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Volunteer Spotlight: Guided Hike Leader Steve Coz

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Volunteer Spotlight: Guided Hike Leader Steve Coz

 What do volunteers do? Volunteers lead SHTA Guided Hikes!

Below is an interview with volunteer Steve Coz, who will celebrate leading his 30th SHTA Guided Hike this weekend at Hike Fest:

How did you become a Hike Leader?: Many years ago some hikes were on Wednesdays and finding a hike leader was problematic because not many people were interested in leading.  I contacted the SHTA office and volunteered.  My first guided hike was from Lutsen to Oberg and it still remains my most memorable guided hike. (See bottom of page for that first-ever hike report.)

What is the smallest group you’ve led, and what is the largest?: Smallest group I’ve ever had was 7 on 1/21/12 from  Oberg to the Leveaux Pond West campsite.  The largest group was 54 (!!) on 9/27/14 from the lower chalet at Spirit Mountain to Beck’s Road.  Not surprisingly, the January hike was a snowshoe hike (without much snow) and the September hike was a fall color hike.

Do you have a favorite section to lead hikes on?: Starting at Lutsen and going in either direction is always a favorite.  There’s an overlook between Oberg and Britton that rivals the view from Oberg, which I’ve always felt offers the best view from ANYPLACE  around Lake Superior and this overlook is worthy of more of my attention.  In Duluth, the section between Highland and Haines is hard to beat.

A winter hike led by Steve

What advice do you have for people coming to their first SHTA guided hike?: Check the website for a description of the hike and pay particular attention to how the hike is rated (easy, moderate, difficult).  Honestly and critically review your ability and experience–people have an almost unlimited capacity to delude themselves.  Make sure that you know your gear, whether it’s clothes or poles or boots or snowshoes. And pack more water than you think you’ll need.  Release your expectations and focus on what Nature gives you that day because it’ll be different the next day. Most important:  The goal is never finishing the hike.  The goal is always not getting hurt.

What advice do you have for people wanting to lead SHTA guided hikes?: What are you waiting for??  Leading hikes is a wonderful way to meet new people.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself into a group of strangers–most of the people on the guided hikes don’t know most of the other people, so you won’t be alone in not knowing whoever shows up.  You never know who is going to walk into your life.

Steve’s first guided hike

What do you think will change about guided hikes over the next five years?: Over the years, more and more people have expressed interest in leading hikes and I expect that to continue, as people who have never led a hike learn about all of the benefits that come with leading hikes.  I think that 5 years from now, it’ll be harder for an individual to lead more than 1 or 2 hikes in a year.  I try to lead 4 or 5 hikes a year but with more people wanting to lead hikes, that’ll be harder to do.  It pays to be on the committee that schedules the hikes!!

Here is Steve’s first-ever Hike Leader report:
October 5, 2005, found one hike leader, one naturalist and 12 other amphibious souls wading, treading and swimming the seven miles from Lutsen to Oberg Mountain on a day that could only be described as “wet, wet, and more wet.  Windy too!”  People that wished for brilliant blue skies to complement the colors of the leaves were instead given the opportunity to enjoy the colors in a cool rain, when the sights and sounds and smells of a wet forest give a hike pause to reflect:  one doesn’t need nice weather to have a nice time.  Fog drifting up from a river valley, a tree crashing to the ground, cool air on your cheeks, and in the background…everywhere…the soothing sound of rain.

Thanks to Steve and all our Hike Leaders for helping hundreds of people discover the joys of hiking . . . even in the rain.