Wednesday is ladies night, so grab your hiking boots or snowshoes because ladies get friendships and exercise for free, the cover charge is a tank of gas.
Women often find solace in each other’s company every Wednesday, designated ladies night at many venues across the country. And while the typical ladies night might look like a scene from “Sex and the City” with women sipping on martinis and gossiping about their husbands and boyfriends (like you guys didn’t know that’s what we do), there is a group of women in Grand Junction, Colo., who are changing this tradition.
The Extreme Hiking Ladies of Grand Junction take their ladies nights outside. The group, comprised of 20 women ranging from their 20s to 70s and all professions including homemakers, hospital administrators and construction site managers, have set their drinks down and found solace with each other through a love of the great outdoors and adventure.
“It’s nice to get outside and do something constructive,” said Terri Denham, extreme hiker. “It pushes you to do something if you know that the others are counting on you to be there.”
In a different setting these women would probably not be friends given their diverse backgrounds. But there is one common thread that weaves their bond, their weekly workouts.
Every Wednesday they take to the trails of the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa and other areas in western Colorado and eastern Utah to exercise their bodies and their minds.
“We are developing a spiritual growth,” said Susie Cunnigham, an extreme hiker. “We feed off of each other. It’s a touch that you get from these ladies, it’s really nice.”
While the friendships and exercise are the main motivators of the group, like any good ladies night there’s always time for a little gossip.
“It’s a great cardio work out because we talk so much while we’re hiking,” said Pat Montgomery, extreme hiker. “Sometimes we have to remind each other to breathe.”
The group is careful to keep safety in mind on their many treks. When a new member joins they conduct a short outdoor education session. With tips including dressing for the unpredictable Colorado weather, how to recognize signs of fatigue, the importance of drinking water and first aid techniques. And one member will be in charge of carrying a cell phone in case of emergencies.
“We are extreme not stupid,” said Mary Watson, extreme hiker.
The women start their hiking season in April and increase the trail difficulty every week preparing them for the end of the season hiking trip. A weekend in Moab, Utah, in early October. The trip is two days of extreme hiking at the Arches National Park and “roughing it” in a cabin. After the hikes the women sip on wine, reflect on their accomplishments of the season and conduct good old-fashioned girl talk.
“We each have to bring our own bottle of wine,” said Mary Ann Cooper, extreme hiker. “And by the end of the weekend we all leave loving each other.”
After the Moab trip the fall air will begin to chill. And as the snow starts to fly the hiking ladies’ are in shape for their second season, extreme winter sports.
The women continue their ladies night tradition with sports such as cross-country and Alpine skiing and snowshoeing. The snowshoeing is really just an extension of the summer hikes, Watson said.
“It’s a lot easier than people think it’s just like walking,” she said. “It doesn’t take special skills and you get to have fun while getting some exercise.”
Watson and several of the other women enjoy snowshoeing in Grand Junction because of the close proximity of the Grand Mesa, the largest flat top mountain in the world.
“We are so lucky to be 45 minutes to an hour away from such a winter wonderland,” said Linda Marsh, extreme hiker.
“That’s the great thing about snowshoeing. You can sleep in a little, leave at 10 and still get a full day of exercise in. And it’s free, all you need are your shoes.”
Marsh and Watson hope to get in one more snowshoe trip before the snow melts completely. With the newly fallen 16 inches of snow on the Grand Mesa they may get a few more treks.
“I want to do a moon light hike now that it’s lighter later,” Watson said.
There are still plenty of spots to hit in Colorado thanks to recent spring snows. And with extra daylight a moonlight hike on the Grand Mesa or other areas would be a great way to round off the season. The snow is melting fast though so like the ladies of Grand Junction make your last hike extreme.