I’m not exactly sure when I stumbled on my idea to celebrate 40 years of life by doing 40 different hikes, calling it my Hike 40 project. But I know with certainty that, while I expected it to be fun and interesting, I never anticipated it would be as rewarding and amazing as it’s been so far.
I love that my Hike 40 project is an impetus to be outside and explore green spaces wherever I go. Each hike is a healthy dose of fitness. It’s prompted me to learn more about local conservation organizations like Natural Lands and Lancaster Conservancy as well as the many local parks and arboretums around where I live. I even decided to volunteer to help maintain trails for Natural Lands after hiking several of their properties and deepening my interest in their work.
More than anything though, the best part about this Hike 40 project is the people. When I tell others about my project, it garners so much interest. Some simply think it’s novel and creative, which is great. Even better, so many friends and family want to help me achieve my goal!
My Hike 40 project has unquestionably created opportunities for adventure with people and in places I never would have explored. Countless family and friends suggest we meet up for a hike instead of going out to lunch or squeeze in a hike during a trip together.
Friends have shared some of their favorite places to hike with me, sometimes as a verbal suggestion and other times as an invite to adventure together. They’ve shown me incredible new places and taken me into beautiful spaces.
From the onset of this project, I anticipated I’d get a bit of exercise and find new parks or preserves not previously on my radar. I thought it was a creative way to get to know where I live better and celebrate turning 40 without a lot of pomp and circumstance. And when I couldn’t decide with whom I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday, I thought hiking would let me celebrate with some close family and friends on a few of the hikes in different capacities.
But I never anticipated how many people would become part of my year-long celebration, each contributing an hour or an afternoon or an overnight trip into a fabric of so much goodness (about a milestone I’m not that thrilled about passing…).
All About My Hike 40 Project
I get a lot of questions about the project related to how it came about, the types of rules I implemented, how it’s going, etc… If you’re curious (or maybe considering a similar project to celebrate a milestone in your life), here are answers to a bunch of questions about my Hike 40 project to mark 40 years on this beautiful planet.
When did you start and when do you plan to finish?
I came up with the idea in February or March of 2023, a few months before my 40th birthday. I knew 40 hikes in one year would be a tight window of time for me, and I had some trips coming up (before my birthday) that would include good opportunities to hike. So instead of waiting to get started, I began my project right away. I did my first hike in March 2023 and will do most of the hikes while I’m 40 years old. I intend to finish before my 41st birthday in July of 2024.
What rules do you have for yourself?
I tried not to make too many rules because it’s supposed to be fun and I wanted it to be flexible enough to fit into my life. Generally, the hikes need to be in natural green spaces (like parks and preserves), be at least a mile long (3-6 miles is my sweet spot), and each must be in a different location or different part of a particular park.
Who do you hike with?
I have hiked with so many different people. I did a couple of hikes by myself, some with my husband, others with my husband and boys, a few with my family, and some with friends. Part of what’s been so beautiful about how this has unfolded is the vast number of people who are interested in doing one hike with me to help me reach my goal.
How often do you hike?
It varies. Sometimes I hike a few times a week, and then I won’t do any hikes for several weeks. It really depends on what else is going on in life. So far, I’ve finished 19 hikes in 4.5 months.
How do you find hikes?
My favorite resources to find hikes are AllTrails and local land conservancy websites. If I’m traveling, I’ll do some research in advance to find good hikes in parks or preserves where I’m traveling or by using “best of” blogs about that area.
In some cases, I just use AllTrails once I arrive, because it’s pretty easy to look for trails “near me” using the app. For example, I did one hike a couple of weeks ago during warm-ups for my son’s baseball game. Once we arrived, I found a trail just a few minutes away and walked 20 minutes down the path and then 20 minutes back to the car to be back to the field in time for the first pitch.
Related Reading: 13 Tips | How To Find Hiking Trails Wherever You Are
Who takes all the photos and videos?
I take most of the photos and videos myself. Sometimes I bring my little tripod with me and other times I just set my camera against a tree or a water bottle to prop it up for a group photo.
From time to time, my boys, my husband, or a friend will take the camera for a bit, but I try not to bother them too much about it. I want them to enjoy the hike and not feel like they’re my traveling photographer instead of my hiking companion.
Do you ever get lost hiking new places?
Not really (fingers crossed I’m not jinxing it). I almost always download the AllTrails map on my phone before we leave. Most locations don’t have service once we get into the heart of the hike. This has been a lifesaver on many occasions to keep us on track.
With practice, I’ve learned more about how to look for and follow trail markers as well as which paths are groomed paths and which ones are probably just deer paths. (Did you know deer tend to follow the same paths from day to day?) I’ve gotten a little off course on one hike so far with a friend, but we were back on track in about 20 minutes.
What has surprised you most about the project?
First and foremost, the response from family and friends has been more than I could have imagined. I never expected how many people would be interested enough to offer up suggestions or take the initiative to go hiking with me.
I thought I might be able to drag my family on some hikes or ask a few friends from time to time to walk through the woods with me. But I’ve been so graciously and humbly surprised by how many people have made it a point to suggest going on a hike together or squeezing a hike into a trip we already planned.
I’ve also been surprised by how much joy I get going back and watching the videos I create from each hike. From the beginning, the documenting creator in me had a vision for the @hikeforty Instagram journal that would accompany my project.
After each hike, I make a quick video montage with some relevant music to document the adventure. The videos aren’t fancy or created with any intent to generate a new audience, simply as a place to document for me all the fun hikes I’ve completed.
I go back to these videos and watch them many times, and they continue to make me smile. And seeing how beautiful our green spaces are, how could we not want to protect these and make sure they’re well-cared for and waiting for our children and their children?
What are your favorite parts of the project?
Fortunately, the hikes are one of my favorite parts of the project. I also really enjoy planning them – researching what options are around us and getting to know the open spaces and community green spaces in and around where we live (or where we are traveling).
And of course, spending time with the people who hike with me has been the biggest benefit of all. I’m an introvert, so I expected to enjoy a lot of solo hikes. But after doing one or two, they really aren’t my jam.
As a female, I feel a bit like my head is on a swivel the entire time, always having to be a bit on edge knowing that I’m alone in a secluded area in most cases. But I also just really enjoy the company and undisturbed, internet-free time together.
What are your least favorite parts of the project?
I love having the @hikeforty Instagram journal and plan to make a printed photo book about the experience. But I don’t love the process of actually making them. Video editing and culling photos are not that exciting for me, even though they are worth the end product.
I also take a few notes about each hike after I get home to remember the date and location of the hike, with whom I hiked, and some notable memories from the day. When I make the photo book, I’ll just copy and paste these notes on the page for each hike. I suspect making the photo book will feel tedious, but I’ll be so happy to have it when I’m done.
Got any other questions for me? I’d be happy to answer them in the comments.
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About The Author
Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.