"It's Okay to Get Dirty" — Outdoor Wisdom from Our Mothers, Aunties and Grandmothers
Wielding axes, courage, common sense and adventurous spirits, the women who raised WTA staffers are part of why we are so committed to trails.
This week, we asked Washington Trails Association staff if they had learned anything about the outdoors or nature from their mothers, aunties or grandmothers. Wielding axes, courage, common sense and adventurous spirits, it turns out the women who raised WTA staffers are part of why we are so committed to playing and working on trails.
(Want even more stories and tips from parents passing along lessons in stewardship and the joy of hiking? We've got 'em.)
Trail work is women's work
"My grandmother (left) & great-aunt (right). My grandmother died before I was born, but maybe these things run in families?" — Holly Weiler, Eastern Washington regional manager (and a boss with an axe and crosscut saw).
What True Courage and resilience looks like
"This is my momma when she was just 16, a decade after the Vietnam War started and a decade before it would end. Through sharing with me all that she lived through to secure a life in the US for her kids, she showed me what true courage and resilience look like. And in some ways, it has taken some level of those qualities in myself to deviate from what my family expected of me and attempt to pursue my best life out here. And right now my best life is a life outdoors. — Britt Lê, Youth programs manager
It's okay to get dirty
"This is my aunt (on the left) and mom (on the right). My outdoor lesson from mom was it is okay to get dirty." — Marjorie Kittle, finance director
Pay attention to Trail Structures (YOu might just make a career out of them)
"Call-ahead bridging was the term my mom used to shout if we ever came across a footlog, puncheon, or bridge out on trail when I was younger. She'd always say, 'wow Jenny ... thanks for calling ahead and making sure this was here!' It was her way of motivating me to keep moving down the trail to see if there were anymore structures ahead. Little did she know I'd make a career out of "call-ahead bridging" as a trail builder and maintainer!" — Jen Gradisher, trail program director
It takes strength to Know your limits (and: take a book)
"I grew up hiking with my dad. He taught me what to put in my pack and how to leave the trail better than I found it. But it was when my mom came along that I learned one of my important lessons about hiking: know your limits. My mom is not as strong a hiker as my dad and she is comfortable tapping out when she needs to. Usually this would mean her taking a seat off trail where she would read her book until we came back down the trail. As a kid I'd sometimes be bummed she didn’t want to continue the adventure with us. As an adult I appreciate the strength it takes to admit to the group, and yourself, that you are not comfortable going any further.
"This lesson has not only given me the courage to turn back when I know I am out of my skill set it has also helped me better encourage and understand the need to know how everyone in my group is feeling about our hike. Thanks to my mom I check in at stream crossings, snow crossings or when the day is getting longer and the trail steeper to make sure everyone has a safe space to call it a day.
"She also showed me the simple joy of reading by the campfire." — Kindra Ramos, communications director
Just go outside
"My mom taught me that going outside was the cure for literally everything. (Sick? Get some fresh air. Bored? Go play outside. Failing calculus? Outside will fix it)." — Loren Drummond, digital content manager
Get excited and keep playing
“My mom gave me her boundless enthusiasm for the outdoor world — and a desire to really take a close look at things. When I was a kid, we looked at birds through binoculars, examined the structures of flowers and identified insects on all of our camping and hiking trips. After a lifetime spent outside, Mom is still endlessly excited by the natural world. Her signature phrase is ‘That’s so, so, so, so cool.’ (We like to tease her about how many "so, so, so" she adds in. More than three, and it's something REALLY cool.) As a kid, I picked up on her enthusiasm. Now I’m 38 and, when I hike with my mom, it’s still the same. Being outside is playtime. As adults, we don’t get enough of that. And I’m so thankful that she showed me the joys of being outside.” — Jessi Loerch, Washington Trails editor
Don't pack what you can't carry, unless it's s'mores ingredients
"My mom introduced me (and my whole girl scout troop!) to the joys of camping and being outside very early. I don't know if it was a girl scout mantra or hers to "only pack what you can carry"—but I still think of it every time I head out on an adventure (mostly when that idea comes into conflict each time I want to bring more tasty treats). Thankfully, mom also taught me that everything tastes better when you eat it outside. I feel lucky to have someone who helped me find joy outside early and that we still get to go on new adventures each time she visits me in the northwest." — Allie Tripp, strategic initiatives manager
Love the Freedom
"This is my mom in Mammoth Cave National Park about 2,500 miles into her cross-county bike trip at 22 years old. She taught me to love the freedom of bicycling from a young age. She always encourages me to keep going and motivates me to climb up big hills with the promise of ice cream as a reward. I’ve been trying to keep up with her since I was on training wheels. We’ve gone on wonderful bike touring adventures for over 14 years together" — Jean Bartholomew, gear library coordinator
Nature is always there
"My mom taught me that finding wonder in nature doesn’t require a brilliant sunset or mountain vista; it’s available every time we go outside. You just need to look around at the trees, the birds, the flowers, even the rocks." — Jill Simmons, executive director
Sometimes the backyard is enough
"The first trail I ever hiked was the short forested loop my mom built for us in my childhood backyard. I still remember the tireless hours she spent every spring, clearing brush and adding new stepping stones along the path. She made the outdoors feel like a second home for me." — Rachel Wendling, communications associate
Like Mother like Daughter
"This is my mother, grandmother, and I at the trailhead of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico many years ago. I'm lucky to have gotten to spend lots of time outdoors with these women from Saturday evening meals on my grandmother's deck in Minnesota to camping on white sand dunes with my mom in New Mexico. My mother and grandmother are independent and strong while also incredibly caring. They have worked hard to pursue the things in life they deem important and I try to emulate those qualities as I make my choices." — Hannah Tennent, Mount Rainier district crew leader
Nature is right outside your door
"We spent hours outside with my Grandmother on her little farm in Duvall, WA picking berries, smelling the flowers and feeding the animals. She let me name the new baby goats Tulip and Pansy. She inspired my love of animals and taught me that everything I need for a magical afternoon is right outside my door." — Jenica Wilkie, graphic designer
living with nature
"Some of the best times were those spent outside; mom strumming her guitar by a campfire or admiring the flaking, gentle curves of her favorite tree, the madrona. She encouraged me to explore and learn from the world outside our house. When I was twiddling my thumbs during summer break, she'd hand me a bucket an we'd collect the wild blackberries that grew up the road for cobblers. In autumn, before the rains, she'd teach me how to split the alder rounds that would warm the house. And, when the weather trapped us inside, mom showed me how to care for the forest of succulents and tropical plants she'd cultivated along the south wall of our home. Nature was very much a part of our daily lives, and I thank mom for teaching me how to see the best in it." — Joey Smith, membership manager