I love the phrase hike your own hike. But in this group, we are primarily a sisterhood and we hike as a group. The front group watches out for the back group and vice versa. We leave no one behind. I like to say, if a vigorous workout and clocking miles is your primary goal, you may be in the wrong group!
What I treasure most about our Chapter is that we create a space where women who don’t think they can do this, can find out that they can – in a loving and supportive way. I was 220 pounds, depressed, and scared to death on my first hike with the Dames in 2011. Yet I knew right away that the primary purpose of this group was to invite me into the woods, and into my own greatness, and to support me to do that. I was hooked. Something in the woods rhymed with who I am at such a deep level, something I had lost connection with. I felt some grief about that. I really did. Even a little shame. But mostly? I felt that White Blaze Fever take me back to the trail to sing my song! To start to know the words. And that shame woke up into a deep passion for life, inside and outside of the woods. And today I DO go for vigorous hikes and clock miles and I love that! I even do it with gals I met here.
But except as otherwise noted on our Dynamic hikes, I carry on our primary purpose – to let each woman know that the woods are for her, too. And if I ever feel, “Oh God, I want to go faster, this is a waste of time, I am not getting a good workout”, I remind myself of how great the gift I received from this group in 2011 truly was. And I remember that I am the luckiest girl in the world to be able to give it back. And that the newest newcomer knows more about humility than I do in that moment. And that I am the luckiest girl in the world to receive THAT gift in return.
Loving and supporting other women is what teaches me to love and support me. Its a full-on win. And hearing how moved everyone was last week, during a tough ice hike with lots of newcomers, how we pulled together, it was clear to me that what we all longed for, more than a strong slim body, or the ability to bag a peak, was the connection to each other, the experience of trust and encouragement among women, and the opening of the heart that this brings.
It being Valentine’s Day this week, I am reminded that in all these things, The Trail Dames has allowed me to open my heart to other women, so that I can find my own true love, at home, inside myself. There is No Greater Love than that – for in that discovery, we are able to reflect it back to the world. And the World becomes our Valentine!
In deep gratitude to Anna, the Trail Dames Team, Hike Leaders and all you Groovy Dames,
Keep Your Backpack Side Up!
Lisa Holliday, Head Dame of the Virginia Dames
Next Episode: “What The Trees Have Taught Me!”