Step into your learning zone for adventures that build confidence and create lifelong memories

By Hilary Dartt • Photos by Trisha Shaffer

Adventuring is good for the soul.

Stepping out of your comfort zone and into what Amanda Lane, co-owner of The Hike Shack, calls your “learning zone,” can help you “figure out what you’re actually capable of.”

And, it can “brighten your day and give you this boost of encouragement and satisfaction.”

Last year saw a 200 percent increase in trail usage across the country, according to an article in The Cut, which quotes a rep from the American Hiking Society.

This, Amanda said, is one boon of the pandemic.

“A lot of people are getting outside and hitting the trails and buying bikes who have never done that before. And [in many cases] they’re doing it with their kids.”

That’s good news, she said: “I don’t think there is any personality type that would not benefit from getting outside, even just a little bit. It doesn’t have to be big, but I believe you do need to go outside and play, for your mental health.”

Stretching beyond an old, comfortable routine is easier for some than it is for others.

Here are some of Amanda’s tips for stepping out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone—and adventure:

Take small steps.

“Set a goal, and take steps to get there,” Amanda said. “A lot of people say, ‘We’re going to do the Grand Canyon.’ Start with Thumb Butte, up and back. See how you feel. The next week, go to Granite. And then Spruce. Keep pushing yourself a little farther until you reach that larger goal.”

Every time you meet a smaller goal, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment that will drive you to meet the next one, Amanda said. With that in mind, start by setting manageable goals you’re reasonably sure to achieve. She cautioned against setting big goals that send you right past your comfort zone and into your fear zone, which can lead to a negative experience and prevent you from trying again.

Set yourself up for success.

From knowledge to gear to practice runs, make sure you have what you need to enjoy your adventure.

“Know before you go,” Amanda said.

Research or ask an experienced friend to find out what you need, good places to start, and any other tips for a fun, satisfying adventure. The right gear and knowledge can make all the difference.

“Get a baseline education,” Amanda said. “Finding someone who has a little experience they’re willing to share is important. You don’t want to jump in the deep end without a friend there to pull you to the side if you need help.”

Also, Amanda said, if you have a big goal in mind—for example, an overnight backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon—do a local practice run first.

Surround yourself with positive people who have similar goals.

Recently, Amanda and her husband planned a couple’s backpacking trip to Buckskin Gulch, a slot canyon that spans Arizona and Utah. When the men ended up not being able to go, the women decided to go anyway … and it was a blast.

“It turned out to be an amazing trip,” Amanda said.

“I’ve never really had a group of girls interested in backpacking with me, but all of us were on the same page, we’re all in our 40s, and by happenstance, we stumbled into this trip.”

For each type of adventuring she does—hiking, mountain biking, paddle boarding, rock climbing, hunting, and recently, motorcycle riding—Amanda has a different group of “adventuring buddies.”

Last year, for example, she got a bow and started shooting with her brother and nephew.

“It has brought us all closer together,” she said. “We love having shooting competitions. We hang out, talk, help each other improve, and just catch up.”

They invited Amanda to attend the Ultimate Archery Challenge in Park City this year, and she said that while she never imagined herself up there shooting bows with the guys, she did it. She also killed her first deer with a bow this year and called that “one of the most inspiring things I have been able to do myself.”

“To provide food for my family in an archery hunt was incredibly rewarding and you could have seen my smile for a mile away when that buck went down.”

Her dog, Pip, is her Number One Girl, and although she considers herself an introvert, she loves sharing experiences with others.

Be willing to adjust and course-correct as you go (and know that it’s an option!).

One of the girls said, “We show up to the trailhead, it starts snowing, we hike two miles. Then we head back, get in the car, find a hotel, and drink margaritas all weekend.”

Not a bad Plan B.

Fortunately, the weather was good. Still, Amanda worried that her legs may not cooperate (she’s still dealing with the effects of her cancer treatment a few years ago).

“I decided we could hike a few miles, set up camp, get a good night’s sleep, and reevaluate in the morning.”

Amanda practices what she preaches: a few years ago, she got into riding motorcycles. Although she’d been exposed to the sport before, she’d never felt ready to actually get on a bike until more recently. She prepared herself, got the right gear, and went for it.

“I was terrified to get on that motorcycle,” she said, “but I knew that I had to at least try. If I crashed, I had a helmet and pads. If I hated it, fine. But I loved it. Now I want to ride all the time.”

Her mindset was key: “The success was so much more exciting than the failure. I had to accept that I could fail, but I had to ask myself, ‘How bad could the failure really be?’”

As she practiced riding laps in her driveway while wearing gear, she knew the failure was likely to be small. And using the brake, shifting, and steering took some practice. She got a little overconfident and crashed into a planter.

When she got up, she was laughing. Then she went again.

With 500 miles of single-track trail in the Prescott area, locals have nature at their fingertips.

COVID, she said, “has forced us to find ways to entertain ourselves and our kids, and it’s not Disneyland. It turns out, it’s our own back yard and it has so much to offer.”

So, get out there! Set goals, adventure, and enjoy.

Stop by The Hike Shack at 104 N. Montezuma Street in Prescott or call 928.443.8565 or visit