How to hike when you are broke, have no car, and no one to go with. By Michelle Walch

Man and women smiling, stading by a river in a forest.  Husband and Letters of the West illustrator John Maddin and Letters of the West author Michelle Walch along the Clackamas River.

I love hiking and camping. Hiking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. I don’t care for running, and I’m not bicycling these days. The rewards that come with hiking distract from the fact that I’m out of breath: stunning vistas, the smell of the trees, and my favorite, waterfalls!

This blog is not about gear lists or getting in shape. It’s about the logistics of getting to the trail when you have limited means. How do you go hiking and camping when you have a crappy car? Or no car? How do you find time to hit the trail? Let’s explore possibilities.

My problem with hiking? It can be so damn difficult to get out there.

For years my husband and I didn’t have a car. We couldn’t afford one. However, when we lived in Portland, it was easy for us to get to a trail somewhere in town on bus or bike. Which is of course why so many like living in Portland now. Getting further afield, especially to a remote location (we visited the John Day Fossil Beds in August) is a different story. Renting a car works well, but that’s good mainly for short trips within 300 miles of home, since longer trips can get expensive. The other issue: finding the time to go. Work schedules, chores, and projects means putting off the recreating and next thing you know the warm weather is past.

How to encourage a young, hiking-reluctant person off the couch.

Like many parents, we have a kid who is… reluctant to part with her iPad. She can be active, but hiking trails don’t always interest her. Got a similar situation? Here are some ideas:

  • Steer the conversation about what he/she is interested in while out on the trail.

  • Point out highlights on the trail related to their interest.

  • Pack kid-friendly snacks.

  • Have a reward at the end of the hike, such as an ice cream stop.

  • Invite a peer to join.

  • Go hiking with friends or family.

Then social media reminds me of what a loser I am for not being able to explore more.

Remember: social media is only part of the story.

The downside of social media (wait, there is one?), is the pressure (largely self-imposed) to go adventuring.

Sometimes it’s ok to mute the Instagram feed of the colleague who just completed a 10 day SE Asia bike tour and the photos of her and her Cross-fit body on the beach. Opt to scroll past the Facebook feed of someone’s marathon hikes of Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley all within the span of two months. Sigh. My dream.

Some Instagram feeds just exhaust me. Who has time to get out there every weekend? Do you hire a service to do your chores?

That said, who knows what their credit card balance is, or how complicated the personalities involved made the trip.

My family and I were able to make it to Silver Falls for two hours recently. Win.

How do you set aside time when you are so busy with work and chores? Reward yourself with an outing. Build your outdoors time into your schedule. Create a list of hikes to go on and coordinate with friends and family. We live in busy times so it is a good idea to make a schedule for the least complicated leisure activity.

Plan an afternoon to get to the nearest hiking trail. It’s called self-care, yo.

Good news: there are more groups focused on getting people who are in these categories outdoors.

Full disclosure: I’m not comfortable hiking alone. And it’s safer to go with at least one person. Even then things can happen. Like the two times it was unclear what trail we were on (Wild Flag, and a trail in the Mt. Adams area, ugh).

No hiking buddy? No problem! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Unlikely Hikers: My favorite! By now, many have heard of this. I saw a story on Unlikely Hikers founder Jenny Bruso on Oregon Field Guide and it was a game changer. Her story spoke to me like it has spoken to many people. Too often, the outdoors have been the domain of white dude bros, making heavy people, women, LBTGQ, people of color, and others who feel like they don’t belong. Her blog also validates those who enjoy the outdoors in their own way. You hiked a short trail? Great! You car camped for one night? Good for you! Your outdoor experience is your own, and what works for you.

Brown People Camping: A social media initiative that utilizes personal narratives to promote greater diversity in the public lands. Here is a great platform where people of color use digital storytelling to share their experiences. Launched by Ambreen Tariq, a Southeast Asian woman and Muslim.

According to Wilderness, 80% of low income communities in the West are further away from natural lands. 95% of national park visitors are white. There is work being done to increase transportation to and from outdoor settings.

If you live in Oregon, here are two groups you can contact:

Oregon Hikers: Clearing house for different hiking groups in different parts of Oregon.

Oregon Walks: Lists of different walking groups in Oregon.

Is conditioning really necessary?

It helps to workout on a regular basis. Going to a gym is a great idea (day passes at many are quite affordable I’ve found). Read this article I wrote for NW Fitness and Strength about multi-generational hiking. If time and money are issues, walking at least 20 minutes a day helps. I believe the act of hiking as exercise itself.

Think about your hiking ability and preferences. Find hikers similar to you. If you go with a group, communicate with them how you hike ahead of time. That’s what’s nice about Unlikely Hikers: the hike is described so hikers can decided it the trip is right for them.

Experience the outdoors how you want to.

I used to be made fun of because I like car camping. What’s wrong with that? I’ve done short backpacking trips in the past. Five nights out in the bush sounds like something that was on my bucket list in the past. I don’t think it is going to happen at this stage. My husband has osteopenia (thin bones) rendering even one night out not possible. Llama trekking in the Wallawas would work for us. Except, that too, is a bit pricey for a modest (read: no) budget.

Happy trails!

Even if you get out doors one time this year, consider it a victory! Good for you taking care of yourself. So what if you didn’t hike or camp every weekend? Realistically, who can accomplish that? Hiking and camping on a regular basis is a habit as much as a scheduling issue. At some point you will be able to find and make time to enjoy public lands.

What’s your story of going outdoors? Have you had challenges? Car issues? Problems putting up the tent? Too busy on the weekends to get your once a year hike in? What would help you get outside? I want to hear about it!

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