Trail Mavens


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My Solo Adventure | Learnings

A little over two weeks ago, I posted the following pic and text on Instagram:

[Side Note: This is how many pictures I took before getting one I liked enough to post:]


I spent three days/two nights backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, entering via Echo Lake. On Day 1, I hiked seven miles in and set up camp by Lake Aloha. I usually prefer alpine lakes surrounded by trees, but there was something really stunning about Aloha's stark beauty. 

My campsite at Aloha, courtesy of iPhone panorama. Who's got two thumbs and forgot to put an SD card in her camera? That would be me!

I ditched my tent and camp on Day 2, packed up lunch, first aid, and a water purifier in my backpack, and took off on a giant fifteen mile day hike, from Aloha in to Half Moon Lake, up the summit of Mt. Tallac, and back to Aloha. 

The last time I did this hike with with a group of Trail Mavens! Jennel, Maia, Amy, Kiely, Swanthi, Jessica, and Tory, you were in my mind the whole time.

On Day 3, I took my time getting out, not wanting the trip to end, and wended my way south past Aloha. Though I'm usually a safety first, on-trail kinda gal, I ventured cross-country and ended up having to do some risky-ish boulder clambering to get around Lake of the Woods (perhaps the prettiest lake I discovered on this trip).  

Lake of the Woods, you siren, you.

Anyway, that's all the boring stuff I did. Here's what I learned from my adventure:

1. "Hey, I CAN backpack solo!"

I never quite thought I couldn't, but never having done it, I had the normal questions and apprehensions: will my backpack be insanely heavy? Will I have fun alone? What if I fall into a ravine/get eaten by a bear/my stove breaks? I'm obviously here writing this, so you can guess that nothing serious happened. As usual, when you make yourself try something you're nervous about and come out alright on the other end, you develop a new appreciation of your own capacity and strength. I felt pretty great after the trip.

2. Time + space + solitude + movement = clarity.

I came away from this trip with more clarity about what I want than I've felt in a long time, and an acute appreciation of how being back around people and technology muddies that for me. Despite knowing how good time, space, solitude, and movement make me feel, it's amazing how hard it is for me to create it for myself when I'm home. (Even on the trail, I had forty-eight hours to myself over three days, and I only meditated once. Once! Andy Puddicombe would be disappointed.) When I got back to my car on Day 3, I turned my phone on only for a second to send an "I'm back and safe!" text to my husband, then set it back on airplane mode for the three hour drive back to SF, to hold on to that spacious feeling just a little longer.

One surprise: I noticed that silence wasn't necessarily a critical component of clarity creation. I listened to a couple of excellent podcasts, and was particularly inspired by this whole episode of the Good Life Project, and a Lily Tomlin quote I heard listening to this episode of On Being: "Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past."

3. I want Trail Mavens to stay small.

This is the hardest one to admit publicly. (No joke, it took around 15 minutes of staring at the screen before I could write that.) The reason I did this solo adventure in the first place was to help sort out the roiling mess of thoughts and feelings inside me. For the past few months, I've felt at a crossroads with this thing I started, with two divergent paths in front of me: the path of growing Trail Mavens enormously, expanding nationwide, etc., and the path of keeping it (relatively) small.

SF is Startup Heartland, and I'm not immune to the the pressure created by comparing myself to the brilliant folks around me. It feels like everyone is  constantly starting companies and selling them for $20M or going public. There's an expectation for Trail Mavens to become a national organization, taking thousands of women out each year, with me heading things up as CEO. Sounds awesome, right?

I'm the first person to admit I'm not a born entrepreneur (case in point: I've never taken a salary from Trail Mavens). So what am I? I'm a teacher. I'm a life coach. I'm an outdoorswoman. I'm a teambuilding guru. Trail Mavens is an extension of the part of me that loves to challenge women, to offer them the "I'm a badass" feeling I got from backpacking solo. I love being on the trail, surrounded by fabulous women, with boundless opportunities to teach and to inspire, to learn and to be inspired. I love the intimacy Trail Mavens trips create, and I love being a part of the community each trip fosters.

The fact is, growth will take me away from the parts of Trail Mavens that keep me fueled and energized each day. Do I feel kind of selfish and a like a failure making the choice to stay (relatively) small? Absolutely. But is it more important for me to stay in alignment with my values and what I'm most excited about creating in the world?


Whew! That took a lot longer than I expected, so the packing list will have to wait until next week. If you've got thoughts/feelings/other stories of decisions that have felt terrifying to you, I'm all ears!