Finding My Tribe in Girls Who Hike
By Whitney Jones, Girls Who Hike Florida Ambassador
Before every meet up there is a sense of anticipation and nervousness. "Are they going to like me? Am I going to make a fool of myself? Is everyone going to enjoy this trail?" But once the group gathers all those worries disappear because we are among our people. This is where we belong, in the outdoors with other women who share the same passion.
In March at Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia, a group of women converged at the visitors center prepared with their day packs and hiking poles. It was a gathering of women from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida planning to hike and explore the canyons and hopefully make new friends along the way. Then, later that day, a smaller group would be hiking out into the backcountry to camp overnight under the trees and stars.
The day hike began and 30+ women from all over the Southeastern United States marched down into the first of the canyons. It was amazing listening to the conversations this group of women had. Some, like myself, talking about the flowers blooming in the area, others expressing their excitement about attending their first Girls Who Hike meet up event. Complete strangers were making conversation and future lifelong friends.
Exploring the canyons and learning the history of how they were formed made us all more aware of how precious our amazing planet is. The canyons are a product of poor farming practices that leeched the soil of their nutrients. The constant water flow penetrated the sandy earth and eroded away the land. Eventually the earth was falling out from underneath homes the farmers had built there and the community abandoned the area as it was no longer livable. The remains of cars and personal items that were abandoned serves as a warning to us of what happens when we abuse the land we live on. So, while we all enjoyed the amazing sights of the Canyons, we are constantly reminded that this isn't a natural occurrence but a manmade phenomenon.
After an amazing four hours exploring the canyons a few women remained to prepare for an overnight camping trip into the backcountry. We had varying experience levels, from first-time to expert campers, all coming together for a night out under the trees and stars. It was an opportunity for us to trade adventure stories, tips for better camping experiences, and an abundance of laughter as we learned more about these women who were complete strangers hours before. We were lucky that the weather was beautiful and clear that night. The stars peeked through the trees and we stared in awe that them. Lightning bugs came out and did their beautiful mating light display. One of the girls had brought a fire color changing tab and we wall busted out our phones trying to capture what one girl hilariously called "unicorn fire." Then, when we all turned in for the night, we were greeted by a chorus of coyote howls throughout the night.
The next morning we were greeted with a smattering of rain as we packed up and hiked out. I, myself, have never intentionally hiked in rain and I'm sure many of the girls there hadn't either. We quickly learned that rain was a welcome adventure on a hike. The rain brought out such amazing smells from the earth and trees, the colors of nature were vibrant and alive, and it cooled our skin as we worked up a sweat hiking out of the backcountry that morning.
The Providence Canyon trip reinforced to me that I had made the right choice in joining Girls Who Hike as an ambassador for Florida. Before joining this amazing community I frequently hiked solo. While I do enjoy a little alone time, I've found that hiking with my tribe is so much more enjoyable. I absolutely love meeting new faces out on the trail. I love that this community is for women from all walks of life that can share their experiences and empower other women to do what they love.
I can't wait to see what the future brings for us all!