I’m always learning from, mentoring women in the outdoors

I’m often overwhelmed by how many opportunities we have in Michigan, and especially in northern Michigan, to explore the great outdoors.

I’ve lived in quite a few different cities and states and even another country so I can compare these different places in my mental mapping when thinking about things like public access to land and resources. But I also think about changes over time for women in these areas.

I love reading mini bios about women who are genuinely interested in a specific sport or outdoor hobby. I always wonder about their journey, how they got to where they are, and the twists and turns that go into their experiences.

Some of the women I am associated with grew up outdoors and were brought into the herd by their families, while others came into it later in life.

It got me thinking about my own journey into nature and how I got here with the confidence that I’m always learning, I’m out there enjoying myself and knowing I just don’t feel the need to prove myself, even if as a woman I’m in the minority in some of these activities.

But I also know how important mentoring is and how helpful it is to have other women out there, be it in person or in support groups on Facebook.

Lately I’ve been turning to organizations like Artemis Sportswomen Ambassador for the Great Lakes, Women Hiking Michigan and personal friends in conservation who embody the same values ​​and interests as I do.

At university I was a big fan of rock climbing, not just for the sport itself but for the people. To be honest, I stumbled upon this when I was tasked with interviewing every student I wanted for a journalism course. I thought it would be a great way to learn about my co-workers doing cool things.

I interviewed a student who took alternative breaks abroad. I had just returned from studying abroad in Japan at the time and felt a real connection with other students who had had similar experiences.

But surprisingly, in the interview, it was the interviewee’s recent whitewater rafting adventures as an outdoor recreational student that caught my interest and not her time abroad. I was also fascinated by the setting you chose for the interview in the climbing hall on campus. I mean, how many college kids do you know who were rock climbers, travelers, and whitewater rafters?

Later I showed up at the cliff face after she invited me and fell in love with the people and the atmosphere. To this day, some of the most supportive and encouraging people I’ve ever met are outdoor recreation people and people in gymnasiums and in the wilderness on real rock faces.

I honestly think that meeting these people, sharing with them and following the friends I made there after graduation to see their outdoor adventures that span so many genres is what got me going to be the outdoor enthusiast I am.

You gave me the courage and guided support to see that you can take up all these outdoor activities and that there is a great community out there to support your success.

The other part of it was seeing and feeling that there is support for a diverse group of people, including women, and not seeing men as the standard for activities or being surprised when we see women doing things that we shouldn’t expect.

Nature wasn’t always rooted in my life. But now I need my nature time in places around me.

Nature wasn’t always rooted in my life. But now I need my nature time at places like the Spirit of the Woods Conservation Club near Brethren.

Arielle Breen/News Attorney

This need has crept in here and there over the years and then all at once when I needed it the most during a breakup after a longtime serious relationship about three years ago. That’s when it became a big part of my world as a cure and a healthy way to cope.

Years ago I iced fish with my then boyfriend. But back then I just relied on him having all the gear and skills needed to fish. I only did the fun parts like jigging and reeling in the fish.

Now I’m getting back into the sport and I’m thankful for things like YouTube where I can look for tutorial information on how to do all the things I never took over and learn how to tie knots, how to do my roll with it loads fishing line, how to pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth.

I would have liked to find someone who is an avid ice fisherman to join me with, who could teach me a few things, but I couldn’t find them. So this year I had to step in and start the uncomfortable task alone if I wanted to achieve my goal.

Things like hiking feel a bit intuitive to me at first, but activities that require equipment and technical skills that I haven’t developed yet are the types of activities I really want a mentor to help me with. So I put it off even though I’ve wanted to ice fish for the last few years.

I have to say that meeting Twyla Osborn, co-owner of Osborn’s Sport Shop was also an encouraging experience before finally getting back on the ice to fish again. She is so knowledgeable about the equipment and the sport and was helpful and encouraging.

This feeling reminds me how important it is to be a mentor to others and to help where I can. I try that a bit in the Outdoorswomen Manistee group I helped shape it, but also in other areas of my life.

I’m quite proud of all the little skills I’m developing as I expand my list of activities that feed my soul and bring real joy.

So far I’m an enthusiast for rock climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, archery, kayaking, overland camping, and backpacking. Each of them I have different interests and skills or equipment to do them.

If you take anything from this column, keep in mind that the role of mentorship has ramifications that will last for years, whether you know it or not. We can all be those people who help others to engage in a particular activity or hobby.

Arielle Breen is the Associate Editor of the Manistee News Advocate. She can be reached at arielle.breen@pioneergroup.com or by leaving a message at 231-398-3109.

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