Guides jot down every step for hiking challenge

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The 4th Hammonds Plains Guides take a hike on a local trail as part of the Hiker Distance Award Challenge to earn a crest.
Girl Guides in Nova Scotia have hiked with new purpose over the last two years.

It’s due to a Hiker Distance Award program that challenges the girls, and their leaders, to log their kilometres as they pound the trails. The crest is a success with the kids and a boon for guide leaders who might not have hit the paths as frequently.

“I thought it was great, because I’m not an outdoorsy type other than what I have to do,” said Mary Louise Johnson, a leader with the 1st Aylesford Pathfinders. “I love camping. We always go camping two or three times, but I don’t always focus on that and I should. And I thought it was great because it gave us the excuse. Like: ‘OK girls, we really need to do this.’”

To earn the crest, girls aged 5 to 8  must hike 15 kilometres, ages 9 to 14 must accumulate 30 kilometres, while those 15 and over must walk 45 kilometres. They must also do other activities related to the hikes, such as creating a scrapbook on the experience or completing a nature program. Some of the requirements can be used toward other badges in the Girl Guides program.

Three of her pathfinders and two leaders earned the crest last year, said Johnson.

The Aylesford group geocached — a type of treasure hunt using GPS or smartphones — and roamed the Fundy shoreline to complete their distances.

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The 1st Aylesford Pathfinders learn about geocaching for the Hiker Distance Award Challenge.

Other units did night hikes with glow sticks, or cooked on the trail to add interest to their outings.

One group of Hammonds Plains guides, while out on a winter hike in -10 degree weather, wrapped hot dogs in tin foil, placed them in empty milk cartons and dropped them in the campfire. When the cartons burned away, presto. Lunch.

It was all part of making each hike fun, said Cathy Langille, unit guider with the 4th Hammonds Plains.

“We just tried to make it different and tried to change it up a bit, and always at a different spot too. It’s amazing the number of places to hike within 30 minutes drive of your house.”

Nine guides in Langille’s group earned the crest last year.

The Hiker Distance Award program, coordinated by Hike Nova Scotia, also offers patches to youth outside the Girl Guides organization. Apart from the youth distances, pins are available for adults who hit the 150-, 250- and 500-kilometre marks.

The logbooks seem to spur on hiking. Johnson said recording the distance to earn the patch can motivate young people otherwise drawn to stay inside or hang out in malls with their friends.

The kids still get to talk with their friends, but with an added benefit. “They are getting the reward of being outside,” said Johnson.

“And at the end of it there is the badge besides. They are getting two rewards.”

Tara MacDonald, a unit guider with 5th Hammonds Plains, agrees. Some of her guides completed the necessary mileage on their own over the summer. She credits the need to record the distance.

“Just having that booklet laying around, that little logbook. It’s going ‘Yeah, maybe I should go on a hike today, let’s go out,’” said MacDonald. “I had some girls saying,

‘I don’t think we would have done it if they didn’t have that incentive to log that hike, and work toward the ultimate goal.’”

Article written by David Redwood. For more information on the Hiker Distance Award program visit http://www.hikenovascotia.ca/projects.

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