By David Seslar
Any trip requires a leader. The trip leader creates the trip by deciding when and where to go, getting the trip into the schedule, taking the seemingly endless phone calls, et cetera, et cetera. WITHOUT TRIP LEADERS THERE ARE NO TRIPS.
Many people quail at the thought of leading trips. (Many trip leaders also quail at the thought of leading trips, but that’s another story.) A great void appears to yawn before them - what all needs to be done and how will I ever get it done? This article tries to give the new trip leader an idea of what needs to be done, a framework to follow when planning a trip. Because I usually lead boating trips these days, the examples given here are mostly oriented towards boating but the general principles and tasks are similar for many types of trips.
There are two kinds of trip leaders (actually there are lots of kinds, but I’m chopping them into two piles). A ‘Type A’ trip leader is the best and strongest boater or backpacker, has been everywhere and done every river and trail and all kinds of trips. ‘Type A’ has a huge trip vehicle, is a superb group cook, has nothing to do before the trip but plan and take phone calls, can handle all sorts of medical emergencies requiring less than 4 pints of blood, and can build a boat, backpack or litter in the field with nothing more than a dull spoon and 5 feet of duct tape. ‘Type A’ often ends up doing everything, getting little help and having little fun.
A ‘Type R’ trip leader on the other hand takes a much more relaxed approach. ‘Type R’ realizes that it’s not necessary to be the best or the strongest or the most knowledgeable person on the trip. Instead the trip leader should be an administrator, investigating and organizing the strengths and abilities of all the people on the trip, making sure things get taken care of but not doing everything himself. Many people are happy to help and will do a great deal to help the trip, especially if you put YOUR name, number and e-mail address in the newsletter schedule.
You as a trip leader don’t have to and aren’t expected to do everything yourself. Don’t be shy: ask people for a bit of help. You can lead trips to places you’ve never been, rivers and trails you’ve never done or doing things you have limited skills in, with the assistance of others. But someone needs to get the ball rolling and that someone could be you.
The first thing to decide as trip leader is where and when to go. This can a bit fickle for many kinds of trips since seasons and weather can dictate what is reasonable or possible to ski or hike or paddle. Many rivers are too low to paddle in the summer unless you’re there when it’s raining. High water in spring may leave trail river crossings impassable. Four inches of snow could be too little to ski and too much to bike. So, once you’ve picked your when, be a bit flexible about what you paddle or hike or do. There’s almost always something to do similar to what you’d planned.
Where to go?! So many places, so little time. One of the easiest ways to lead your first trips is to go to places, trails and rivers you’ve been to before. You know what the river or trail is like, maybe you remember how to get to the trailhead or how to drive from the put-in to the river’s take-out. For places you haven’t been to or if you don’t remember the details (perhaps you slept all the way to the put-in last time), ask other people who have been there for details, or consult guidebooks.
Guidebooks can provide a vast amount of information for trails, rivers and coasts almost anywhere you want to go. Any worthy outdoor shop will carry some, all backpacking and boating catalogs carry books on many areas. Area libraries have a limited selection of guidebooks and some C.O.P. activities have a small library of books. Many outdoor magazines such as Backpacker, Outside, Paddler, or Canoe and Kayak have articles on places to go with good resource information. If you have internet access, there are many commercial, club, government and personal web pages with useful information - try your public library for internet access if you don’t have other means. Many of the most active backpackers and boaters have libraries of their own covering many areas of the country that you might be able to look at to plan your trip. However, if you’re planning a long trip or use someone’s book more than a couple times, it’s probably time to get your own.
Maps are also an important resource. Topographic maps, state and county road maps, river and lake maps, coastal charts, all may be important. There many sources - map stores, book stores, catalogs, USGS, ODNR, and other state and federal agencies can be sources. One of the most useful types of map publications is the statewide county atlas available for many states. DeLorme seems to publish the best ones.
Now that you’ve decided when and where to go, you need to advertise to attract people for your trip. Typically this is done through the Trip Schedule in middle of the Columbus Outdoors newsletter. This means you need to notify the activity leader or the activity scheduling coordinator by the end of the month at least two months in advance of your trip because of newsletter lead times. Ask the activity leader who their coordinator is. The trip may also appear on the C.O.P. website in the activity’s schedule listings.
This assumes that you already have the permission of the activity leader to lead the trip either on your own or with an approved co-leader. If you are leading a C.O.P. trip that is a week long or longer, you also must have the permission of the C.O.P. Board of Directors. This is done through the activity leader during the monthly board meeting, and should be done a couple months in advance of the trip. If you have the support of the activity leader, usually this will be mostly a formality since the activity leader will have made sure you have covered all of the bases. The Board does prefer that you’ve taken the C.O.P. Leadership class and that someone on the trip has some first aid training. The activity leader should make sure you have the appropriate forms for the trip - liability waiver, incident report form, deposit form, etc. Don’t know what to do with all of the forms? The leadership class will help you with all of that and more! Sign up today! Available in one-day and modular form!
To be continued next month.
... WITHOUT TRIP LEADERS THERE ARE NO TRIPS ...