Hiking + Healing in Wissahickon Valley Park
By Laura Feragen
Meet Brandi Aulston, FOW’s new Wellness Consultant! Aulston, MHA, MHE, is a wellness entrepreneur and holistic health consultant and coach. She discovered her passion for health and wellness while studying biology and public health at Temple University. She also loves hiking and wanted to meet up with other women to hike somewhere in the city. A Google search led her to the Wissahickon and an idea came to her: combine her interest in healing and well-being, especially for women, with her love of the outdoors.
In 2019, Aulston founded Hike + Heal. Through her hikes she is building a community of women—the “hive” —from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and fitness levels who want to prioritize self-care in a purposeful and healing way while connecting with nature and other like-minded women. The goal is to increase overall wellness—physically and mentally. She calls it “soul care.”
Aulston regularly leads Hike + Heal hikes for women in the Wissahickon, and she recently became FOW’s wellness consultant, offering monthly wellness tips for the FOW community on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In May, she joined FOW’s Executive Director Ruffian Tittmann for her monthly Creekside Chat (live streamed on Facebook and YouTube) to talk about her new role and the space she is building for and with women.
A typical ninety-minute to two-hour hike begins with warming up and intention setting, with a “mindfulness break” of stretching and reflection at the halfway point. Brandi likes to integrate healing modalities into her hikes, so on any given day there could be meditation, guided journaling, release rituals, or even drum circles. “In the “hive,” working out is more than just a physical activity. It’s a chance to process and share whatever may be weighing you down in a calming, supportive, restorative environment,” said Aulston. “I love to see participants get their hike-hive glow—a glow from within that you can see from the outside.”
Aulston has also created a digital healing sanctuary, Heal Hun, designed for women to thrive in community nationwide. She runs Hike + Heal field trips, curated with play in mind to “tap into our inner child and bring back the elements of fun in nature that we experienced during childhood,” and offers workshops on healing in nature. She tries to promote and amplify woman-owned businesses and the work of diverse wellness entrepreneurs and healers.
On Juneteenth 2020, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Aulston organized a silent hike protest in the Wissahickon as a way to liberate and channel into nature all the intense emotions that were circulating at the time. Participants found the event so inspirational and healing that she held it again this year. “My goal is to keep on hiking, retreating, and healing,” said Aulston, referring to her plans to host monthly or bimonthly community events, as well as glamping retreats and other offerings. Currently, she’s fundraising for a fall glamping experience to get young girls from West Philadelphia into nature. “I figure glamping is the best way to ease them in,” she said laughing.
Follow Hike + Heal on social media @hikeandheal to stay up to date on all the #hikehive activities and connect with other “HikeHiveHunnies.” And check out Aulston’s monthly wellness updates @FOWissahickon. Brandi Aulston recently discussed Hike + Heal on PHL17.