Born in Honduras, bred in Washington, D.C., I discovered that I was meant to be a Californian when I came to the Bay Area for college. Things that make me very happy: camping and backpacking, big international adventures, long distance running, improv, 90s hip hop, Alton Brown, and excellent novels (The Goldfinch
comes to mind). I split my time between leading TrailMavens
rockin’ people to lead the most adventurous versions of their lives.
H: When and what led you to creating Trail Mavens, outdoor adventures for urban women?
S: A little over two years ago, while backpacking in the Bolivian Andes with my fiance, I realized I never adventured in nature with my best girl friends; it was always something I did with male significant others, that trip included. I thought it was outrageous that I’d never combined my favorite people with one of my favorite activities, and I decided I’d take these girl friends on a trip ASAP and teach them everything they needed to know.
Cue realization #2: everything I knew about the outdoors I learned from men. But wouldn’t it be great if there were a place women could come together to teach and learn from each other to become outdoor ninjas, without needing a guy there to get weird and macho about his fire-starting abilities? Yes, ma’am.
Two plus years after that original realization, the reasons have multiplied. I’ve noticed that women relate to nature in a fundamentally different way than men do: for many men, nature is something to be conquered, while a woman’s relationship is marked by a sort of symbiotic gratitude. (“It’s you and me, nature, and we’re in this together.”)
Moreover, women relate to each other differently when they’re outdoors together. You know the instant intimacy you feel when you make a friend traveling internationally? It turns out that being in nature has the same bonding effect that being far from home does. That brings me to my final, selfish kickback from starting Trail Mavens: I have met countless women who inspire me daily.
H: What are your top camping spots in and around the Bay Area?
I love campsites that make it possible for me to throw my gear into my car last-minute on a Saturday morning and head out into the wild. Henry Coe State Park
near San Jose is wildly under appreciated, especially in April and May when the grass is green and wildflowers are in bloom. All their backpacking sites are first-come, first-served. Pantoll Campground
on Mount Tam is delightful, and is at the crossroads of a dozen different amazing hikes. For those who love to plan ahead, Angel Island’s
ridge sites 4 and 5 are pretty much unbeatable (you just have to beat out everyone else vying to reserve them).
H: Since you’re a group camping/organizing pro, any advice for someone who wants to lead their own casual weekend adventure with the girls?
S: There aren’t too many things you need to prep for an awesome weekend outdoors, but the things you need are pretty non-negotiable. Divvy up the following responsibilities for an easy breezy weekend away:
- Getting campsite reservations: I can’t recommend Hipcamp highly enough for finding great outdoor spots, especially now given their private land initiative.
- Collecting gear: Make sure there are enough tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads to go around. Ask friends, rent from REI or Sports Basement if you’re in the Bay Area, or use Alite‘s amazing Ranger Station program to borrow gear for free! Make sure at least one person in the group knows how to properly pitch a tent and light a stove, and have that person teach everyone else.
- Menu planning: Buy a cooler and go to town at the grocery store! With most two-burner stoves out there today, there’s nothing you can’t cook at a campsite. Plan for large, easy meals: oatmeal in the morning, big pots of pasta at night. Skip on heavy glass bottles and buy boxed wine! Four bottles’ worth will fit in something the size of a shoebox.
H: What do you find is the biggest hurdle for women getting outside?
S: Before starting Trail Mavens, I held a bunch of potluck dinners/focus groups asking women that exact question, and the answer was a little different for everyone present. For some, it was strictly logistical: not owning gear, not having the art of CA State Park reservations down pat, or not owning a car to get out of the city. For others, there was a lack of knowledge combined with the fear of being ‘dead weight’ when on a trip with friends, not wanting to be the slowest hiker or the only person who didn’t know how to light a camp stove. Across the board, women felt like they didn’t have enough like-minded friends to adventure with.
The other constant? Every single woman wanted to spend more time outdoors, and to feel more competent doing it.
H: If you could invite and guarantee any three women to go on one of your group adventures, who would you extend the invite to?
Right now, I’m so enjoying the zeitgeist of women empowering women in the outdoors. I’d love to bring together Alyx Schwartz of Shoestring Adventures
(she runs amazing, arts-inspired, Southern California camping adventures), Liz Song of Snowqueen and Scout
(she’s created an entire website devoted to making backpacking accessible for women), and Cheryl Strayed, because Cheryl Strayed.
Happily, Alyx, Liz and I are likely going backpacking together in Montana this September. Cheryl, if you’re reading this, you’re totally invited.
H: Beach or mountains?
S: It’s funny how the answer to this question has changed over time! Mountains, for sure (ideally with a lake I can jump into on a hot day).