Women Hikers!

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oleander
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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by oleander » Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:57 pm

I'm still scratching my head at the relative lack of women backpackers. Women's bodies are optimized for all-day endurance sports that require the ability to keep moving at a steady pace all day, and still feel strong at the end of that day. That pretty much describes backpacking.

I was very lucky growing up with a lot of women backpackers in my family. My first backpacking trip was with my mom. I then learned most of my skills, including thru-hiking and cross-country skills, from my aunt. Another aunt is still backpacking at age 84. That aunt's daughter, my cousin, was one of the youngest females ever to do a winter ascent of the Whitney mountaineering route. That's how we roll.

No fear of going solo. I know my navigation. Carry a Spot device for piece of mind.

The "deviants," as someone said here, all seem to be in the front-country campgrounds.

The only unpleasant male type encountered with any frequency in the backcountry is the Mansplainer. (See Urban Dictionary.) Mansplainers haunt the popular, crowded trails. Whereas, a man encountered at a remote location, such as Colby Pass, will have quiet confidence and is far more likely to treat a lady as an equal who perhaps knows what she is doing. (A Mansplainer has probably never heard of Colby Pass.)

Rogue doesn't look scary at all. He has kind eyes.

I like to introduce women to backpacking, and have led a lot of trips for newbie friends.

- Elizabeth








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AlmostThere
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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by AlmostThere » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:03 am

I belong to a women's backpacking group, and organized for about 8 years a very large meetup with many women in it, and organize a backpacking group with quite a few women in it.

Not sure what it is that women think solo backpacking is so dangerous, and not sure that all of them think that way - I think it's more that they want the company. There are many mismatched spouses - one of them doesn't like camping or backpacking - and I often have groups made up of them regardless of gender.

I do know that new-to-backpacking women have a lot of worries and fears. That's unfortunate. They seem to think that bears are the biggest worry - men are another, and then bugs and cold and having your period.

In any case, there are lots of groups out there that are women specific - just a google away. I cannot guarantee that all of them are going to have experienced backpackers in them. The Bay area group I just joined seems to be mostly eager newbies. I walked a newbie off the trail just this past weekend when she attempted to backpack with a day pack, two actually, and a collection of other bags she had loosely attached to herself in various ways. But, she was fairly eager to learn, and I was able to steer her in the right direction.

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by Jimr » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:08 pm

The greatest fear men have regarding women is they will be rejected. The greatest fear women have regarding men is they will be killed.
“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

-John Adams

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:20 pm

I have had a lot of women tell me that they day hike because they want to get clean and have that hot shower at the end of each day. I just have to convince them that they can still be clean if willing to jump in a cold lake at the end of the day. Some do very athletic day hikes but do not want to stay overnight. Some feel vulnerable in a tent - want a hard sided shelter against the elements. I really have not had many women say they fear men. Sorry guys, bears are more scary.

Not sure if it had much to do with my outdoor comfort, but I grew up in an age before air conditioning. We slept in the back yard all summer long because the house was just too hot. No tent, just "cowboy camping". It seemed so normal. And maybe it is just false memory of childhood but I swear that the stars were brighter and closer than now.

My Mom grew up on a farm and loved the outdoors. Getting dirty in the garden was normal. We would get hosed down before we were allowed inside.

My childhood was also an age of less "parenting". We would regularly be booted out of the house to play only to come in for lunch and dinner. You had to totally behave inside a house - so any running, jumping, yelling, laughing, silly giggling- to be done outdoors. I babysit my grandkids; and it is not like that nowadays. Oh, also we did not even have a TV until I was nearly in High School.

All in all it added up more hours spent outdoors than inside. The outdoors never were scary. I always wonder if I would feel the same if I were raised in a more indoor-oriented family.

By the way, I took my girls backpacking all the time they were growing up. They are not as into backpacking or the outdoors as I am. I may have "over-saturated" them with backpacking too young.

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by LMBSGV » Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:48 pm

By the way, I took my girls backpacking all the time they were growing up. They are not as into backpacking or the outdoors as I am. I may have "over-saturated" them with backpacking too young.
Going off topic a little here. My wife and wonder the same thing. We took our son on his first camping trip at 3 weeks old and first backpacking trip at 2 years. Along with it being our main recreational love, it was cheap and so nearly every overnight trip or vacation (except to visit relatives) until he was a college graduate was camping and/or backpacking. He always seemed to have a great time (and the family photos prove it) so we figured as an independent adult, he would want to continue going camping and backpacking. But he never goes camping and when we offered our equipment one time, he replied, “And sleep on the ground?”

Back to the topic: Over the years, I’ve run into lots of women solo hikers of various ages and, with one exception, they’ve all had that “aura” described by marksor. Like Rogue, I met one when I spent the night on Muir Pass. I let her sleep in the hut while I slept outside; she said I could sleep in the hut. It was my choice to sleep outside with the rainfly off to watch the stars since it was one of those magical post-storm clear nights.

However, most of the women I’ve run into are either half a couple or with a small group. A few times, I‘ve gotten talking to the couples or small groups and women will confess to a fear of men if they go solo, but then they say it in the context of my going solo so I think it’s not really a fear of men as much as going solo.

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by giantbrookie » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:03 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:By the way, I took my girls backpacking all the time they were growing up. They are not as into backpacking or the outdoors as I am. I may have "over-saturated" them with backpacking too young.
It is possible that my wife and I have been a bit too cautious about this and not taken our kids up enough. It is a bit too early to project our kids' likes and dislikes to adulthood, given that my daughter is 9 and my son is 12, but my daughter enjoys the high country much more than my son as of right now.

My daughter is not particularly focused on any one aspect of High Sierra hiking but she simply exudes the joy of being there. She doesn't really take the time to figure out fishing too much although she likes doing it and she doesn't put much thought into reading terrain, either. In keeping with her usual approach to athletic endeavors, off trail hiking for her is about brute force without finesse. She is the one member of the family who is always lobbying for more trips to the High Sierra. Of all the family members she is also the least bothered by being grimy and sweaty on the trail. My son is much more likely to wish for the shower back home.

My son is also very athletic, but he doesn't enjoy the overall High Sierra experience as much as my daughter. He loves high country fishing, though, and sees hiking as a means to reach that end. His fishing skill is pretty much equal to mine and my wife's, but he tends to be lazy about moving around a lakeshore to find sweet spots. His terrain reading skills are way above average, but his love of the high country is lukewarm in comparison to my daughter's.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by JWreno » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:13 pm

I am fortunate the my 57 year old wife loves to backpack but doesn't care for the planning. Fortunately she does help dry the fruit and the jerky. I am happy to have a wife who will take 3 week trips with me. We would go longer but we aren't retired and eventually have to get back to work. We have seen a lot of older, sometimes retired people out on their own on the JMT. I don't see as many solo hikers once we leave the main trails.

I would like to do more side trips but I have to find a compromise to keep the off trail miles from intimidating my wife. She is a little nervous about cross-country routes over rough talus and areas with exposure. I enjoy the challenge but when doing that kind of travel it can be good to have a parter if things go bad. I have done a little bit of Rouper's Sierra High Route with her and would like to do the rest. She enjoyed the views but felt beat up by the difficult terrain.

I am a better hiker with my wife along. I tend to blow through the miles too quickly when hiking solo and having the trip end sooner than it needs to.
Jeff

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by Hobbes » Wed Jan 07, 2015 9:34 am

I usually don't get out for the season until early June. Typically, there's some snow left @ higher elevations even during drought years, so I tend to stick to trails and save any x-c travel for later trips during the summer. The last few years I've ended up going south bound, so I've been meeting the first wave of PCTers at junctions or portions of the trail itself.

IMO, that's the place to see a lot of solo female hikers in their native habitat. I have to confess that during my first encounter I did ask "you're out here alone"? In my defense, I was probably a little high from the altitude - I had just hit the trail from sea level 4-5 hours earlier. LOL.

Now, it's old hat - the total might even be 10-15%. In fact, after 700 miles, the ones who have made it that far are probably judging me as some kind of clean & soft "day hiker". Still, like most NOBOs, they're usually interested in information on passes, conditions, etc, so it's nice to chat for a few minutes. (I always let other hikers take the initiative - I tend to nod and blast past people, but if someone slows and looks like they'd like some input, I'll stop.)

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by oleander » Wed Jan 07, 2015 12:46 pm

This summer, I met and got to know a woman who was hiking the length of the JMT by herself.

One thing she did share, is that everybody thought she must be with a group. "Hey, you're almost there...Your group is at the pass, just 10 minutes up!" (Referring to another group of women, up the ways a bit.) She said that was irritating to her. As were these very common questions:

"Oh my god...Are you out here ALONE!" (Usually followed by, "That's amazing!" - she found that mildly condescending - as if it would be a feat for a woman to accomplish the JMT alone, but not so much a feat for a man.)

Or:

"So you must have been inspired by Cheryl Strayed's book - Is that what got you out here?" This REALLY got her goat. She's been hiking for many years, long before the Strayed book came out.

I thought her experience was interesting, because people almost never say these things to me when I'm hiking solo. Maybe because I look a little older than her; and avoid the JMT Highway, where these sorts of questions and attitudes evidently pop up with some frequency.

I do really hate the occasional, "Good job!" That is something I expect someone to say to a child. When I hear it, it sounds like the person thinks I am on my first-ever hike, and therefore didn't expect me to...(fill in the blank: Hike so fast; hike effortlessly; hike so far; navigate off-trail; reach such a remote location; figure things out by myself).

The best compliment to a solo woman hiker is total nonchalance. Like, of course she is Superwoman...No comment necessary.

- Elizabeth

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Re: Women Hikers!

Post by Hobbes » Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:09 pm

oleander wrote:The best compliment to a solo woman hiker is total nonchalance. Like, of course she is Superwoman.
What about a slack-jaw when they find out about the Kona I-M? LOL

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