This story is what gave us the inspiration to create our Rugged Coins, and to use them to spread camaraderie out on the trail.
I was on vacation and hiking in ‘The Valley of Fire’ in Nevada. It was a beautiful day, the sun felt warm, and a gentle breeze was flowing across the desert. I was off trail and climbing up a giant, red, rocky formation to get a better view of the landscape. When I reached the summit, I was surprised to find another hiker already there looking out across the valley.
We immediately started a conversation about the view, which is not unusual for hikers to do. Stig was his name, and he was visiting from Sweden. Our conversation flowed as we began climbing down and hiking back to the trailhead together. Stig and I spoke mostly about travel, hiking of course, and the beauty of where we were that day.
When we arrived at the trailhead, Stig took off his pack, rooted around inside and then handed me a small pin, like someone might wear on a hat. When I asked him what it was for, he responded in his thick Swedish accent, “We have many things in common in life, it was a pleasure to hike with you, so keep this pin to remember Stig from Sweden.”
We shook hands and began walking towards our vehicles. I kept thinking about that pin in my hand, the gesture of friendship from my fellow hiker. When I arrived at my rented SUV, I remembered I had one of my personal challenge coins (I was a Drill Instructor at the time) in my luggage. So, I dropped my pack, grabbed the coin and jogged over to where Stig was parked. I put out my right hand and we shook hands again, and I ‘coined him’. I had the coin tucked in my right hand and passed it to him with the handshake as I said, " it was great to meet you, safe journeys my friend".
Well, he turned up his palm, moving his hand gently up and down feeling the weight of the coin as he studied it. I could tell that I had gotten his attention. There was a moment of silence and then he said, “Now I have something to remind me of my journey.” Then we gave each other a nod, as rugged men do, and went our separate ways.
I have thought of that encounter, like so many others I have had, meeting hikers on the trail. How we share words of encouragement, wisdom, and adventure with one another as complete strangers. Then, thinking afterwards, that they didn’t feel like strangers at all.
As avid hikers, my son and I thought, is there any gift for the outdoorsmen that can be passed along, a keepsake that is more 21st century than a standard patch or hatpin... Something you can give as a gift to a hiker that is modern and has a feeling of real value. That’s how Hikers Coins ® came to be, and that's our story.
Impressive conversation piece when displayed
My family and I were hiking in the middle of the Valley of Fire State Park and it was a beautiful day. I was running all over the place exploring and climbing every rock to be climbed. I was jumping and leaping all over these boulders and enjoying the day in the park.
I found this rock formation that seemed almost impossible to climb, but I had the determination and decided to reach for the top. I found a little hole in the rock and I stuck my foot in, grabbed a ledge with my fingertips, and yanked myself up on to the big boulder at the top. I was thrilled that I had made it up the nearly impossible rock to climb, and I began leaping around on top of the boulder when I spotted a plastic bag tucked under a rock. My family and I are familiar with geocaching, so for a moment I thought it was a little bag with a geocache. I pick up the rock and looked at the bag and to my surprise, in it was a note from a group called The Rugged Outdoorsmen, and a coin! I read the note and then I turned to the coin. The silver coin was wonderful with beautiful engravings, and sparkly jewels, ok it didn't have sparkly jewels, but it looked pretty awesome. It was a hiking coin that the Rugged Outdoorsmen left! It was the best souvenir I had ever found, and I sure am glad I tested my abilities, pushed my limits and climbed up the big boulder.
The note said to submit a story about my hike to the website, with a hint that if they liked the story and it was posted they would send me some swag, so here it is! Hope you like it.
I was coined! Much like my early onset balding, I didn’t see it coming and I don’t know what to do about it. I guess I should submit this story!
My wife and I left our home of 8 years in the Pacific Northwest in December to do a series of month-long stays across the country. We explored the North Cascades in January, Saguaro National Park / Sedona in February, and Joshua Tree in March – where we found the coin on the Ryan Mountain Trail, a short but great hike. I scrambled up a little side trail last minute – which is where I found the coin…glad I went!
We’ve both spent our careers in the corporate world and the outdoors have always been our way of resetting. To me, there’s no place I’d rather be than standing on top of a mountain with the wind swirling around me.
I’m pretty boring though and people likely wouldn’t want to read anything about me. My wife, on the other hand, who I was collectively coined with, is a badass. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 5 years ago at the ripe age of 25. Every wrong step or small bump would turn into weeks and weeks of discomfort and pain for her. We didn’t know what to do and the first year or two were dark at times. A sprained ankle prevented her from walking normally for over a year. Here hands and arms would randomly get inflamed. Countless hours of googling RA didn’t help. But she completely turned around her diet – going dairy and gluten free to help with inflammation. She started getting up before work every day and doing yoga for an hour. She started journaling and focusing on mental health to stay mentally tough. Modern medicine has helped a ton as well. 2 years into the ordeal, she started to try hiking again. It was tough…there were problems for the first year as missteps and small injuries caused issues. But she stuck with it- got stronger, got hiking poles, got new hiking boots with better support. Over the last 2 years she’s done countless hikes in the mountains of the PnW and elsewhere. She’s done two backcountry trips where she hiked 30 miles each – an accomplishment hard to imagine when just a couple years ago she couldn’t walk a mile without being worried or hurting herself. She ran a 5k this year. She did 12 miles at Joshua Tree just before we did this hike and found the coin. RA stories you read are mostly of people getting by and living with RA – there are very few that show them conquering the disease. Well – this is an example of it being conquered. She’s in killer shape, has little-to-know inflammation & symptoms, and is starting her own business right now. Get the hell out of her way RA!
We had a beautiful day for the hike. Sunny, 75 degrees, and hardly any wind. It was fairly steep, but only 1.5 miles to the top, where there were 360 views of the park. Thanks to whoever left the coin – it was a fun treat.
I’m a Ranger and my first hiking coin was given to me after leading a New Year's Day sunset hike at Valley of Fire State Park. The group that signed on was mostly small families and they shared my excitement for plants, and the goal of this hike was to teach the young children as well as the adults about plant life in the desert. I can get QUITE excited about desert holly and galls on a creosote bush.
When we started hiking the group began visiting and sharing stories from different adventures as we moved down the trail.
We stopped on the trail at a great spot to watch the sunset, while we were stopped, in no time a kid climbed to the top of a rock formation so high he looked about half as tall as he did on the ground. This act did not seem to faze his parents at all. (Another child made it halfway then cautiously turned back to cheer on their new friend from below)
In just a little over an hour, these hikers, who never met, shared their curiosity, bravery, support, memories, and life goals with each other.
Not bad, considering our goal at the beginning of the hike was simply to learn how to identify at least 3 plants!
Afterwards one of the hikers shared how camping with their father inspired him to take his own kids on adventures. He and his spouse hope to travel and volunteer in the parks system when they retire. After that couple left, the father of that adventurous boy came up, thanked me for a great hike and the lessons in plant life, and then handed me that coin, I thought that was so cool, so I submitted this story.
Hi, my name is Mindy and I was lucky enough to meet and be "coined" by Drill after snagging the last spot on a meetup group hike in the backcountry of Zion.
I am a travel nurse with an obsession for the outdoors. I had just started a 3 month travel assignment in St. George, Utah and was itching to get outside. Being new to the area, I was grateful to join such a wonderful group to explore the beautiful backcountry. The experience reminded me of the reasons I enjoy hiking and why I started backpacking... being out in the best examples of nature and the people you meet along the way. It's also the reason I started travel nursing, so I could go explore new places and take time between assignments to do what I've recently grown to love... thru hiking.
My first long trail was not a normal 'thru hike' it was the Camino de Santiago that took me over 500 miles across Spain along with 3 friends. It is a very social trail with a long, rich history and culture. The experience set me on a path that would lead to the most terrifying, but also best decision of my life... to quit my job of 7 years and start the nomadic life of travel nursing.
Before starting my first travel assignment, I took a month to do my second thru hike, the John Muir Trail (JMT) across the High Sierras in California. It was truly a magical experience with some of the most magnificent scenery I've come across to date.
Half of the hike ended up being unplanned solo which forced me out of my comfort zone and really expanded my confidence. Whether it was a bear encounter or seeking shelter during an afternoon thunderstorm, I realized I could handle so much more than I thought possible.
Both of these adventures have blessed me with amazing memories and wonderful experiences of "trail magic" (hiker slang that describes an unexpected event or occurrence that lifts spirits, inspires awe, or invokes gratitude).
Trail magic experiences along the Camino de Santiago… Coming across a summer festival in a small village, enjoying a carton of fresh blueberries that were left for pilgrims (Camino hikers), and watching the sunset with other pilgrims at the beach which marks the end of the Camino.
I was also able to offer some magic to another; I found a cell phone one morning in the middle of the trail. I happened to meet and befriend the owner and was able to return her phone that same day.
The JMT had its own trail magic... This time I lost a belonging; my favorite headband. I had just about written it off, but several days later I had a chance encounter with a mother and daughter also going northbound. While in conversation, they mentioned something they found along the way that day, a pair of Darn Tough wool socks, and then proceeded to list everything else they had picked up in days prior… a glove, bandana, T-shirt, even a cooking pot! The very last thing they listed ended up being my headband, which they returned to me with a laugh at the stroke of serendipity.
I found that trail magic often revealed itself after meeting other hikers and hearing their stories. One such encounter allowed me another opportunity to return the favor… While taking shelter in the hut on Muir pass, I met two hikers. As we waited out the storm they told me how they had missed their resupply and were going to run out of food 3 days before their next resupply. It just so happened that I was going to hit my next resupply point the next day and my resupply was going to have the extra food for my hiking partner who had bailed. We arranged for them to meet me at the resupply point and I was able to give them the extra food which got them to their next resupply. We exchanged contact info and updated each other on our mutual successful completion of the trail over a week later.
It was these memories that came to mind as I read the words from Drill's coin: "every adventure is a story". These memories have become a part of my story and I look forward to the next chapter.
I hope you seek out your own story and encounter your own trail magic.
I'm Elise, otherwise known as Lisi. It may not appear this way through social media, (the highlight reel) but I live with reoccurring anxiety/panic attacks & social anxiety. About 6 years ago I was sitting in my garage, another year closer to 30, and I was lost. Too anxious to be in public around other people, too ashamed of my physical condition- depressed. My life had been difficult, from being a child sex abuse survivor, to a teenage mother, and so much more.
For whatever reason, something clicked in me that birthday as I sit on the concrete floor of my garage sobbing. I wanted to be strong. Someone my son could look up to. A wife my husband would be proud to stand beside. I wanted to live!
I started taking small strolls through Santa Margarita River Trail here in California. Just a few miles out and back on a straight path along the creek. The longer I spent in nature, the better I felt. I had time to really think about life and where I wanted to be. No one was around to judge me. It was peaceful and beautiful, but more importantly, it was quiet. It felt like a different world.
As time progressed, the hikes became longer and more challenging. I sought out tougher terrain and steeper inclines. My heart was literally healing as my body started to change. I began coming out of my shell, able to be in public again, go to the grocery store, the gym, and be a wife and a better Mother. I was able to have sustainable friendships because I finally felt good about myself.
I had gained confidence through Hiking! I met incredible new people who joined me on many trails, & rekindled old friendships. I was able to completely turn my life around and heal from within. Today I am an avid hiker. I use it as a form of therapy, and a means to stay fit. I am currently working towards accomplishing both 52 Hikers Challenge & Hiker Babes 100 hike challenge. I have explored 71 new hiking trails, adventured around the State of California, and finally found myself. I am forever humbled by nature’s ability to transform & challenge us. It is the ultimate antidepressant. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, OCD, etc., or just want to see what's out in the world, just step out onto the trail & let Nature help heal you.
I was in the middle of my 20th section hike of the Appalachian Trail, covering the 120 miles from Damascus, Virginia south to Erwin, Tennessee in late October 2008. The weather had been cool but pleasant, with daily highs in the mid-40s (20 degrees below average). A local weather forecast warned of possible snow hitting 6,285-foot tall Roan Mountain in the distance, but I felt reasonably prepared for something other than a huge dump.
My original plan called for a reasonable 15-mile day from Hampton to Moreland Shelter, but the sun was out, so I pushed to cover another 10 miles to the new Mountaineer Shelter. I was still half an hour from the shelter when night fell, and the big snowflakes reflected off the light from my headlamp, blinding me and obscuring the white trail blazes. I slogged on cautiously to reach shelter half an hour later.
That night was quite cold, but I was tired and slept well, awakening to a carpet of white in the morning. I was slated to stay at Mountain Haus hostel, only 9 miles away, so I took my time packing up and enjoying an easy walk in the light snowfall. It was lovely to get to the hostel by early afternoon, at which point I learned that they could drive me up to Carvers Gap the next morning so I could slack 15 miles back for another night at the hostel. That sounded a lot better than a night at Roan High Knob Shelter, the highest shelter on the AT on one of the projected coldest nights of the dwindling hiking season.
The next morning, we headed up the icy, snow-covered road to Carvers Gap at 5,823-feet of elevation. I had second thoughts about heading out as the truck was buffeted by high winds, but the drive up was scary enough, so I jumped out, grabbed my pack and waved good-bye. I was wearing everything I had, covered by my rain jacket (zipped up to my nose!) rain and pants. I sheltered from the wind in a small grove of pines and saw that my thermometer read a balmy 15 degrees before sliding on my sunglasses and heading trail-north over the open Balds.
Yes, it was cold, but if I kept moving it wasn’t too bad. What was bad was the wind – a good four-club sustained breeze (~40 mph) with intermittent gusts that had to touch 70 mph at times! Fortunately, the sky was crystal clear with exhilarating views of Grandfather and Beech Mountains to the east that offset a bit of my trepidation. Of course, no one had broken trail since yesterday’s snowfall, which looked to be about 6” with some drifting in places – deep enough to get over my boot tops (and chill my toes) yet also facilitating “boot skiing” down some slopes. I walked quickly to keep my temperature up, but cautiously as I knew no one would be passing this way until afternoon.
I met thru-hiker '2-Liter' just before Stan Murray Shelter. We had been leapfrogging the past week and he was surprised to encounter me heading north. After that I was alone again until Overmountain Shelter, where I ran into a middle school class out to learn about the Overmountain Men. By then it was touching 30 degrees and the wind had died a bit. After a quick snowball fight (that I lost) atop Little Hump they took a picture of me before I continued north. Of course, the wind kicked up again as I climbed the expansive, un-treed slopes of Hump Mountain, forcing me to shelter behind a big rock so I could warm up my hands. Even the famous longhorn steers that live here had the sense to stay away.
From there it was “all downhill”, although not uneventful. I finally re-entered the woods and encountered untracked trail again. Little did I know that there was a frozen creek under the rocks I was traversing. Without any warning I was lying prone and looking up at the sky through the trees. Uninjured, I hopped back up, took two more steps, and ended up in the same position! That slowed me down for a while as my energy flagged the last few miles back to the hostel where I had the small shower all to myself for half an hour.
Days like these are challenging and walk the fine line of sanity, but they are certainly unforgettable!
I was hiking in The Red Cliffs National Conservation area the other day, I spoke with a couple other hikers on my trek, and had the pleasure of meeting Drill on the trail. I was glad I met this fellow hiker, we had some interesting conversation, then something unexpected, he passed me a coin and told me about this site.
So-I’m going to share my story.
My Journey into the Outdoors...
If you would have asked me a year ago if I wanted to go for a hike, my answer would have probably been 'No Thanks' even though I was living in sunny California. Then life threw me a curve ball, I packed up my belongings and I moved to Utah.
Upon arrival, my attitude, and more importantly, my happiness changed. I discovered the beauty of the outdoors. Every turn, every angle, every view displays Mother Nature at her greatest! Each trail provides various colors, rock formations and challenges that can be conquered solo or with a group.
Since I started hiking in July 2020, I have trekked over 250 miles and climbed 25,000ft. of elevation in the Southern Utah area. I have formed bonds with hiking buddies that have become my friends. We share this same adventurous side. I empower everyone to take that first step- see for yourself how the outdoors can change you; meet others that will experience what your eyes see and share those stories.
Get out and hike- you won't regret it!
A year ago this week, in February 2020, I was gripped with unshakeable anxiety. I was under such an incredible amount of stress in a new management role at my job. The stress had crept up slowly, like the frog slowly boiling in a pot of water analogy. I hadn’t realized how much stress I was under because instead of the typical panicked feeling, I felt physically ill. My jaw was sore from constantly grinding my teeth. I had bad headaches. My stomach hurt every single day, tied up in such knots that I couldn’t eat but was always thirsty. My breathing was shallow and I was constantly on the brink of bursting into tears.
I had reached the point of burnout, barely six months into my new role.
My boss noticed and intervened. “Take some time off,” he ordered. When I refused, citing the pile of work that was all coming due, he said “I’ll take care of it. Go for a hike or something. Do what you need to do to feel right again.”
I did love hiking, certainly. Up until that point I had treated hiking as another challenge to take on. I was the kind of person who was always trying to accomplish something. I didn’t ever stop to smell the roses, or to celebrate my accomplishments. I was always chugging along to the next big thing, and hiking was no exception. My meticulous adventure plans involved researching the best way to peak bag, or hit all the items from my “hiking list.”
As I begrudgingly took time off work, I started planning for a hike. I ended up choosing a popular hike in the Catskill Mountains, known as Giant’s Ledge. I packed my daypack, my snowshoes, and my microspikes, (since it was still winter) and took off to the mountains.
The day was a beautiful day like no other, the weather warm and sunny. It was a solo hike for me since it was the middle of the week and nobody I knew would be able to go with me. I didn’t mind going alone - I was supposed to be on a soul-searching mission. I needed the time to think.
On the trail, I took care to notice the little things around me. The way the sun felt on my skin. The slight breeze dancing through the trees. The way my spikes dug into the walls of ice, allowing me to climb up them like I was some kind of super-hero.
The lookout point was just as beautiful as everyone described, sweeping views to the mountain beyond. I stopped and ate lunch. I took a thousand photos. I did everything I could to really just focus on the moment, and think only about what I was seeing in front of me. I desperately needed this in order to clear my mind of the mental clutter.
I remembered just feeling SO good, breathing in the fresh air. I took my time and enjoyed the process of discovery and exploration. One of my fondest moments took place in a thick set of pines. The sun was streaming through the branches which were full of melting snow, causing a magnificent show of sparkling droplets showering everywhere around me. It felt poetic. It made me feel so poetic that I actually sat and started writing down my thoughts and feelings about that moment. I used to love writing; I don’t know why I ever stopped.
I’d love to say that it was a transformative event for me and that everything went back to rainbows and sunshine afterwards. Over the long term, I’ve come to look at that hike as a pivotal moment. But initially, the situation became much darker when I returned. The pandemic was throwing the entire world into crisis. My new role at my job became even more difficult and stressful. I felt helpless and lost.
The difference was that I was beginning to learn how to cope, and over time my mental wellbeing became better. I started using hiking as therapy to help me in my moments of helplessness. I used the stillness of the wilderness to escape when my world was spinning out of control. I became deliberate about seeking the outdoors as a regular dose of meditation. I still have hiking goals to achieve, but now; I also hike for the pure enjoyment of it, which is the greatest accomplishment of all.
1. Your story must be 350-750 words maximum
2. Must include a photo
3. No Profanity or Negativity permitted
4. Must be your own rugged outdoor experience
5. By submitting a story you agree to allow us to publish it upon review
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