Like many people, I am with caution adventurous. When it comes to the outdoors, there are a lot of things I would love to do, from hiking and mountain biking to surfing, but I’m often not confident or qualified enough to do them myself – same. I need a guide, coach or instructor to help me meet the challenge. Take rock climbing, for example: I’m planning on visiting Zion National Park in a few months and would like to try my hand at a novice-friendly vertical adventure while I’m at it. Fortunately, I recently discovered 57Hours, a service that connects people with local guides for virtually any type of outdoor adventure.
57Hours takes its name from the hours available for a weekend adventure – there are 57 hours between 3pm on Friday (they hopefully assume you can start early) and Sunday midnight. Of course, you don’t need to book a 57 hour adventure; there are options that span an hour or two throughout an entire weekend. I had the chance to try 57Hours and was very happy with the result.
Like a million other online services, you start with 57Hours through the website or mobile app. It’s easy and even a little addicting; you can browse the adventures by category (climbing, hiking, mountain biking, kitesurfing, surfing, skiing, etc.) or by location. And like browsing a recipe app, you’ll likely continue to get distracted by activities you’d like to try, even if they’re not necessarily the ones you want to do right now.
But unlike Uber or Airbnb, you often have a lot of flexibility in what you actually book at 57 hours. Find the adventure you want – for example, rock climbing in Zion National Park – and 57Hours drops you off on a page for a local guide or instructor. There’s a brief description of what the guide has to offer, enticing photos, and a choice of adventures. Fancy a half day with a private guide? An introduction to rock climbing suitable for beginners? A full day calibrated to your personal skill level? Customize your adventure, check the price, and schedule a date. Then book the trip – you can cancel for free within 48 hours.
Not sure what an off-piste skiing adventure entails or want to chat with your potential instructor before signing up to snowboard? This is not a problem; 57Hours makes it easy to communicate with the guide before using your credit card, and you’ll likely hear from your guide quite soon after booking your date to confirm specific details of your day.
I went practice with a 57 hour experience
I tried 57 hours to see what the overall experience would look like; I opted for a guided hike in San Diego which is a short drive from my home in Los Angeles (2 hours by car if you check Google Maps at bedtime which turns into a 5 hour grueling exploration on a Saturday afternoon when you really need to make the trip (seriously, Southern California is the worst).
Through my search for hikes in San Diego, 57Hours put me in touch with Adventurous Travelers, a woman-owned company that offers tours and trail guides in San Diego as well as Costa Rica.
Shortly after I booked one of the options on the “San Diego Hike and Bike” results page in 57 hours – I chose a 3 mile hike to the top of Cowles Mountain identified as “intermediate” – I received an email from the owner of Adventurous Travelers, Lindsay Hoffmann.
Lindsay has a fascinating history. She launched Adventurous Travelers in 2017, she says, “to remind people to disconnect from electronics, work, stress and reconnect with nature, themselves and others.” At the time, she was working 60 hours a week as a manager of a retail store while continuing her education. Additionally, Lindsay says, âI also had a flood in my kitchen, so I was personally renovating my house, which took a year. Stressed and overwhelmed, Lindsay told me that she was hiking with her dog when she decided that her calling was to share this kind of experience with others.
In her introductory email, Lindsay let me know what to expect, what to bring and what she or one of her three guides would provide on the day of the hike. I had the option to add yoga to the top and we exchanged a few emails to clarify if my girlfriend and I should take my dog ââon the adventure. (In the end, she advised against it because San Diego was suffering from extreme heat, although I could have brought little Zacchi if I had wanted to.)
Lindsay met us at the trailhead as planned and brought water and snacks for me and my girlfriend. Most importantly, she brought a friendly, outgoing demeanor and kept us engaged throughout the hike, happy to talk about local San Diego activities and attractions, trivia about the trail we were on, and a hundred other topics. She volunteered to take the obligatory summit photos of us to the top and even suggested places to stop to eat after the hike is complete. The hike itself felt more easy than intermediate to me, but had some amazing views of the San Diego area. We made it to the top at sunset and even encountered a rattlesnake on the way back down. Lindsay was professional and responsible, stopping everyone on the trail to ensure the safety of the hikers and the snake.
Of course, the price and details of any specific 57-hour experience will vary depending on the adventure you choose – a short hike will be much cheaper than a weekend ATV tour.
Looking through the guide reviews on 57Hours, it seems my two inch experience with adventurous travelers was typical of what you would get from any local 57Hours affiliate guide. I found one thing Lindsay told me surprising, however. Apparently, as a guy, I wasn’t his typical customer. According to Lindsay: âAs a travel and travel agency owned by women, men are reluctant to hire a female guide to lead them. Therefore, most of my clients are women. Seriously? Come on guys. It’s 2021.
Don’t feel like going on a 57 hour adventure yourself? You can also get a gift card for someone else. The website allows you to choose from $ 100, $ 200, or $ 500 cards, or dial whatever amount you want.