Wilderness Women Don’t Sing the Blues
Women like me aren’t difficult to typecast; iPhone toting, REI-shopping lover of the outdoors. I can light a campfire, pitch a tent, and in bear country know better than to sleep with my chocolate chip cookies next to my head. But the finer skills of backcountry life must be earned by “just doing it” – without gallant husbands or guys to do the hard or scary stuff. And sometimes it’s fun to get out there with gal pals and enjoy a different type of campsite conversation and camaraderie. That’s why our Meet-up group of Arizona Women of Adventure packed as much as we could stuff into our towering backpacks and headed out to camp and hike the 15 mile loop on Mount Baldy – one of the highest peaks in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Our small group of “Adventurous Women” gathered at the trailhead parking lot. The ground looked like an REI garage sale. We were all trying to figure out how to reduce our carry weight by sharing equipment – each calling out inviting ideas to lighten the load. “I have a tube of really effective DEET bug spray. I’ll take that and we can all use it.” Another gal offers, “my Neutrogena is SPF 45 and doesn’t sting your eyes – you are all welcome to use mine”. And so it goes with excessive snacks and our third “extra pair of socks” (just in case!) going back into the car to make these mammoth backpacks a little more manageable at 30 or so pounds.
Even in it’s lighter version, my backpack is the size of a Smartcar. It has a dozen pockets, 6 zippers, and a functioning bladder. With a little help from each other we don our packs, staggering the first few steps until we make peace with our burden. Walking with our hiking poles to give us stability we travel at a brisk pace but slow enough to appreciate the beauty around us. We backpacked a little over 3 miles into the wilderness when Sara, our expedition organizer, finds our remote campsite; the most perfect spot you could ever imagine. We shed our backpacks (a sweet feeling as it slides off) and take it all in. The pine and spruce covered mountain, signs of wildlife and the Little Colorado River. The river will be our camp “water feature” and security moat which we must cross on a large log to get to our well camouflaged dark forest and fern green home. This isn’t a Women’s Adventure outing, it’s a John Denver song.
To the left is the gurgling Little Colorado River which we called our “water feature”. It also functioned as a moat to keep our little haven private.
To the right is our foot spa and water purification plant site. When our tootsies got tired there is nothing better than a cold soaking in stream water.
Below is our moat bridge which was a bit tricky to navigate with 30+ pounds on your back. The campsite was worth the risk however.
The last time I put up this ultralight two person tent my husband did most of the work. Now it is women doing for themselves and we are psyched. My tent mate and I – Julie C and Julie B – don’t bother with pesky directions. Our first attempt looked something between a spaceship and a pirate ship. Which we blew off to campsite performance art. Fortunately there are only so many possible combinations of Chinese nylon and snap-on poles and shortly we erected a perfectly assembled and sited tent. Funny how accomplished you can feel over little things like that.
As we sit around our campsite excited conversations mellow out. We look out on the mountain we will climb tomorrow, sipping our tea and coffee that we made by purifying our river water and lighting our personal cookstoves. Time slows. Smartphones go dumb. We eat our rehydrated gourmet dinners sitting around on logs looking out on the night. Either through Sara’s brilliant planning or serendipity, tonight is the summer solstice with the added bonus of a “supermoon”. We grow silent in awe as the brilliant and immense globe of the moon rises above the treeline. No matter what it took to get out here it has been worth it. A chance to connect with our inner selves and other women. No matter our background, skills or life situation, we bond over the one thing we all common – the mother we are spending quality time with over the next three days; Mother Nature.