Lori Roberts, an avid hiker who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, admits to a range of thoughts that could keep her off the trail, if she were to indulge them.
There’s the potential of encountering a stranger in the woods who’s up to no good. She could fall or she could get lost. Maybe she should wait to hike when she’s in better shape and she can go faster.
“I see many barriers for women on the trail,” she said.
But Roberts hikes even if she’s slow. If she encounters a stretch she doesn’t want to cross because she’s afraid of heights, she tries again another day.
“I saunter and enjoy my time in nature, breathing the smells, listening to the birds chirp, smelling the wild flowers, listening to the creeks and taking pictures of these spectacular moments,” she said.
Jill Dunbar, a hiker who lives in Meeker, Colorado, put off her outdoor pursuits for 30 years while she raised her family.
“Now, as an empty-nester, I’m picking up where I left off, and I don’t need to feel guilty about it,” she said.
Mara Kuhn, who lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas, said she encounters people who don’t think women should be hiking or camping solo for safety reasons, as if her expertise isn’t sufficient.
“I just smile and nod,” she said. “I believe the more women do it, the more we disprove the myth.”
Roberts, Dunbar and Kuhn are part of an online hiking community called Hike Like A Woman, and they’ll be part of a panel discussion Monday evening to talk about how to overcome barriers that may keep women from outdoor recreation.
“When Women Hike” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Laramie’s Basecamp, 222 S. Second St. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Attendees can enter a drawing for a $35 Basecamp gift card. The discussion will also be streamed live on the Hike Like A Woman Facebook page.
Rebecca Walsh, who owns Basecamp, will be moderating the discussion.
“Our goal is to show that women can get outdoors, and we belong outdoors, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be seen as just as capable and confident as anyone else,” she said.
Walsh started Hike Like A Woman in 2015. A few months in, she decided to open up the site to a group of contributors that she calls her ambassador team, and the site took off.
Hike Like A Woman now has a blog, podcast, digital magazine, adventure book club, outdoor online school and women-led hiking groups around the United States and in New Zealand.
It reaches 70,000 people a month and was named the No. 1 Outdoor Women’s Blog at the Outdoor Bloggers Summit in 2017.
“It was just a silly little blog, but once I opened it up to people and gave them the chance to have their voices heard in an online space, that really helped grow our community,” Walsh said.
The panel discussion coincides with an annual retreat for the ambassador team, which will take place at Curt Gowdy State Park this weekend.
Walsh said Hike Like A Woman is a welcoming community for women of all ages and from all walks of life. The aim of the site is to educate women about topics that could be intimidating for the uninitiated.
“We really attract the woman next door who’s looking for information about what to bring in her backpack,” Walsh said.
Roberts said finding an online or in-person group that shares an interest in an activity is one way to build confidence.
“Together we can all overcome our barriers one trail at a time,” she said.
Kuhn said she’s made great friends through Hike Like A Woman, and she encouraged other women to find support and get going.
“Don’t listen to the haters and those who want to discourage you,” she said.
Dunbar said women don’t give themselves enough credit for the skills they have, which they’ve honed by raising children and caring for families.
“We just need to trust our instincts when we’re outdoors,” she said.
She encouraged women to step outside wherever they are.
“Whether it’s in your backyard, in a park or at a trailhead, just put one foot in front of the other and the rest will come naturally,” she said.
Hike Like A Woman has a local women-led hiking group on Facebook called Hike Like A Woman Wyoming.