One of the highlights of working on Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks Film Project is meeting and discovering so many amazing hikers from all over the world. As part of the submission, we asked the ladies the question – what does hiking mean to you? In one of the submissions for the film, the following statement caught my eye:
“Oh my gosh, it means everything to me! I can’t imagine my life without hiking and the outdoors. It’s where I find peace, freedom, and where I feel myself at true rest. Hiking has helped me become more mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong. I feel like the best version of me, and the true me when I’m in the outdoors and hiking. I forget that a mirror exists, having mud splattered all over my body is acceptable, and all of the things that come with it – birds whistling, smelling the flowers, seeing deer and chipmunks, etc. all pique my curiosity and make me feel alive!”
That’s when I knew I had to feature Jackie. For today’s segment of Outdoor Women’s Voices, I’m pleased to introduce to you Jackie Currie. She’s from Springfield, Illinois, who is currently staying with a friend in Denver, Colorado. As to how long she’s going to be there, we don’t know. Apparently, Jackie has spent all this year traveling the western part of the U.S. to hike and explore. The fact that Jackie has been traveling for a year to do hiking resonates well with me since I did my own one year of trekking overseas. From the experience, I know Jackie will be an exceptional resource for anyone who wishes to receive inspiration and well formulated advise on hiking, and especially when it comes to hiking and exploring solo, which most of us can certainly learn a thing or two. To someone like Jackie, solo hiking seems to come as a natural endeavor as she is a natural extrovert, and as such, I can only imagine how easy it is for her to turn strangers into hiking buddies, or even lifetime friends.
In her own words,
“I love people-meaningful conversations, going out to eat, playing games, making s’mores around a fire, and I like being able to help out where needed. I enjoy photography – as much as I love being outside, I actually mainly enjoy photographing people. I love traveling – domestic and international. I learn a lot from other cultures and thrive in new environments.”
So, are you ready to hear more about Jackie’s adventures and her reflections on her hiking life? I am, most certainly! Read on and enjoy!
When did you first start hiking?
I’ve been hiking since I was a little kid, but nothing major. It wasn’t until my college years in Colorado that I was able to really start hiking. I was in my late 20s when I started solo hiking.
How did you discover hiking?
My family encouraged spending time outside, and my dad would take me camping. Growing up in Illinois, there weren’t many hiking options, but we would still do whatever was available to us. It was a little bit more like going for a walk in the woods, but it was still wonderful! There were a few options like Giant City National Park and Shawnee National Forest, and we would make it to those places every once in awhile. We would also take trips with other families. One year we went to Colorado when I was about 10 and we hiked at Garden of the Gods, and other various places.
What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?
Hiking the first piece of the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls! I spent 10 days in May exploring Kauai and this was such an incredible trek! The trail offers amazing views, water crossings, and of course the gorgeous waterfall at the end. I was hiking alone and met some great people along the way that I hiked with for awhile, and some that I was even able to hang out with later in my trip. I was challenged at times with the water crossings, and of course felt great when I successfully crossed. The best part about this hike is the gorgeous waterfall at the end. I jumped in the cold water, swam out behind the falls, and yipped and hollered!
What do you like the most about hiking?
Everything! I enjoy everything from checking the weather before going out and dressing appropriately, packing my bag with my essential items and feeling prepared, driving to the trailhead, the actual hike of course, the tired yet on top of the world feeling afterwards, a good meal after a long hike, and a nice hot shower to end the day.
Beyond the surface, Jackie dives in deeper for her reason to love hiking.
Hiking is so good for my soul. When I’m out on the trail I feel alive. I feel like the best version of me that exists, like I’m being true to who I am. I love being surrounded by nature – the wind, the bugs, the sun, the colors. I am calm and at peace while hiking. Hiking is not a place to be distracted from life problems, but rather a place where I can actually see whatever issues I have going on for what they are. My mind gains clarity and I can just be with what is.
When it comes to hiking, Jackie notes that she enjoys doing it both solo and with others as she explains below.
I enjoy both. I’ve done quite a bit of solo hiking, but recently have been reaching out and hiking with others, which has been really fun! I’m a people-person, a true extrovert, so hiking with others brings me energy. But hiking alone fulfills me in other ways. I enjoy hiking alone so I can set my own pace, I can stop to take a photo when I want, and I can run for a bit if I feel up to it. I also like that hiking alone offers more of an opportunity to meet people. I feel most uninhibited when hiking alone. It’s like I’m in my own private sanctuary where I feel most connected to myself, to the earth, to God, and even to others.
As to the toughest trek she’s done, Jackie takes us back to the time she hiked up a 14er in Colorado for the first time from which she learned the more enlightened meaning behind the notion of “giving up.”
My first year of college I went on a group hike up a 14er. I had just moved to Colorado from Illinois and was not acclimated, plus I was fighting my exercise/cold-induced asthma. I honestly don’t even remember what peak we were climbing. I got above tree line, there was more snow than I was prepared for, and a lot of cold air. I had to make the frustrating choice to stop and go back down with some other people. It was definitely not safe for my body to continue the hike. I don’t like “giving up.” From an outside perspective, I would never consider this giving up. I would think the person is smart for knowing their limits. I had to humble myself and let go of an idea of what I was going to do that day, and change my mindset to celebrate what did actually happen instead – I climbed part of a 14er my first month living in Colorado, met new friends, and got to spend time at one of the mountain lakes before hiking back down.
On a more serious and personal subject, I asked about any specific challenges for her as a female on the trail throughout her hiking life.
The main challenges I have encountered as a female hiker are the negative attitudes and comments I hear from people. Sometimes the comments come from a place of fear. Family members have expressed that they want to know where I am at all times. It feels stifling. I know it comes from a place of love and concern, but sometimes I like to take an unexpected turn from my original plan and allow for adventure. While hiking, I’ve received comments about how crazy it is that I’m out there alone, that I should be afraid, and questions about if I’m carrying a gun or not. These comments aren’t necessarily negative, but they definitely don’t feel supportive or encouraging.
I’ve addressed all of these challenges in a number of ways. First, I have a good friend who I constantly have my location shared with through my phone. Sometimes I find hiking partners through women hiking groups on Facebook, and I will tell someone that I am about to hike with so-and-so who I met through XYZ Facebook group. As for the comments, I just have to keep my own attitude in check. Being a solo female hiker attracts attention and people have questions and fears. Some people are judgmental and rude, but most of the time they’re just concerned for my safety, or are genuinely curious about what I’m doing and why. So I try my best to address people’s comments and questions just as me – with excitement and genuineness!
Below, Jackie shares with us her 3 favorite hiking experiences through photos.
Me looking out over the Na Pali Coast from Waimea Canyon in Kauai. I was able to visit this specific spot twice in 2016. I love it. It is so beautiful and it’s different at all times of day. I’ve watched the morning fog rolling into the canyon as the sun rises and I’ve stood in the sun watching boats pass by in the ocean. This particular time, someone I love was behind the camera and I cherish the memory of sharing in the moment of beauty.
Chush Falls in Oregon. I hiked Chush Falls with two other ladies I met through a Facebook hiking group. I love these meet ups! I get to meet incredible women and make new connections. My dog is such a source of joy and companionship for me. I love seeing him running around having fun. When we got to the top of the falls on this hike, we weren’t totally sure how to get to the bottom. We found the trail down quickly, and then slowly made the descent down on the slippery snow. When I got to the bottom and saw this view, I felt like I entered Narnia! It was so magical!
My dog Jack and I at Chicago Lakes in Colorado. When I set off to hike this particular day, I didn’t know what trail I was going to find. Other people were around and I was directed to this trail. I love discovering hikes that I didn’t necessarily plan to do. The trail ended up being challenging at times, beautiful at all times, and I felt so good when I got to the lake! It was a day of adventure!
A believer in living in the moment, Jackie notes that unlike most of us, she doesn’t have a bucket list except for one particular trek of a lifetime.
I honestly don’t have a bucket list! Life is so one day at a time for me right now that I just explore wherever I am and hike anything that is available to me. I do think it would be awesome to walk the Camino de Santiago at some point in my life!
What is your favorite hiking gear and why?
I tend to buy what’s on sale, shop REI garage sales, and collect hand downs. Because of this I’m not allegiant to one brand or another with my gear. That being said, I do have a Black Diamond headlamp that I love and make sure I have with me on every hike. You never know when you’ll accidentally get stuck in the dark. (I also use it to read at night in bed!) I have a CamelBak daypack that I love and almost never leave without. Having easy access to my water helps me stay hydrated, otherwise I’m not inclined to stop as often as I should to drink water.
I must say when I asked about what lessons she’s learned from hiking, I’m totally with her on her views and how she connects the practice of mindfulness with the world of hiking.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned (and am still learning) from hiking is how to listen to myself – to my body and to my heart. Being outside, specifically hiking, gives me a sense of clarity. Hiking doesn’t make my problems go away. Nothing makes our problems go away except for working through them. And that is what hiking does for me! It gives me the space to think clearly and it simplifies everything.
Hiking is a physical demand on the body, and I love being physically active. I have had to learn to pay very close attention to small aches, because these aches turn into bigger pains, that can then lead to injuries. These injuries keep me from being active, which makes me sad and frustrated. I know which types of movements bring up the pain in my left knee. I know I will be miserable if I don’t have both a hat and sunglasses with me because I get headaches from wearing either one for too long. I know when it’s time for me to stop and take a break. All of these things I know have come with learning! I’ve made the mistake of hiking too long with an ache in my knee, of not bringing enough snacks with me, and of not stopping to take a break when I need because I’m with a group and don’t want to be an inconvenience.
She further expands on the lessons through giving us this wonderful advise.
Take your time and get to know your “hiking self.”
You’ll learn about your body – what aches and pains you develop after 5 miles, if you have the balance to cross that log or not, and if you enjoy hiking part of a trail or if you need to hike a trail start to finish to feel complete. Read, ask questions, gather gear, and feel prepared…but also remember to just get out there and hike! Do what you need to do to feel safe. There is a time and place to push yourself and step out of your comfort zone, and that’s good to do, but don’t do something you feel unsafe doing. Fear can hold us back from great things, but it can also protect you from danger.
It came as a pleasant revelation to me that despite the differences in how we have experienced life as individuals, my views on hiking significantly mirror Jackie’s philosophies. Hiking certainly has a powerful way of diminishing our differences, and instead, highlighting the connections we have with others.
You can follow Jackie via her Instagram: @youhadthebiggestsmile and her blog, www.youhadthebiggestsmile.com
Jackie’s blog is based on the following personal notion, in her own words:
“Life is not about only being happy and always smiling, but I do want to create a life where I intentionally allow myself to experience things that bring me joy.”
This leaves us to remember that how we choose to live life is “intentional” and “deliberate.” In fact, WE CHOOSE HOW TO LIVE LIFE EVERY MOMENT, whether with joy and love, or otherwise. I hope Jackie inspired you to choose the former and to allow nature to remind you of your innate ability to create your happy world…always.
For tips on solo adventure, read 8 Ways to Mentally Prepare for a Solo Adventure.
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