February 25, 2010

7th Annual Guy's Hike

I just love to hike in the mountains. I love the physical exercise, being surrounded by beauty, and occasionally the challenge of a vertical climb. Seven years ago, as my interest in man-making was growing, I got the idea to share this passion with other men and boys.  I put out a call to some men friends to gather up their sons, young male relatives, or the sons of others, and bring them along. We try to keep the average age from 12 to 17, but there are occasionally some 7 or 8 year-old lads who heroically manage to finish. It started with about 9 males, but the average over the years is about 20. This year we had 19.

We most often hike in the mountains around Tucson, AZ. Prior to the hike we teach "hiking skills." How to stretch prior to the hike, the importance of drinking enough water in the desert environment, and how to hang together as a "band of brothers" supporting each other along the way. There is always a short discussion about how to deal with a rattlesnake or mountain lion encounter. Meeting either on the trail is extremely unlikely, but it ramps up the adventure quotient.

We try to pick a trail that has enough challenge for the boys (and some of the men) and which ends in a dramatic photo opportunity. This gives the boys something they can point to when describing the experience to others (bragging rights). At the end of the hike, we always circle up. We take time for each male to say what he liked best about the experience. That always creates some surprises for everyone and sweetness from the younger boys that always swells my heart. Then we put the young guys in a line and all the men shake their hands and congratulate each of them. It's a very powerful experience for most boys to be honored so directly by a group of men.

Here is the link to the photos of this year's hike. There are a thousand small and beautiful moments not captured, but you'll get the idea. For the record, the water in the photos was snow-runoff and freezing cold.

Do you have a hobby or interest that might just be shared in a similar way? Do you have a skill or passion you might risk offering to a few or many young males? You might be surprised how interested other guys are in the things that light you up. If you do, please share your story with us by sending me and email. If you have a passion you might consider sharing with some young guys, contact me if you want to brainstorm a little or need some encouragement. If you take this risk and get launched, I am certain that the experience will have all the rewards necessary to pull you forward. These kinds of experiences seem to have a way of transforming the men involved.

This year I folded the Guy's Hike into the work of the Desert Men's Council, Inc. That is a group of  men in my winter home of Tucson, AZ, who put on an annual rite of passage initiation weekend for boys, and also offer group mentoring through what we call our Men's Hut activities. This year, the Guy's Hike was one of the Men's Hut outings. The mission statement of our not-for-profit group is, Men in service, to boys, men, and our community. You can learn more about us and our work at the DMC website: desertmenscouncil.org

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