Summertime is a long time coming when you live in the northwest corner of Colorado. It can snow one day, be 65 degrees the next, blow the salad off your plate, then rain that afternoon. I have sat in my front yard, wrapped in a sleeping bag on the 4th of July, watching the fireworks while it spit snow on us! While waiting for the weather to straighten out, trip planning is on the books.
Our favorite summer trips are the ones we take with our friends. And family, of course. But because our kids don’t live in town, anymore, we often hook up with friends. Dale and I have taken our friends fishing, hiking, backpacking, camping, boating and 4 wheeling. Going on adventures is so much more fun when shared with other like-minded adventurers. Our fun meter always seems to get cranked sky high.
I have laughed with my friends in a cabin until my sides hurt so bad that I prayed for a somber moment. I have played cards for shots of my favorite drink at an outfitter’s camp located deep in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado, only to brush my teeth with the leftover rum and coke in my coffee cup the next morning. My husband and I have listened from our sleeping bags, to our camp mates in the next tent trying to herd a bat in the direction of the nearest exit while trying not to wake us up with their squeals. We all take turns fixing the best camp dinners ever ~ it’s kind of an egotistic validation type of thing. We have fished until our arms hurt from catching too many fish. We have hiked switchbacks while hollering to each other, “Hellooooooo!”, in a British accent. Somehow, I don’t think these moments in time would have occurred if it was just Dale and I by ourselves. Dignity seems to go out the window when we run in packs.
There are 6 of us who are great friends. Our kids have grown up together. Two of us are co-workers. Four of us are co-founders of a business. We all come from diverse backgrounds, but our thirst for adventure has brought us closer together.
Every trip we take together is a grand adventure in companionship. We have climbed up mountains together.
We have slept under the stars together. We have crossed over 12,000′ passes. We have hiked into camp only to play cards and cheat our way to victory (Doug!) We have sat in the hot springs of Chalk Creek together until our skin wrinkled and almost fell off!
We are more than just friends, we are a small gang.
It takes a certain type of chemistry to hang with people who like to have the same adventures as you do. It doesn’t work for all couples, but it works for us! All the decisions are made easily. All the small jobs that come with a hike or camping trip are distributed with ease. I don’t know how or why it happens ~ it just does.
Just before the beginning of summer, we will all meet at the local hangout, Chippers, in Meeker. We will get out our calendars and pin down a weekend when we are all free. We will mark it down then discuss where to go and what to do. As the special date gets closer, we will meet on a back porch to outline details of the trip. A few days before the trip, us gals will head to the grocery store with a list of food that would feed a kingdom. We will not starve.
When the day of our adventure arrives, the vehicles will be gassed up, our coolers packed, our backpacks ready to go and we all pile into our cars laughing and yakking all the way to our destination. Our trip together will be filled with non-stop adventure. We will return exhausted but with many memories that will be revisited between ourselves year after year.
Modesty, manners and appearance. Those words resonate politeness, discretion, and dressing appropriately for any occasion. Every day I strive to practice these characteristics that I want to be remembered by. But recently, I have come to the conclusion that this is not always possible. Why? Because I fear hiking has ruined me. It’s ruined my manners, my politeness and certainly the way I dress. It’s turned me into what we hikers affectionately call ourselves ~ dirtbag hiker or hiker trash.
Whenever I am on a long day-hike or a backpacking trip for a week, it’s like flipping a switch in my personal habits. My manners, modesty and appearance pretty much go out the window. My trips usually entail a survival mode so I’m not really too concerned about fashion or being classy. I can dress up pretty good when I want to. But when I’m hiking, there’s a certain type freedom I feel when I get to throw away all the con-
straints that society puts upon us.
I started thinking about some of the ways hiking has ruined me and how it has made it much harder for me to flip that switch. My hair gets tucked up into my baseball cap. Sunscreen takes the place of makeup. Hiking clothes take the place of a nice blouse and high dollar jeans. Boots take the place of my Dansko clogs. I wipe my nose on my sleeve instead of using a tissue. I drop my drawers behind a bush only if there is one available. If not, well, my hiking partners just need to avert their eyes (my poor husband!).
A couple of weeks ago, Dale and I were traveling through SE New Mexico and West Texas. We stopped in Carlsbad, NM for a few nights to visit the Carsbad Caverns NP and to hike up Guadalupe Peak. We pulled into the trailhead parking lot. The lot was filled with quite a few hikers and campers and other tourists just milling around. I still had my jeans on and needed to change into my hiking pants. Without thinking, I jumped out of the car, stripped off my jeans, grabbed my other pants from the backseat and proceeded to put them on in the parking lot, not hiding behind a car door or even aware of the people around me. I had forgotten to flip that little switch from “hiking world” to the “act like a lady world”.
There are numerous other forehead slap moments, but I thought I’d ask my fellow Hike Like A Woman ambassadors for their epiphanies, their moments when they realized they were ruined and had become a Dirtbag Hiker:
Kristin Smeltzer ~ “I think hiking has ruined me!! On the way to work and I thought…not sure if I put deodorant on before heading to work. So I stop at a shop on the way and pick some up. Waiting for my connecting train, in my work gear, and just started putting it on! No filter didn’t even think “
Amanda Lucy Haskins ~ “I came home from camping for a week by myself in Cataloochee, NC. Hadn’t had a bath all week, had been chopping wood, hiking, fishing, building fires, etc. And went to the grocery store on my way home. Smelling like a cave woman and campfire.
Covered in mud, suit, dirt and who knows what else. Didn’t think anything about it until every one started staring at me and smirking. Not to mention I shop in the upscale section of town and it was a Sunday so everyone else had on their “church clothes”. Lol”
Mara Kuhn ~ “One of my best friends always worries about how we look and smell after hiking when we go out to eat. And I’m like, “nah, it’s a hiking town
they’ll understand.” He’s a guy and I’m a girl, something backwards about that 😂 But he never wants to go to the “nice” places. I just don’t care. If I saw anyone who knew me, they’d totally know what I was up to anyway”
Gretchen Elizabeth ~ “Hahaha, that’s great! About a month ago I ended up in a fancy restaurant in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. I had just finished hiking the Badlands all day, but was still feeling pretty cute in a mostly black ensemble & flowy white scarf. Unfortunately, the ENTIRE backside of me was coated head to toe in thick, hard, caked on red mud from when I took a brief tumble down the slippery hillside. It was pretty funny to watch the whole dining room double take as I walked on in”
Kathryn Petroff ~ “When I got back home from the CO Trail last fall, I had the whole day to myself without my husband and kids. That’s a rare gem of a moment to
have the house to myself. I was filthy and tired, but all I wanted to do was sit down on the ground and read. I had no motivation to peel my hiking clothes off to take a shower…not even my boots! I just sat there on the hard ground like I was at a campsite. For the next several days all I wanted to eat was my trail food.
It took me a while to readjust to the comforts of home, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until my husband pointed it out. I’m sure I’ve picked up all kinds
of interesting habits as a hiker, but living in a mountain town, they go unnoticed…it’s the norm here ~ This is a great post idea! Hail to the sweaty, stinky hiking goddesses! ~ Andrew (Kathryn’s husband) said to tell all y’all it’s totally hot when women embrace their hikertrash “
Jennifer Hewitt ~ “I just came off a 4 mile hike, it’s 87 degrees today, I’m hot, I’m literally dripping in sweat, I’m covered from head to toe in a gross suntan lotion/dirt mixture, and I’m sure I smell, but I needed groceries so here I am at the grocery store… and no f*cks are given about how I look or smell because I feel great ~ I love the smell of campfire on my clothes”
Michelle Carner Long ~ “I think, for me, I’ve kinda always been this way in some ways. I’ve never had much personal modesty. My motto “If they ain’t seen it yet, it time they did”. I’ve never been super girly, so I’ve never really dressed to impress. Though I’ve still wanted to look pretty. Age, has taken care or that vanity.
There’s no denying the graying hair, loose, sagging skin and body parts. Facebook has been incredibly helpful in letting go of vanity. I purposely put up and let stay tagged unflattering photos of myself. Aging is hard enough without being all hung up in it. As for being dirty, stinky and messy from the trail. I love it. No need to primp and tidy myself before seeing the public. As Jennifer said, I have no f#$%s to give. It’s really freeing. I too, sometimes stay in my nasty clothes once I’m home. Relishing the feeling of a job well done”
Tina M. Lanciault ~ “we were backpacking for 7 days in WY one year (about 6 of us) and we had just come off the trail, dirty and smelly after not taking a shower for seven days. We first thought we should go to our hotel and shower first before going to get something to eat. I was so hungry, all I could think about was eating a bacon cheeseburger and fries. We stood around for a few minutes and said “screw it” let’s eat and drink we can get showers later. So into the first restaurant we saw. Some people looked at us funny but I must say those where the best tasting french fries I ever had and I didn’t care then what anyone thought and I still don’t today after a day on the trail. I love coming home from a backpacking trip or camping trip and still smelling the campfire on my coat or jacket. I guess we’re all HIKER TRASH I love it!!!”
Ardeen Duckworth ~ “I love that, how the need to eat – and eat ALL THE FOOD – trumps everything else. I’m the same, I feel like Pigpen from Charlie Brown tromping into the restaurant, but nothing will stop me! And inside my head I am, to be honest, pretty righteous as I look at the lovely dressed up ladies and think of how hardcore I feel. And yeah, the waft of campfire out of the coat closet a few days later is the best!!”
ChuckandLorna Radcliff ~ Hiking or backpacking in Florida is just a hot, sweaty and stinky experience. I personally don’t glisten like most ladies ~
– heck no I sweat buckets in all the awkward places. My pants always look like I peed them, my back is drenched, my pits are huge circles of sweat, and my hair will be drenched. In fact, I put the hair up in a hat from the go, wear black hiking pants to camo the sweat but nothing covers or masks the unmistakable smell of sweat after a day or two of hiking without a shower. Last backpacking trip my hiking pants were literally ringing wet with sweat. I was hoping I had sweat my butt off, but it was still back there. I wear my sweat, dirt and stench with pride! This Grandma gets out there – that’s all that matters to me.
Lisa Munniksma ~ I prefer “dirtbag hiker” to “hiker trash,” but I identify either way. As a farmer, too, I am always meeting friends in town for a beer or just going to the grocery store and running into people looking a wreck–no one even bothers asking anymore.
In the end, I think it goes back to the basic fact that hikers don’t care what others look like – we are all equal on the trail. But when society rears its ugly head, all the stares and negativity start to flow. I cherish my dirty nails, crazy hair and sweaty clothes – granted there is a time and place for it – but, it’s a sweat and dirt earned from hard work and massive enjoyment. We are all ruined…. and that’s not a bad thing! And don’t forget to flip that switch!
Earlier this year, my husband Dale, and I were hanging out in the front room, watching television and talking about the upcoming summer. We usually plan a few weekend trips and a couple of overnight hikes. He came up with the brilliant idea of going on a major backpacking trip this summer. By major, I mean, packing up everything you own to keep yourself alive for 5-6 days in the unforgiving Colorado wilderness, strapping it to your back and wandering down a trail to parts unknown.
A couple of summers ago, we backpacked three segments (42 miles) of the 28 segment, 500+ mile, Colorado Trail.
One life goal of mine has been to complete Colorado’s premier trail ~ not as a thru-hiker, but as a segment hiker. Many hikers complete the trail as thru-hikers in about a month to a month and a half. I have no desire to pound out the heavy mileage day after day, with my head down, my earbuds blasting trail music, not interacting with anyone for fear of being thrown off schedule. For me, work gets in the way of completing more than a few segments at a time. Plus, I really don’t think my body or my mind could handle more than six days on a trail at any given time.
When Dale brought up the CT hike, I jumped on it like a rat on a Cheeto! First of all, we have something fun to look forward to this summer and second, we get to plan for more segments on Colorado’s premier trail.
Which, in turn, means, we get to drag out all our CT books that are gathering dust so we can figure out which segments we are going to tackle.
Mileage is very important. We live hours from the trailheads and need to factor in our traveling time to and from the TH. Then we need to figure out who gets to drop us off and pick us up 5-6 days later.
**More highway travel time equals less time on the trail.
Note to self: Need to put in for vacation time… a lot of it….
Next, we plan how long we can be on the trail. One doesn’t just throw some gear in a pack and head down a trail. Many things need to be taken into consideration.
Given the terrain, how many miles per day can we hike? Where are the water sources? Where are the best campsites? Will there be a lot of exposure? Will we be susceptible to thunderstorms? Snow? What are the weather patterns looking like? When will the largest elevation gains and losses occur? Given the amount of snowpack, which month should we go? So many questions to be answered. Our guidebooks and maps will help to answer some of the questions. Our experience and intuition will help with the rest.
I get to plan the menu for each day and then start dehydrating food. I’ll pack our meals neatly into gallon size baggies with the order in which we eat it. Menu preparation takes a long time, but is very rewarding ~ our survival depends on it.
Lastly, I get to go through our hiking box and start separating out all our gear. That’s my favorite part. When I open the lid of our hiking box I swear I hear angels singing. I love to go through our gear, touching every piece like it’s the holy grail. We have gear for all types of weather ~ it’s Colorado. The weather patterns change every five minutes!
Better get out my notebook and start planning. I will fill my notebook with notes, menus and schedules. My eyes are glazing over and I’m already dreaming of our time on the trail…summer in Colorado is already starting to look good!
Wintertime in the Colorado Rockies can be long and miserable. Because of our endless winter, Coloradoans have long been known for their ability to play in the snow. We love our skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. But not all Coloradoans are created equal. I don’t ski or snowboard. Sacrilege!! I know, I know! I don’t snowmobile, either.
So how does one survive the Colorado winters without strapping boards to the bottoms of their feet and heading downhill at high rates of speed? They strap snowshoes on, that’s how. I love snowshoeing. It’s quiet. The equipment is minimal and inexpensive. There are no lift lines or expensive tickets to buy. You can create your own trail if you want to. It’s great exercise and virtually anyone can do it. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy.
Our favorite trail takes us up to Marvine Campground which is located in the White River National Forest on the edge of the Flat Tops Wilderness in northwest Colorado. It’s a 45 minute drive from our home in Meeker. You park your vehicle at the trailhead, strap on your snowshoes and head on down the groomed portion of the county road that is not maintained during the winter. Easy peasy!
It’s a beautiful hike ~ about a 5 mile round trip through amazing country. The hike is a gradual uphill climb to the campground. Along the way you might see rabbits, deer, elk and if you’re really lucky, a moose or two. Very rarely do we run into other skiers or snowshoers. If we do, they are friends we know from town as we live in an isolated area and know everyone who plays in these parts.
The reward for your efforts is the way cool yurt at the end of the trail ~ Roy Wedding, his friends, and the White River Nordic Council set the yurt up every year. It’s a great place to snowshoe or ski into. Inside, there is a wood burning stove, chopped wood, propane gas burners, pots, chairs and tables. My family has enjoyed numerous excursions to the yurt ~ we have played cards, had lunches and have just plain hung out. Every now a then, the Nordic Council offers a moonlight ski/snowshoe to the yurt ~ we will have to make a point to enjoy that adventure next!
Setting goals is easy ~ accomplishing them is the hard part. Too often we set ourselves up for failure by the high expectations we set for ourselves. The trick is to not not bite off more than you can chew. Sure, we all think we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. But, sometimes we fail and then we get ripped up about it. To avoid that rollercoaster ride of emotion, why don’t you just sit down and think about what you want to accomplish ~ think about your goals. Then walk away. Come back a few days later and revisit those goals. That always helps me to put my hair brained ideas into perspective. And you know what? It works!
Here is what some of my fellow Hike Like A Woman ambassadors have to say about their goal setting for 2017.
As many of you already know, last month I was one of 36 women to be chosen as an ambassador for the online community, Hike Like A Woman. Hike Like A Woman is the brainchild of Rebecca Walsh. She envisioned a community of like-minded women who would encourage and inspire each other to get outdoors and enjoy all the gifts Mother Nature has to offer. She wanted to share her knowledge of the outdoors with others in hopes of motivating them to do the same. Well, it worked!!!!! She has built an online community which has over 14,000 followers! She must be doing something right ~ and the community is gaining new members every day.
A few months ago, Rebecca posted an idea that she hoped would help expand her philosophy ~ why not create an ambassador program to help her spread the word? What she originally had in mind, was to find 12 women who would contribute blogs and articles on hiking and backpacking, trip reports, stories of inspiration, hiking hacks, gear reviews, book reports, favorite hiking snacks, and more, so the website could take on a different personality. Rebecca didn’t want HLAW to be all about her. She wanted to extract ideas from different women of all ages, backgrounds, demographics and levels of knowledge in the hiking community. She crossed her fingers and encouraged women to apply for her pilot ambassador program by filling out an application and submitting an essay on why they should be picked as an ambassador. She hoped for any kind of a response. Well, guess what? She received 118 applications ~ one of which was mine! WOWZER!!!! She was bowled over by the unexpected enthusiasm of women who wanted to be a part of the HLAW Ambassador program.
Now, Rebecca had a big problem – who to select? How in the world does one read through 118 applications and select only 12 to represent? She looked through the applications and decided she had to open the program up to more than just 12 women. She eliminated applications until she came to a manageable number of 30 women representing the US and 6 international ambassadors.
Frankly, I had forgotten about applying for the HLAW Ambassador program. I had seen it flash by my newsfeed on Facebook. I doubled back and read about it. Intrigued, I applied, thinking it would be so great to share with other women who enjoyed hiking and backpacking as much as I did. I LOVE hanging with my friends, but, other than my husband, Dale, I really don’t have anyone close to me who enjoys the outdoors like I do. So, I filled out my application, wrote my stupid essay, thought, “no way in hell, Jill”, pushed SEND and that was that. Over the next few weeks, a post would appear from Rebecca, “Narrowing it down to 80 applications. Will let you know by email when I decide…”. Holy moley! That’s a lot of women with more knowledge, charisma and experience than I have. I’m done…. So, I forgot all about it and channeled my energy towards other things.
On July 23rd, I opened an email from Rebecca, fully expecting a sweet, “Thank you for applying, but….”. The email thanked me for applying , the response was overwhelming, blah, blah, blah, and oh, by the way, “I’m excited to announce that I selected you as an Ambassador!”
SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh. My. Hell. I was chosen. I WAS CHOSEN! Wait.
What? I was chosen??? Really? Me? From Nowhere, Colorado?? Me? Really?? I must have read and reread Rebecca’s email numerous times. I still have it. I think I’ll print it and frame it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would even come close to being selected. Call it self doubt. Call it being humble. Call it low self esteem. Or modesty. Whatever you call it, that was me. And it still is.
I am a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador. I am a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador. I kind of like the sound of that! ♥ My girlfriend, Cindy, who didn’t know at the time (we were sworn to secrecy ……great… that was soooo hard!), noticed I had a spring in my step as I cruised by her office. It does give you a sense of validation to be one of 36 chosen from 118 applications. I’m still internally SCREAMING on a daily basis.
I’m starting to sweat bullets and have a touch of anxiety as the deadline approaches for my first submission. But, I have all the other ambassadors and Rebecca inspiring me and encouraging me along the way, so that gives me the confidence that I can handle whatever comes my way. I am not alone in this journey. And that’s what we are all about. There are amazing women within this group of whom I have come to know and love as if I had known them forever. They bring so much to the table and I look forward to collaborating with them over the next year.
Best part of being involved in the ambassador program? I get to help encourage and inspire others ~ whether you are a seasoned veteran hiker or a novice to the outdoors, we all need someone in our hip pocket to give us the little extra push to walk off that cliff backwards….
Thirty-eight years ago, while as a student at Western State College (now known as Western State Colorado University) in Gunnison, Colorado, for the first time ever, I walked off a cliff backwards. I had equipment and teammates to support me in my journey downward until my feet touched the ground. Once my feet were planted firmly on the rocky soil of Hartmans Rocks (I don’t remember how I even got there), I fell to my knees and literally kissed the ground, thankful for the trust I had to have in my equipment and in those who were in charge of my well-being. I mean, who would want to make that dreaded phone call to my parents: “Mr. and Mrs. Norcross? I’m calling to inform you that your daughter has made a very unique splatter pattern on the rocks. Looks kind of cool, like a Spirograph pattern, ya know? Anyway, could you please give me your address so we can scrape her off the side of the cliff and ship her remains to you in an envelope?”
Not me, man. So, I can understand why my mountain rescue teammates would want to ensure that I survived this simple act of walking off a cliff backwards.
Thirty-five years later, I again walked off a cliff backwards. This time, there were no material things or physical bodies to arrest my free fall… I dove headfirst into a world I had always fantasized about, but never took the first steps to enter, until 3 years ago when I entered the world of backpacking and hiking.
My husband and I have been together for 36 years ~ married 32 of those years. We have been through a lot. Births, raising a family, deaths, illness and other factors that could tear a marriage apart. But we persevere. So, this blog was born for many reasons ~ I won’t go into detail, but for the most part, my husband and I want to share our adventures. We are a team in the game of life. We love our children and our grandchildren as much as a human possibly can. We realize they have their own lives and we have ours. It’s just the two of us now ~ so we have decided to make the most out of our time together as much as we possibly can. Adventure awaits!!!
I LOVE BACKPACKING!!!! Did I say that loud enough?? I always have. I was introduced to it during my years at college by my teammates on the Western State College Mountain Rescue Team which I was a part of for 3 years. I love being outdoors. I love hiking. I love identifying flowers, plants, animals, valleys, peaks, and sharing with others. I love the simplicity of knowing all you need to survive with, is on your back. I love the freedom from all the technical communication gadgets that were invented to make our world an easier place to live in. I love saying, “We’re going off the grid for a few days. Will phone when we return.” Dale, on the other hand only hiked as a necessity; a horse trail to clear, or a fence to be mended, or a game animal to chase which would help to feed our family for the year.
Dale was raised in Meeker, Colorado, smack dab in the middle of the hunting culture. That’s all he knew. You didn’t hike or backpack just for the freedom of doing so. You hiked because you needed to hunt an elk or deer. You backpacked the carcass out of the forest. It was work. Not play. You snowshoed not because you wanted to experience the crisp, winter chill or see the snow sparkle and glisten upon it’s surface, you snowshoed to shovel the snow off of cabins in the winter so you would have one come spring.
With that in mind, we have been been at a tug-of-war for 32 years. Three years ago, I finally won!!! I somehow managed to open Dale’s eyes to adventure in hiking and backpacking. He is now on the lookout for adventures ~ so much, that at times it’s overwhelming, but I’m not gonna kick it! We enjoy sharing together, pointing out cloud shapes, blooming Columbines, tundra, peaks, listening to Pikas call to each other, where to set up camp, how many miles to hike on a given day, sharing meals, taking care of each other and making decisions together to insure our survival. Life at it’s simplest.
We enjoy dragging our friends down our path.And they seem to enjoy the ride, as well.
We all have so much fun, but at the end of the day, it’s just Dale and I. And that’s what counts. This blog is dedicated to all our adventures, past, present and future ~ my hope is that others will enjoy and realize that everyone has their own cliffs to walk off backwards ~ “life is a great adventure, or nothing”. What you choose to do with it speaks volumes as to who you are.