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: Iyara, Asking All the Right Questions

Have you ever met someone who feels really *good* to be around, because it feels like they really understand what's going on - with themselves, with others, with the world at large? I'm not talking about someone who has all the right answers. On the contrary, I'm talking about someone who's asking all the right questions, someone who strives for awareness and understanding and empathy. (You'll see this come out in huge heaps in her writing below.)

Whelp, that's Iyara. Add in an independent streak, a huge smile, goddess-like kitchen skills, spontaneity, and a laid-back, lighthearted attitude, and you've got an even fuller picture. I adored her from the moment I met her, and if you're lucky enough to go on a trip with her, you will too. Oh - side note - she's a PROFESSIONAL FOOD TASTER. Yes, dreams do come true for some Mavens.

Name: Iyara Giminski (yup, that's Thai and Polish. I'm not married. I got that last name when my step-dad adopted me.)
Hometown: San Francisco, but born in Thailand.
Trail Mavens Adventure(s): Angel Island Backpacking, Sierras Snowshoeing

Just the sound of your job makes me super jealous. Tell us more about it!

Hah! If you've decided to remodel your kitchen or build a brand new one, come see me and we'll decide, together, what's the best and and most awesome cooking equipment you can put in it that will allow your culinary genius to shine! Or just have it look beautiful when you're staring at it from your couch during a Netflix binge.

My background as a professional chef allows me to understand the needs of someone who really loves to cook; my extreme interest in being lazy helps me identify with someone who just wants the kitchen to look good when they open the pizza box.

[Editor's Note: If this sounds like exactly what you need, check out Iyara's website here.]

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Photo by Erin Mahoney

When people ask how outdoorsy you are, what's your answer?

I'm not sure if anyone has ever asked me how "outdoorsy" I am, but I think that people think I'm more Cheryl Strayed, when I'm probably more Reese Witherspoon with just really good gear.

I love well-designed, super functional gear, and the hunt for it is one of my favorite parts of any new sport. (If shopping was a sport, I would be captain of the varsity team!) But I maybe I AM outdoorsy; I do own my own pee funnel.

Really, I try and be careful of labeling myself. "I'm this. I'm not that." Many of us put ourselves in that prison. It's not helpful. I find that I can live a bigger and fuller life when I just BE and DO without telling myself who is allowed to be and do those things.

I've always said that I'm not a runner because I'm heavy and slow. I've always been envious of those lithe, featherweight creatures whose feet don't seem to touch the ground and who appear to be exerting such little effort as if their body was saying, "Oh this? I forgot I was doing it."

A few years ago I was visiting a friend in Boston, and I ran three miles pretty easily with her one day. She was like, "What are you talking about? You can do this!" So then I was like, "Wait - I just went running. In my running OUTFIT. And I didn't suck too bad and I didn't totally hate it. Am I a runner now? Shit, maybe I'm a runner now!" 

I had a new sport. Which, of course, meant new running shoes.

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Which Trail Mavens adventure did you join, and what inspired you to join that trip?

My first Trail Mavens adventure was an Angel Island Backpacking trip, followed by Snowshoeing in the Sierras a few months later.

I'd been wanting to camp at Angel Island since I moved to the Bay Area in my twenties, around 8000 years ago, but never managed to get a group together to do it.  How amazing that you can camp so close to San Francisco!

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Then, I decided to go snowshoeing, because it scared me and my thing, as of late, is to do things that scare me because that's where the growth is; it's where I can learn the most.

I can learn from the activity itself, but also from my mind and how I talk to myself and treat myself during the hard parts.  I'm a recovering perfectionist who has a tendency to want to do things RIGHT, or I throw a fit. That's a hard way to live. 

Practicing self-compassion every minute of a strenuous, three-hour hike is harder than the hike itself. 

I love being out in nature. I love breathing fresh air. It's humbling and gives me perspective on what a gift it is to be alive.

I think that nature teaches me that there is no perfect or right. There just is.

What's a memory from your trip(s) that has stuck with you?

I felt like several of my natural born talents were called into action during the snowshoeing adventure. First, a lady in the parking lot at the trailhead got her gear shift stuck and walked over to us Mavens asking if anyone was "really strong" and could help her get it unstuck. I've been powerlifting since May, and my 295 lb. dead lift was finally being asked to save the world! Yes!

Five minutes later, she needed another heavy body to climb into her truck bed to weight it down because the truck was stuck in the snow and she needed traction. I swear, the clouds parted, and the sun shone on me, and the angels sang, "THIS IS YOUR MOMENT! This is why all the steak and bacon and Greek yogurt!" 

THEN, the next day, the peanut sauce for the pasta dinner was somehow forgotten or left behind and I was like, "You know what? I think I can make a peanut sauce with the raw ingredients we have on hand."

When people ask me what my cooking specialty is, it isn't a national cuisine like Italian or French. It's making something out of nothing. That's what gets my heart pumping and my creative juices flowing. I just love the challenge.

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Photo by Erin Mahoney

What are you most proud of from your adventure(s)?

I've been thinking a lot about this.  I think Trail Mavens brings out the best in me and maybe the best in the other women too, judging by how well we all come together, get along, and make things happen. 

I feel like when I'm out there in nature with everyone, I am my best self.  I do the best I can with what I have.  I help others. I am compassionate toward myself and others. I listen. I learn. I laugh. I share.  And I love. 

I think there is immense love on the trips.  And I feel the weight, the joy, and gratitude for all those things.

What pro tips do you have for future Trail Mavens?

No one said that you don't have to be afraid. You can be afraid AND do it anyway.

Change the word BUT to AND and you will change your life.

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Photo by Erin Mahoney

Hey, you. Yes, you.

You can be afraid of trying Trail Mavens, and do it anyway.