An Epistle to Women

Submitted By: Sarah Richards, Guest Contributor

Twenty-four hours ago I came off the water from a 100-mile solo canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. The magnitude of the experience is only just beginning to sink into my bone marrow and become a part of Me, this list of moments, images, smells. Navigating in the fog on big water, listening to an eagle tear meat from bone as he ate his lunch with gusto, breathing in deep of wet forest, waking to a fierce west wind (and initially thinking it would be of great benefit since I was going east – it was not – quite scarier when you can’t see the rollers coming), paddling into an equally fierce headwind for three days, talking to a pair of stalker otters that stayed close to my canoe for nearly a mile late one afternoon, speaking urgently into my imaginary military sat phone to call down an air strike every time I encountered a beaver dam (there were many and this strategy didn’t work), hoisting my muddy pack onto my back while cursing at her and calling her a wretched water-retaining whore, scraping smashed banana slug off my small pack (poor slug – he was in the wrong place at the wrong time), screaming (with a canoe on my head) in pain and frustration in the middle of an interminable bog, absolutely certain I was going to lose my mind right then and there if I had to take another step…

But I took another step…

And another…

And another…

I slept on a bed of dried sphagnum moss. I scrounged, sawed down to size, and split my own firewood.

I stared down a bull moose (actually, he grew bored with me and disappeared into the trees).

I dispensed with all table manners, shoving food into my maw, wiping at my mouth with the back of my hand.

I blew my nose onto the ground (this takes skill to not get it all over your face).

I stood on a great slab of bedrock in the rain with my face lifted and my arms spread wide.

I pissed the perimeter of my campsites.

I was, at different times (sometimes all at once), cold, wet, tired, sore, hungry, hot, angry, exhausted, exhilarated, at peace, and struck abjectly dumb by the beauty all around me.

I felt powerful.

Prior to my trip, when people would ask where I was going, upon learning what I intended to do, for some, my Woman-ness was an important consideration.

“You’re going alone?!” “Aren’t you afraid?”

Afraid of what exactly? A woman’s most prevalent predator is a man, and I didn’t expect to see very many of those at all.

Yes, I am going alone. Men do it. Go into any bookstore and look at the travel writing section.

Men do it AND write books about it.

That I was a woman, who plotted her own route, who had taken two prior solo canoe trips, who is physically fit and most days of sound mind…that is enough. Sufficient resume for man or woman.

But since the Woman-ness factor was introduced into my trip (I’d thought I was just a human going on an epic adventure), I will address it.

DSC00132To ALL women I say this:

Break through those boundaries.

Smash those walls into a million billion pieces and roll naked in the rubble.

Travel through your life as you see fit.

Cut your hair off. Or don’t. It’s YOUR hair.

Ride a motorcycle.

Make yourself strong, be it physically, emotionally, mentally – Be HUGE.

You do not need approval or justification.

Never apologize for being female. It is a strength. Not a liability.

Own your existence and shape it to YOUR liking.

Pay homage to the millennia of warrior women who have come before.

Swear like it’s a second language.

Do not let fear be your guide.

Sing at the top of your lungs and dance with abandon.

Accept nothing but the best from yourself and from others.

Be your own Motive.

Wear that dress because it makes YOU feel sexy – fuck everyone else.

Let your blood race through your veins, red like fire.

Paint your face on a flag and march into battle.

Don’t be afraid to give voice to your mind.

Let no one tell you what you are capable of doing – that is for YOU to decide.

Be your own hero.

Reject the moniker “Rebel”.

We are not rebels.

We are Women.

And we are far more powerful than comic book caricature politicians or an objectifying culture can begin to touch.

We ARE life.

It ought to be on OUR terms.

Square your shoulders, hold your head up proud

And go forth.

 

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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.

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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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.

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/

What it means to be a babe, or what I learned in an afternoon yoga class

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: Mia Zavalij, VP of Adventure Planning

You may be wondering why a group of adventurous, empowered women decided to call a wilderness trip to Glacier National Park “Babes off the Beaten Path.” To me, babe feels like an outdated term that was used in the late 90s to describe traditionally sexy women – I honestly don’t remember the last time I heard anyone refer to someone as a “total babe.” Nowadays, it’s occasionally used as a fun and flirty term of endearment, usually to make the request for a favor sound less so. “Hey babe, can you get the laundry?” sounds way better than, “Can you get the laundry?”

So, why then, why are we “babes?”

Well, the answer goes a little bit deeper than just using the right word for a good alliteration. And, I found my answer when I walked into an afternoon yoga class at a fancy studio in Boston. I started practicing yoga regularly to feel empowered and strong in my body, similar to the reason why I am so drawn to new challenges in the wilderness. But, when I walked into the sun-filled studio, I felt a familiar twinge in my stomach telling me that I didn’t belong.

The people filling the room seemed as flawless as the studio itself with its shiny wooden floors, perfectly placed twinkly lights, and golden Buddha statues. The outfit variety included Lululemon leggings in sleek black or eclectic prints and neon sports bras with a webbing of string that showed just the right amount through an open back Athleta top.

I wanted to cower in a corner in the back with my shabby gray tank top and my old yoga pants that were just beginning to unravel at the seams. They also have an ever-expanding hole in the left knee (note: ripped yoga pants are not yet a fashion trend, I could potentially be a trend setter). Instead, I took a good deep yogi breath and headed to a spot in the front of the room, next to the mirror, and facing a window that overlooks a bustling Boston street. I had my eye on this spot all week; if I ever wanted to even consider getting up in front of a room and teaching yoga, I had to get over the discomfort I have of people watching me practice.

It’d be nice to say that this was a life changing class, that seeing myself practice yoga made me feel like a goddess, and how now I always sit in front of the room. The truth is, I was mortified to find out that my black yoga pants stretch out to be slightly see-through in certain poses, and, in reality, some poses make me look like a Pinterest fail rather than a yoga model. But, it doesn’t really matter, because that tiny moment where I decided to push myself outside of my comfort zone and sit in front of the room felt more empowering than my yoga class itself.

That’s what made me feel like a babe.

We Wild Wilderness Women take pride in the accomplishments we achieve with our bodies. On each trip I go on, I am delightfully surprised by the combination of unconditional support and the hardcore challenges that we push each other to take. When I think of the word “babe,” I think of the time a group of us accidentally cross-country “skied” down a black diamond trail, misleadingly named Fern Gully, and made it out alive to laugh about it (note: we were all mainly beginners and “skied” is synonymous with “sliding down on our butts”).

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Wild Wilderness Women at White Grass Ski Touring Center in West Virginia. Photo Credit: Kelly Paras

When I think of the word “babe,” I think of the eight women who are gearing up to backpack in Glacier this summer. Some of them have never been backpacking before. Some of them are walking everywhere with weighted backpacks to train. Some are Googling and asking questions to learn everything they can, some are spending their free time fundraising to make sure the trip is accessible for everyone, and some are offering up their gear to ladies they have just met.

You may be thinking, “Oh, wow, backpacking through one of the most gorgeous parts of the country can’t really be that difficult.” But for women, backpacking isn’t always as accessible as it seems.

And that’s why we Wild Wilderness Women are babes.  We’ve decided that instead of being ashamed of our bodies, we are going to thrive in our bodies. Instead of competing with each other for the top, we’re going to help each other get there.

Instead of saying, “I don’t belong in the outdoors,” we are saying that everybody does.

Header photo credit: Sara Gassman

What is a Babe?

What is a babe?

This is the question we found ourselves asking after our group of over 40 adventurous women voted to name our annual adventure “Babes Off the Beaten Path.”

Was this setting the wrong tone? we wondered. Shouldn’t the backcountry be one of the places where a woman can truly escape from the constant barrage of societal expectations on her appearance? Can’t we be hairy and stinky and rugged and not have to worry about whether we’d be considered a babe?

I was once at an outdoor store perusing women’s apparel when I came across a display of women’s backcountry underwear. They were trimmed with lace and offered in seductive colors. The packaging read, “Technically Sexy!”yellow sun PNG

Technically sexy.

I felt so suddenly filled with rage. Really? I had to be three days unbathed and still worry about being sexy and wearing the right panties that would make me attractive to men? And that “technically” part—so that bit of lace is all that’s holding me back from being an otherwise undesired blob of unattractiveness? But, hey, all while being moisture-wicking, lightweight, and breathable, at least! Sigh.

Later, our group was discussing an article about women’s outdoor apparel where the author lamented, please stop making women’s activewear pink! 

Well, what’s wrong with pink? I thought. The point is that there should be options. We should be able to embrace the color, fabric, adventure in which we personally feel the most comfortable. This thought led me back to “being a babe.”

Maybe being a babe isn’t an objectifying thing. I contemplated. Maybe it just needs a more vocal group of advocates to speak its true definition.

As the gutsy gals of Wild Wilderness Women kept chatting about this topic, we realized just how perfect our trip name actually was. It would give us a chance to reclaim “babe.” It would give us a chance to explore its true definition. It would give us a chance to provide visual, verbal, and written evidence to the world of just how diversely bodacious being a babe really is.

In just over a month, eight of us head out for our inaugural Babes Off the Beaten Path annual adventure. We’ll be spending four days in the great wilderness of Glacier National Park—being total babes.

And, leading up to it, we’re bringing our exploration of “babe-ness” to you! Both our group’s members, and the wild wilderness women of our broader communities will be sharing their stories and art of what it means to be a babe—and we hope you’ll join us!

Interested in submitting a piece to our blog? Head over to our contact page and email us your pitch! Would you like to help our first eight babes in this August journey? Please consider giving a donation toward our trip, so that we can ensure this adventure is as accessible as possible.

Finally, make sure to check out this educational video from our Annual Adventure Maven, Allison Strauss, who has been critical in making this upcoming trip a reality. It’s a little lesson in babe-dom.

Thanks so much for following along on our wild ride—we can’t wait to hear and share in your stories!

XO—Korrin, Co-founder & President

Header photo credit: Mika Weinstein