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.

Into the Woods with Trail Mavens

We are 100% in love with this achingly honest, beautiful piece from Trail Maven Ali Wunderman, freelance writer extraordinaire. (Seriously. Need something written? She's your girl.) Read an excerpt below, or the full piece over at Misadventures Mag. Click here for a full album of images from this adventure!

Five miles into a hike on Yosemite’s Mist Trail, I stopped and panted, wondering whether I should (or could) continue for the rest of the planned twelve miles. I tried to fend off disappointment in myself as I pondered, recalling a similar crossroads I encountered twelve years prior during my first ever backpacking trip.

I was the quintessentially troubled suburban 13-year-old, perpetually grumpy and unrelentingly selfish. I fancied myself a punk rocker, my Hot Topic wardrobe and obsession with Green Day betraying any legit association I had with the genre.

That only aspect of disenfranchised youth I could authentically claim was that I was super sad, and I blamed the world for it. My mom, sensing I was heading down a dangerous path, signed me up for a month of backpacking with Adventures Cross Country, an outfitter that sends groups of teens (troubled and otherwise) to various parts of the world to learn outdoors skills, and in my case, how-to-be-a-functioning-human-being skills.

My particular trip was in British Columbia, and there I braved the Canadian wilderness while taking a good hard look at myself, and who I was becoming. On the first excursion, one that would take me five days through the Mt. Garibalidi area, I paused mid-switchback and wondered if I could keep going. Not only mentally, but physically, emotionally. I wasn’t prepared for what I had gotten into, and I couldn’t see my way out of it.

Because I had no other option, I kept going (we won’t discuss the frantic collect calls home begging my mom to fetch me). Fortunately by the end of my four week stint deep in the heart of nature, I had become self-aware enough to identify where I was going wrong, and the steps I needed to take to rectify it.

I credit many factors with my teenager epiphany, including the transformative influence of nature, the humbling power of physical exertion, and the shock of being thrown into a group of strangers and having to work together with them. I went on to attend two more Adventures Cross Country trips during my teenhood, cementing the desire for my travel experiences to emulate this format: nature, movement, and like-minded strangers.

As my youth turned into adulthood, I traded outdoor adventures for grown up responsibilities. It didn’t help that I went to college in a rural area, and chose to express my newfound independence by eating Lucky Charms every day. My love of nature never diminished but the opportunities to experience it did, and with it my level of athleticism.

When I did manage to make it out into the wild, my escapades were typically self-directed and short-lived, and I rarely made any new friends in the process. Suffice it to say they weren’t anything like the experiences I coveted as a teenager, and I certainly wasn’t as fit as I once was, making my attempts at adventuring all the more frustrating.

Fast forward to today where I’m an urban professional with too many phones and not enough free time, like some kind of a sitcom stereotype. When the weekends roll around, I’m tempted to get out there, but if there’s one thing I’m good at it’s coming up with excuses to not exercise. The more excuses I make, the more out of shape I get, and the harder it is to get back into it. It’s a vicious cycle, let me tell you.

When a friend of mine posted online about her experience camping with Trail Mavens, I was extremely intrigued. She described it as an honest to goodness outdoor adventure, a group of women gathered together over a weekend to learn outdoors skills, experience nature, and make new friends. And drink wine.

Knowing it was just for women gave me the confidence I needed to sign up – I’ve done enough co-ed camping trips to know that mixing genders can make it hard to guarantee a safe space for women to fail.

I ended up booking the Labor Day Yosemite trip, since I haven’t been there in a long time, and it happened to be one of the weekends I wasn’t busy with an event related to my sister’s upcoming wedding. Plus it was two months out, so I had ample time to say I was going to exercise, and then not do it.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to say I became a hot-bodied yogi, the envy of all the #fitspiration Instagrammers. The truth is I upped my exercise regime from none to minimal, which brings us back to one of my many belabored breaks taken along Yosemite’s Mist Trail.