Adventure vs. Comfort

29 04 2010

Today on Go Girl, it’s a battle between two travel personalities.

Check it out here.

Women Leading Women

28 04 2010

Part of the purpose of this blog is to encourage women to believe in themselves, to challenge themselves, and to take the time to reconnect with themselves.  Sometimes, however, doing something on your own for the first time is scary.  If you know you want to try outdoors activities, but charging into the woods alone is more than you can handle just yet, there are other options.  Lots of them.  I’ve talked before about local classes and group hikes to join.  Today, I want to address another phenomenon that has grown in popularity in recent years: women’s adventure vacations.

Google “women’s adventure travel,” and you’ll be overwhelmed at the number of companies out there offering active trips for women.  These outfits encourage solo travelers, and focus on the comraderie and community that develops between women in a non-competitive environment.  They take women up mountains, down rivers, and into canyons…and can give you the opportunity to learn about outdoor adventure without having to worry as much about relying only on yourself.  The list below is just a few of the companies offering these trips.  (Disclaimer: I haven’t taken any of these trips, so can’t endorse a particular company.  However, I can endorse the idea, which is what I’m doing.)

  • Adventurous Wench: Started in 2003 by founder Deanna Keahey, this women’s active travel company specializes in trips for solo women.  While you’re welcome to bring along a sister or a friend, AW seems to cater specifically to solos looking for company.  Trips currently advertised include hiking in Sedona, Ireland, or Napa, hopping around Greek Islands, and confronting wildlife in Costa Rica.
  • Canyon Calling: Founder Cheryl Fleet decided to start Canyon Calling when she realized that women traveling alone bonded easily with other women travelers and were more willing to open up and show interest than in co-ed groups.  Starting with a trip through Northern Arizona, the company now offers trips all over the world, including Alaska, Australia, Peru, and the Swiss Alps.
  • Adventure Women: Founded in 1982, Adventure Women specializes in group trips for women over 30.  Founder Susan Eckert explains, ” [o]n an all-women’s trip, women tell us that they can be totally and unequivocally themselves.”  The company is currently offering trips to places as varied as Kenya, New Zealand, Egypt, and Montana.
  • Adventures in Good Company: This eleven-year-old company specializes in active outdoors trips for women in Europe, Africa, and North and South America.  Trips include backpacking, kayaking, riding, climbing, and other outdoor activities.
  • Call of the Wild: When Carol Latimer lost her secretarial job in 1978, she decided to start organizing wilderness tours, and Call of the Wild was born.  This company specializes in trips for women from all walks of life, traveling together or solo, who want outdoors adventures.  Currently offered trips include backpacking in California, day hiking in Hawaii, and doing all kinds of things in Guatemala (among others).

For something a little different, check out the Women’s Wilderness Institute.  This organization provides “wilderness experiences and outdoor adventures for women and teen girls in the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of the Southwest.”  This organization is different because it primarily offers trips that are “courses,” in hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, fly fishing…even “Wilderness Yoga.”  The focus is on instruction, guidance, and growth, teaching women and girls skills to build their self-sufficiency, confidence and strength.

So take a look at what’s out there.  Women are leading women into adventure everywhere you look.  If you’re not ready to commit to an extended trip, look into your local adult education centers and wilderness clubs for day hikes and courses, or short overnights.  Go ahead, dangle your toe in the water…and see how long it takes before you start heading out on your own.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Wait…I’m supposed to what?

27 04 2010

I know I owe y’all a post, which is coming tomorrow, but for now, have a funny:

With thanks to Kelly Ferguson, author of basketcase comix.

Who can explain why that’s so funny?  (Hint: it’s a take on a well-known hiking/camping credo.)

Anyone There?

26 04 2010

Faithful readers, please forgive me.  Her Side has been royally buried under the work mountain for the past couple of weeks.  I’m working on a new post right now, and will put it up on Wednesday.  I’m so sorry I’ve been neglectful.

Here, have something cute to tide you over.

It’s a wild mountain…no, no, it’s just my cat.  Isn’t she cute?  Her Side will be back from hiatus soon!  Hang in there with me!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

16 04 2010

The road into the east entrance to Yellowstone, circa September 2004.  (To be fair, I don’t remember just how far from the entrance I was here.  Somewhere past the middle of Wyoming, at least…)

Happy Friday!  To my fellow Bostonians: Happy Marathon Weekend!  To everyone else: haha, you have to work on Monday.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Drive Me Crazy

15 04 2010

Today on Go Girl, I explain why driving is my travel mode of choice.

Check it out here.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Meet Ranger Doug

14 04 2010

“The American people feel that their National Park System is the basis for a kind of religion. And that the national parks are the cathedrals where they come to worship. And the people in the big hats are the high priests who have been given the responsibility to protect these sacred land trusts.”

— Doug Follett, National Park Ranger

It’s a big year for Ranger Doug Follett.  The big 5-0.  Half a century.  Half a lifetime (if you’re lucky enough to live for a century).

No, he’s not turning 50 years old.  He’s actually 84 this year.  The “50” refers to the number of years Follett has been a seasonal interpretive ranger at Glacier National Park in Montana.  And he’s still going strong.

The National Park Service recently interviewed Follett.  The first thing that struck me about his interview, which you can read here, is his comments on the disappearing glaciers.  He says,

“Then one spring I noticed six inches of red rock at the end of that Glacier snowfield. And I said to myself, ‘Next year that will be covered up, because Old Mother Nature knows that if she doesn’t put more snow on top, we won’t have glaciers, and our sign at the entrance says we’re a glacier park.’”

The next year, it wasn’t covered up.  The glacier had shrunk further.

The second thing that struck me was the passion that the National Parks inspire.  Follett, and many other rangers like him, return to the parks year after year, loving simply being a part of the parks and dedicating their lives to helping others discover and explore them.  We should all be lucky enough to find one passion in our lives like that.

Watch the short video of excerpts of the interview, with incredible contemporary and historical photos of Glacier National Park, below.

National Parks Magazine presents Ranger Doug Follett from Wild Collective on Vimeo.

National Park Week starts this Saturday, April 17 and continues through Sunday, April 25.  Take advantage of the special programs and free admission to the parks near you!

I Get By With a Little Help From…That Guy

12 04 2010

One of the greatests things about solo camping and hiking is the feeling of accomplishment and independence that comes with realizing you can be self-sufficient.  Holy cow, I can build a fire!  I can pitch a tent — and get it all back into that little sleeve it came in!  I can climb a mountain and find my way back down!  (These are even greater triumphs if you grew up thinking you had no capacity to deal with the outdoors or anything remotely physical — and having that thinking reinforced.)

Self-sufficiency, and the independence and freedom that comes along with it, is truly valuable.  When embarking on your first solo camping and hiking endeavors, you should definitely push yourself towards that goal.  Even if you aren’t totally sure you can build a fire and cook that hot dog, give it a try.  A real try, not just a half-hearted one.  Plot your own course on a hike, figure out how to use your equipment, make your own decisions.  You’re way more capable than you give yourself credit for, I promise.

Sometimes, however, you need a little help.  Maybe you can’t change the tire on your car in the middle of a busy highway.  Maybe you can’t get a particularly tight knot undone.  Maybe you just. Can’t. Get. That. Fire. Going.  That’s when Rule Number 10 comes into play:

Ask For Help When You Need It

Sure, it’s great to be self-sufficient.  Sure, part of solo camping and hiking is to push yourself and test your limits, boost your confidence by realizing you’re better at a lot of things than you thought you were.  Sure, sometimes it’s embarrassing (and, as a woman, can rankle a little) to ask for help.

But here’s the thing: faced with the choice of spending a few hours frustrated and upset, or asking someone for help, avoiding the frustration, and perhaps learning a new way of accomplishing your intended task so that you don’t have to ask for help in the future, that second choice sounds pretty good.  It’s not giving up, it’s being realistic and making a choice about your own education and enjoyment.  You might also make someone else happy, because when you’re out on the trail, people generally like to be friendly and helpful. 

This isn’t to say you should give something a feeble try, say “I can’t do this” and find someone to do it for you because it’s hard and/or annoying.  But when you’ve given something a good go and you just haven’t quite managed to figure out the best way to do it…or have learned your physical limitations, ask for a hand.  You might even make a friend in the process.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Wordless Wednesday

7 04 2010

Somewhere in Nova Scotia, hiking, on a road trip, circa June 2005.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Get in Shape, Girl

5 04 2010

You know the feeling. It's so appealing.

Last week, a friend of mine Facebook’d a reminiscence about a 1980’s toy series called “Get in Shape Girl.”  I had completely forgotten about this phenomenon, but it all came flooding back to me immediately, including the goofy theme song.  No no, you’re going to suffer with me:

Now, I had a bunch of these pink-and-purple workout sets when I was a young impressionable girl.  I particularly remember the one with the ribbon à la rhythmic gymnastics (it was a challenge to see how often I could knock things over by flailing the ribbon around before my mother ordered me outside with the darn thing) and the one with the dumbbells and wrist/ankle weights that you were supposed to fill with water (they always leaked and then my mother would get mad).

I was thinking about Get in Shape Girl because as I head back out onto the trail I am coming to the full realization that I have gotten way out of shape this winter.  I neglected the gym and used being busy at work as an excuse.  Now that the weather is beautiful and it’s time to hit the trails, I find myself horribly self-conscious. 

So I’m using today’s blog entry as a public reminder to myself…and any of the rest of you who feel you’ve gotten “soft” over the past few months…that there’s no help for it except to get back out there.  I’ll get back in shape again, and so will you.  Now, where’s my purple headband and pink ribbon?

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.