Trail Mavens


Skill-based camping and backpacking trips for groups of extraordinary women. Ready to build fires, read maps, pitch tents, hike, laugh, and drink wine around the campfire? Join one of our weekend adventures.

Maven Memoir: Jennel, a.k.a. My Spirit Animal

I'm beyond excited to publish our second Maven profile today on the blog, mostly because the woman it's about - Jennel McDonald - was an incredible inspiration to me and the other women on our adventure. More specifically, I like to say Jennel is my spirit animal.

It might have been Jennel's first time backpacking, and we covered some very legit terrain, but her enthusiasm and easy laugh were a constant, and it just made her so darn fun to be around.

Name: Jennel McDonald
Hometown: Kent, Washington
Trail Mavens Adventure: Lake Tahoe Backpacking

How outdoorsy would you say you are? 

I love being outside! When I was a kid, all of our family time was outdoor time: playing ball in the yard, running through the woods near our house, going fishing on the lake, car camping in Rainier National Forest and at Long Beach, Washington. I kept that with me and try to be outside as much as I can. It just feels better there.

Credit for this and all subsequent photos: Jennel McDonald.

What inspired you to join a Trail Mavens trip? 

My dad died last year and we were really close. I spent a lot of time outside, hiking through the pain of losing him. I always feel close to him in the woods or at the beach. There came a point when I wanted to do something big that I would be proud to call him and tell him about, and I started dreaming of backpacking, but I was a little intimidated. Backpacking seemed complicated with a HUGE margin for error. When a friend recommended Trail Mavens, I was like "YES, this is it." He would have been so proud of the adventure, and the many adventures to come.

What memory from the trip has most stuck with you?

There was a moment when we were all trucking along climbing Dick's Pass and we all got quiet. Whether we were tired or just contemplative, I'm not sure. But in that quiet space, I feel like we all gathered a little strength from each other. I think it was hiking over that pass that bonded us. It made for quite an accomplishment.

What did you learn on the trip/how do you plan to use those skillz going forward?

Learning how to pack a backpack was huge, but learning how to read a map was unexpected. It just didn't occur to me to ever learn how to read a map before, and, honestly, I forgot we were going to learn on this trip! But it became this beautiful code deciphering exercise that I just loved. I mean, come on! the gorgeous topography symbols that tells you how quickly the elevation will shift, where a peak will be, where you can reasonably expect a continuous water source?! It really got me excited. I feel much more confident being out in it deep now because of those skillz.

How many pairs of underwear did you bring?

Ack - not enough! But what's a little dirt between us friends?

Something you had in common with a fellow Maven(s) you'd never met before?

SINGING! There were so many singers on this trip. It was so cool. Too bad we didn't do any campfire sing-a-long, which is a huge missed opportunity in my book.

Next time, Jennel, next time.