pass owners ride in separate vehicles to save on entrance fees.
  • Get a phone number from one passenger in each vehicle.

DURING HIKES AND BACKPACKING TRIPS

Appoint a leader and sweeper to keep the group together. As the Adventure Specialist, you will likely be one of these. The leader should set the pace described for the hike.  In most cases, this is a moderate 1.5 miles to 2 miles per hour on rough terrain, possibly faster for easier hikes.  The sweeper should have a copy of the map and understand the intended route. Hikers don’t need to be side by side, but they should be close enough so that they are still a group and not just a bunch of individuals. A good rule of thumb is there should be no more than 5 minutes separating one person from another. On particularly dangerous or poorly marked trails, hikers should stay within eyesight of each other.

Be familiar with Leave No Trace principles.  Remind hikers to stay on the trail, keep a distance from wildlife, dispose of waste properly, and camp/start fires in designated areas.  Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Everyone should regroup and check in with each other at all trail junctions as well as before and after all water crossings and difficult sections of trail (e.g rock scrambles). These guidelines apply to both the ascent as well as the descent.  Sometimes this will require patience, especially for faster hikers in inclement weather.  It shouldn’t be a race back to the trailhead.

Tired, sick or injured people should never be left behind or be allowed to head off on their own. There will be times that someone can’t complete the hike. Consider the alternate plans you made prior to the hike. In most cases the best thing to do will be to have the whole group return to the start or another safe place.

For extreme trips you may want to require every participant have a “trail buddy”. This way the entire group does not have to alter their plans if someone can’t complete the entire activity – only the person who can’t and their buddy will. Of course, even with a “buddy system” there will be situations (e.g. sick or injured) when the entire group should stay/return with the person.

Realize that there is no shame in turning around. If you are in the mountains often enough, these opportunities will surely present themselves. Sometimes turning around is a safer choice then continuing. The mountains will be there for another day.

WRAPPING UP A HIKE

The activity should not end until everyone has safely returned to the starting point. No one should leave the meeting spot until everyone is back and has their keys with them. Make sure everyone’s vehicle starts (this is especially important in the winter).

WHEN YOU GET HOME

Submit a post-event report to the organizers noting any absences, accidents, or other incidents.

Post a comment thanking everyone, reminding them to post their photos, and highlighting any upcoming activities of interest.

Start planning your next activity!

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