Amplifying Community Among Women While in the Outdoors
After most outdoor adventures with my family, friends or by myself, I often reflect upon its themes(s) and meaning in my life. This past weekend was no exception. I organized a group of my friends from my neighborhood to go on a women’s hiking retreat in the Shenandoah mountains. I wanted the weekend to be a mixture of adventure but also relaxation because we all lead busy lives with careers and families. Therefore, we stayed at a B&B called Belle Meade outside of Sperryville, VA but I lead them on a difficult nine mile hike up the Whiteoak Canyon trail and back down the Cedar Run trail.
Both trails fool you into submission as they begin with a gentle ascent or descent but the true meaning of stamina, body and mind, grabs you at midpoint on each trail. While the Whiteoak Canyon trail was mainly snow free, the connecting fire road and the upper section of Cedar Run still had a layer of slush that acted like sand; therefore, foot placement on the downhill was conscious and important. The elevation gain from the lower falls to the upper ones on the Whiteoak Canyon made our hearts pump heavy and fast, requiring an occasional rest to breathe in some extra oxygen and slow our hearts. After our legs were tired from climbing and hiking on slush, the Cedar Run took us through a steep ravine on wet trails.
This trek left one friend in our group questioning her presence on this hike with some self-doubt about her ability to finish. Self-doubt is that negative conversation one has inside their head when they have hit a wall, whatever the wall symbolizes. Negative in-your-head conversations are easy to have but hard to overcome with positive ones. It is rewarding to set ambitious goals and experience their accomplishment but part of this achievement is overcoming the self-doubt on the journey to the reward of exhilaration upon finishing. People have different strategies for wrestling with doubt. Mine is to chunk reaching the finish line into small obtainable goals where each milepost erases a bit of the self-doubt to where it is replaced with the cheerleader inside of me. I am not sure what my friend’s strategy is when she is on her own but she had a community of women who chipped away at her self-doubt to replace it with external rallies of support and encouragment.
We hiked on International Women’s Day. While this was not intentional, it is symbolic. Women create powerful communities (sometimes though we can be our own worst enemy) and have been for millennial. Women have a keen sense of creating community because it takes a village and we know our collective bodies, minds and spirits provide a powerful force of support and strength not only for ourselves but for our families and communities. Communities of women throughout history from the first pioneers to suffragettes to women working in factories during WWII to those who burned bras during the feminist movement created strong communities to weather the hardships, celebrate the victories and pave the road for future communities of women. Our hike on International Women’s Day symbolized our collective strength to overcome one friend’s self-doubt to reach the end but a greater community strength of women resides in our neighborhood who share life’s failures, triumphs, laughter, life, friendship and love together. Together.