Being an Urban Outdoorsy Woman: Where is the nearest nature?

An important question for women hoping to be professional as well as outdoorsy is: where can I find my nearest dose of nature? Sometimes, with skyscrapers, city blocks, and sequestered trees, there isn’t always a really easy answer. 

Luckily, most cities have a few main staples like parks, trails, and urban oases that give city-goers a little dose of nature when they can’t go outside the city and find the nearest State Park, hiking trail, or river. Luckily, I’ve visited a few cities, and have lived in Baltimore for the past four years. I’ve found Baltimore’s hidden green more than once, and even covered it in this City Paper College Guide Article titled “Get Outside”: (click either image below to read more.)

 ImageThe article includes a variety of options, especially for Baltimore college students, to get outside, be fit, and join athletic teams. 

 

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City Paper article artwork by Ana Benaroya

In terms of going outside in Baltimore and getting the best dose of nature, I always seek out the little things, like my apartment: The Carolina. It’s right across the street from the Johns Hopkins lacrosse stadium. It’s the only one I’ve seen around my campus that has an actual lawn out front.

Here are a few of my absolute favorite options in Baltimore:

1. The Gilman Trail:

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courtesy of Map My Run user who describes the trail as “Narnia”

This trail is a hidden alcove just beyond Hopkins House apartments; take a right then watch the left side of the street for the beginnings of forested area; run across a small wooden bridge and you’ll be on the trail. Students of the nearby Gilman school run cross country on these paths, and it’s great for a four mile loop. Just watch out for mud if it’s been rainy lately.

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2. Druid Hill Reservoir

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The Druid Hill Reservoir in Druid Park features scenic views, a running/bike/walking loop, gymnasium equipment, a local pool and more. It’s beautiful in any season.

Druid Hill is another one of my favorite places to run or bike, but it would be nice to just sit on a bench in the springtime and read here. It’s beautiful, and you’ll always see a lot of people out enjoying it even if the weather’s only hinting at warmth.

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3. Patterson Park

Patterson Park and the neighboring Baltimore Zoo are both green spots in an urban expanse, urban oases, if you will. The beautiful pagoda within the park and areas for open air concerts are great for a taste of fresh green. That is, if spring will finally happen.

 

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courtesy of baltimoreaerials.com

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courtesy of the Friends of Patterson Park

These are just a few of my top picks, but fill a few crucial categories of green areas that manage to fit into urban environments:

1. Trails

2. Bodies of Water

3. Parks

Though Baltimore is relatively small, we have some real beauty if you’re willing to look for it. Check out that City Paper article for more of my suggestions.

 

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Women, The Largest Growing Segment of Outdoors Adventurers, Are Here to Stay

How many women do you know that would probably imagine Meredith from The Parent Trap with a big ‘ol lizard on her head if asked about what camping is like? Though this perspective is funny and refreshing, and not all ladies need to like to get muddy, some of us do.

Parent Trap

Their face might look something like this gem I found on Flickr. Courtesy of brianteutsch.


Though it may have been quite a few women in the past, women are moving past this stereotype, just as Lindsay Lohan ahem…moved past her adorable 11 year old twin characters. Women are moving into outdoors recreation more than ever before. Even women that may have previously chosen indoor activities may be giving outdoor activities a try.

According to John Hayes of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “the fastest growing segment of outdoors users…is comprised of women.

Woman hiking in snow storm

Creative Commons image courtesy of Kees Smans


Though Hayes’ articles cites mostly from the sports of angler fishing, hunting and shooting–it is clear that these previously stereotyped “male” activities are becoming more and more attractive to women. Though the percentage change in participation  of women in outdoor activities may not be more than a couple additional percentages, these numbers are significant when polled from across the country.

The Outdoor Participation Report of 2013 groups information about outdoors activities and participants by varying categories, including age and gender. The Report hopes to find out who’s going outside, what it is they’re doing, whether it be hunting, walking, or kayaking, and whether or not they’re likely to continue going outside.

Since 2006, females aged 18-24 participating in outdoor recreation has increased from 51% to 56%. It has been rising ever since 2009, when the number was pulled out of a low depth of 48% up to 53% in a single year. According to another report provided by Southwick Associates, a rise of almost a whole percentage of women involved in angling and hunting.

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Creative Commons image courtesy of Renee V.

So excited to read an advance...

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild! Creative commons image courtesy of Tammy Strobel.

Not only have lady huntresses and fly fishers joined the ranks of the outdoors world. The idea of women taking on the wilderness has started to populate the mainstream media, thanks especially to books like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The Oprah Book club selection recounts the biographical tale of a 22 year old woman named Cheryl and her quest to hike a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail–the less tamed West Coast cousin of us East Coaster’s more familiar AT (Appalachian Trail).

Though Strayed’s (a name she chose while on the trail) journey could have gone terribly, horribly wrong–it ended up being an inspirational tale of recovery, personal development, resourcefulness, hardheadedness, and the kindness of strangers. On the thousands of miles she walked alone with a too-heavy pack, little food, almost no money, and a determination to just reach the next leg of the journey–I definitely fell in love with her spirit.

Woman pausing to look at landscape

Creative Commons image courtesy of Jared Wong.

Even as an outdoors instructor and a Wilderness First Responder who knows just how terrifying it would be to lose an entire boot, be without a trustworthy water source, or not have the proper equipment–I can’t deny the charm of Strayed’s tale. Though I’d advise readers to prepare a little bit more if they wanted to repeat the venture.

The Outdoor Women’s Alliance, a blog for women who are active outdoor athletes to share their thoughts and experiences, offers up a lot of commentary on the gender issue in outdoors recreation. Its mission is “promoting women in outdoor adventure”, and many organizations like this exist across the country such as Adventures for Women, Awesome Adventurous  Women,  Untamed Adventures, and more.

These groups or blogs encourage women to get outside, and to celebrate each other. However, women as adventurers in the media may still have a different role than what may be ideal.

A post by Gina Bégin  on The Outdoors Women’s Alliance discusses the prevalence of female climbers in a sport that seems to be dominated by men, interviewing some of her acquaintances on the topic. She discovers that women are more often than not portrayed on magazine covers for sports like climbing, though they do not dominate the category. Shop owners and people in charge claim this is for aesthetic reasons, and feature women climbing less challenging routes to look good and sell copies. Bégin wields the weapon of women’s self created media, like the above mentioned websites as well as Strayed’s book, to fight against this traditional objectification of women in mainstream media. Women want to be in the outdoors, climbing and shooting and fishing and biking and more. But they don’t want to do it to sell magazines.

crazy roof sequence on tonsai playboy, 5.12a

Creative Commons image courtesy of Maria Ly.


This article, called The Problem with Female Athletes, gets to an angle that I subconsciously must have been thinking when I started this blog: that women adventurers seem like a more endangered species and that we need a place to talk about who we really are. Bégin writes “To climb, to train, to write and make adventure content is just as important for those women out there doing it as it is for men. No more, and no less. It’s time to help women in this pursuit with fair and balanced media that inspires women toward athletic, not aesthetic, goals.”

She’s right. Women are beginning to populate outdoors adventure and recreation…but we need to continue to talk about who we are and why we’re there–to have fun, develop ourselves, whatever it might be.

P.S.- Even if you’re not an outdoors adventurer, I have nothing but respect for you!

Why Water Bottles Are My Favorite Accessory

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Reusable water-bottles, especially Nalgene 2 liter bottles, are easily one of my favorite and most important things that I carry around almost every day. There are a few reasons that I love them so much, and a few reasons I have so many:

1. They’re environmentally responsible.

Last semester, I was a campus representative for bobble water bottles whose main goal is to reduce plastic waste, pollution, and abuse by way of disposable plastic water bottles. Because buying and drinking and throwing away plastic water bottles is absolutely terrible for the environment, and that idea is starting to catch on in the mainstream.

Heck, San Francisco is making moves towards banning the sale of plastic water bottles entirely. If an entire city supports that notion, it must be a major issue. Even if someone claims that bottled water is easier to buy and drink, tastes better, or is healthier–these reasons don’t hold much weight, especially since there’s no scientific proof bottled water is any better for you than tap water. Baltimore tap water is clean and safe, and even if you don’t trust it, options like bobble or Brita include home filters for tap water that are easy and convenient and last for about 300 uses before you have to start thinking about replacing it.

Need some facts to back it up? (from Banthebottle.net)

1. One plastic water bottle can take up to 100 years to decompose.

2. The production of one plastic water bottle releases toxins and uses more water to manufacture than it holds.

3.  Plastic water bottles have polyethylene terephthalate, or PET which is a dangerous chemical for human use.

4. Bottled water can cost up to 500 times the cost of tap water.

In contrast, reusable bottles are BPA free, reduce your carbon footprint, and get rid of a lot of these nasty issues.

2. They’re stylish and cool and you can put stickers on them.

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Check out my selection of water bottles above- I have a crazy amount of water bottles in every imaginable shape, size, color, and design. Most of them are covered in stickers, one has a fruit infuser inside that I got from running the Preakness 5k, and one is shaped like a little monster. I can put them in my backpack, cover them in stickers from my travels, and express my individuality through them. People are always complimenting me on my cool water bottles.

3. They’re practical.

my boat!

Water bottles are super easy to carry around, and you can attach a carabiner to them to clip it to basically anywhere you want. I put it in my backpack, clip it to the outside, stick it in a pocket, and I’m on my way. That way, I’m not always looking for a place to buy or sip some water, and I can always have as much as I want. They’re great for athletes especially, because it would be ridiculous to buy a new water bottle for every single practice. We’d go broke.

4. Drinking more water is always good for you. We NEED water.

my whole collection

my whole collection

According to CNN, drinking more water is one of the easiest ways to start losing weight.

According to this piece in Arab News, we are born with about 75% water and our growth and development can bring that percentage down to 45%.We need to drink more water to make up for these losses. It’s important for heart and kidney health, can help get rid of sicknesses and headaches, it helps maintain a balance of body fluids, makes your skin, hair and nails look good, energizes muscle, and more.

Support Me on BuzzFeed!

Hey everyone (:

Everyone knows an adventurous lady needs to kick back and watch some TV sometimes…and then write about it on BuzzFeed. Please check out this post I wrote and click here: The Top 10 TV Characters that Peaked in High School

A meme I designed for Gilmore Girls character Francie- one of the stars of my article.

A meme I designed for Gilmore Girls character Francie- one of the stars of my article.

and get me some cat power or whatever.

Stay tuned for this week’s post about my favorite outdoorsy accessory: my Nalgenes and my sticker collection! (It’s vast.)

 

 

10 Simple Things Adventurous Women Love

Because deep down, we’re really easily entertained. 

1. Taking Your Shoes Off:

There’s nothing more satisfying than slipping off a pair of shoes after a long day, whether you’ve been dancing in heels all night or running a race. The feeling of peeling off the soles, unbuckling buckles, untying laces, and walking around barefoot is absolutely beautiful and definitely an underrated pleasure.

Shoes Off

Shoes Off: CC Image courtesy of tiffany terry and 1975 Cyclopedia of Photography

 

2. Being on a Team:

I’m always thankful for the different teams I’m a part of—whether it’s a sports team, my sorority, my classmates, my family, my country, or even just a group of commuters on the same bus. People going through the same experience or going for the same cause, winning a game or making it to work, will stick together and support each other. It’s pretty cool to be able to shout someone’s name and just have them know what you’re talking about…at least that’s how it goes in soccer games—two words, and everyone’s on the same page.

seniors in pi beta phi! one of my teams (:

seniors in pi beta phi! one of my teams (: courtesy of Sarah Holloway

3. A Hot Shower:

Turning on the water and waiting for it to get steamy while double stocking the bathroom with body wash and whatever other fruity scents you like, rubbing off grass stains, sweat, mud, or excessive amounts of make-up. Maybe even a bath if you’re feeling really fancy—though you’ll get a bit pruney that way.

Shower | No. 2

CC Image courtesy of PhotoAtelier Flickr

4. Going Somewhere New:

Uglyworld #2169 - New Years Day Traditioner - (Project On The Go - Image 1-365)

CC Image courtesy of Barry O’Neil (www.bazpics.com)

Going somewhere new, a foreign country or a different coffee shop, makes life more exciting. I crave variety in my days all the time, and even walking a different route to class can help. New routes and pathways can create new neurological pathways too, keeping away things like Alzheimer’s later in life. I’m no neuroscientist, but new things are always good for stimulating thought.

5. Reading:

book reading machine

CC Image courtesy of grey herbert Flickr

For those times when you aren’t out there adventuring, words do a great job of getting you there all by themselves.

6. Photographs:

Though there’s something to be said for just plain enjoying the moment and not being distracted by the lens of a camera, the adventurer likes to have some kind of a record to remind her of the moment. My brain certainly can’t hold perfect images of the Florida coastline, but my camera can—and those pictures hanging on my wall sure help. And Instagram is always a fun time—you know you do it.

Taking a Picture of Taking a Picture of the Alps

CC Image courtesy of _flowtation Flickr

7. New Gear:

New stuff, diamonds or otherwise, really is a girl’s best friend. I love the feeling of getting something new for myself—new pairs of goalie gloves fresh out of the package, a brand new dress for a date party, a pair of new boots—of the heeled or hiking variety (;.

Camera and Hiking Gear

CC Image courtesy of Charlie 2.0 Flicker

8. Changing up Your Look:

Face Transformation

CC Image courtesy of Adriana Henriquez Flickr

My sense of variety extends to my appearance a lot of the time, and I like to switch up the things I wear or how I look—sometimes people don’t even recognize me. It’s a great feeling to straighten your hair if it’s always curly, and feel like a brand new person.

9. Mastering a New Skill:

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle

CC Image courtesy of Schwartz Wade Books Flickr

That moment a new skill clicks, like figuring out how to roller skate or how to walk in heels, is oh so satisfying. The process of learning, however, can be a bit messier—falls might be involved. All part of the process.

10. Not Being Stereotyped:

Woman Series - Double Exposure

CC Image courtesy of maggga Flickr

The whole reason I made this blog is to enforce the idea that adventurous women, all women really, don’t need to be lumped into a specific category. We can behave how we like and when we like and we’re damn good at it.

For Some Background on My Adventures, Check This Out!

I’ve written about a lot of my outdoors expeditions prior to now, and a good place to start to check them out would be this Her Campus page (http://www.hercampus.com/school/jhu/why-not-washing-your-hair-two-weeks-can-be-great). This post is all about my expedition to the Florida Everglades with a great gang of people, and how I did not wash my hair with anything besides natural water for almost two whole weeks. Thanks to the JHU Her Campus blog for sharing my experiences! Give Her Campus some love (www.hercampus.com).

 

Heels and Hiking Boots: What I Care About.

Some girls:

1.Like to dress up for a night out

2. Would never leave the house without make-up

3. Follow fashion trends religiously

4. Accessorize with jewelry and patterned scarves and heels 

Other girls might:

1. Throw on a pair of shorts and long socks to go for a trail run

2. Forget to change bras for a few days

3. Go on an expedition and stop showering for two weeks

4. Accessorize with Nalgene water bottles, carabiners, and hiking boots.

I am all of these girls.

I have been a model and I have been a sea kayaking instructor.

I have been a soccer player and I have worked for a fashion culture magazine.

I sometimes wear sports leggings with heels and a sweater.

I’m a girly girl and a tom-boy.

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Me walking in a Cover Girl Fashion Show for Baltimore City Paper. Find more photos here: http://photos.citypaper.com/index.php/fashionable-art-show/#1.

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Me gearing up for a paddle in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

This website is dedicated to all the women that don’t fall into a stereotype about women: for those that love to get dolled up and pretty and be in photographs, and for those who sometimes forget to change bras and leave on last night’s makeup as we make our way to the gym to lift some weights.

It’s for those women who are really into the latest technical moisture wicking fabric to wear while paddling kayaks, and those women who get anxious and thrilled for their latest interview at a luxurious magazine.

It’s for those women who didn’t “brave their fears” and branch out from their normal character, by trying on a dress or going for a hike. It’s for those women who truly love both, who embrace their unique personality traits, and enjoy having adventures where ever they may go: down a trail or down a runway.

As a senior at Johns Hopkins University entering the professional world, my goal is to combine these two personality traits and to have fun while doing it. These are my thoughts. Subscribe for weekly posts!

Best,

Jenna