This group of Adventure Women has spent the past eight years hiking rocky trails, paddling blackwater rivers, biking coastal islands and zip-lining down a mountain. But above all, they’ve learned the true value in sharing experiences and living life together.
Story by Leslie Kemp Poole
It all began with a search for adventure.
Mary Lou, my comrade in outdoor exploits, agreed that we should find a new place to explore and perhaps take along a group of like-minded women. While she looked for venues, I sent out an email blast to an assortment of friends and acquaintances. Within three days we had our trip planned: a house for a week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and a crew of women from different walks of life (all over the age of 50), who had the same desire for fun and new experiences.
From that experience, our Adventure Women group was born. In the eight years since, we have hiked rocky trails, paddled blackwater rivers, biked coastal islands and zip-lined down a mountain. As importantly, we have laughed, cried, prayed and celebrated together, sealing relationships that likely will last the rest of our lives.
Sparked by an idea, this group of seven women, most of whom didn’t know each other, has forged a bond of shared interests and experiences that has included everything from planning for the weddings of our children to photos of grand babies to grief-filled funerals. Such are the joys and travails of life, but mine is the richer for these women.
Not that it started so easily.
Mary Lou, the travel and food writer extraordinaire, did due diligence before the New Hampshire trek and found the perfect house rental — multi-storied with views of Mount Washington and central to many activities.
Our first morning together we packed lunches, laced our hiking boots and headed out in our two cars for a forested trail promoted as a great “beginner hike.” Which may be true if you live in New England, but we flat-landers from Florida were huffing and puffing immediately. Thirty minutes, and several rest breaks later, it was clear that Becky’s quads and lungs weren’t going to make it. So, she and I sent the rest of the group up the shady path while we headed back to the car, eventually walking to a stunning waterfall, dining at a local café and enjoying the deck of a beautiful resort near our house.
We even stopped to take photos of ourselves at the marker for the Appalachian Trail, in case we wanted to tell tall tales later. But as the afternoon drew to a close, we began to worry. The women on that short, easy hike still weren’t back and weren’t answering their cell phones. And they had the key to the house.
As the sun dipped toward the horizon, the exhausted group finally arrived, describing a spectacular view reached only through a not-beginner hike that greatly taxed the best. That night we clicked our glasses and cheered our good fortune — Ginny’s birthday, successful hikes and our newly forged philosophy: Do what you can and what you want, but have fun no matter what.
That philosophy has served us well during subsequent trips, especially as some of our knees begin to creak more frequently and work and family duties ooze into our trips. On that first expedition, Jane was worried about a kayak river run, concerned that she had never done any paddling beforehand and might get in trouble. By the end of the day, she was an expert; and the next year, she hosted us at her South Carolina retreat where she led us paddling in a bay where we were entertained by frolicking dolphins.
We have employed our specific talents to enhance all the trips. Ginny’s many visits to Virginia paid off when we were able to stay on the campus of the University of Virginia and hike her favorite path in beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Becky took us to her family’s wooden beach home on St. George Island in October, a time when few tourists visit, and we had the sunrises to ourselves. Jody has kept us going with her positive attitude; and, as the Mary Poppins of the group, she always has an overstuffed suitcase with just about anything you can imagine, from energy mixes to bandages to antibiotics — and sometimes, well, usually, Patti is always game for anything (she killed us all at pickleball), and her infectious laugh has echoed through many an evening. But I can’t tell you what prompted it — what happens on Adventure Women weekends stays there — but I can assure you it probably is tamer than when we were in our twenties.
Still, we have a lot of fun even with an earlier bedtime…
Our annual travels, usually extended weekends, have taken us to some spectacular places on the eastern seaboard. We’ve seen whales (and not seen moose despite intense efforts) in Cape Breton National Park in Nova Scotia. That was a trip plagued by airline problems. But everyone pulled out their cell phones and airline connections; and we forged ahead, rewarded by incredible hikes and views.
We observed wild horses and collected shells on the beach at Cumberland Island. A guide from our island inn took us on an early morning nature walk to see animal tracks, which included signs of a large alligator that had recently crossed the road.
We climbed a unique Florida trail (unusual because it has a large elevation change) to a bluff overlooking the Apalachicola River, and then we drove back through a forest, where we saw towering longleaf pines, dwarf cypresses and a bridge covered in butterflies.
We’ve encountered sweltering heat, steady rain, and snow but have never passed up an opportunity to see something new.
In addition to a desire to encounter natural beauty, over the years we have developed certain trip expectations. There will be comfortable beds. There will be wine. There will be great restaurants, excellent home cooking and plenty of snacks and leftover food. We will have “porch talks” with laughter as the evening fades. Becky will take hundreds of photos of everything from bees to waterfalls to weird road signs — even a fox that came out to enjoy the New Hampshire weather and roll on the lawn. And there will always be the group shot that reminds us of how fortunate we are to have common interests that have resulted in bold adventures and strong friendships.
Now, time to plan the next trip…
This article originally appeared in Growing Bolder Magazine. For more great stories like this, click here to subscribe to the digital or print editions of Growing Bolder Magazine. All past issues of GB Magazine, including the one that features this article, are also available to read online exclusively on the GB Portal. Click here to find out how to become a member!