When Women Venture Outdoors Together
By Shaina Maytum, Women’s Wilderness Instructor
Magic happens when women are outside together
Anytime more than two women venture outdoors together, we become a spectacle. Sometimes this is good: “Wow! I hope my daughter does that some day!” Sometimes this is bad: “I’d do anything for a girl wearing ski boots and a smile!” or “I didn’t know girls were allowed to row boats!” Regardless, it remains a novelty for women to backpack, climb, boat, or hike without the company of men. Not that there is anything wrong with getting outside with men too, but there is something special about the types of relationships women form when only in the company of other women. For example, on the last day of a trip down the Green River last summer my friend Anna asked me, “Which rapids do you want to row?” I told her I would take the first two, to which she replied, “then you should wear the tutu first.” This moment exemplifies for me the magic that happens when women are outside together. Collaborative decision-making + costumes = best time ever.
What if every girl got to go on a Women’s Wilderness course?
As a teen, I attended Girl Scout camps, where I learned to ride horses, sleep on the ground, and cook over an open fire, all without the otherwise omnipresent distraction of boys. As an adult, I have carefully cultivated the finest posse of gal pals one could ever hope to find. Not all adventurous women, however, have had the opportunity to form these types of special bonds with other like-minded ladies, and this is where Women’s Wilderness comes in. As a field instructor, I have witnessed middle school girls carry backpacks that are almost larger than they are, get absolutely filthy, and giggle late into the night like only a group of 12-13 year olds can. On a Women’s Wilderness trip, girls who may not yet be allowed to watch R-rated movies set up their own tents, navigate with a map and compass, and bravely weather Wyoming’s infamous thunderstorms. I once asked a group what they thought would be different if there were boys along, and they looked at me blankly. They truly had no idea – this was the only experience they had ever had outside, and it was a supportive one with other girls and adult female role models. I wondered, what if every girl had the opportunity to develop her voice before she heard society’s message that she shouldn’t have one? In other words, what if every girl got to go on a Women’s Wilderness course? Girls and women need to be outside with other girls and women. Period.
“This camp has taught me to be stronger, braver, and tougher when things get hard….it reminded me that girls are just as good as boys” said Alana, who is 12 years old and attended Adventure Camp.
In 2017 we served 90 girls through our summer backpacking and rock climbing expeditions, and this fall we piloted after-school programming serving over 20 girls thanks to a generous grant from prAna. Two-thirds of our girls participated via need-based financial aid, thanks to donors who believe it what we do.
More than ever, girls need safe places where they can learn to speak up for themselves and love who they are. We plan to expand our after school programming in 2018, and we need your help. If you haven’t yet had a chance to give this holiday season, please head on over to www.cogives.org/womenswilderness and make a gift. Gifts of all sizes make a difference – from paying for gym day-passes for the girls, to purchasing climbing ropes, to providing scholarships. Thank you you for helping us carry the work on into 2018!
Back on the Green River, Anna and I buckled our life jackets and slathered our faces in sunscreen and glitter. Then, we each took an oar and pulled ourselves, together, towards the canyon. This is the type of adventure that I hope all girls and women can have, and a Women’s Wilderness course can give them just that.