Celebrating women on trail by Vong Hamilton for Hike it Baby

A year ago, Hike it Baby launched the 10,000 Women Trail Project, an initiative funded by REI’s Force of Nature Grant, in an effort to get more girls and women on trail all across North America. The project offered an opportunity for women to encourage and bring other women and girls to get outside and spend more time in nature.

100 Trailblazers signed on to help get the project started and keep it going through the year. Their influence was far-reaching, resulting in 36,000 boots on trail, 17,000 hikes and nearly 31,000 miles. Read stories from some of the amazing women who were influencers in the 10,000 Women Trail Project.

Sowing the seeds of friendship

Sierra Patterson: My favorite moments were spent with ladies much older, past the point of childbearing, who had fallen in love with hiking and forming new friendships with other women from all walks of life. I made wonderful connections through the hikes I hosted! Hearing these women’s stories changed my life and perspective!

Abby Czachur: The most memorable moment for me was having a sunrise hike at Devil’s Lake State Park. It felt slightly crazy getting up that early in the frigid cold, but it was completely worth it. I had two awesome ladies join me to watch the sunrise over the bluff and frozen lake below. We just enjoyed the sheer beauty of it together, had a slow but interesting icy hike back and even hit up frozen Parfrey’s Glen to see the frozen waterfalls. It was one of the best mornings I’ve ever had.

Melody Buck Forsyth: My favorite was a hiking retreat I planned for 13 of my labor and delivery nurse coworkers in Zion. We had an amazing time and did three hikes over the weekend and celebrated birthdays and being together. To see all my friends and people I work with do hard hikes and conquer Angels Landing and see all these women on the trail was the most amazing sight. I felt so empowered to know that I encouraged them to take time for themselves and enjoy nature. Several had never been hiking and they said they loved every minute and have joined me on some other hikes since. They all said they can’t wait for next year because they want to do this every year. Can’t wait to plan another retreat!

Celebrating women on trail by Vong Hamilton for Hike it Baby

Photo courtesy of Kat Patterson.

Kat Patterson: [We had] an outdoor photography 101 event me and another woman hosted. The goal of the class was to get women more comfortable with their camera and capture better outdoor/hiking photos. We stayed up late capturing star photos and walking through how to use each camera. This photo was taken at the end of the night as a long exposure to capture all the rad ladies and the awesome stars peeking out. A total blast!

Jill Howard Iser: I was finally able to arrange for my committee with Junior League of Columbia, Inc. to make a hike with one of our local children’s shelters. All the stars aligned and it was so great!! 7 league members and 6 female teens, 2 house moms, and 1 Park Ranger means 16 ladies on the trail — at Sesquicentennial State Park. We saw a butterfly and (equally scary) hognose snake!!

Julianne Thompson: My favorite moment from the 10k Women Trail Project was when I hosted a hike on a 20-degree morning and 10 ladies showed up.

Brisa Milena Halviatti: On my first backpacking trip I met a women who had never been camping before. She brought a whole roll of duct tape and ski poles. We were tentmates that trip, and I made a new friend for life. A year later, we were tentmates again; this time on a summit attempt of Mt Baker, then two weeks later an all women summit of Mt Rainier – the largest active volcano in Washington state and most glaciated mountain in the lower 48. Getting to watch her blossom and grow, discover a new passion and harness her strength … it’s all been beyond magical for me. It really drives home for me the idea that we receive more by giving.

Bethany Johnsen: So many favorite moments, but this one is at the top! I pushed myself to do my longest hike so far (12+ miles), made it to a frozen waterfall, had many great talks with new friends and old and really felt like the force of nature this challenge has inspired us to be!

Kathie Walsh: I’ve met so many beautiful women who enjoy being outdoors as much as I do! I was quite lonely for women to hike and experience new outdoor adventures with me that when I came to discover the 10k Women Trail Project, I jumped for joy and never looked back! There is no judgement – only acceptance and friendships for life. I didn’t know just how lonely I had been. This group accepted me as I am. My heart is full.

Reaching the top of mountains

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Frost.

Lindsay Frost: My most memorable moment was on a sunrise hike I led up Chief Mountain in Evergreen, Colorado. I was 21 weeks pregnant and 17 ladies joined me on the trail. It was a pretty slow hike for me since I was pregnant, but it was so amazing to share that summit with all those women and get to reconnect with friends as well as meet new people. It felt amazing that many women would come together at that early hour of the morning to get out on the snowy trail with me!

Käryn Gaffney: …Mt. Adams, the second tallest volcano in Washington state … has been my favorite and most challenging hike of the year. I chose this summit as my goal of 2018 and begged my friend to do it with me. As I trained, a few more ladies wanted to join the action. It was a difficult climb for me and I learned some lessons up there, including how to be vulnerable and accept help. These women believed in me, and look at what we accomplished together!

Jen Baird: My favorite moment in the 10K Women Trail Project was traveling alone from Washington, D.C., to New Hampshire to participate in Women Who Hike‘s first northeast hike! We hiked Mt. Jackson which was my first 4000 footers. This hike meant a lot to me because I had just become a mom and it was nice being around other encouraging women and still being true to myself. It was also the first time I left my baby!

Gaining strength to conquer challenges

Molly Porzel: My favorite moment was conquering Tallulah Gorge with my mom, sister and my two daughters. It was a tough hike that showed three generations of women how strong and capable we are. My 2-year-old hiked half of it on her own and my 63-year-old mom did the entire thing.

Nicholl Summers: If it wasn’t for the 10K Women Trail Project, I would never have found my strength as a second-time mom. I learned how to tandem wear my children. I hiked with old friends who aged out of Hike it Baby and with new friends who do not have kids. I think sometimes as moms we get tunnel vision because it can be hard to relate to other adult humans in different chapters of their lives. The 10K Women Trail Project helped me get out of my tunnel.

Natalie Jo Kendrach: One of my favorite moments was snowshoeing with both kids strapped to me! It made me feel like I could conquer anything. I have really enjoyed this challenge and keeping track of how many women/girls I have inspired to get outside!

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Wright.

Vanessa Wright: For me, the 10k Women Trail Project could not be summarized by one defining moment, but by a million little ones. This year was tough. I was pregnant for most of the Project and that brought severe morning sickness and a few rounds of bed rest. My daughter was born in May so the last few months of the Project I was learning how to be a mother of two. I’ll be honest, I had high hopes and big goals, but I didn’t reach any of them. Though I don’t have breathtaking summit pictures to look back on, I can proudly say I accidentally did something even better. I became a better, stronger, healthier mom and woman. I found the determination to get out on the trail at 9 months pregnant because I promised my toddler a hike and I didn’t want to let her down. I found time between bed rests for my mental and physical health by hosting adult-only hikes up some gorgeous mountains. I found that sometimes sitting in the sand and playing with your child while you occasionally stop to puke is just as rewarding as an Instagram-worthy day. I found I could still motivate friends to hike while sitting on my couch feeling sorry for myself. I found the strength to start hiking again just a few days postpartum because I knew that’s what I needed to ward off the PPD this round. This year I may not have found the tops of as many peaks as I would have hoped, but I found my strengths instead. And that’s pretty awesome too. So thanks to the 10k Women Trail Project for helping me grow this year in ways I never thought I would.

Making time for much-needed self-care

Jill Bilka: Before this initiative started I’d been doing hikes with my family (I have 3 young boys) and had enjoyed nurturing their love of the outdoors and getting them out on adventures. However, I found my focus was spent more on making sure they were happy, safe, fed, hydrated, respecting nature and continuing to move one foot in front of the other that at times I lost the focus on me enjoying time on trail. So, as a Trailblazer, I made it my goal to host ladies-only hikes and refocus on a little “me time.” My favorite was the snowy hike up to the peak of Saddle Mountain with this strong group of ladies. Hiking in the snow was a new adventure for some of us, and it was a fantastic women’s day out! Many didn’t know each other before the hike, and yet a bond was made over a shared love of the outdoors. It has been a great experience for me being a part of this group this past year! I’ve found it empowering to see all the stories and images of awesome adventures and it inspired me to plan time for “ladies-only hikes.” I have enjoyed building connections with a great group of strong women who share a love of the outdoors. Also, for the first time I did a solo hike, 9 miles, which I never would’ve been brave enough to do before!

Becca Hosley: For me, the 10k Project started at a time when I was experiencing a rough portion of motherhood. My little dude was becoming more and more rambunctious and stubborn, and I wasn’t taking the time to take care of my own needs. I was yelling more than I care to admit, and I found myself close to tears constantly! The 10K Project provided the inspiration I needed to start taking much more me-time by hosting and attending adult-only hikes. It also helped me become more confident hitting the trails solo when others weren’t able to join me. I have become much more patient with my son and husband, and I feel as though I am a better mom because I took the time to take care of my own needs by getting outside with other like-minded adults. I also feel like I appreciate my outdoor adventures with my son more now that I am able to get those tougher, longer hikes in without a 30+ pound toddler on my back during my kid-free hikes.

Celebrating women on trail by Vong Hamilton for Hike it Baby

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Jacobson.

Stephanie Jacobson: One of the friends I invited to the challenge at its onset was very hesitant. She is very much an “indoors” person and had never been camping and only been on one or two hikes in her whole life. While she ended up joining me on several hikes, my favorite moment was this past summer. She called me one morning to tell me she had just lost her job, and I immediately invited her to go camping with me, to disconnect and give herself time to think about her next steps. She agreed, and that night we went on a short hike to watch the sunset. As she sat there on the rocks, watching the sun sink behind the mountains, she had tears streaming down her face. She said afterwards that the trip was exactly what she needed – that the vastness and beauty of the world gave her the perspective to know that things were going to be okay. That is what this challenge was about for me – leading other women to find their own connection to nature and to discover how healing it can be.

Thanks to those who participated in the 10K Women Trail Project. Your efforts helped get more women and girls on trail and instilled an appreciation for hiking and being in nature. Keep on trekking and we’ll see you and your growing circle of friends who you’ve influenced on trail!

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Feature photo courtesy of Jill Bilka.

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