I grew up with three older brothers. I learned to stand my ground as the lone female in the pack at an early age. Growing up with brothers meant being the weird one and the outcast at times. A boys club, after all, entails a different focus from a girls club. I wasn’t always privy to everything that was going on and the fun things that my brothers did, especially when it involved an element of risk. Despite my limited participation in the shenanigans my brothers engaged in, by simply living with boys who one day became men, molded me to who I am now.
Fast forward to now, I can honestly say it doesn’t bother me one bit to play in the outdoors with men. In fact, I enjoy their company as much as I can appreciate the uniqueness of my interactions with women. There’s a certain level of openness with men that I don’t experience with women – one in which I can tap into my masculine leaning side where I peak bag mountain summits just like any guy would or get into an endless banter without worrying about offending the other by my brutal way of delivering my thoughts. Being delicate and gentle with my manner of speaking can be set aside so I can be blunt. Personally, I like that. On the other hand, in the company of women, I find myself more reserve with my thoughts and overly mindful of the delivery of my words. To not have to work that hard once in a while is certainly a much wanted break.
Recently, in the outdoors world, there’s been so much media frenzy around the notion of women empowerment. Big companies like REI are promoting the presence of women in the media, as well as, hosting female-only events to encourage women to hike, climb, bike, kayak and everything that has to do with the outdoors.
My addiction to the outdoors happens to involve hiking and multi-day backpacking. Hence, I know first-hand how the field is dominated by men. I founded a social enterprise, Peak Explorations, that markets trekking and adventure tours worldwide, and all but one of my local operators are men. Despite a disproportionate number of men over women in my social enterprise, I’m not at all feeling intimidated or hindered by this fact. In a way, it instills in me so much gratitude that the men in my life whose main purpose is to expand the growth of my social enterprise are all supportive of a female led social enterprise. How much more feminist can a man get? At least in my mind, they have made more than enough effort to show their support for equality between men and women.
This leads me to question the notion of all-women treks, women focused outdoor organizations and entities.
Do we need them?
Setting aside my personal experiences with men, I do understand that some women feel a level of discomfort from participating in outdoors activities that involve a larger number of male participants. As a female myself, I can agree with women who hold such sentiment, especially when they are in the beginning phase of their pursuit of hiking or trekking mountains. Rewinding back to the initial phases of my own hiking life, I can attest to the fact that yes, I certainly would feel a slight sense of intimidation to be around mostly men as a newbie hiker. And, I did. Thanks to time and experience, I overcame that sense of discomfort.
Recently, as part of my social enterprise’s mission to promote women in the outdoors, I initiated an introductory class on wilderness backpacking with a focus on women only. I soon learned that within the hiking groups where I have been an organizer for over a decade, the idea of women only activities is potentially intimidating to the opposite gender. Accusations of being discriminatory and actively excluding men were easily shared with me. Some viewed my action as politically motivated while others felt the event shouldn’t be organized at all within a co-ed hiking group. I then found myself having to justify my action by stating multiple times that the class is meant to empower and encourage women who are new to hiking to take on the hobby. After all, the female members of the hiking groups were the ones who approached me to make the request for a women-only class to learn the basics. As an organizer who happens to be a female, I felt it is only natural for me to finally organize an event to address this particular need. Mind you, this was my first time in over 10 years as an organizer to schedule a series of female-only events. As it turns out and as I have anticipated, it is a risky move on my part, especially when I’m still creating a foundation for my social enterprise.
So, going back to my earlier question – why do women need to be in a women-only group to learn backpacking?
For one, there is a sense of comfort knowing that all members share more or less similar backgrounds, be it gender-specific social challenges, life experiences, physical strength, and unwelcome social expectations that are frequently imposed on them. This naturally leads to camaraderie and empathy among the female participants, just as there’s a unique camaraderie that bonds men when they engage in a boy’s night out or getaway.
In addition, women do face a unique set of issues when it comes to backpacking and being outdoors. In discussing those issues, I’m sure men wouldn’t feel the need or desire to be a part of it. Similarly, most women would likely find themselves feeling uncomfortable divulging information pertaining to their menstrual cycle, among other topics, in the presence of men.
Lastly, inspiring women can best be achieved if the role model is a female versus a male. The outdoors world is without a doubt filled with male leaders, role models and mentors. For women to feel inspired to partake in the outdoors, the presence of a female leader, mentor, role model or fellow hiker is crucial. Of course, women admire certain male role models in the outdoors but such admiration is just not enough to compel them to partake in outdoor activities. Therefore, arguably, women-only groups fill the void as a result of the lack of female voices in the media.
Now, be honest, how hard is it to grasp the above concepts? How much more justification does any of us need to understand that an all-women event is in reality harmless?
In fact, the outcome of this endeavor leads to more women actively engaging in the outdoors. Hence, INCLUSION, right?
Don’t we all see this as a positive result? Is there anything morally or ethically wrong with that? If there is, I’d like to be the first to know. Assuming you support diversity and women in the outdoors, I cannot imagine a scenario where anyone could justifiably hold an objection to women-only events.
So, maybe you feel a bit excluded. I understand the notion.
In this case, however, in the past decade that I’ve organized events, with the exception of the most recent slew of women-only activities, members of my hiking groups availed themselves of countless opportunities to join co-ed trips locally, nationally and globally. To date, the treks that have been offered through my social enterprise are ALL co-ed. So, it begs the question – at what point in time did one gender get excluded?
I’m here to tell you that along with REI and myself, there are plenty of other entities out there that are now seeing the value of holding women-only events for the same reasons noted above. I’m not alone when it comes to this definition of empowerment; although, I’d like to add that I also join the mainstream in supporting co-ed events. As much as I find value in women-only events, I also find it significantly progressive and empowering for women to break out of the bubble of the women-only events to pursue outdoor activities alongside men without any sense of fear or insecurity.
So, is one a greater version of women empowerment than the other?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d find elements of empowerment in both scenarios. One does not have to exist exclusive of the other. In my world, both are equally important and for the sake of my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, I should be able to execute both notions for the purpose of achieving an authentic version of inclusion.
As much as I understand the fear and insecurity behind “excluding” one gender, the most productive measure to take is to understand the motivations behind women-only events. The problem is it’s easy for us to quickly judge and express our opinions based on fear, as opposed to sound logic. Yet, now is an opportune time for us all to be open-minded in a moment in our society where some of us are engaged in creating scenarios that challenge everyone’s preconceived notions and levels of comfort in the outdoors. The discomfort should not lead to quick conclusions. It should initiate conversations towards a greater understanding of the underlying issues behind being a female in the outdoors. Only then can you truly have the means to decide for yourself whether anyone is being excluded or whether the endeavor is actually moving us closer to the spirit of inclusion.
How does one handle the finances to live a nomadic lifestyle? Tune in for the next upcoming episodes as Brown Gal goes over the approaches, challenges and ways to address the financial part of her journey.
Summer is just around the corner and that means camping season is almost here! I’ve got my camping weekends marked on the calendar and this year my plans include a new essential piece of equipment: a hammock.
My love for hammock camping started when I noticed my camping trips were relaxing, but left me bone tired from nights of poor sleep. A friend suggested I try it and it totally changed my experience.
You don’t just have to take my word for it. Here are 7 reasons you should give hammock camping a try.
1, The Ground Can Be Uncomfortable
Sleeping on the ground in a tent means bumps under your sleeping bag, overnight moisture, and curious bugs creeping around your tent floor. Sleeping in a hammock gets you up off the ground, away from all those annoyances and can actually be good for your health. Experts in sleeping posture found the angle of incline and lack of pressure points in a correctly installed hammock can increase circulation and oxygen during sleep, and can dramatically improve back pain. After a day of hiking or chopping wood for a camp fire, anything that makes my back happy makes me happy.
2. It’s Lighter
An average hammock can fold up into a pouch smaller than your water bottle and weighs less than a pound. That means you could hit the trail with your bed in your back pocket and what tent could say the same? With a hammock comes the freedom from a bulky tent leaving you able to take longer hikes without the heavy gear. See more undiscovered off trail areas or get to higher elevations where carrying extensive equipment would be too physically demanding.
3. You Can Sleep Better
A great night’s sleep can literally transform your camping experience when you wake up feeling rested and physically ready for the next hike or a long day of swimming. When I first started camping I went sparse on the sleeping arrangements: just a tent and a sleeping bag. Soon I upgraded to an air mattress, and then a double air mattress with the battery powered pump and a padded mat and a leak patching kit… You can see where this is going. No matter how much more gear I bought and dragged with me, I never really slept well outdoors until I started hammock camping.
There are the obvious benefits, like being elevated off the rocks and tree roots that inevitably complicate tent sleeping, but there are properties of the hammock itself that make your sleep better. Studies show you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper in a hammock and the gentle swaying motion can actually change your brain during sleep to help you stay in a restful state longer.
4. Create A Better Connection with Nature
One of the main allures of camping for me is the uninterrupted time to connect with the way nature changes throughout the day. When I spend the entire night and early morning cooped up in a stuffy tent, I miss some of the most magic experiences. My first hammock camping night, I lay awake staring up at the stars in utter comfort listening to an owl serenading the night. In the morning I awoke not to the sight of errant bugs trapped in my tent net, but to the soft dawn light slowly warming the air around me. Yes, a tent gets you out of the house and into nature, but a hammock gets you out of the tent to experience more of those rare moments that really make camping magical.
5. There Are Plenty of Accessories to Keep You Warm
A simple hammock will be enough for many camping scenarios, but if you want four-season comfort, there are many affordable add-ons that can make your hammock the most versatile piece of gear you own.
Staying warm starts with staying dry. With an optional rain cover, a hammock neatly sidesteps moisture problems, keeping you off the damp ground and letting air circulate without condensing. If it rains or snows, there are no walls to drops to seep in and no floor to collect puddles. And tearing down a nice dry hammock when you’re ready to break camp in minutes is a mess-free experience. A mylar blanket can function as a rain fly, but also works as a layer of heat retention under your sleeping bag.
Get some easy insulation between your sleeping bag and the elements with a sleeping pad. If you have the funds, an underquilt will keep you warm and toasty even in the coldest camp sites, but you may want to choose your product based on the temperatures you expect to encounter.
6. Camp in More Locations
It’s no secret for anyone who has tried tent camping that the roots and rocks are only one element of what makes the ground uncomfortable. Uneven soil, cold puddles from rain or condensation, and even the slant or grade of your site can make your tent awkward for relaxing. Without a tent to consider, you can set up for the night on a slope, over water, and in rocky terrain without sacrificing comfort. You can even set up your hammock camp in places without any trees!
7. Fast Setup
With a little practice, you can set up you hammock and be ready for bed much faster than a traditional tent. Some seasoned hammock users can get set up or torn down in less than two minutes! Think of all the extra time this will leave for exploring, making a delicious campfire meal, or just relaxing in the wilderness.
Now that you’re familiar with the main benefits of hammock camping, you might be ready to ditch the tent for your next camp out. I personally can’t wait to hit the trails this summer and see what new experiences my hammock allows me to enjoy. If you enjoyed this list, or are ready to try a hammock yourself, let us know by sharing this article.
Photos via Creative Commons
Rich is a hiking and camping enthusiast who runs the blog over at Rolling Fox. Rolling Fox is regularly updated with outdoor guides, recipes and gear reviews. You can find us onPinterest, FacebookandTwitter.
If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please see the guidelineshere. Looking forward to your articles!
Quit your career when you hit your 40s. Seriously, quit it and take on some grand adventure. Take a break from it all and just indulge in guilt-free freedom. I know. That sounds so against the norm. After all, it makes more sense to tell you–
“don’t quit your job, pretend you like it, pay your bills, and if you’re single , then hurry, and find that partner!”
Two years ago, I wrote an article about how it felt to be a global backpacker in my late 30s. In that article, I confessed my feeling a tiny bit awkward carrying a 70 liter pack as I mingled with the millennials at hostels. Two years later, I’m thinking, why the hell not?
While so many in their 40s re-evaluate their progress in life by looking at the increase in their income, their career progression, the success of their marriage and the existence of children in their lives, this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone who reaches this age.
In my world, my 40s is meant to be spent outside playing. To be more exact, it’s meant to be spent hiking and trekking countless mountains, and then some. At first, I too, felt this was such an insane idea. And perhaps, my dream of becoming a mountain/digital nomad frolicking around the globe was simply too late for me to pursue and that maybe I missed my chance in my younger years. It took time for me to realize that doing this at an unpopular age of 40 is actually a blessing in disguise. In fact, it’s the best time to partake in a major extended travel or adventure. If you are in your 40s and are fortunate enough to get a chance to partake in a grand adventure, then I’d say go for it! Here’s why:
In your 40s, you are past many of the insecurities you had in your 20s. Your 30s typically are spent challenging the existence of every insecurity you might have that was carried over from your 20s. As we enter 40s, many of us have more or less learned how to deal with our insecurities and hopefully most of them were outgrown in the process. By getting to this point, our adventures tend to be more meaningful and devoid of unnecessary stress. Forgetting to bring that nice evening attire to look good on a trip wouldn’t dampen our spirits nor do we care if we need to skip showers for the sake of enjoying a life-changing trek. Petty things dwindle as we age and that’s priceless. Anyone who has yet to reach 40 should be jolted with excitement to look forward to a much more carefree version of themselves.
Assuming you have spent part of your 20s and all your 30s building your career, by the time you’re 40 you know you have built yourself a solid career. There’s no longer a question whether you’re a real doctor or a lawyer or an accountant because you are! We manage to shrug off the other set of insecurities – those that challenge our ego as to whether we are good enough at what we do. Heck, yeah, we are! So, go on that adventure and remember if you tire of it, you can always come back to that career that you built. If not, chances are, by the time you’re 40, you have established skill sets that can be transferable to other types of endeavors. If that company doesn’t rehire you, with creativity and persistence, you can even start your own company and run it in your own way. Either way, you come out on top.
With over two decades of adult life experiences under our belt, being 40 should render us more courageous and fearless. We’ve been hurt, disappointed, criticized and fired. But we lived and survived. We ought to know by the age of 40 that failure is merely a redirection. We no longer cry or get angry over it. We just strive to find another route that we believe will take us to where we need to be. By this time, we experience lesser amount of invalid fears and worries. We trust life more and allow it to bring us closer to our desires. In our travels, we then find no reason to stress out when itineraries fail. We lived long enough to realize that unexpected events happen for a reason and so we refrain from fussing in the same manner that we did when we were in our 20s. We just let most situations be, regardless of whether they’re wanted or not.
We are likely to be richer than the younger version of ourselves, and in some cases, fortunate enough to pay off a mortgage or student loan. When we compare ourselves to others, sure, we might say we’re broke but if you were honest with your situation, you’d soon realize that graduating from college or grad school had led you to incur thousands of dollars of student loan debt. By the time you’re 40, you would have had at least a decade to pay off some or most of the loans. That’s something to smile about since that only means more money to put towards that grand adventure. And if you’re the savvy kind, you may even have an investment or two which will then afford you more disposable cash for your grand adventure. Lucky you!
Do you feel wiser now that you’re 40 or older? I hope so. That’s the point of living – growing and learning and then growing, and learning, and so on and so forth. By the time we’re 40, the expectation is that our life experiences should have taught us a thing or two about love, loss, success, failure and everything else in between. By 40, we’re likely to know ourselves and our goals better. But if not, we ought to have enough tools to figure out our own destiny in our own way. All that therapy and counseling should have yielded the outcome we hope for by now. We are ready to re-do everything – relationships, career, and even ourselves.
Simply put, when you’re in your 40s, you hardly give a damn. Nothing will ever be as serious as when you were in your 30s. In your 40s, you begin to realize life starts over again. But, this time around, you’ll makes sure it’ll be done in a more lighthearted fashion. After all, this is the age when your health becomes more relevant and therefore stress is your number one enemy. In your 40s, you naturally start to value your time and how you spend it upon realizing that life is limited and that success is defined by the frequency of joy in our lives. You also begin to enjoy the authenticity of being “you” without giving into societal pressures and living our lives based on others’ expectations. True to not giving a damn, you do what your heart tells you even if it’s unconventional and weird. Doing so doesn’t at all make you feel uncomfortable; rather, it makes you feel empowered to be “you.”
As a result of wisdom gained over the years, you know what you want when you reach 40. When you decide to travel extensively or become a nomad of some kind, you mean it. You have never been this sure in your entire life! Since you now value time more than ever, you wouldn’t just quit a career that you put forth effort, money and time just to travel without a purpose. You are deliberate in your decision to travel on an extended period of time or even for a lifetime! When you decide to venture into some kind of an enterprise to give you that freedom to roam the world, you initiate it with all your might. In fact, you have never felt this driven in your life because this time around you are answering to the calling of your deepest desires. And you simply know you have to go that direction even if the path can get bumpy along the way. You know that if you traveled in your 20s, it would only be temporary because you have yet to experience the contrast of the life of a 9 to 5 to decide honestly whether a life of travel is for you. In your 30s, traveling is a break from the 9 to 5 but you may still be uncertain as to your true desires or unskilled at the endeavor you wish to pursue or still in need of wisdom to learn how to succeed or have yet to muster the courage to risk it all. So, rejoice in taking a leap of faith in your 40s because chances are you’ve gone through all the necessary steps to finally be ready to experience a real adventure.
As you can see, being in your 40s should not be the reason not to travel; rather it should exactly be the reason to do so! You’re in the prime of your life and you have nothing to lose except the opportunity that you can create for yourself to experience the greatest adventure of your life. Don’t hesitate for a second to hop on that adventure. Don’t doubt yourself, and most certainly, don’t doubt your desires. Do it now!
To learn more about Brown Gal Trekker’s plans on leaving her job and becoming a mountain nomad, check out her podcast:
EPISODE 1: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Reasons for Leaving my Career
Welcome to Episode 1 of the V-PODCAST SERIES: ON MY WAY! FROM A LAWYER TO A MOUNTAIN NOMAD. In this episode, Brown Gal Trekker tackles the question, “Why leave a stable career for pursuit of an unconventional dream?”
Tune in and share with us your own reasons or thoughts about the topic! Thanks!
To learn more about what this v-podcast is about, check out the INTRODUCTION.
The outdoors appeal to most of us as a safe haven to let ourselves go from our day to day routines and stress in life. But the reality of it is that life in the outdoors is not as perfect as any paradise we conjure in our minds, especially when, as a female hiker, we don’t fit the looks of women as portrayed by the outdoors media.
That has been the case until Summer and Lezley came into the forefront of leading women entities in the outdoors world to serve as the voice for women who may feel different, weird, strange, unsuitable or unacceptable. Summer and Lezley not only love hiking but they also made it their mission to encourage women of all backgrounds to find pride in who they are as women hikers.
From my own personal experience, my being featured on Fat Girls Hiking’s Inspiring Women series clearly demonstrated that feeling of belonging and self-acceptance. I’m no exception to feeling different as a woman of color who continues to wait for inclusion in the media. Fat Girls Hiking provided a voice on my behalf and echoed my presence to the social media world of the outdoors. That’s a good start towards a long road in promoting diversity and women in the hiking world. For that reason, I’m absolutely delighted to come across these two lovely souls and be a part of their mission to promote diversity in the outdoors.
Women Trail Leaders: Summer & Lezley of Fat Girls Hiking
Summer is from Minnestoa while Lezley is from New Mexico. They currently live in Portland, Oregon. Off-trail, Summer works as a nanny while Lezley is a Data Analyst. They typicall hike in the Portland area, and around Oregon and Washington states. They also have traveled overseas for on trekking trips. Summer is also a writer, a photographer, crafter and reader while Lezley is a sports enthusiast, daredevil, traveler and a board game and film geek.
When and how did you first start hiking?
Summer: My love of hiking started about 4 years ago. I had been on a few hikes before then but not on a regular basis. At first, I didn’t like it. But it grew on me.
Lezley: I started hiking 10 years ago while living in Nevada after getting a taste of hiking while in Zion. My uncle was an avid hiker in New Mexico & would take me with him but I didn’t appreciate hiking until I got older & moved to Nevada. Now I hope to hike more in my home state to experience the things I missed when I was younger.
What do you like the most about hiking?
When we hike, we feel strong & capable. Worries & stresses of everyday life are wiped clean. We hike to be connected to nature & our selves.
Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?
Summer: I like hiking alone a lot. There is something therapeutic about being out there by myself that makes me feel self reliant. When I face challenges & solve problems on the trail, I feel empowered. But I also love leading hikes with Fat Girls Hiking, I love watching other people gain confidence & feel inspired in the outdoors.
Lezley: I prefer hiking with a group or another person. For me, I feel safer being with others. Plus, I like getting to know people or spend quality time with people away from the distractions of everyday life. Also, having another person on the trail with me motivates me to keep going when the trail gets challenging.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?
Summer: Hikers are creative problem solvers. When I am miles away from civilization on a hike, if something goes wrong, I have to figure it out. Also, I love feeling small in the grand scheme of the world. It puts any silly or trivial problems in my head in check when I can look around from the summit of a mountain and say, “Those things don’t matter, not really.”
Lezley: Sometimes trails can be intimidating but if I keep on pushing myself forward, then there always seems to be a reward at the end. It’s a daily reminder of life off the trail: keep pushing forward, no matter what might scare you. The other lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the aspects of nature that we often take for granted.
Summer and Lezley share with us their favorite hiking moments.
Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana.
We had spent the night before the hike sleeping in the back of the truck in a 24-hour grocery store parking lot because all the campgrounds in the park were full. We wanted to get up early to beat the crowds because we heard this was a busy hike.
On the hike in to the lake, we counted seeing only 5 people. It was amazing to witness the sunrise over the mountains onto the clear lake cluttered with logs at the bottom. We ventured around the still lake and the mountains were reflected perfectly. There were glacial waterfalls above us that we heard would be extinct in less than 10 years.
Then we met another hiker who was gathering sand from the beach, he said he proposed to his fiancé at that spot & they were getting married later that day in the park. As we were heading back to the trailhead & the sun began to shine onto the lake, it was a bright green color that matched the leaves on the trees. On the way back to the trailhead, we counted 207 people making their way to the lake. So glad we hiked early!
Saddle Mountain, Oregon.
We were so excited to do this hike. It was the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago & we were ready to conquer one of the Oregon Coast Range’s biggest mountains. The hike starts out really steep & 2 minutes in we were taking layers off. This is the most elevation gain we’ve ever done on a hike, it felt good & really difficult. We were stopping a lot but enjoying ourselves.
About 45 minutes into the hike, Summer’s stomach started to ache. Oh no. The trail is mostly switchbacks & there isn’t any spots off-trail to dig a cat hole. Ugh. Finally, we found a spot where Summer scrambled up to some bushes for privacy to “use the bathroom.”
Much better…Ok, let’s do this. We get to the summit & WOW what an amazing view. There’s the ocean to the west, and it’s a clear day so Mt. Rainer, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are visible. It was incredible. Then we notice the trail keeps going. Oh. Shit. This is what they call “the false summit.” Ok, we can do this. We are tired & the rest of the trail feels painstakingly steep. The trail is covered with chain-link fencing, and there is ice in some spots, but we make it to the real actual summit.
The exhilaration of the view, being up there with the wind as it whips our hair around. We know we are strong enough to carry our bodies to the top of a mountain. This is the reason we hike.
Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Canada.
We knew this hike was busy & touristy. The photos we had seen online were amazing & we really wanted to see it for ourselves. So we got up really early to beat the crowds. The trail is paved almost the entire way. There’s no “roughing it” on this trail. There are catwalks along the side & bottom of the canyon that allow access to the canyon in a way that usually could only be accessed by repelling. The natural beauty of the rock & the pure clear water was stunning. However, the trash & plastic water bottles underneath the catwalk were less than desirable. Nature Tourism is over rated.
Sometimes the crowd of inconsiderate tourists can overshadow the beauty around us. Well, at least it changes the experience. We carry on. There are three waterfalls along the trail that we enjoy & then decide to turn back & head to a less busy trail. The trail was really crowded the last half mile & there is a group of twenty slower hikers ahead of us. We just want to get out of the crowds. Summer finds an opening & jogs around the tourists & Lezley gets stuck among the crowd.
After Summer jogs by one of the men Lezley gets stuck behind says, “Wow, you could really feel the ground shake when she went by.” It’s attitudes like his & comments like these that intimidate plus size people from feeling safe in the outdoors. Even though we are avid hikers, most likely more experienced than the man who commented on Summer’s body size, this comment changes our experiences on trails. It’s easy enough to shake off an ignorant comment from someone who arrived via a tour bus & carry on with your love affair with the Canadian Rockies. Needless to say, we found many other gorgeous places to explore while we were in Banff National Park but Johnston Canyon was the most memorable.
What advice would you give to women who are new to hiking?
Start out on some easier trails with a fabulous reward at the end (waterfalls & viewpoints are good). Don’t worry about how fast or slow you hike. It’s not a race. There are no prizes at the end. Research the trail & the weather before you go. Have more than one source of information on hand (a screenshot on your phone is good, but a backup is never a bad idea). Print out driving directions & don’t rely on Google maps. Many trailheads do not have cell service which is a blessing in our overly “connected” world, so make sure you know where you’re going. If you are hiking alone, tell someone specifically where you are going & when you are expected to return. Bring enough water, snacks, and weather appropriate clothing. Most importantly, listen to your body. If something isn’t feeling good, don’t do it. Savor your time on the trail & have fun!
What treks do you have on your bucket list?
Summer: All the hikes are on my list. Seriously, all of them. If I could travel endlessly & hike everywhere I went, I would. I definitely want to spend more time in the Canadian Rockies & Glacier National Park.
Lezley: Patagonia and Machu Picchu are on my list. But any time we travel, we like finding a hike in the area so we get to enjoy that peaceful part of a city.
What is your favorite hiking gear and why?
Summer: As a plus size hiker, finding gear that fits is not easy. There are such limited options for women’s plus size outdoor gear that I usually end up buying men’s gear. Ill-fitting raingear is the only option I have. However, I do have an amazing Granite Gear backpack that fits well and has hip pockets for little things that I need accessible while hiking. And I love my Platypus hydration bladder—it’s really easy to clean & dry out. Black Diamond trekking poles are my new favorite gear…wish I would have gotten them sooner. And of course, my Canon 5D.
Lezley: I like my Granite Gear day pack. Everything else I’m still testing out. I haven’t found the exact right gear for me yet. My $1 bandana is pretty sweet though!
What is your favorite quote that motivates you on and off trails?
Summer: As an avid reader with a degree in writing, words always motivate & inspire me. Mary Oliver, Cheryl Strayed and Audre Lorde are among my favorites. My recent favorite quote is by Judith Thurman, “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”
Lezley: “Why you crying? Are you bleeding? But did you die?” –traditional Mexican words of inspiration.
Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker?
There are many challenges to being a female on the trail. Often in our society, women aren’t taken as seriously as men. In any athletic endeavor, women can be even more patronized. The idea that women aren’t as tough or as knowledgeable about the outdoors is merely an extension of our sexist society. Women are still treated as novelty in the outdoors. We face these challenges by going outdoors anyway, by proving them wrong. For the most part people are kind on the trail & there’s a wonderful community feeling while hiking but these challenges can be intimidating for women to face on the trail.
Summer and Lezley are the women behind Fat Girls Hiking – an important female led entity in the outdoors world that promotes diversity. Below they tell us more about FGH.
Fat Girls Hiking started on Instagram in early 2015. We were hiking a lot & looking to social media to find outdoor communities that represented us, but they didn’t exist. There were a few accounts that focused on women but they were very homogenized & always featured a specific type of woman that we couldn’t identify with. We are both fat queer women. One of us is covered in tattoos, one of us is a woman of color. We do not look like typical hikers. But the lack of any diversity was staggering. So, we decided to change that. We wanted to celebrate all these amazing, beautiful people who aren’t usually featured on blogs or outdoor Instagram accounts.
What is the mission of FGH?
Fat Girls Hiking is a body positive outdoor community. We believe that all folks should be represented in outdoor media. We want to take the shame & stigma out of the word FAT & empower it. Our motto, Trails Not Scales is to focus on self love in the outdoors instead of weight loss. Trails Not Scales reminds us that the more we hike, the more love we have for ourselves & our bodies just as they are. We want all people to feel comfortable outdoors & to be able to claim their space on the trail. We know that bodies of all shapes & sizes are capable of anything. Our community is for those folks who have felt like they didn’t fit the typical hiker mold. We encourage & support folks who want to get out & hike, to do so!
How do define success with respect to FGH?
Empowering people through group hikes is how we define success. Any time we get an email saying “thank you for including people who look like me” is how we define success. People who don’t feel represented in outdoor Instagram accounts commenting on a photo & saying, “I love this account” is how we define success. Watching people who come on group hikes grow & gain confidence is how we measure success.
What are the current and future projects that you have for FGH?
Fat Hiking Club is a documentary about Fat Girls Hiking that is still in production. Some amazingly talented filmmakers from Vancouver, BC contacted us about FGH & filmed a hike we did with our group & interviewed us about body image, the outdoor community and why it’s important to create this space for fat folks, queer folks, people of color, trans & gender non-conforming people and women.
The Fat Girls Hiking Adventure Club is a new endeavor that is starting January 2017. We love hiking & will continue to lead group hikes once a month but we also want to have other outdoor adventures with folks in our community. Parasailing, fat tire biking on the beach, kayaking, snowshoeing, high ropes, climbing and many more activities are on our bucket list of adventures. The Adventure Club will sometimes be a body positive yoga or dance class, other times it will be a weekend getaway with outdoor activities or a group camping trip.
Besides Fat Girls Hiking, Summer and Lezley also have a blog called Be Heard and they tell us below what it’s about.
We have a blog called Be Heard. On the blog, we post photographs (taken by Summer) of people in the Fat Girls Hiking community or other body positive folks & have them answer a few questions about themselves. We want to hear people’s stories & photograph them in a space that feels comfortable for them.
Thanks Summer & Lezley! Fat Girls Hiking certainly symbolizes the awakening of women to loving themselves more in the outdoors. Without your organization, the hiking world would be less celebratory and appreciative of women who are different and unique in their own way. I can’t wait to see what other projects you have in store for us. So, keep doing what you do to inspire women of all types. After all, for the rest of the world to love us, we have to first love ourselves.
If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the WOMEN TRAIL LEADERS SERIES, OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES or FREEDOMEPRENEURS SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.
The first thing that people think of upon hearing Kentucky is probably fried chicken. Although that’s a very valid association, there’s a lot more to this state than that.
Bourbon, horse races, tobacco, and bluegrass are just some of the popular things that make up Kentucky’s character. Aside from that, there’s deep love for music, arts, food, and the outdoors.
Here are some of the things you should do when you’re in Kentucky.
#1 Have a Taste of Good Old Kentucky Bourbon
The Russians have vodka while the Americans have bourbon, and Kentucky is one of the best states for it.
You can stop by any distillery, but for an even better experience, go on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It’s probably one of the unique experiences you’ll have in Kentucky.
The Bourbon Trail consists of 9 of the state’s top distilleries. It lets you experience the culture of Bourbon, from the ingredients, to the process, to having a taste of the best Bourbon.
Many facilities have stunning surrounding landscapes too! If the trail doesn’t interest you, that’s okay. Just don’t leave Kentucky without having at least, a taste of Kentuckian Bourbon.
#2 Saddle Up
Horses are not only a big thing – they are one of the defining things of Kentucky. This state is, after all, the Horse Racing Capital of the World.
All year, you can enjoy horseback riding in the hundreds of miles of horse trails in the state. It doesn’t matter if you are a pro or a beginner, there’s a trail just right for your skills.
Many stables offer horse rentals, as well as horse camps for those who have horses of their own. Horseback riding is also a great way to see the outdoors. Most horse trails and horse camps offer stunning scenic views and peace and serenity.
#3 Kentucky Derby
Every year on the first Sunday of May, crowds of people from all over the nation and the world, come into Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is one of the state’s most popular event, which takes place at Churchill Downs.
Either before or after the event, you can visit the Kentucky Derby Museum to learn even more about the sport.
#4 See the magnificent Cumberland Falls
Cumberland Falls is also known as the “Niagara of the South.” The waterfall is 125 feet wide and has a drop of 68 feet into the Cumberland River.
The Cumberland Falls State Resort Park also offers other activities and attractions aside from the waterfall. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise! It has hiking trails, rafting, horseback riding, fishing, and camping.
#5 Go camping
The Kentucky State Park System has 31 campgrounds all throughout the state, so wherever you are, you’re never too far from one. Most grounds are open year-round, with sites for RVs, cabin tents, traditional tents, and even hammocks.
You can even lay your sleeping bag right under the stars. Also, many of the campsites are also equestrian-friendly.
After you set camp, you can do some exploring. Depending on which park you’re in, you might be able to go hiking, see lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, go horseback riding, or go biking.
#6 Explore Mammoth Cave
Did you know that the world’s longest cave system is Mammoth Cave, which is in Kentucky?
I didn’t know until just recently. From simple walking tours for families to strenuous spelunking for experts, there are lots of opportunities for exploration. It’s one of the many unique activities you can do in Kentucky.
#7 Go extreme at Hidden Rivers Cave
Another cave adventure you should do is the one at Hidden Rivers Cave. However, this one is not for the faint of hearts. Part of the adventure is zip lining across the cave’s sinkhole.
You can also go rappelling from the start to the mouth of the cave. That’s about 75 feet high!
The tour doesn’t get easier, but it’s still worth the thrill. A guide will lead you on a walking tour of the cave where you’ll be passing through wet and muddy surfaces.
Along the way, you’ll see some eyeless cave creatures too! Be ready to bear crawl, scramble, and have a memorable experience!
#8 Eat Hot Brown
We all know world famous food chain that originates from Kentucky – KFC! However, the state has other food that they are proud of. One of this is Hot Brown.
It may not sound so appealing, but this open-faced sandwich is a must-try! It’s made of turkey, bacon, tomatoes, and covered with Mornay sauce.
Many restaurants serve Hot Browns. However, there’s no better place than where it all began – the Brown Hotel. Nevertheless, do not leave the state without having a Hot Brown.
#9 Explore The Music Scene
Music in Kentucky runs deep, especially since it is the birthplace of Bluegrass music. It’s also the birthplace of many stars, including Billy Ray Cyrus, The Judds, and Loretta Lynn.
Being so musically inclined, the state has many museums that showcase the history and the music culture. At the end of your visit, you will have a new level of appreciation for this genre of music.
If you’re lucky, you might visit during the music festival. If it is, don’t miss it! Many international and local artists share the stage and play all sorts of genres.
You’ll find Kentucky has so much more to offer than fried chicken and horse racing. It’s a state that is so diverse and has something for all sorts of travelers. It’s also surprisingly such a great place for outdoor adventures.
I’ve only named a few, but I’ll leave the rest of the exploring to you. Don’t miss out on what Kentucky has to offer!
Louise is the founder of TheAdventureLand.com, where she and her associate’s blog about Outdoor experiences, tips & tricks that will help you have an exciting adventure. She is also a tour guide of travel company where she learned many things about wilderness. “Let’s pack our bags and explore the world!”. Follow her onTwitter and on Google+
If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please see the guidelineshere.Looking forward to your articles!
I must admit – life can be hectic. But what happens when your passion takes over most of your waking life? Since the inception of this blog and my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, any minute I get outside of my legal career has been dedicated to building the foundation for both entities. Luckily, my effort to do so is inspired by so many wonderful women who thrive in the spirit of the outdoors. Rebecca happens to be not only an inspired hiker, but also an INSPIRER for many women who love the outdoors.
To be honest, life before meeting Rebecca was like living in a bubble with the presence of such frequent thoughts in my head:
Am I the only one who is obsessed with hiking? Why can’t I be normal like the rest of the single girls back in Washington, DC? Why do I preoccupy myself with the idea of mountains and summits?
Shortly after launching this blog and Peak Explorations, I met Rebecca through her women-focused outdoors website, Hike Like a Woman. This discovery was completely by accident which happened through a network of bloggers on Facebook. From the HLAW website, I gathered that there are more women who care about hiking that I could have ever imagined. In fact, I discovered through HLAW that there IS a community of women supporting one another in their pursuit of the outdoors. How did I overlook the idea of the existence of such a community? From there, I gained interest in getting involved and contacted Rebecca about the Ambassador Program with HLAW. I then contributed a few articles to HLAW and eventually became a contributor for the website.
The thing is I never really thought of the possibility that networking with other outdoor bloggers/leaders would be feasible. But, Rebecca through HLAW managed to pave the way to connect many of us and create a community that continues to grow as time passes. As I learned to get to know Rebecca and her mission behind HLAW, I began to sense that Rebecca’s role within the hiking community for women is irreplaceable.
Rebecca embodies the role of an icon for women as a reminder of the possibilitiesout there for us, be it in the world of the outdoors or in our personal lives. There is no limit to what we are capable of as women – whether we choose to be a trail leader, an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother, or to simply be a hiker. In the most authentic version of ourselves, we have the power to be what we wish to become. HLAW is a testament to the empowerment of women that we embody individually and celebrate as a whole. The sum of all the parts leads to HLAW as the vehicle to promote the voices and the relevance of women in the outdoors. HLAW’s success, of course, goes back to the founder herself. It’s a reflection of Rebecca’s commitment to be of service to the community of diverse women who share her passion – hiking and the outdoors.
There are plenty of individuals and organizations I’m grateful for since the start of my blogging life and entrepreneurship. As such, undoubtedly, Rebecca and HLAW are on top of the the list of those who I’ll always be grateful to in terms of inspiration and support.
So, with all that said, I’m thrilled to share Rebecca’s hiking story, her role as a trail leader and her experience as an entrepreneur in the outdoors world. As I learn about Rebecca’s insight and passion for all the above endeavors, I quickly came to this realization:
When our passion takes over our lives, it may very well be so damn exhausting. Yes, indeed it is. And yet, alongside with it, is a feeling of immense joy- after all, it is all about going after what is truly dear to our hearts. Hence, we rest, if needed, but no matter how tired we may be, we never stop forging ahead.
Outdoor Woman’s Voice, Woman Trail Leader & Freedompreneur: Rebecca of Hike Like a Woman
Rebecca Walsh grew up in Bozeman, Montana. She currently lives with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 3 in Laramie, WY. As our feature, it’s a pleasure to have Rebecca because she not only is a voice for outdoors women, but she is also fitting as a feature for the Women Trail Leaders and Freedompreneurs series of the blog. Rebecca has founded several outdoors entities: Hike Like a Woman, Little Laramie Hikers and Just Trails. She’s also a published writer. Rebecca’s love for the outdoors is unquestionable as any activity that she partakes in almost always has everything to do with the outdoors. Talk about passion! It’s amazing how she manages to find time for all these things. It must be true love! So, let’s read on about Rebecca’s hiking life and learn about her amazing projects that have become instrumental to the hiking community.
When and how did you start hiking?
I grew up in a really outdoorsy family so I don’t really remember when I started hiking but I’ve seen a lot of picture of me as a baby in a backpack carrier on my Dad’s back. So I guess it started from before I was born. It’s just kind of in my nature to want to be outdoors and on the mountain.
What do you like the most about hiking?
I like that it’s something that can be done almost anywhere there is a dirt path and that there’s minimal equipment required. After all, a hike can be nothing more than just a walk in the woods. You can make it as extreme or as easy as you want just by varying the terrain.
Rebecca shares with us her most memorable hiking experience to date.
A few years ago a group of my Mom friends and I decided that we needed a break from hiking at the pace of our toddlers and young children. So we planned a quick trip to Colorado where we climbed four 14ers in one day. Mt. Democrat, Cameron Lincoln and Bross. We showed up at our campsite late at night on a Friday after working all day and then woke up at 4 am to begin the climb. It was a long day, with breathtaking scenery and lung-busting ascents. The whole adventure lasted maybe 24 hours but it was exactly what we needed to do something a little bit challenging and have some fun together.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned lately is how to slow down. When I’m on the trail my email isn’t buzzing, my phone isn’t ringing, my to-do list disappears. It’s just me and the trail with nothing to do except enjoy the beauty that surrounds me and become lost in my own thoughts. My best ideas don’t come when I’m busy, they come when I’ve taken a few minutes to slow down, breathe and walk. I’ve also learned to listen and just be at peace with who I am.
What advise would you give to those new to hiking?
Just lace up your boots and go. The hardest part for me is getting out the door, so I have to put hikes on my schedule so the space doesn’t get filled up with work. If you’re new to hiking find an experienced friend to show you what to pack and where to go. If you’re a new Mom and looking to start hiking with your baby don’t wait, hiking is so good for children of all ages.
Rebecca shares with us some of her favorite family photos while playing on the trails.
What treks do you have on your bucket list?
Definitely Kilimanjaro. I turned down a trip there last year and totally regret it. I’m also planning to do Rainier in a few years to celebrate my 40th birthday. But yeah, if there’s a big mountain I want to climb it.
What challenges have you faced if anything as a female hiker?
This is an interesting question, because after all I do have a website called Hike Like A Woman. But honestly, I grew up in a family where all of us hiked. I live in a place where I see just as many women (if not more) on the trails as I do men. I feel really comfortable and safe on the trails, and I’ve never experienced any sort of gender discrimination on the mountain. I guess I’m lucky, not all women experience that.
You have a hiking group called Little Laramie Hikers in Wyoming. What is it about?
Shortly after my husband and I left our careers to move to Wyoming I noticed a few things. First, I noticed that my entire town seemed to hibernate for the winter. I rarely saw any women and children on the trails once the snow started to fly. Second, I noticed that occasionally I’d see a family on the trails but only on the weekends. There were a lot of outdoorsy women in my town who love the outdoors but weren’t comfortable taking their children on a hike without their spouse. I wanted to change this culture so I started a family-friendly hiking group.
What made you decide to start this group and tell us what activities does the group do?
I started the Little Laramie Hikers because I’m passionate about connecting women and children with nature and local trails. I also wanted a way to make friends who had similar interests (like the outdoors) and I wanted to provide a fun way for parents to meet up and hike.
Right now, we hike together every Friday morning. We alternate between different trails, we have a lot to choose from and sometimes we throw in other activities or environmental education lessons. Our hiking group went to look at dinosaur bones and fossils with a paleontologist last year and that was amazing for the adults and the children. We’ve also learned about pikas with a wildlife biologist, tadpoles, hiked with a senior citizens hiking group, hiked in Halloween costumes, had picnics, learned about wildflowers, and sometimes we hike deep into the woods and read our favorite children’s outdoor books. We’re fortunate to live in a college town so grad students are always looking for fun ways to come out and hike with our group.
Do you have other folks organizing?
Right now it’s pretty much just me. There are 200 families in the group, but someone always steps up to lead if I can’t make it to a hike or to help plan a fun outdoor adventure for the group. It’s really a sub-community of outdoor families within our larger community and I like that.
Where do you hike with the group?
Everywhere! We try to keep the driving distance to less than an hour but we’ve hiked all over Southeastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado.
What do you like about being a trail leader?
I feel like one of my goals as the leader of the group is to make sure that I get to know everyone who hikes with us and to make sure they feel comfortable and welcome. I like meeting new people who who up for a hike the first time.
What are some of the challenges of being a trail leader?
Naturally I wish I could do more for the group. I wish I had more time to find us gear sponsors for our lending library, or more time to coordinate hikes with other groups but that’s just life. I do what I can.
Also, our hiking group is really family-oriented but since we usually hike on Friday mornings we tend to attract the work-from-home and stay-at-home spouses, so it’s usually a big group of Moms and children. Once we got mistaken for a daycare! I actually love having the support of a good solid group of outdoor women and mom’s and I’ve found that they have developed into my closest friends. My biggest challenge is being able to lead hikes on weekends so I can get more women who work during the week involved.
What advise do you have for women who are interested in starting a group?
Go for it, set up a communication platform that is easy (we have a private Facebook page to communicate) and tell your friends to come out. For the first 6 months only 2 women joined me on hikes and sometimes no one would come at all but that’s okay, we kept on hiking and planning hikes and eventually the group grew. Now I think our hiking group is one of the best things going on in my town for families.
Name 3 qualities that will help to be a successful a trail leader.
Patience, kindness and organization.
You started an enterprise called, Just Trails. What is it about?
In 2012 my husband and I left our careers are Army officers. We had deployed to Iraq a bunch and had a new baby and just needed some time to decompress. We also loved to hike, cross-country ski, mountain bike and explore so we wanted to combine our love for the outdoors with a small business that we could pursue while deciding what to do with the rest of our lives.
What is the purpose of Just Trails?
Our goal was and always will be to help people explore. We had noticed that wherever the Army sent us we had a hard time finding accurate and useful trail information so we spent our precious weekends researching where to go instead of actually exploring. So our goal was to map out every single trail in Southeastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado to provide a mega data base of local trail information.
What made you decide to initiate this enterprise?
Honestly I think we were just in this weird transition phase after leaving the Army where we just weren’t quite sure what to do. We had saved some money and wanted to work for ourselves so we just went for it.
How has it been like for you running this enterprise?
It’s been amazing. It’s been hard and we’ve learned that it’s not a sustainable business model, so we made a lot of mistakes financially. But at the same time everyone in our local area knows that they can find reliable trail information on our website so it’s quite popular locally. I don’t really know what the future looks like for Just Trails but we really enjoy it.
What do you enjoy about your role in running Just Trails?
I like working closely with my husband on a project. I think it’s been good for our marriage, it’s taught us both how to communicate with each other better.
What are some challenges?
The biggest challenge is funding Just Trails. After a few years with my husband and I running it together we decided that he needed to go back to school and find other employment, so for the past 2 1/2 years while he’s been in law school the bulk of the work has fallen on me. As a result we haven’t been able to put up any new trail maps, or launch a few other projects we have brewing on the back burner. But we’re hoping to hire a few employees someday to help us expand and grow. There’s interest in it, it’s just a matter of being strategic with our funds.
How did you overcome them?
I think it helps to have a long term vision and strategy. We’ve built the brand, we have a solid reputation, the next step is just growing smartly. We’ve cash-flowed the business and are committed to keeping it debt-free. Because we want to keep the risk low it limits the speed by which we can grow and expand.
What 3 tips would you give to outdoors women who are thinking of starting an outdoors-related business?
Chose your business partner wisely. Have a plan. Don’t go into debt, it’s just not worth it.
How do you define success as an entrepreneur?
Do you work hard to provide a good service that helps people? If so then you are a success.
What keeps you motivated in running a business?
I guess it’s selfish but I really like being my own boss, I don’t really want to work for someone else.
How hard is it for a female to run a business in this niche? Any challenges?
Since it’s been a partnership from day #1 I haven’t noticed any challenges related to being a female. I like to think that if you want to pursue your passion and work hard nothing will stop you.
As I met Rebecca through her organization, Hike Like a Woman, I definitely had to ask her about HLAW, its beginnings and how she envisions it evolving over time.
What inspired you to start HLAW and tell us about its mission?
A few years ago I felt like I needed to find my own voice in the outdoor community so I started HLAW. The mission of HLAW is to build a community of outdoor women inspiring each other with stories, tips and advice.
Where do you see the group heading in the future?
My ultimate goal is to have all-women guided trips and tours. I’d especially like to start something geared toward helping female Veterans, because as a Veteran myself I know that there’s a huge need for that. But HLAW trips, tours, retreats – it’s on my horizon. For now, however, I just want to keep building the community, sharing experiences and providing good information for outdoor women.
You have successfully launched a community for women in the outdoors. Can you share what factors led to the success of HLAW?
Bringing a group of women on board as Ambassadors & Contributors to help share their experiences is the first thing that comes to mind. It helps the website feel less about me and more about the community. The next thing would be partnering and collaborating with other outdoor bloggers, especially my friend Amelia with Tales of a Mountain Mama. I love bouncing ideas off of her and a few others. The last thing would be to know your people, I have a photo shared by one of my readers. She’s a heavy-set middle aged woman who hikes in a blue jeans, she’s a real woman. Her photo is printed off and I look at it when I write blog posts and record podcast episodes. She reminds me to speak to her when I write and podcast. It’s not about her, it’s about the thousands of women just like her who read my blog and listen to my podcast.
Rebecca then shares with us some of her favorite moments through HLAW
Since it’s a visual community one of my favorite moments was the first time when my group of Ambassadors hopped on a google hangout. It was like meeting my readers for the first time, I couldn’t stop smiling.
What have been some of the challenges along the way in running HLAW?
Sometimes I get haters and everyone is always pointing out typos. I do my best but I’m not perfect. If someone wants perfect I’d prefer the they didn’t read my blog 😉 If someone wants honest and real, then they are in the right place.
Tell us about some of the upcoming projects for HLAW.
I launched the podcast earlier in December, 2016. Growing the podcast and getting to know my readers is my goal for 2017. In 2018, I’d like to take the show on the road and maybe travel across the country hiking and interviewing inspiring outdoor women. Maybe a kickstarter is in my future.
You have expanded the HLAW community through the creation of the Ambassador program. How does it work?
Last summer I took Darley Newman, the host of Adventures With Darley, a show on PBS on a hike when she was in town filming an episode of her show. I noticed that while the show had her name in it, it wasn’t about her. It was about the areas she was exploring and the locals who were guiding her. At the time I decided that I needed to change HLAW, it needed to be a place that wasn’t about me, that’s boring. It needed to be a place where others could come and share their stories. So I invited my community to apply for a chance to be an Ambassador for HLAW, basically someone to contribute to the website and be more involved with planning on the back end. I thought no one would apply but 118 women did! I selected 35 of them from all over the world. Since the program is new I’ve decided to add a group of contributors, as well.
How can women get more involved with HLAW?
Definitely follow along the website and hang out with us on Facebook 🙂
You also write yourself. To date, which piece of writing by you is your favorite?
Speaking of haters, a few years ago I published a post about hiking with kids on HLAW. One women freaked out about it in Facebook, she said something about how it was dangerous to hike with kids. Her comment got me all sorts of fired up so I wrote a post called, “Why I Put My Babies At Risk By Taking Them Hiking” it’s been my most popular post to date. And while I wrote it out of anger, it was super honest and I think that’s why people love (or hate) the post.
What advise would you give to female bloggers who are new to writing or blogging?
Find a blogging mentor, someone who has been around that you can throw ideas at or find a blogging group that is supportive and fun.
Share with us your favorite quote that keeps you going whether on or off the trail.
“What if you fall, but darling what if you fly?
How do you see yourself in 5 years with HLAW, Just Trails and Little Laramie Hikers?
I hope I’m just still getting outside as much as possible, encouraging others to get outside and having fun.
On that note, I think it’s clear that Rebecca’s passion for the outdoors will continue forward for a lifetime and is easily a calling for her. Not only does she create the world that is safe and supportive for us women hikers but also she lives life true to her passion for trekking. That, in and of itself, is the real inspiration that she sheds on all of us.
Going back to my initial thoughts before discovering HLAW and knowing Rebecca, I’m happy to say that they have dissipated in my mind. After all, the hiking world turns out to be pretty darn amazing for women! I’m no longer the only insane person who is obsessed over hiking and neither am I alone in my continued pursuit of my own calling and commitment to living an authentic life.
Thanks, Rebecca! I look forward to seeing you flourish in your momentum of empowering women. I can’t wait to see your creative ideas come to fruition as you forge ahead to inspire the hiking community.
If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the WOMEN TRAIL LEADERS SERIES, OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES or FREEDOMEPRENEURS SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.
One is never too old to hike. But then, can one ever be “too young” to hike?
Our next feature, Kaila, found inspiration from hiking through making a choice to live a healthy lifestyle and discovered hiking in her adult life. However, joining Kaila, is her 4 year old son, Wyatt, who started hiking at 8 months! Of course, not literally as he was too young to walk then but his parents have exposed him to the outdoors from that very young age. So, are you ever too young to love the outdoors? According to Wyatt, no.
Before officially meeting Kaila and Wyatt, my first encounter with Wyatt was through reading a Huffington Post article on him. Wyatt aims to hike Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia’s Borneo – the youngest to do so. I personally did a solo hike of Mt. Kinabalu years back and it’s a strenuous trail not to be taken lightly as it goes as high as over 13,000 feet. Luckily, it appears his parents are mindful of his safety and deems that to be the number one priority. Wyatt’s pursuit of hiking and just being in the outdoors is certainly inspiring for the young and old alike. Also, it’s a testament to the fact that having kids should not halt our passion for the outdoors as adults, especially for women. After all, it’s the healthiest way to raise a young person. So, I’m rather excited to hear from both Kaila and Wyatt about how hiking has been instrumental in their lives. In addition, their hiking stories take us to the Philippines and Asia (for now). In case you do wonder if there are trails to trek in that part of the world, the answer is yes, most definitely! It’s not the easiest terrain either with frequent muddy conditions and steep climbs. Nonetheless, it’s a heavenly place for any avid hiker.
Outdoor Woman’s Voice
Kaila (& Wyatt)
Kaila Sharlene de los Reyes – Beduralwas born in Santa Cruz, Manila and grew up in Quiapo, Manila. She is currently residing in San Pedro, a city in the province of Laguna. Kaila is a freelance web developer, web designer, SEO specialist, and marketer. Kaila started hiking in 2011. She hikes in nearby mountains and around Batangas, Laguna and Rizal as time allows. She also has ventured into the Cordillera mountains in Benguet and explored some of the peaks in Mindanao. When off trails, Kaily loves collecting banknotes of the countries she has visited and old Philippine banknotes.
How did you discover hiking?
I saw the hiking photos of my officemates and I suddenly feel envious with them. I didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to join but I suddenly got invited by one of them, so I immediately said yes! After that, I didn’t join them anymore and I just searched for groups and events on facebook where I could join and I eventually became a solo hiker.
What do you like the most about hiking?
I was born and grew up in a city so I seldom experience being with nature during my childhood and teenage days. When hiking, I loved how I can see different views of nature. Also, there’s an overwhelming joy once you reach the top of the mountain. Next, it helped me have a healthy lifestyle. Our family is prone to being obese. In fact, I’ve been overweight since I was a child. But because of hiking, I’ve lost a lot of weight. However, in 2015 when I became too busy with work and we seldom went hiking, I gained back some pounds again. Third, hiking helps me relieved some stress, especially when spending the night camping in the mountain. Fourth, hiking is our major family bonding.
Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?
When I didn’t have my own family yet, I enjoyed hiking solo. Hiking with big groups delayed the itinerary and I want to follow my own pace. If spending the night in the mountains, sometimes it’s too noisy at the campsite if there are too many people. So without a doubt, I loved hiking alone. However, it changed when I’ve gota husband and a baby. Hiking as a family is the most enjoyable thing for me now. I no longer care about my own pacing because we enjoyed every step with our Wyatt.
Kaila shares with us 3 places locally and abroad that she and Wyatt have hiked.
Fansipan in Sapa Town Lao Cai, Vietnam is our first ever hike outside the Philippines. It is called the “Roof of Indochina”. It was winter season (December) when we went there and although there’s no snow, the climate is really cold especially at the top. But we’re prepared and equipped with proper gears so we didn’t worry about the cold weather.
Next is Mt. Talomo traverse to Mt. Apo. It is known as Mindanao Megatraverse because of its tough trails. Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines and potentially-active strato-volcano. There are a lot of trails to get there like the Kapatagan trail (easiest), Kidapawan trail (a little challenging) and a lot more. We did the Mt. Talomo-Apo traverse when we decided to hike Mt. Apo because it’s like hitting two birds in one stone. Before getting to Mt. Apo, you have to hike a series of mountain peaks so it’s hard. The usual itinerary for it is 4 days and 3 nights. But because we have a toddler with us, we extend the itinerary to 5 days and 4 nights
Third is Mt. Ulap Eco Trail. It is one of the most famous hiking trails in the Philippines because of its spectacular views. There are pine trees, grasslands, ridge, hanging bridge and you can also see burial caves. It is just near Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?
Never underestimate the mountain. Be prepared always. Learn not only the basics of hiking but also the advanced skills. Have more patience.
What advise would you give to women who are new to hiking?
Enjoy the trail and the nature in general. These are the things that no amount of money can buy. So we, as a family, invest on these experiences rather than gadgets and other unnecessary things in life.
What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?
Every hike is memorable for us. But the most memorable perhaps is our Mt. Kitanglad traverse to Mt. Dulang-Dulang. It is also a tough hiking trail in the Philippines. And because we have a toddler with us, it is much harder than usual. The weather forecast in the place was sunny but we still experienced moderate to heavy rain in the middle of the trek. We couldn’t go back anymore because we’re too far already so we have no choice but to go. There are steep descents and ascents so we have to use ropes. There’s a part with big rock with cliffs on both sides. An existing rope is available but it’s too muddy making it slippery. Same goes with the rock. We couldn’t ask any help as well because the local guide already went ahead of us and there are no other hikers during that time. I wasn’t afraid for myself but for my husband and our little one. I went first and I managed to surpass that obstacle. While at the top, I kept praying to God and saints to protect both of them. Thankfully, nothing bad happened.
What treks do you have on your bucket list?
We have lined up Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, then Lantau Peak and Dragon’s Back Trail in Hong Kong for 2017. Hopefully, more international climbs for 2018. Nothing specific yet because we’re just relying on promo fares and we’ll go whichever place I get the most affordable fare. Of course for the bucket list, we have the Himalayas – Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp; but that’s too expensive so not a priority.
Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker?
When I was still a single woman, there are people who underestimated my capabilities as a female. I was turned down to join a hike simply because I was a newbie and a woman; they thought that I couldn’t do it. I felt so hurt so I decided to go on my own way and proved to them that I can do it just like them (men).
When did Wyatt start hiking?
He was only 8 months old when we brought him to our hiking activity.
How did he get started on hiking?
When we already knew that I was pregnant, we stopped all the outdoor activities until my CS wound was completely healed. We were on hiatus for about 1 year and 5 months. We really wanted to go back to what we used to do before and we really missed outdoor activities. We don’t have a nanny for Wyatt, and since there are only three of us in the house, we decided to go camping with our baby. Surprisingly, Wyatt showed interest being one with nature. He’s really happy with the trees, the environment, and the people we meet on the trail. The funny part is that he didn’t want us to stop walking. Yes, he didn’t want to rest. We had fun climbing together as a family so we decided to do it often when the schedule and budget permit. Aside from the fun that climbing brings, we noticed that Wyatt’s stamina is getting stronger and he was able to resist a lot of sickness. Unlike other kids, he seldom gets sick and never been hospitalized.
Mountainous, grasslands, mossy forest, open fields, muddy trail, and river crossings.
How do you coordinate and plan his hikes?
Of course, extensive preparation has been done before we go on a climb. We consider the type of mountain whether it’s only a dayhike or a multi-day climb. We avoid mountains that are rocky and have limatiks (leeches). We choose mountains where baby Wyatt can walk/climb by himself in most parts. As a result, his legs are full of muscles even as a baby. There are more preparations in major climbs because we need to make sure that we won’t run out of supplies for the entire duration of the hike. Aside from the allotted food for the estimated days, we also have some buffer supplies (emergency food) just in case there are unexpected circumstances. We have to know the weather forecast on the location of the mountain, although we know that mountain has its own weather that we can’t control. In fact, we have scheduled climbs in the past that we aborted due to bad weather in the area. We’re also searching for some locals in the area who will assist us,especially for the logistics such as the transportation going to the jump-off and processing of permits so that our focus will be on our internal preparation – mostly for our baby.
As parents, how do you ensure his safety?
We carefully choose the trails that we will hike. As parents, we don’t want him to be in danger. So when hiking, both of us are very attentive to his every step. If there are hard parts on the trail and he’s too tired, we carry him. If the mountain is a major one, we used to seek help from friends to accompany us so we have somebody to rely on in terms of cooking of meals, etc. so our focus is purely on our son. We also take time in the trail. Before, we used to run but now, we just follow our son’s pacing. Very enjoyable!
You also launched a website – what is the goal for your site?
At first, it was a private site because Ed and I were both busy so we couldn’t write anything to be published on that blog. We just wanted to compile Wyatt’s photos of his climbs, travel and other adventures through it. I’ve purchased a domain with his name and made it public in May, 2016. Then eventually, the website helped us establish media presence for Wyatt (TV shows, magazines, and other blogs).
How has the outdoors community responded to your son’s lovefor hiking?
We’ve been receiving both positive and negative comments about bringing our child in the mountains. For the positive comments, they said they are inspired, amazed and wanted to do the same. For the negative, there’s a lot. They said we are putting our child into danger, some even said we’re not a good example, that it’s a bad parenting, etc. Even so, we’re not really affected with the negative comments because they don’t know us, they don’t know what kind of preparation we do, and they didn’t experience it themselves.
You can read more about this topic via this article on Wyatt’s website. What future hikes do you have planned for Wyatt?
For nearby mountains, we usually go unexpected. For those that need airfare tickets, I’ve already booked promo fares in advance so we have plans for Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia (May), Lantau Peak and Dragon’s Back Trail in Hongkong (July).
What are some of Wyatt’s favorite hikes?
Wyatt loves water so his favorite hikes are those with falls, river, and lake.
What advise do you have for parents who have a child who’s interested in hiking and who wish to start going outdoors?
Hiking with a child, let alone a toddler or infant, is not an easy task. So if you are interested to start going outdoors with your child, make sure that you have tried it yourself. The most important thing is that both parents should love what they are doing. Be prepared not only with the supplies but also physically and emotionally.
It’s been a pleasure to have Kaila and Wyatt on this feature and learning more about the hiking life in the Philippines. The outdoors are meant for any age and stage of life as long as preparations are made. Wyatt sure has more hikes to pursue and so it’s worth following him via his social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.You can also read about Wyatt’s adventures via his own blog.
If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.