I don’t remember going on my first hike….probably because I was just a few weeks old and strapped to my mom or dad’s back. I distinctly remember crying and whining on most of our family hikes as a kid. In fact, one time I sat down and refused to budge until my father hiked back and came to pick me up in the car. And yet somehow in between the tantrums, I fell in love with hiking. And then I fell in love with backpacking.
The first backpacking trip I ever went on was with my dad when I was 13-years old. After that, I went with my boyfriend when I was 17-years old. I hiked with my brother when I was 18, and when I was 19, I spent three weeks on the A.T. with a guy and a girl from college. I did not go camping without a man until I was 20-years old and solo thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I am forever grateful for all the men who introduced me to backpacking; however, I can’t help but wonder, where were the women?
Backpacking has changed the way I think about myself and the world around me. I feel free when I load up my pack with everything I need to survive. I feel strong when I climb high into the mountains. I feel awe when I look out across the valley below. In the woods, I feel like the most confident, capable version of myself.
I am not alone in these feelings, and spreading them brings me great joy. That is why, this year, I am launching an affordable and accessible backpacking program for women and girls called Alta Trails.
Alta Trails aims to facilitate the spiritual and emotional development of women and girls and to promote women’s involvement and leadership in outdoor adventure, namely backpacking.
Alta Trails leads one and two-night backpacking trips for groups of women and girls in the beautiful mountains of western Virginia and North Carolina. When we are not hiking, our trips focus on teaching essential backpacking skills, embracing self-love and acceptance, and exploring our personal faith journeys together. (Important side note: When I say faith I don’t explicitly mean Christian faith or even religious faith. I just mean exploring YOUR beliefs, whatever they may be.)
During our time in the woods, Alta Trails participants will learn to pitch a tent, filter water, cook over a camp stove, build a campfire, and practice Leave No Trace® principles. No previous hiking experience is required, and we supply all the necessary gear.
Each trip centers around an intentional theme that relates women’s empowerment, self-discovery, and spirituality. For example, how do social labels influence our sense of personal and group identity? Or what does it mean to live confidently (which literally mean “with faith”). Together, we will reflect on the weekend’s theme so that we grow not only in our knowledge of backpacking skills but also in our understanding of ourselves.
Now, I am not the first person to propose an all-women’s backpacking trip. But programs such as Outward Bound and NOLS are often across the country and cost thousands of dollars. Alta Trails wants to make backpacking accessible to ALL women by providing close-to-home trips that cost less than $100 (with scholarships available) so that all that you have to do is clear your weekend schedule and show up.
I am incredibly excited to be announcing Alta Trails to all of you, and I hope you will continue to follow our progress this autumn. At the time, I thought thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was risky, but now I’m starting a business which is even harder and even more exciting. Get ready for the next chapter of Emma/Wonka’s adventures; it’s called Alta Trails.
Support Alta Trails
There are many ways in which you can support Alta Trails and our efforts to empower local women and girls through backpacking:
DONATE USED GEAR! Alta Trails provides full equipment rentals to any participant who needs it. But in order to make that a reality, we need more gear. So if you have old gear that you no longer use, please consider donating it. Or check out our wish list!
CONTRIBUTE TO OUR SCHOLARSHIP FUND! Every girl should have access to the world of outdoor adventure. For just $80, you could sponsor a camper for a full weekend trip. Additional donations will go towards gear purchases and trailhead transportation costs. Donate scholarships now!
COME ON A TRIP! If you live in northern Virginia, stay tuned for registration information for our October trips this year. Or contact me to schedule a trip for the spring (or winter…but warm weather is nice)!
SPREAD THE WORD! Like our Facebook page and subscribe to our email list to receive our newsletter and to stay up to date with the three pilot trips we have this coming October. Tell all the women in your life who could use a breath of fresh to contact me about a spring trip.