Have you ever had an accomplishment that made you feel like a badass woman? Do you have a passion for something that leaves you feeling empowered, like a force of nature? I feel that way when I hit the trail, whether it’s hiking for 6.5 miles on a rocky section of the Appalachian Trail with my 30-pound toddler on my back or rock scrambling on a sunrise hike with a group of fellow female hikers who met up by headlamp in the still darkness of the early morning hours.
The crazy thing is, just a few years ago I was terribly out of shape and living a sedentary life. I rarely stepped out of my comfort zone to challenge myself physically. While I’m still not in perfect shape and I’m far from an expert on the outdoors, I now classify myself as a female hiker and outdoor adventurer. I crave time in the outdoors and the positive effects it has on my mind, body and spirit. I’m still me, just an improved version!
About the 10K Women Trail Project
A 2017 study found that 63 percent of women said they could not think of an outdoor female role model and 6 in 10 women said that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s. Hike it Baby, a nonprofit organization with chapters nationwide dedicated to getting families outdoors, created the 10K Women Trail Project to level the playing field. It aims to inspiring female hikers to motivate others in joining them on the trail. The initiative is funded by an REI Force of Nature grant. The project began in November 2017 and continues through September 2018. Participation is free and is open to women throughout the United States with the goal to encourage at least 10,000 women and girls to log their hiking adventures for one year.
In preparation for launching the 10K Women Trail Project, Hike it Baby named 100 Trailblazers who encouraged others to hike. I was chosen from more than 300 applicants to lead and inspire others. Even as an introvert, encouraging other women to join me on the trail has come naturally. It evolved out of a combination of two things: sharing my hiking adventures on Instagram and finding someone to go with me when my family’s schedule didn’t align with my own. Friends, former high school classmates and fellow moms started reaching out, asking me about hikes I posted on Instagram. One conversation led to another and soon I had a handful of hiking buddies to hit the trail with.
Why I Hike
I hike because it’s very restorative for me. Even though it sounds rather cliche, I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. So many women I hike with do it for the exact same reason.
Whether I’m with my 2-year-old, my family of five, a dear friend or a group of women, I always feel better after a hike in the woods. There’s something about enjoying nature that resets my brain, my mood and even my patience.
I got bit by the group hiking bug in September 2017 after attending a Maryland Heights hike with Mountain Chicks Virginia, a women’s hiking group I discovered on Facebook. I was surprised that more than a dozen people showed up for the hike. Some drove hours to get there. One woman came all the way from New Jersey! Everyone had a great time getting to know each other on the trail and enjoying the beautiful view of Harpers Ferry from the top!
A month later I connected with a group of moms on Facebook who hike with their children, but enjoy occasional solo hikes that are more strenuous. The next thing I knew I was leaving my house at 4 a.m. for a sunrise hike at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pa. Always the introvert, it’s uncharacteristic of me to take a leap and join a group of people I don’t know. However, I was tired of hiking the same local trails and I knew we all shared a love of hiking. I arrived and briefly met the other women by headlamp before we departed for the trail.
Each vista we came to had more stunning views than the one before. It gradually began to get lighter until our headlamps were no longer necessary. We sat at one of the overlooks and watched the sun emerge above the skyline. But that wasn’t the end of our adventure. The trail blazes led us rock scrambling down over the edge of the overlook. That was a new experience for me. I was apprehensive in the moment, but I realized afterward that the experience made me incredibly confident in my body and its abilities. Near the end of our hike we crossed a large boulder field which was another first for me. It was an epic day; one I won’t forget anytime soon!
I’m the first to admit that I love one-on-one time with my friends on the trail. It allows for a deeply personal connection that I enjoy. Ever since that morning at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, I’ve also come to appreciate women hiking together in a group.
This year I’m leading monthly hikes in Maryland as an ambassador for Girls Who Hike, a community of like-minded women who connect, network, and discover together through local trails. As an ambassador for Girls Who Hike I’m also able to carry out my goals as a 10K Women Trail Project Trailblazer, inspiring women to get out on the trail. We’re fortunate to have many amazing hiking trails in Maryland! Twelve women came out for our first hike in January to Annapolis Rock, despite below freezing temperatures. I know they left feeling totally badass, and so did I. I hope you’ll join me for some trail adventures in 2018! Join Girls Who Hike MD to find out more!