On April 20th, 2019, five intrepid souls conducted the first test of an EZ Coach vision – combining small group coaching with a nice hike in the Cascade Mountains. Ethan, Jeff, Will, and Raj, and Dave (EZ Coach’s behind the scene’s producer and hike photographer) met up at 8 AM at Twede’s Cafe in North Bend, Washington.

Long ago, Twede’s played a starring role in Twin Peaks, a short-lived TV Drama by David Lynch. Today, it trades on that reputation, the signature dishes from the show, and gigantic portions.

After a lot of coffee and conversation at Twede’s, the group carpooled to the trail head, about half an hour away. We then walked and talked for an hour, with the first member of the small group asking his specific questions while the others listened and contributed. Eventually, we came to a rocky “beach” along the river where we took a breather before turning around. On the way back, a different member of the small group took a lead asking questions.

Not too far from the cars, we took a side trail that leads up to a high overlook. The trail climbs 1000 feet in a mile. This was, in retrospect, a poor choice on a few fronts. Though it was sunny on the day of the hike, this is the Pacific Northwest and it had been raining on and off all week. The trail was muddy and, in places, slick. Some of the hikers had only athletic shoes and had trouble almost immediately. The steepness of the trail was also too much for some, diminishing conversation to save breath. The group strung out, turning the coaching session at least temporarily into just an uphill hike. About two thirds of the way up, we turned around. For anyone who has hiked in similar conditions, getting down a steep hill is actually more challenging than getting up it. Nonetheless, while there were a few slips there were not falls and eventually we all returned safely

The group wrapped up with milkshakes, burgers, and fries at Scott’s Dairy Freeze, a common post-hike destination in North Bend. There was general agreement that the day met/exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, it was about now that it became clear that several hours of coaching, speaking up to be heard over the sound of the nearby mountain stream, was too much for Ethan’s voice. He went hoarse, resulting in the broadcast that was scheduled that evening having to be cancelled. It was two full days until his voice largely recovered. Lesson learned.

Theories successfully verified:

  1. A small group from the EZ Coach audience can quickly get to know each other and share lessons. The main concept we set out to test was verified.
  2. Hiking in the beautiful outdoors was pleasant for everyone. The secondary concept that we could combine being outside on a nice spring day with real conversation was also verified.
  3. The length was about right. Everyone got a chance to get their main questions answered and to get some input from others, not just the EZ Coach.
  4. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Opportunities for Improvement:

  1. Pick a trail we know.
  2. If we violate rule 1, at least pick a trail that isn’t steep.
  3. Set expectations more clearly; something like “this is an actual hike; if you have never hiked in the Cascades before and/or don’t own hiking boots you plan to wear, you should look for a different opportunity.”
  4. Pick a quiet place. We did seek out low-traffic trail, where we were able to speak openly without disturbing others, but the noise of the river was a challenge (as seen in the video below).
  5. Don’t plan a five-hour small group session the same day as an EZ-Coach Live Stream!
  6. Have a more clear alternative plan in case of bad weather.
  7. Reserve steep or long trails for one-on-one coaching with those ready for that “peak” experience.

What’s next?

The EZ Coach doesn’t give up easily. While being unable to speak and missing a scheduled show was very disappointing, we learned a lot to better inform the next outing.