Leadership & Hiking in the Adirondacks


Hiking is a team sport, especially when one does it for weeks at a time. Doing everything from preparing meals to following the best trails takes leadership and team building. Youth Leadership InItiative (InIt) alum Iman Hussain was ready for the challenge as they took part in their first backpacking experience through the Adirondacks.

After graduating from InIt in May, Iman took part in NOLS, a wilderness program that helps participants cultivate their leadership potential. Each year, one to two recent InIt graduates participate in NOLS with funding help from Bill Berman, a NOLS alumni, and his wife Liz Baum, who are both YW Boston Persimmon Society Members. Learn about Iman’s experience, and how InIt prepared them for the trip, in the interview below:

1. Tell us about your NOLS expedition.

My expedition was a two week backpacking trip in the Adirondacks of New York. There were 8 kids and 2 instructors total. Every day we woke up at around 7 ate and backpacked for 2-4 miles then set up camp ate again and slept. One of the cool things about the trip was that we made our own food since we were mostly given basic ingredients like rice, butter, beans, oatmeal and other stuff. There were some dehydrated ready-made meals but for the most part we created our own meals. Since NOLS is a leadership school we also learned skills on how to become a good leader and we’re given at least one day where each of us lead a hiking group. On one of the last days we were given the chance to hike without the instructors being present in order to show off our skills. Over the entire trip we all hiked about 48 miles and summited both Moose mountain and Mt. Whiteface. 

2. Why did you decide to join the expedition? Did you have much backpacking experience before the trip?

I had no backpacking experience before this trip so I think I joined just because it sounded cool and the pictures that Liz and Bill showed us were very pretty so I wanted to experience that too

3. How did your InIt experience prepare you for your trip?

On my trip all of the kids were rich and most of them were white so they said some slightly offensive things. My experience with InIt gave me the tools necessary to stand up to them and try to educate them when they were wrong. 

4. What new leadership skills did you gain over the course of the expedition?

I gained more confidence in my skills as a backpacker and my ability to be able to guide a group through tough terrain. I gained a more tolerant mindset for unexpected changes and difficulties. I gained a trust for my abilities to make a good decision quickly.

5. What was one of your favorite moments on the trip?

One of my favorite moments was when we summitted Mt. Whiteface because it took several hours to get to the top with trails and steep inclines and basically as close to rock climbing as you can get without needing a rope. This was also the day after the reration so our backpacks were really heavy with 7 days worth of food and by the time I was at the top I was so tired there were tears in my eyes but the view made it all worth it. We could see everywhere that we had been and that we were going and way farther. In addition the shocked looks of tourists when they found out we hiked up were priceless.

6. Do you have any backpacking tips you’d like to share?

  • Liner socks which are thin cotton socks that go under your wool socks will save you from blisters and rubbing so remember to wear them. 
  • Your feet will definitely get wet through your boots since there are many river crossings so just get your feet wet or muddy and hope they dry later.
  • Remember to bring a zip lock bag for any paper products or things that can’t get wet.
  • Bring some sort of rubber camp shoe like crocs if you can because you have to wear shoes in the water if you ever want to swim.
  • Bring your own stash of snacks or candy or things you might miss that don’t need a fridge that’s resealable/sturdy or if you can, dehydrate fruits and vegetables to bring.

7. Why should InIt students and other young people get involved with NOLS?

It’s a very fun experience even if it is hard work and can be physically demanding. You are exposed to so many beautiful places and can meet so many interesting people. It may not be full of the comforts of home but maybe instead of asking why you should go, ask why not? Why not try something new even if it’s difficult just to be able to tell the stories that you receive from it. It’s only the things that you don’t do that you regret.


Learn more about InIt and how to get involved here.