The Importance of Accessibility in Being a Babe Off the Beaten Path

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!


Submitted By: Nicole Lesnett, VP of Engagement & East Bay Chapter President

I’ve been wondering why going to Montana for this first annual Wild Wilderness Women trip is important to me.

My first ever backpacking experience was a five-day hike through Stanislaus National Forest with U.C. Davis Outdoor Adventures. Thinking back, I made a lot of mistakes. I remember reading the clothing section of the packing list and assuming that it meant one shirt, one pair of shorts, and one pair of socks for every single day. I remember dividing up the food and not understanding why no one else grabbed the oranges and avocados. I remember trying not to cry the first day as we hiked five miles uphill in high elevation, my pack weighing over 50 pounds and resting completely on my shoulders rather than my hips.

There were so many moments where I did not believe I could continue. But as the days went on and we covered more and more miles, as we were shown how to wear our packs properly and devoured the food, as I shared my clean clothes and nursed my bruised collarbones and developed blisters, I found that I could do it. When the other participants and I finished the trail, we bought a gallon of chocolate ice cream and ate it in ten minutes flat. I was beyond content, I was sore and relieved and proud, and I was surprised to learn how disappointed I felt that it was over.

Going on that initial trek was a privilege in many ways. I was fortunate enough to have some money from graduation to cover the trip fees,  and to borrow most of the necessary gear from my outdoorsy momma. It was also a privilege to experience this challenging and awesome excursion with mostly women (though you were an irreplaceable, spectacular guide, Marshall!). Not once, with the exception of my own critical mind, was there a trace of doubt that I was capable of completing the trail. This has set the precedent for all trips since then—that women, new to backpacking or not, are unquestionably capable of such things.

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Seven years and a dozen excursions later, this notion has certainly been tested.

There was the time that my friends and I brought about half the food needed for the six of us, and desperately shared one bag of salad between us for dinner on the last night. I’ve had a lot of good burritos in my life, but the one I had for lunch after getting off that trail was something else.

There was the time that two of us set out to tackle the Presidential Range in New Hampshire and were up on the ridge, much farther behind on the route than anticipated, when we learned that thunderstorms were rolling in. We got desperately lost trying to get to shelter, and when we arrived, didn’t have enough cash for the little covered site. We stayed there anyway, but were woken up every few minutes as lightning illuminated the shelter and thunder shook the foundation. The next morning we donned our $5 ponchos—arguably the best $5 ever spent—and hiked four hours out to a small highway, where a sweet couple eventually, graciously gave our muddy selves a ride back to our car. Satisfied with our level of roughing it for the weekend, we ditched all previous plans and drove towards the hot showers awaiting us at a hotel room in Portland, ME.

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There have been so many mosquito bites and steep hills that I wonder why I keep coming back to it. I suppose there is something insanely gratifying—and supremely funny, in hindsight—about getting through the unexpected elements of backpacking. Coupled with endless endorphins, gorgeous views, and lovely views, I realize over and over again that there’s many reasons I keep coming back to it.  

My only frustration with this lucrative pastime is its inaccessibility. In my experience, it’s been easy to see that more often that not, I backpack with friends who are male, white, and/or middle-class. Needless to say, I love their company, but I’d also really love to go with my less wealthy, non-white, female friends too. It’s disappointing to see that “the outdoors” is frequently an exclusive place. Though in some fields it has begun to change, most outdoor sports are dominated by men. It feels starkly apparent each time I find myself bouldering or waiting for a wave, and realize I can count every single woman in a (literal) sea of dudes.

Misadventures Magazine, a publication “by and for adventurous women,” has some pretty enlightening graphics on gender representation in outdoor media. It’s also no secret that outdoor gear can be absurdly expensive, and that big name companies perpetuate needing the top-of-the-line equipment to do it right. Considering a range of supplies, this site found that the cost of buying the most essential components of backpacking gear could be anywhere from $300-$2,200, not to mention permits, gas, food, etc. for each excursion.

Ideal backpacking destinations are not exactly welcoming either. A heartbreaking article from Al Jazeera states that only 1% of national parks visitors are African-American, in part due to fear of racist treatment. It’s clear that backpacking can often require certain levels of privilege, and this isn’t right. Something so strangely wonderful shouldn’t be so exclusive.

What does this all have to do with being a part of “Babes Off the Beaten Path?” Naturally, I’m excited for another challenge in a completely new place. Mostly though, I’m looking forward to an experience with other women who want to change the notion of what backpacking has traditionally meant. Though I haven’t met them all yet, I admire each one for putting so much time and energy into something as challenging as weathering the elements while hauling a bunch of crap around. And more importantly, I admire them for wanting to make sure that any lady who wants to partake in this absurd, rewarding, life-changing activity can do it too.

This year’s group of gals may be a relatively privileged lot, it’s true. But hopefully we can still set a precedent that our activities are accessible to any self-identified woman, regardless of income or background. While there’s much more work to be done, establishing no barriers to participating in Babes Off the Beaten Path could be one step towards making the outdoors more inclusive.

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Baby Steps

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!


Submitted By: Susan Sommer, True North

My ex-husband and various boyfriends before him called me “Babe.” It always felt a little weird. Even though they simply used it as a term of endearment, it made me feel weaker than I knew I was, like I had to conform to that stereotype of the fair maiden needing rescue.

A few years ago, I joined a meetup group called Alaskan Wild Women Hiking & Backpacking (the “Wild Women” part is how I stumbled across this group of Wild Wilderness Women!) and rekindled my love of hiking. The outings made me feel strong and knowledgeable in a way I never had before. I found myself wanting to lead hikes on favorite old trails in the area, so I became one of several official organizers for the Wild Women. I’ve since attended more than 100 events. For many in the group, our mantra has become “We can do it—we’re Wild Women!” We use it to get ourselves to the top of the mountain when we’re flagging, or to try new activities, or to psyche ourselves up for facing something totally unrelated to hiking and backpacking.

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We tease each other when one of us feels wimpy about getting out or going farther: “Your butt’s going to be bigger than mine.” That usually spurs us to go the distance, together. We’ve created solid new friendships with women of all ages. And though we’ve never called ourselves “Babes,” we’ve definitely become stronger, healthier, and more confident in our own abilities and our capacity for accepting things like inexperience or fear or discomfort. If “babe” equates to being “sexy,” then that’s what sexy means to me. And, like babes in the woods, we enter the unfamiliar again and again only to discover that we summit life’s peaks and crawl out of her valleys by simply putting one foot in front of the other.

See more about Susan Sommer at www.akwriter.com or visit her Alaska trails blog, True North, at http://truenorthalaska.weebly.com/.

Guest Post: Babes Off the Beaten Path

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!


Submitted By: LJ Dawson, A Wandering Vagabond

Days spent staring at my hiking shoes stepping, one two three; hanging from ropes above valleys, watching sunrises from the bare tops of mountains, holding my breath between a rivers crashing waves, grinning smiles full of powder, these are the moments that empower me as a person and as a woman. This is how I live my life most purely.

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I was lucky, raised in the outdoors as much as the city, schooled with mountains and deserts with a bit of books and brick buildings to go along. My upbringing was incredibly unique in this way, and I often think how I would have found the wild if I my father hadn’t bestowed me with it along with my blue eyes.

I love the challenge and growth that leaving paved roads and gridded cities delivers to me. Being outdoors as a woman means being off the beaten path in more ways than physically though.

Society never talks about the path towards being an independent woman in the wilderness. It is almost a secret covered in vague references from pop culture, with features on Lynn Hill and other complete badass women in the outdoors. These stories inspire, but are rarely relatable.

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If you are lucky, you have a family with outdoorsy females in it, but that is not common. Even if you have close female role models to look up to, getting into a part of society ruled by egoism and macho-ism is incredibly difficult as a young girl or young woman. This is not because women are meek and weak, but because our intrinsic traits are not valued as much as male values in the outdoor community’s social system.

Social bush whacking is required to become a Babe off the Beaten Path. Even with my vast background, I fought and am still fighting to gain knowledge and experience that male friends have picked up with less effort and work from the climbing gym to ski mountains.

My story is not an anomaly, and it leaves me wondering how many women miss out on the empowerment and happiness I gain from being outdoors. The reasons are obvious, but the solutions less so.

This is where the babe part comes in. When I get around the outdoorsy ladies, we always commiserate at the state of ego in the outdoors: “Gawd, I was trying to boulder at the gym and this guy would not shut up about this awesome V12 he sent in Moab,” or, “We were hanging out at the bar and ran into these cute skier guys, and then they wouldn’t stop talking about this crazy near death experience in the backcountry.” Or, “This one guy would not stop screaming ‘SEND ITTTT.’ I was warming up”

Any of us babes off the beaten path have run into the issue of how much we become one of the boys. Do we assimilate into the macho culture and join the competitive, adrenaline rushing practices? I thought that was what I would have to do join the inner circle.

All the macho-ism and ego has its benefits, but very little balance. A more feminine approach to outdoor activities, though rarely encouraged, has its own upsides. There is never one way to climb a mountain, but both paths lead to the top.

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More and more women came into my life who were heavily immersed in the outdoors. I was shocked when they wore skirts, spoke quietly, and mentioned their feelings. This was allowed? I wouldn’t get voted off the island?

These role models inspired me to drop the fake attitude. Suddenly, I discovered that not only was it okay to voice a perceived weakness, to say no, I am scared, or slow down, but that often my voice was expressing others’ opinions and empowering the whole group. I saw power in the quiet words and less hells fury attack many of my male friends took towards the outdoors. I saw women treat days of backpacking with elegance, including dangly earrings and important spa days, and fellow river guides bring fashion to the river with gorgeous jewelry. These ladies shoved the macho-ism aside and were still phenomenal at the outdoors pursuits they chased. I was beyond lucky to have these women in my life to change my perception.

When we go into the woods, it becomes an intimate dance between the wild and our souls. It can only be our authentic selves dancing. As women, we must let ourselves be and interact genuinely with wilderness.

Where most men conquer, I find women dance with the environment. We are much more willing to listen to our instincts and the mountain or river telling us no. We surrender to the wild while many men try to fight and win. Embracing these attitudes will open the door to a more female inclusive community.

The outdoor community is run predominantly by a system that discourages women from participating and learning new skills. I believe it is not about overhauling the system or pointing fingers, but creating space to be filled in by women. More women participating physically and changing the dialogue of this community will create a blank page that new ladies can fill rather than fighting to cut out a space for themselves.

Being a Babe off the Beaten Path means refusing to sacrifice who we are to go places we love. A more balanced outdoor community will benefit the mountains and us.

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So, just get out into the wild, ladies. Wear that dress down that river, or rock your pants. Take a risk and own yourself. Don’t try to fit into anything that you are not. Show up as yourself and dance and crawl up that mountain. Cry, laugh, and smile just get those feet moving. Be brave enough to take that leap in your own skin. And above all, bring other ladies out. Only good can come out of more women being outside.

Instagram: @awanderingvagabond

Being a Babe is a State of Mind

This post is part of a series where Wild Wilderness Women is exploring the true definition of “babe” in preparation for our upcoming Babes Off the Beaten Path trip in Glacier National Park. Please consider supporting the babes forging paths for other outdoor women by making a donation on our fundraising page. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, please contact us!


Submitted By: Carrie Meng & Mindy Morris, Chief WILD Women at WILD Women’s Adventures

At WILD Women’s Adventures our definition of a babe differs from what you’ll find in theW_Icon_brown dictionary. Being a babe doesn’t have anything to do with our looks or how attractive someone else finds us. Being a Babe is a state of mind. And being a Babe off the Beaten Path is a journey and an adventure, in life.

We as women feel a lot of pressure to meet societal requirements. To follow a certain path in life. Get an education, find a mate, get married, have kids, be a great mom, a good wife, find a career, etc. etc. For some, that path is not calling us. Or, maybe, it is, but there is also an urge to detour from that path on occasion. Being outside, in the open space, in the solitude of the woods and amongst nature releases us from those feelings of conforming to what anyone else may think we need. You can create your own path, one that defines you and where you feel whole. The therapeutic benefits of being outdoors is no new revelation and more and more women are discovering it.

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We all have a different calling, not one path is right for everyone. Our internal needs as women, as Babes, are different. Some of us know only one path, one we are conditioned to know. Life becomes a habit and routine and we may lose ourselves in that routine. We want to educate, empower and support women in the benefits of being in nature/outdoors, off the beaten path and through sisterhood. Assisting them in finding the lioness that is their soul, breaking the daily routine and bringing light in their eyes to the forefront, where it belongs. Let’s evoke our senses and our inner child in our heart. Being a Babe is all of that, encompassing you internally, beaming from the inside out.

Whether you are already a seasoned outdoorsy lady or just contemplating taking your first day trip or weekend adventure, we urge all our fellow Babes to create your own path. Whether it be in your professional life or personal life, the beaten path isn’t always the way. We support all paths to happiness and contentment.

Carrie & Mindy

Instagram: @wildwomensadventures / Facebook: facebook.com/wildwomensadventures/