March 24, 2008

The Guy's Hikes - Tucson

In the Man-Making book I write about a form of involvement with men and boys that is built out of a man’s interests and unique experience. I call it Create-Your-Own Man-Making. In that section of the book I profile a number of men who have found a way to include men and boys with their passion for activities like building computers, wood-working and boat building, reading, sports, and even sports car driving. These are a form of “if you build it they will come” and it really does work.

I love hiking and, as you might guess, I love seeing a line of guys snaking up a trail and heading out on an adventure. It’s something males have done for eons, and it feels “right” to me deep in my male bones. So this March, for the fifth year in a row, I ran up a flag for men and boys interested in hiking. I've been calling it the Tucson Guy’s Hike.

This year we had enough boys, dads, “uncles,” neighbors, and over all interest to do two hikes, three weeks apart. We did one mostly fun and playful hike as a warm up and for the younger guys. A few weeks later we did a much bigger hike in 85 degree weather on a seriously butt kicking trail. On each hike about fifteen males showed up, headed out, reached the summit, and returned victorious.

In each case, there was sufficient physical challenge, camaraderie, natural beauty, dangers (the remote possibility of mountain lions and rattle snakes), learning about the desert, hiking, geology, gear, and traveling as a male tribe, supporting each other along the way.

The victory photos alone tell the story. The award ceremony and the honoring of the boys by the men at the hikes finish really ramped up the impact of the experience for everyone involved. Here is a link to the photos from the more difficult hike.

I’m telling you this first of all because I’m still glowing. As I’ve said before, these experiences always melt, reform, and grow my masculine heart. But more importantly, I'm sharing this story because I am absolutely certain that you too have gifts to share with men and boys. I'll bet that you have a skill, hobby, interest, passion, or special knowledge . . . something around which you could gather a small tribe of males if you were willing to start small and take the risk. My first hike was three boys and four men.

At the end of the last hike, during the check-out circle, each male was asked to name a feeling and the best part of the hike. Most named fatigue in some form. What I loved the most was when the boys expressed feelings of pride (earned), strength, happiness, awe at their accomplishment, gratitude for the opportunity . . . and when they excitedly asked, as they always do, When can we do this again?

Do you know a man that has created something like this for men and boys?

What similar experiences have you had and what was the impact on you?

Please share those stories in the comments to this post or send them to me and I’ll post them.

Then, take a moment to consider what you might create.


  1. I am a firm believer in using the premise of, "create your own man-making". Being "good at" or "expert at" anything, that can potentially interest a young man - earns respect and respect often earns and leads to getting boys attention and a willingness to learn.

    Most of the sessions we do at Kilbarchan are based on this premise. We had a carpenter lead us in table building, we had an astronomy buff lead us in star exploration, a magician teach the kids magic, an artist teach them to draw, etc. Some of my "skills" that we have had sessions on, included poetry, playing pool, ping pong, tennis, basketball, baseball, football, teaching about various subjects such as prejudice, learning to seek a job, storytelling, yo-yo-ing, finding a boy's calling, and setting your goals in life.

    I think you can even stretch the whole "create your own man-making" concept a little to include something like, "when a young man sees and experiences an older man demonstrating excellent behavior, sincere caring, willing generosity, consistent patience, selflessness, continual dependable commitment, and anything else that is normally associated with being a "good man" or a good person, there is a better chance of having that young man emulate such conduct."

    Simply put, a man can be "good at" or even an "expert" at, "being a good man" and this is what "struggling," needy young men (and healthy young men too for that matter) need to consistently see.

    I guess what I really wish I knew is how we can get more men to understand (and then hopefully employ) the many potent gifts they each have lying inside them, often not being used - while many boys, like the Kilbarchan kids, sit in desperate need of these unused and often unrecognized "gifts."

    Peace, Greg

    EARL: See the Man-Manking blog post on the men helping boys at Kilbarchan in February's posts titled: Mentoring Heroes and A Give-Away

  2. How to get men involved is the challenge of EVERY organization with boys in need of mentors.

    Right now in MN, the MN mentoring partnership estimates 75,000 kids on wait lists for mentors across the state's mentoring organizations. That's just the kids that have said they WANT a mentor... not counting those that need mentoring. And that is just MN!

    I feel your man hunger my friend. It's why Man-Making book was written.

    Keep on doing the work you can. If all men did something our boys would be in better shape.


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