Film Selections: California, September

Submitted By: Nicole Lesnett, Board Member & Wilderness Ambassador in East Bay, CA

Rediscovering a film camera that I was given as a kid has been a lesson in remembering how to look more closely. In remembering how to focus a lens. Film is often blurry. Film is expensive. Film gets me excited to inspect the dirt and to visit Walgreen’s and turn small outings into colorful somethings. I’m thinking it’s been a good project!

The following is a very small selection from a year and a half ago, romping around Northern California.

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Sun going down in Steep Ravine
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Picking over late summer scrub
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Leaving a milky pastel view at Baker Beach
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Hazy afternoon in Kirkwood
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Seafoam succulents, burgundy stems
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Day breaking from Mt. Tam
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Trekking on

Ecofeminism

Submitted By: Ella Rausch, Twitter—@VanellaBear95

This planet we call home is often described as “Mother Earth.” Spirits and gods of many other cultures are typically women. If land can no longer sustain growth, it is considered “barren,” a label often put on females who cannot bare children. It is not surprising that it took so long for ecofeminism to emerge as an ideology when women themselves had so far to come in order to construct it and put language and substance behind what they were feeling as a group. Some argue that women are more closely tied to the earth and natural cycles than men are, and I would agree. Our intuitions about child rearing, seasons, weather, and reproduction put us in a position where we have a closer bond with our “mother earth.” This has no doubt been a truth for all the time that humankind has existed. Women’s close connections with the natural world put them in a position where, during the Industrial Revolution and other technological booms, they had a deeper understanding of the ecology of the world but were not given the chance to give their opinions or suggestions because they were living in a time when man’s thoughts trumped all else. If women had as strong a voice in previous centuries as men did, there is no doubt that our world would be in a lesser state of environmental destruction than it is now.

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Women’s intuition is something of a myth, but it holds merit, especially in the community of environmental justice. Women more often than not head environmental protests, and far more than 50 percent of environmental activists are female. Their strong connection to this specific cause must come with reason. We currently live in a time period titled the Anthropocene because of our actions, which dominantly communicate a human-centered world, but I think this label belongs more to men than the entire human race. It is a long-living stereotype that women always put others needs before their own, while men are much more likely to help themselves before helping others. These two insights correlate well with the facts above, showing that the Anthropocene may be caused far less by women than men. Women also spend significantly more time in the home (in general) using cleaning supplies and other products whose makeup can significantly harm them or their families, and so they are more directly exposed to the consequences that environmentally unsafe and are therefore more likely to have strong opinions about those products and the development of alternatives that are not only safer for their families but also the earth. While these revelations are happening in the home, men are, in many cases, the ones working in offices dealing with only theoretical benefits and consequences of products without seeing them in action. The passion of environmental activism comes with viewing concrete examples of atrocity that could be avoided, but weren’t because of unknown risks, carelessness, or both. It is important to note that men and women can both be in the opposite positions, thus possibly contributing to the explanation of why it is not 100 percent men or women who are concerned with these issues. The female psyche puts so much trust in the instincts of each individual woman, that it is difficult to ignore when women, and so many of them, feel that the earth is being oppressed in the same way that they were for so many years, and feel the need to speak up so that others will not go through the same struggles as she, or at the very least be helped through it.

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Native American tradition across the country and globe often place higher powers in the hands of women, and seem to have great success in doing so. Placing women so close to nature and utilizing their relationship as a model for how to behave, those with goddesses and concrete traditions laced within the changing seasons seem to have a more sophisticated grasp on what is important when interacting with the natural world. Juxtaposing two commonly oppressed groups and allowing one to speak for the other who cannot, but does, in many ways, understand the root of their struggle and mistreatment allows for enlightenment of others in deep and moving ways. Although there is still often a hierarchy within each tribe or family, the conditions of the natural world and its changes are repeatedly put in the hands of the women, and not only because of their closeness in oppression. In addition to their collective struggle, the women of the tribes, were, traditionally, the gatherers and the ones who worked the land – their understanding of seasons and conditions in order to do that well had to be impeccable. While hunting also requires these skills, it is to a lesser degree but hunting is also seen as the more “manly” activity and giving more nourishment that gardening, so glory is often put to the men.

The idea of glory is also interesting to dissect here. Women often work with little or no praise, no thank you’s, no recognition for their hard work, that without, the world would be a completely different and utterly chaotic place. Men, on the other hand, are often honored for their work and ability to raise a family or buy a house, when it is really his partner who is doing the brunt of the work to maintain the family and the home while he is spending time at work or engaging in leisure activities because he has been “working so hard” while his wife never gets a break. This parallels with nature. Man gets all the glory of what is created in the wild, whether it be lumber, flowers, crops, or energy, but the earth is what made it all possible. The glory has been going to the wrong group for centuries, and has led to a dangerous imbalance that has allowed for the depreciation of nature and the power it holds over us even in the age of the Anthropocene.

It is important to note that these arguments are based on a theory that was developed in a time when women were still, for the most part, working in the home taking care of the children. While we have come a long way, there is room to grow, as this issue is not dissolving any time soon.

Historical connections between nature and women put in place an intriguing architecture from which to draw conclusions about oppression, objectification, misuse, and intuition. This new age, deemed the Anthropocene, along with recent theories about the connections between ecology and the feminist movement places pressure on us as a human race to adapt the ways we relate to both nature and women so that we can come out on the other side with a healthy planet while utilizing our intellectual resources to their fullest potential.

Review: Warbonnet Ridgerunner Sleeping Hammock

Submitted By: Mika Weinstein, Board Member 

On a brisk fall day, fellow Wild Woman, Sara, and I made the last minute decision to head out for a quick 23-hour trip to Annapolis Rocks in Maryland. In a stroke of luck, we made it to the overlook right in time for a sublime sunset.

We lounged in its glory and then set out to make camp in the dark. This was my first experience camping in a hammock. I’d been curious about them for a while, since it’s ultra lightweight (this one is just over 2 pounds) without being as expensive as a comparable backpacking tent. That said, Sara pitched a two-person tent just in case I needed to dive in and escape the cold or discomfort midway through the night. I was happy to have a backup plan if the whole thing turned into a debacle, but mainly I was excited about this new outlet for my hammock enthusiasm (my roommate has a permanent indoor hammock in our living room).

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I tested Warbonnet’s bridge-style Ridgerunner sleeping hammock. As a first time hammock camper, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy Warbonnet makes it to use.

After fumbling around in the dark to find trees at the right distance apart, the rest was pretty simple. Having watched the video tutorial in advance, it took a minimal amount of jiggering to get the straps set up. The simplicity of the strap setup is really nice. I’ve seen a demo of the intricate knot required for stringing up other camping hammocks, and it takes some practice. The carabiner slung around the tree takes seconds and makes for easy adjustments. That’s key for keeping the hammock off the ground while you’re still learning the ideal placement height.

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All told, I only have positive things to say about the Ridgerunner.

The mosquito net zips off for a nice open-air option (you can stuff it into a pocket near the feet), and even with it on there’s plenty of breathing room. Using the side zipper as an entrance makes for easy exit and entry without jostling your sleeping pad and bag too much (as opposed to other brands that have bottom entry).

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There are aluminum spreader bars that hook in on the two short edges, which helps keep the hammock relatively flat and broad without you having to sleep diagonally. There was plenty of space to throw in my sleeping pad, which proved to be adequate insulation for that night. The spreader bars also make the long edges of the fabric taut, so you can brace yourself by hanging onto them while you get in and out.

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The pockets (called “saddlebags” by Warbonnet) are a great bonus feature. I kept my cell phone and flashlight in there without worrying they would slide around during the night.

The only caveat is that you have to purchase a tarp separately, which can drive up the cost of the whole system ($190 for the hammock, $95-$140 for tarps). Even then, they have a 60-day return-for-any-reason policy, so there’s no risk in trying it out.

Disclaimer: Warbonnet provided a hammock in exchange for a review. The opinions shared here are an honest take from the author.

The Time I Visited Glacier National Park (aka My First Foray into the Backcountry)

This post is a reflection on Wild Wilderness Women’s first annual Babes Off the Beaten Path (BOTBP) trip to Glacier National Park. This trip was an opportunity to explore what it really means to be a “babe” while taking new and experienced backpacking women out for an exceptional outdoors experience. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, or if you’d like to chat about how you can support BOTBP 2017, please contact us!

Submitted By: Jamie Furlan, WWW Member

The neural pathways in my brain are on fire: they are in overdrive taking in and processing so much beauty. I look to the left—ancient mountains rise boldly to the skies; I look to the right—mirror-lakes reflect those stark mountains and eternal sky back at me. I breathe in and pull the scent of damp forest and earthy soil deep into my lungs. The air is sweet in that fresh air kind of way. The sun warms my arms, my face, my very core. The silence and the roar of nature fill my being.

I am surrounded; I am engulfed; I stand in rapture amid endless beauty.

My muscles contract and propel me forward and up, and I feel strong. It is enough to place one foot in front of the other, to climb, to take it all in.

I feel gratitude for the unadulterated experience, for the opportunity to share it with others equally in awe of the spaces we are inhabiting. I am grateful for strong breath, for trees, for boundless sky.

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It feels good to disconnect from my urban life and, instead, adopt a more deliberate routine of unpacking my pack daily, setting up camp, pitching the tent, separating my snacks and toothpaste to be hung in bear bags after dinner. In the morning, I pull down the tent, pack up my bag, prepare to do it all over again.

There is comfort in the process – in doing and undoing and doing something again. Like intricate Buddhist sand art, the beauty is in the process, in the total concentration on the moment.

Over the course of the week, we eight ladies make our own kind of sand mandala made up of laughter over attempts at hanging bear bags; of the simple pleasure of a hot beverage on a damp, chilly night; of glimpsing streaks of the Perseid meteor shower on its pilgrimage across the night sky.

These moments are ours – we lived them, we breathed them, we carry them with us. When we venture out into wild spaces, we bring a piece of it back within ourselves.

On my trip to Montana I learned that the kindness of strangers extends far and wide. That women, when they come together, can be a powerful source of support and strength. That Montana is breathtakingly, heartwarmingly beautiful. That it’s a delight to spot a marmot against the rocks in the afternoon light.

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Don’t Mind Me, I’ll Just Be Sweeping

This post is a reflection on Wild Wilderness Women’s first annual Babes Off the Beaten Path (BOTBP) trip to Glacier National Park. This trip was an opportunity to explore what it really means to be a “babe” while taking new and experienced backpacking women out for an exceptional outdoors experience. If you’d like to share your words on “babe-dom” with us, or if you’d like to chat about how you can support BOTBP 2017, please contact us!

Submitted By: Allison StraussBoard Member & Wilderness Ambassador in Portland, OR

By late morning, the rain mellowed to a mist and the wind died down. I was serving as ‘sweep’ at the time. The sweep is a steady hiker who acts as the caboose. She ensures no one is behind and unaccounted for, and by default, provides motivation to those in front of her. It was a position many of us took turns at. We took turns at the head of the pack too. I was pleased by our fluidity with this, changing positions throughout the day.

The gal in front of me and I found the rest of the gang waiting at a trail junction. Regrouped, the Babes made to start off again, turning toward the wrong branch in the trail.

“Um, I don’t think we’re going to Twin Falls…” I spoke up. I’d briefed the group on our route over a map before we broke camp.

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But there was no mistake. While waiting at the fork in the trail, the Babes had agreed Twin Falls was worth a detour. It was a third of a mile there, meaning another third of a mile to return to the junction so we could continue on our route. As I did the math, I was hit with pride. Despite our rough start that morning with the weather, the group was game to add over half a mile to the day in order to see some waterfalls. And they made the decision collectively without me. It was a leader’s dream. The falls were nice too.

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Photos credit: Sara Gassman

You

Submitted By: Ella Rausch, Twitter—@VanellaBear95

My first love was the mountains
They took me home
Stole my breath
       Jagged
             And
                  Soft
                        Harsh
                              But
                        Forgiving
                 Surprising
            Though
     Certain
The only thing in my life that never disappointed

When I think of mountains
I imagine
      Sunsets
            Flora
     Serenity
And wonder how with time
Everything adapts
             Evolves
     Is refined
Including me

I wish mountains would never change
But they erode
       Crumble
             Endure harsh weather
      Are beaten down
And despite this transformation
I still love them
          And they continue to stand tall.

My first love was the mountains
And my last will be you.

 

Header photo credit: Nicole Lesnett

 

When A Daughter Tells Her Dad She’s Venturing into the Wilderness—Alone

Submitted By: Korrin L. Bishop, Co-founder & President (This piece first appeared on The Good Men Project)

I watched it play out several times before my departure. I’d explain my plans to kayak solo for a week through the backcountry of Everglades National Park to various father-daughter and boyfriend-girlfriend pairs. The conversations always ended the same. The father or boyfriend would turn to the daughter or girlfriend, and say, “I’m definitely never letting you do something like that!”

There was a lot about these interactions that made me cringe. Each conversation perpetuated the dialogue that men can be safe in the wild, but women can’t, and that women need permission to do something on their own.

However, while these dialogues made me cringe, I also felt deep compassion for these men. They were, after all, men who truly cared about the women in their lives. Not to mention, it’s not like my own dad had immediately vocalized an excitement over my plans. In fact, he sort of just went silent about it. I knew he had to process it.

Since college, my dad and I have written letters to each other in a journal we mail back and forth. We’re currently on our third volume of letters. The letters are filled with life philosophies, family history, random rambles, social justice rants, current events and personal processing of when we’ve each had to come to grips with major changes in each other’s lives.

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After an initial period of silence, of avoiding the topic of the Everglades in our conversations altogether, my dad wrote to me:

I am filled with trepidation about your kayak trip. But I “see” you. I have the usual fears about you being out there alone. But I’m sure it will be OK.

You’re a big spirit. You have to go. I have hiked into the wilderness alone twice now. Both times it was more and less than my fantasy about it.

There is plenty of time while backpacking where you are just grinding. Trudging up a ridge. Bandaging your blisters. Sometimes you’re so tired you don’t notice how amazing where you are is.

But then you are surrounded by it and it takes you. The vastness and wildness. The beauty. The wildlife.

I always have a craving to go back to the wilderness. You purposefully push yourself and see that you are capable of persevering through the physical and mental challenges of being alone in the wild.

I know you have to go. I respect that you are that kind of person. One who needs to go and be with yourself and the wild. Mark my words, whatever lies ahead for you will be meaningful. So, go on your trip with my blessing, and perhaps a cash donation.

There is always risk. Prepare best you can. But life is to be lived, not feared. Go forth and trip. But call me as soon as you’re out of the wild so I can relax again.

Like the fathers and boyfriends I encountered while talking about my trip, my dad had the same fears and protective spirit. When I read his letter, I felt the powerful love driving those reactions, but I also felt immense gratitude for him channeling those emotions not toward restricting my life, but toward championing it. With his honest blessing, I didn’t feel small and incapable; I felt confident and empowered.

To assuage my father’s fears, I took an emergency satellite communicator with me. The device periodically pinged my location to an online map. I appreciated that I didn’t have to do anything, but turn it on, so I could still feel disconnected from the outside world. My dad appreciated that he’d be able to see my little dot still moving forward each day.

I paddled out on my first day with excitement. I was ready.

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Halfway through my first day’s paddle, my kayak’s rudder fell off. It hung from its strings, dangling in the water behind me.

When I got to my campsite that evening, I examined it. I didn’t have the tools needed to fix it. I’d just have to do without. I strapped the rudder onto the top of my kayak so that it would stop dragging behind me the next day, set up camp, cooked dinner and basked in the park’s beauty.

That night, I slept with a knife in one hand and a flashlight in the other when all of the sounds of the dark came out to play.

The second day, I awoke and took in the light of morning, leaving a little later than planned.

After a brief, winding creek, I entered a calm cove of brackish water, and felt cradled in the arms of Mother Earth. This section was called Sunday Bay, but in my mind I kept mistaking its name as God’s Bay. In the middle of this vast, natural stillness, I looked up at the stunning, blue sky, and felt the spiritual presence of a Heavenly Father.

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Gently held between the arms of my Mother Earth and the protecting gaze of my Heavenly Father, I paddled on, becoming increasingly aware of the extra effort it was taking to paddle without a rudder.

A series of large bays later, I got tired. The two-dimensional plane of mangroves blended together in my vision, and the channel I was on that should’ve been widening was narrowing. Realizing my mistake, I backtracked to paddle down another channel only to end up circling an island and heading back down the way I’d come.

I was getting hungry and thirsty and could see the sun quickly descending in the sky. I knew I was still at least four miles away from camp. Alone in the wilderness, I began singing “Amazing Grace,” not yet willing to admit I was lost. I was lost-ish, I told myself. I sort of knew where I was, but just didn’t exactly know where I was going.

Then hunger, thirst and exhaustion bred fear. I began thinking about my arms giving out on me. There was nowhere to dock. I’d have to tie up to a mangrove and sleep in my kayak.

At last, I pulled out my satellite communicator and pinged my dad my GPS coordinates and a sloppily typed, “Turned around. Help me out?” Then I looked up at the sky like I had in Sunday Bay, only this time I saw another father looking down at me with love and protection in his eyes.

It took a little time, but I heard back from him. His initial reply was even more jumbled than mine. His words were duplicated and misspelled and his directions were muddled.

I could feel his worry, so I sent a message back to get clarification and also say I was feeling OK. In reality, I felt like vomiting.

With his bird’s eye view, I confirmed where I thought I was, and decided to paddle toward a different campsite a couple miles closer. I had been in a moment of fight, flight, or freeze, and my body had wanted to resign, both physically and mentally, but the moment I paddled forward with confidence in my direction, I handed my fear over to faith, and felt strong again—stronger even.

A dolphin greeted me as my campsite came into view. I pinged my dad my safe arrival, and smiled wide. I imagined him back home pouring himself a drink and filling with pride over a well-executed, technical rescue, of sorts.

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That evening, I had a fortuitous encounter with a righteous ranger on the evening patrol. After checking my permits and confirming I had a proper personal flotation device, he caught a glimpse of my mangled rudder.

“How’s your rudder doing?” he asked.

“Um, not good. It’s broken,” I replied, giggling inside over our shared, yet unspoken sarcasm of the obvious.

I paddled out in the morning with a functioning rudder and renewed resolve. I paddled another five days with an ever-growing sense of self and burgeoning confidence in my abilities to persevere. One day in the Gulf of Mexico, the water looked like the heavy seas, but I paddled on. I was in the Bay of Ten Thousand Islands, but I could tell with my map and compass which islands were which.

I never had to reach out to my dad again, but I never stopped sensing him there with me. It was surreal to be alone in the wilderness, yet feel so intrinsically connected to him.

Through our two beating hearts, I realized that even when I was alone, I would never really be alone—satellite technology or not. I knew he was seeing my journey through eyes that know me, and the feeling of being wholly understood and loved was all the protection and guidance I’d ever needed. I didn’t get lost again.

I pulled my kayak up onto the dock where the journey had begun some seven days and a hundred miles before, and pressed the button on my satellite communicator to signal a safe arrival back in civilization. As I unloaded my gear from the kayak, I turned my phone back on for the first time in a week. Notifications from my city life began to pour in, but I skipped through them to a message from my dad:

Yeah! That’s my girl. Congratulations on completing a great quest. I have followed your progress every day and I think you are awesome. Nicely done! You must feel pretty good about now. Talk soon. I love you.

After a shower, some grub and a cold brew, I called my dad. With laughter, we both shared our sides of the story of that time I got lost in the Everglades—me fumbling through brief messages from the middle of the water, and him from his office in the middle of a meeting with a client, showing the client the satellite map of where his daughter was off on her adventure.

As equals, our stories of that day blended into us swapping wilderness stories in general. We chatted for hours as the experience of all I’d just been through solidified within me. The trip had forever changed me in some of the greatest ways, and there I was talking with the man in my life who had pushed past his own fears of it to find the courage needed to become one of its greatest supporters.

Later, my dad would write in our journal:

After you were safe and sound, I realized how dialed in and intense I had been. I felt a little nauseous and spent. But I was mighty proud of you for handling adversity. It is these moments, when your mettle is tested, that shape you and strengthen you.

I knew you’d be a better wilderness person because of it…I worried less after that day. I knew you had what it took and would be fine. I still watched all the time and felt the glory of where you were.

The depth of our relationship is one of the greatest delights of my life. I can’t wait to see what’s next for my intrepid daughter.

Fathers, let your daughters be brave. Let yourselves be vulnerable. Because if you’re a good man, a good dad, that means you’re already there to protect them and guide them—even when you’re not.

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