From Military Service to Hiking Trails: Michelle's Inspiring Journey and Mission to Spark Adventure
Michelle, an outdoor enthusiast and the inspiring force behind Hiking Bingo.
17th Jul | 6 min read

Table of Contents

    A military veteran with a lifelong passion for exploring the world, Michelle has embarked on countless adventures, from scuba diving in Okinawa to trekking through the English Lake District. Through her blog, she shares her experiences, tips, and resources to encourage others to embrace the wonders of nature.

    Michelle talks about the transformative power of the outdoors and her mission to inspire others to embark on their own hiking and camping expeditions.

    Backpacking In The Maroon Bells Wilderness Colorado

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    What Sparked My Interest In Outdoors 

    I have spent plenty of time outside as a military veteran and also personally while training for triathlons, camping, hiking, skiing, and swimming. 

    These adult activities are rooted in my time spent as a kid constantly playing outside—riding a bike, playing tag, camping, climbing trees, building forts, and exploring. Why do I continue to spend time outside? 

    Spending time outdoors and helping plan hiking trips for others really helped me find my purpose after retiring from the military. Now, being outdoors in the wilderness often brings me peacefulness and solitude, combined with the opportunity to exercise and a chance to spend time with friends

    Day Hike In Crater Lake National Park

    How Often I Travel 

    I go on adventures as often as I can, whether that means a day hike, a backpacking trip, or a longer road trip filled with intermediate stops for outdoor activities. 

    Summer is often dedicated to family outdoor adventures, while I try to do more hiking on my own or with friends during the late spring and fall. Winter brings plenty of opportunities for skiing and snowshoeing.

    Backpacking In Yosemite National Park

    How I Plan For My Next Destination

    I like to travel to new places I’ve never been to yet. I keep a notes page on my phone filled with cool places to explore that I have heard of or read about.

    I find travel ideas from reading other blogs such as GAFFL, belonging to several Facebook groups on hiking and listening to recommendations from friends. 

    Once I’ve decided on a location, I read as much about the location as possible. I search for travel blogs about that location on the internet, and I purchase topographic maps if I’m planning on hiking while visiting the location.

    Sunset At Our Campsite In Colorado During A Family Road Trip

    How I Pack For My Trips  

    What I pack for my trips depends on the destination and length of each trip. My rule of thumb is: “If it doesn’t fit in a backpack, it doesn’t come with me.” For longer trips, I often start packing several days and sometimes a week in advance to ensure I have everything I need and nothing that I don’t. Having a plan for carrying or obtaining water is a must-have for all my adventures.

    Day hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon

    My Outdoor Adventures Around the World  

    I had the opportunity to live overseas for seven years and spent time exploring Japan, the Republic of Korea, and England. Some of my favorite activities included scuba diving and snorkeling in Okinawa, Japan, and hiking and camping in the Lake District in England.

    More of my favorite exciting adventures include zip-lining in Costa Rica and Honduras, kayaking and biking in Alaska, and sailing in Croatia, Australia, and Thailand. Closer to home, my most memorable backpacking trips have taken place in Yosemite National Park, California, and the Maroon Bells Wilderness in Colorado, U.S.A. As for my bucket list, in the short term, I would like to explore Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada.

    Longer-term goals include hiking the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S.A., completing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Europe, and trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru.

    Zip Lining In Honduras

    My Inspiration To Start Blogging  

    The idea for “Hiking Bingo” was born following a road trip and hiking excursion we took with friends one summer.

    What began as an idea for a hiking scavenger hunt for kids has evolved into an opportunity to provide hiking and camping resources to help my readers better plan and enjoy their outdoor adventures.

    My Hiking Bingo blog’s mission is to inspire people to explore the outdoors!

    Views From The Top Of Hiking To Lassen Peak In California

    Favorite Memories Of Meeting New People  

    I met a wonderful group of ladies on a guided backpacking trip I took to Ten Lakes in Yosemite National Park, U.S.A. We hiked and camped together for several wonderful days.

    Since that trip, several of us have kept in touch and have organized our own backpacking trips to places such as the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado and Young Lakes in Yosemite National Park, California. 

    I not only found an amazing wilderness adventure on that guided backpacking trip, but I also gained several lifelong friends and a confidence that I could organize and lead backpacking trips on my own.

    Biking In Alaska With My Husband Dave

    Safety Measures That I Take  

    Before heading out into the wilderness, I review my Wilderness First Aid training, check the items in my first aid kit, study maps of the area, ensure my Garmin in Reach is properly set up, and prepare a detailed description of where I will be traveling to give to family and friends.

    Backpacking toward the West Maroon Bells Pass from Aspen to Crested Butte Colorado

    Some Challenges That I've Faced

    Some of my major challenges involve planning trips around everything else going on in my family’s lives! While I would really enjoy taking the time to travel full-time in an RV, I save that as a goal for the future. Now, I prioritize family outdoor activities when school is not in session and focus on personal hiking adventures during other times of the year. 

    Though I do not work full-time, I combine my enthusiasm for volunteering with my love of the outdoors to include working with trail repair crews through the American Hiking Society as well as participating in local outdoor trail repair and clean-up groups.

    Backpacking To Young Lakes In Yosemite National Park

    How GAFFL Can Help Outdoor Enthusiasts

    GAFFL provides both experienced and new solo travelers with valuable information about conquering travel destinations as solo travelers and instilling confidence in solo travelers.

    While on my hiking adventures, I use apps such as All Trails, Colorado Trail Explorer, Free Roam, Avenza Maps, and to help me learn about and navigate hiking trails and locate overnight campsites.

    One Of My Most Exciting Travel Experiences

    Our road trip adventures recently took our family to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California, U.S.A. We enjoyed a scenic drive through the park and explored several areas, but we had no intention of hiking Lassen Peak that day. As we drove near the trail to the peak, it was already well into the afternoon. 

    We decided to hike up a little way, but we carried backpacks with food, water, and layers of clothing. As we climbed, the trail rose higher and higher and continued to switch back and forth across the face of the mountain.

    The temperature dropped, and we carefully crossed several areas of snow and ice covering the trail near steep drop-offs over the edge of the mountain. An hour and a half later, we made it to the top of the mountain after ascending 1,957 feet along the 2.4-mile one-way trail. 

    The views were spectacular! We enjoyed a small picnic meal and began the trip down again, where we enjoyed even more breathtaking views. Lesson learned? Sometimes, the best adventures aren’t planned at all. They just happen!  

    Kayaking In Alaska With My Husband Dave

    Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I First Started

    Specific to hiking, I wish I’d spent more time researching gear before I embarked on my backpacking adventures. I was carrying way too much weight in my pack when I first started backpacking. I’ve now cut a significant amount of weight from my gear by focusing on carrying only the necessities and ensuring each piece of my equipment is ultralight.

    Having Fun Exploring England

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