Last October SI Swimsuit journeyed west to Wyoming for a rustic, wilderness inspired shoot. That’s where model Myla Dalbesio was lucky enough to spend some time with Hike Like A Woman founder Rebecca Walsh. With Rebecca as our guide, the whole team fell in love with our surroundings and felt empowered by this hiking legend. We recently checked back in with Walsh:
SI: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
RW: I’m a former Army officer and the owner of Laramie’s Basecamp, an outdoor retail store and guiding company in Laramie, Wyo. I’m also the founder of Hike Like A Woman, an organization with the goal to connect women with the outdoors. I’m passionate about helping people explore and create amazing memories from outdoor adventures. Really, I just like to play outside so I created a lifestyle where I can do that and call it a career.
SI: When did you realize your love for hiking and the outdoors?
RW: I grew up in a really outdoorsy family. As a child I spent a lot of time hiking, fishing and skiing with parents and siblings so outdoor adventure has always just been a part of my life and who I am. I can’t say that there was a big moment when I realized that I loved being outside. It’s more or less being lucky enough to be born into a family that (THAT WHAT?) and realizing as an adult how much that meant to me and wanting to share my passion for the outdoors with others.
SI: What inspired you to found Hike Like a Woman?
RW: I started Hike Like A Woman shortly after my second child was born. I was in this weird transitional point after leaving active duty where I had two young children, I was working from home and adjusting to life as a mom instead of a soldier. I didn’t have the built-in network of friends that I’d enjoyed in the Army and I was struggling to get out and make new friends in our community. So I thought about who I wanted to be friends with, and it was other moms who wanted to get their children outside, too. To make friends like that I decided to start a hiking group in my community, the Little Laramie Hikers, and instantly this group filled the gap that was missing in my life. I started making incredible friends and discovering all of our local trails. As I was doing that I realized that there was a need to replicate what I was building in my community but do it online. So I started Hike Like A Woman to share what I was learning about hiking with my babies and it gradually evolved into so much more than just the mommy blog that I had intended it to be.
SI: What is your favorite part about living in Wyoming? Why should people visit?
RW: My Army career took me all over the world but there’s something about Wyoming that made me want to make it my home. I think it’s the diversity of our terrain, the ability to go from the windswept prairie to a high alpine meadow, being able to get high enough on a mountain to ski in July and maybe it’s just the wide open spaces the ability to hike for an entire day and not see anyone else. This place certainly isn’t for everyone, our climate is harsh, the wind blows and the weather can be brutal but I love the raw, untamed wildness of Wyoming. It’s a great place to visit and a great place to live.
SI: Out of all the hikes you have done, what has been the most memorable? The most challenging?
RW: My most memorable hike was probably a short backpacking trip along a stretch of the Wyoming portion of the Continental Divide trail that I went on a few years ago. A few women from my Ambassador team who I’d never actually met in person flew out to hike the trail with me. On that trip I realized that these friendships that are developed online through Hike Like A Woman are even more meaningful when you can actually meet and hike and camp together in-person. It inspired me to offer guided backpacking trips through Hike Like A Woman.
As far as challenging, my most challenging hike actually occurred in Colorado several years ago when a group of friends and I decided to climb four 14,000-plus-foot peaks in one day. We finished work, left our kids with our spouses, drove to the trailhead, got to our campsite around midnight, started hiking at 5:30am the next day, finished our climb late in the afternoon, stuffed our faces with pizza and then drove home completely exhausted and sore. It was fantastic, just a group of moms on a 24-hour adventure and pushing ourselves to the limit.
SI: What is one bucket-list hike you would like to conquer?
RW: I have so many, but Kilimanjaro is at the top of the list. I had to cancel a trip to Peru to see Machu Picchu and hike along the Inca Trail because of the COVID-19 pandemic so I’m hoping to have another opportunity to explore Peru. There’s so much to see and so many trails that I want to hike.
SI: You offer advice on hiking and the outdoors in your blog. For those of us who are novice hikers, what are your five best tips and tricks?
RW: I really only have one tip: Just go. Find a trail, lace up your boots, grab a friend, throw some snacks, water and safety equipment into a pack and go. A lot of time we get bogged down in the logistics of planning a trip, or we start to let doubt creep into our minds and it actually keeps us from having a great adventure. Don’t overthink it, just go.
SI: What is the Ambassador program? How can people get involved?
RW: Early on I wanted Hike Like A Woman to be a place of diversity, with many women contributing to the website and building the brand so I started an Ambassador program to share those stories. It’s been wonderful, but like most organizations we’re constantly evolving to serve our community. Right now we’re in the process of teaching our team the skills that they need to lead hiking groups and eventually guide our longer backpacking trips. We need women who can be local boots-on-the ground leaders and guides rather than Ambassadors so we’re restructuring to fill that need.
SI: Where do you see Hike Like A Woman in five years?
RW: We’ve made a lot of changes to Hike Like A Woman in the past few months. We’ve brought a new CEO on board, Crystal Osborn. She’s amazing and has been part of our community for years. Bringing her on has allowed me to step back into the founder role and be more strategic about where we are headed. We’re focused now and getting back to our roots, and online content, online classes, guided trips and events which really focus on outdoor education and helping women develop the skills and confidence that they need to get outside and explore. In five years we hope to keep growing our community and helping women hike.
SI: Why is it so important for women to be outdoors and get involved in hiking?
RW: When I take a group of women on a multi-day backpacking trip, on the first day some women are still wearing makeup, smelling good and looking pretty. But by the second day everyone is sweaty, stinky and dirty. At that point no one cares what they look like and no one cares how big your house is, what car you drive, what your education level is or what you do for a living. It’s nothing but smiles, laughter and friendship even if it’s raining and we’re out of chocolate. To me that’s why it’s important for women to get outside and go hiking. To connect with ourselves on a much deeper level. To make friendships that last. Every woman needs to get away and to connect with the younger version of ourselves when we were so full of confidence, love and self-acceptance before we became exhausted and stressed-out women.
SI: How easy is it for women to get involved in hiking and how do they start?
RW: When you really think about it hiking is nothing more than walking down a dirt trail. A hike can be as simple as a walk along a path in your community, or it can be a lung-busting summit attempt. There are so many ways to hike, and so many places to hike, it's probably the simplest form of outdoor recreation that exists. Because of that it's easy to get involved and to get started. I’d say the first step is to find your outdoor community, maybe it's a local hiking group, maybe it’s an online group, or maybe you start your own hiking club or group. Hikers are everywhere and are generally a warm and welcoming community.
SI: What is the overall message of Hike Like A Woman?
RW: Our mission at Hike Like A Woman is to break down barriers to entry in the outdoor community. Sometimes as women we complicate things, we think we can't hike because we don't have the right clothing or gear, or maybe we don’t know where to go or have anyone to hike with or have the right knowledge and skills. It can even get deeper; those barriers can include feeling like we don’t look like everyone else on the trail or being fearful about what we could encounter in the backcountry. Our whole goal is to help dissolve those barriers through outdoor education, online content and in-person guided trips and retreats. We want women to have the knowledge that they need to feel confident and the community that they need to feel accepted. The trail is for everyone.
SI: Where can someone who wants to get involved and learn more find information about Hike Like A Woman?
RW: The best place to find us is on our website at hikelikeawoman.net or follow Hike Like A Woman on Facebook (@hikelikeawoman), Instagram (@hikelikeawoman), Pinterest (Hike Like A Woman), Twitter (@HikeLikeAWoman) or YouTube (Hike Like A Woman).