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Hike Like a Goat: Part 1—Plan to Fall

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Hike Like a Goat

This 7 part series came out of a conversation that my Honey and I had about being sure footed on the trail. She wanted to leave the fear of falling behind with all of its timidness and tentativeness. In other words she wanted to Walk Like a Goat. When I said that the first time to her, she wanted to know what that meant because it sounded derogatory…until I explained: a goat is confident  and relaxed on rugged and uneven ground—so stable and skilled on her feet is that goat that falling is not even a fleeting thought. Walking Like a Goat is a high complement for any Honey on the trail.

Let’s unpack Part 1 of this series called:

Plan to Fall

To plan to fall—to anticipate what could happen during the step you are about to take and having the very next step picked out just in case. It’s about being mentally prepared and practiced so that you will react with beautiful adjustments—stepping gracefully forward.

As my feet fly down the trail over rocks and roots I stutter step, hop, glide and skid without thinking about it. But when she asked, “How do you do that and not fall?” I began to pay attention and realized that it is all just planned falling.

In terribly slow detail here is what essentially happens. I step out for what looks like a good place to step. It looks like it will hold my weight and not move under me. It looks like I can push off of it for the next step while controlling the direction and speed.

Then as I run, in the same split second, I am picking out the next spot with that same criteria and one more—where am I going if I start to fall? If the first step isn’t solid and something under my foot moves, I have a plan. If I can’t push of it like I had hoped, I’m ready.

This process of selecting good footing is slow at first but with practice it will come much more quickly.

It is not only the selection of the footing itself but it is that your body is ready to react. You don’t know which way your ankle or knee will need to adjust but you are ready for any adjustment. It feels a little bit like playing outfield in baseball or softball. You assume a ready position with your legs bent, your weight slightly forward and evenly distributed down into the balls of both feet—ready to spring in any direction to catch the ball.

Muscle memory develops with repetition and your body “knows” what to do to adjust.

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My Honey slips, executes her plan for this occasional eventuality and quickly regains stability

Ideally you will pick a spot that is solid but in the event that you don’t your body will be ready to make the adjustments and move to the next step because you picked it out and because your body is practiced at quick adjustments.

I used to think that it was just a natural athletic ability but it can be learned. Be grateful if you have it and you don’t have to think about it or practice, but if you are like my Honey who used to trip on flat sidewalks, you will have to practice and think it thorough but it can be learned.

My Honey is the proof. Her confidence and speed has risen and she is so much more relaxed. She’s having more fun and so can you. It’s an easy process that can be learned.

Hike Like a Goat—a Skills Series


Practicing “trail goat” skills

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and realized that you can’t explain how or why you do what you do? I found myself in just such a conversation of our first all day hike.

We had hiked 4.5 miles up to Weser Bald with some good friends and climbed the Fire Tower. On the way back down it was pretty steep in places and we were on wet leaves. I noticed that my Honey was stepping tentatively and carefully. She had climbed up with strength and confidence so I was puzzled about what I was observing. As we talked about how to be sure footed, I struggle for words.

I was at a complete loss to explain how to be surefooted on different surfaces. I couldn’t articulate how to descend a steep hill and not fall down.

My Honey was struggling with a little fear of slipping on wet leaves and needed some more confidence about how to do it.

“Well, you just…” I would start off saying. I would try to finish that sentence with something that sounded intelligent and nothing seemed to make enough sense to resonate with her.

I am blessed with the gift of good balance. I can turn around on trails while running and talk to the people behind me—ducking low branches and hopping over rocks and roots without giving any of it a second thought.

But could I explain how? …no!

My Honey is a determined lady. When she set her mind to be with me on the trail, she would participate and she was going to learn all she needed to know. There was no going back or giving up—so she asked me to think about it and give her step by step instructions. She wanted me to unpack what was innate so she could get some of my trail goat/monkey skills.

Her goal was to gain more confidence through practice. Not just any practice but informed repetition. It’s just a skill and it can be learned.

What will follow is a seven part series that details those conversations—just me the billy goat explaining to my ewe what works for me and trying to pass on the skill.


We will process the following ideas:

1. Plan to Fall

2. Center of Gravity

3. Surface Contact

4. Hiking Poles

5. Ankles and Knees

6. Better Traction

7. Core Strength

She has developed into a more confident and skillful hiker over what has now been two years of practice. She will be pitching in with her perspective as we go. Her loving desire and determination to learn has earned her some genuine mountain goat like skills!