Getting Back On the Trail

December 5, 2013

Longtime hiker and mobility coach Jayah Faye Paley turned her passion for the outdoors into a mission to get people back on their feet – and back on the trail  – using the power of hiking poles.

BN: Are you from the Bay Area? 

No, I’m originally from Florida, where it’s hot, muggy, buggy, and flat. I arrived here thirty years ago, and I can’t imagine a better place than the Bay Area. To me, it’s the hiking mecca of the planet!

BN: What inspired you to start Adventure Buddies?

In 1998 I was facing knee surgery. My doctor cleared me  go on a challenging Sierra Club hike on Mt. Tam wearing a brace. On that hike I met my future husband, who was using poles to help him condition as a cross-country ski instructor. After my surgery, he gave me a set of poles and taught me how to use them. I searched for further training, but none existed. That’s when I became inspired, even obsessed, with creating high quality pole training. I created a video, did clinics for REI and the Point Reyes National Seashore, and it went from there.

BN: Is your background in rehabilitation?

Yes — as a personal trainer and massage therapist, I focus on rehab as well as achieving optimal physical health and mobility,  whether for hikers and walkers or for people with mobility challenges.

BN: What is the goal of Adventure Buddies? 

My goal is to help people enjoy the outdoors more safely and completely . Look at it this way: We’re born. We spend a year or more learning to walk. We leap and skip and hop and revel in our body’s movement until mostly somewhere in our 20’s. Then we spend the rest of our lives unlearning that healthy movement. Using poles restores this movement – you can call it attitude or even swagger. It’s spinal rotation, and it’s the natural, healthy, rhythmic walking pattern that lubricates the spine.Using poles engages muscles that support and elongate the spine. I see people reversing the aging process every day when they feel the engagement of their whole body when they walk. It’s powerful, uplifting and inspiring both for them and for me.

BN: Please describe some of your group’s activities. 

I teach Hiking with Poles, both a full-day class that includes a practice hike as well as a shorter basic skills and techniques class for people who prefer a more limited experience. For people with greater challenges, I teach mobility classes.  People with MS, Parkinson’s, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, arthritis, or joint surgery can benefit significantly by learning whole-body walking and balance skills. I teach all ages, from 20 to 100 years old.

BN: Where do you offer your classes?

I teach a variety of classes at some wonderful places, including Point Reyes National Seashore, several parks in the East Bay Regional Park District, Yosemite  National Park, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I also teach classes for the cities of Pacifica, Santa Rosa, and Berkeley, and at senior  and community centers throughout the Bay Area.

BN: How do you decide where to  go with your classes? 

I pick the places for our hiking classes based on the weather.  For example, in the spring, we go to one of the most gorgeous parks in the East Bay Regional Park system – Black Diamond Mines, near Antioch.  In the summer, we head for the redwoods where it’s cooler.  We explore the coast when it’s hot inland.

BN: What’s your favorite place to hike in the Bay Area?

That’s easy – Mt. Tam. Why?  Because it’s diverse and available year-round. In the summer we’re in the cool redwood forest; in the winter, I’m looking for newts; in the spring, it’s all about the flowers. I hike there every week. For more information about Jayah’s poles and mobility classes, DVDs, and events, please visit:

About the Author

Beth Slatkin is Bay Nature's marketing and outreach director.