“Women are the glue that binds these groups together”: readers share their outdoor experiences

The Seattle Times recently asked women in the Pacific Northwest to share their experiences with the outdoors for a special print edition of The Mix. We received hundreds of responses that touched on themes of camaraderie within female-led spaces, building organizations to bridge the gap between women in the outdoors, healing, challenges and more. .

“Men swim too, but I’ve found that women are usually the glue that holds these groups together,” one woman said of her Whidbey Island group that swims in Puget Sound year-round.

Here are some of the stories from our readers.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a story. We got so many responses that we decided to feature more of your submissions in future stories like this. If you would like to share your experience, submit it using the form below.


Seaweed whiskers and camaraderie

” There is nothing better camaraderie as women together in saltwater. When you step out after a long swim and your hands have turned into cold, useless clubs, you want to be choosy about who’s going to help you pull up your pants. Or tell you about the seaweed mustache on your face. Or laugh hysterically with you when the dopamine kicks in. I swam with a group of women on South Whidbey Island for over 15 years. We swim all year round, several times a week, at various local beaches. We are not unique. Groups like ours exist all over Puget Sound, women getting together, swimming and laughing together. I have met many of these women, and they are all the best people! Men swim too, but I’ve found that women are usually the glue that holds these groups together. Our Whidbey group is like a family. We meet, put on our gear, share our trials and stresses, then climb in and leave our luggage on the ground. I am 100% certain that they helped me overcome my breast cancer diagnosis in 2020. They are pure determination, courage and fun. I’m the luckiest woman in the world to call them friends.

—TJ Forsyth

Discover the Pacific Northwest through 95 hikes (and more)

“I was born and grew up in Singapore. When my husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest over 30 years ago, I quickly discovered the wonder of our mountainous landscapes. I started hiking with friends and eventually started a women’s hiking group called Wilderness Women in May 1999. My goal is to complete the 100 classic hikes in Washington State. So far, I’ve done 95. My mother taught me that experience is more important than material wealth. Almost every day, I get up early to go out into nature to walk the trails before work. I learned not to be influenced by the weather. I see the outside as my home, rather, I travel above the mist line to get my nature fixed. Nature is my church. I breathe in the new air, soak up the fractals and bask in the sounds of the wind, the birds, the moaning of the trees and the patter of rain on the leaves. I get up early to capture light and haze, which benefits my photography. I post my photos on Facebook and they are acclaimed by my family and friends all over the world. I can’t imagine being anywhere else in this world than being in the Pacific Northwest with this climate and natural beauty.

Vina Donow

Exploring the outdoors through painting

“A shot of the cold wind from the glacier flings my painting against my chest, and I protect my face from the dust suspended in the air. I’m crouched below Easton Glacier on Mount Baker, and streaks of cerulean paint reflect the blue ice hundreds of feet above. My body is a marker wrapped in a puffy jacket of where the glacier was 20 years ago. I’m cold and stiff, but I stubbornly refuse to leave. My painting, which feels incomplete and vulnerable in my hands, carries the weight of my grief – and my hope – for our warming world.

I started painting outdoors twelve years ago, and it’s moments like this that inspire my work as an environmental artist, writer, and educator to foster personal connections between people and nature. nature. Over the past year, my time spent painting outdoors – particularly during pandemic isolation – inspired me to found the Adventure Art Academy, which is a series of virtual art lessons that I film on my hikes. With each course, I share with students from around the world a step-by-step lesson alongside the experience of exploring a place through painting and learning about the impacts of climate change in different environments.

—Claire Giordano

Unplug and dig up dinosaurs

“At 30 a Seattle resident, I started volunteering for the Dinosaur Digs in 2012 and found the experience to be one of the most exhilarating, exciting, and rewarding experiences of my life. In a world where young people celebrate every moment with social media, this is an activity accessible to women and people of all ages, and in most cases, due to the remoteness of the sites, requires you to disconnect and be present in every moment. Simply with a desire to learn and work, fossil digging has given me a new passion, a new community, and yes, a new business. I venture out almost every year with a renewed sense of wonder and satisfaction that as a citizen scientist I am helping to unearth triceratops, hadrosaurs, ankylosaurs with so much more to discover.

—Marisa Rodriguez

The outdoors for dog owners

“Like a life outdoor enthusiast and outdoor adventure guide, I have facilitated retreats for groups of friends and up to 250 participants. One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing someone who has never had outdoor experiences before and the moment they fully embrace the beauty of nature and are fully engaged in adventure. In 2021, I started a women-led business called Adventure Woof Pack to create an introduction to the outdoors for dog owners. During COVID, many people adopted dogs and needed to focus more on wellness and mental health. Adventure Woof Pack offers virtual training with a different outdoor adventure every month, Q&A sessions, and a private community discussion forum. Our adventures consist of skijoring, dog parkour, cycling, SUP [stand-up paddleboarding] and more! Our business is founded on conscious capitalism and therefore 1% of our profits go to the Humane Society of the United States, 1% of profits go to the American Trails Foundation and we are a member of 1% for the Planet.

—Jody Shaw

Chance Encounters and Random Acts of Kindness

“Single black woman hiker here! My love of hiking started with local parks like Robinswood, Coal Creek, Kelsey Creek and Weowna. Then I graduated from Cougar Mountain. Now I work the trails at Tiger Mountain. There are some extraordinary experiences that sharpen my senses – from hearing the domino effects of the wind through the leaves and branches to seeing Mother Nature constantly changing with every step and every season. The trail community is wonderful and sometimes challenging. On a late hike, I miscalculated my ability to get down the mountain in a timely manner and found myself alone in the dark. Then I spotted another single woman in the same situation. When I finally approached the woman, I suggested we walk together, but I could sense that she was more afraid of me than the darkness and the possibility of being eaten by a cougar or whatever in her absolute silence. and his tense body language. Even if we could work as a team, I didn’t want to risk her being a Wood-Karen. So I passed it and ran down the mountain. Another chance encounter with a hiker was on [Tiger Mountain Trail] near the top. It was snowing with icy winds, I forgot my gloves and didn’t want to turn back. Then another hiker coming down gave me his glove liners. OMG! I was humbled by the random act of kindness and coincidentally was able to return his gloves further down the track. Personally, tackling the great outdoors took me months to be more mindful and release the outside world inside with every step.

Donna Charpentier

Becoming a Grand Canyon river guide at 40

In 1983 I did a commercial rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. Between Crystal [Rapid] and wash [Falls Rapid] (two huge rapids) there was a fast but flat stretch of river. I asked the guide if I could row. He said, ‘Of course.’ I slid into his seat and took the oars. My job was to stay in the current and out of the eddies. I still managed to slip into a big one. It took two tries to get back into the flow by working smarter not harder. The guide never commented. I liked it. On the bus ride, I found myself sitting next to the owner. I asked, ‘What would it take to be a guide for you?’ He said, “Go back to your area, learn to guide, then call me in two years. I was a 37-year-old woman with two teenagers, but that spring I was the first to sign up with ZigZag, a local business. Two years later, I walked into his office, spread my arms out, and said, “Here I am. He laughed and asked, “Who are you? That’s how I became a Grand Canyon river guide at the age of 40.

—Carol Zada


Check out the women-led outdoor organizations mentioned in this edition…

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor the women who left their mark on Washington in the past and the women making their mark in the Pacific Northwest today. In recognition and to draw attention to the continued under-representation of women as sources and subjects in the media, we have focused the following stories on women for the March 6 print edition of The Mix.

Submit your own story of no more than 200 words here: forms.gle/HmRuAaZ3ecMGX8Xf9. If you are unable to load the form, please email your response to [email protected] If you have photos that you would like to include in your response, please ensure they are larger than 2 megabytes. Photos can be submitted via the Google form or emailed to [email protected] Then look for future stories like this to see our compilations of outdoor reader experiences.