International Women’s Day focus on women-only bushwalking clubs
We have three member clubs who are women-only bushwalking clubs and many women are members of our other 59 member clubs as well and we are celebrating each one of you today!
The main photo is of Suzie Hale, president of The Victorian Mountain Tramping Club (VMTC) who did a solo trip of the 4,280km Pacific Crest Trail which she completed in 153 days last year. Other major accomplishments on her impressive walking CV include leading a VMTC group who completed the Australian Alpine Walking Track in 42 days.
The first women-only bushwalking club we would like to introduce you to is Escaping Your Comfort Zone. Not only are they trailblazers in many ways, they have just won a Victorian Sports Award for the Outdoor/Active Recreation Initiative of the year!
Loey Matthews, Volunteer Walk Leader for Escaping Your Comfort Zone, shared this about their club:
If you’ve never been on one of our hikes before, you might wonder what makes Escaping Your Comfort Zone (EYCZ) different from other bushwalking clubs, and what “body positive” hiking is all about anyway? Let’s break down what drives us, and what you can expect at a body positive hike that’s different from other hiking groups.
What is body positivity?
Body positivity is a tricky concept to define, but there are some things that we can all agree on.
We live in a society where there is immense pressure to conform to a certain size, shape, and have other physical characteristics that are considered “good looking”. When people don’t fit that size or shape, it is expected that we should diet and exercise, and use makeup, hair product and even surgery until we do fit that expectation.
Body positivity comes out of the fat acceptance movement, and aims to help people overcome dissatisfaction with their bodies, so they can lead happier and more productive lives. At Escaping Your Comfort Zone, we are all about accepting that our bodies are unique and realistic, and furthermore, they are amazing and powerful just the way they are.
We want to throw out the guilt of “good” and “bad” food, throw diet talk in the bin, and take away any obligation that you might feel from “having” to get active.
We want our members, and everyone else, to know that we are not broken, our bodies are enough. They are whole, and powerful and capable of amazing things. We are not a project to be fixed. We accept you all as you are.
The outdoors doesn’t care what you look like, and neither do we!
So what is different about body positive hiking?
We aim to be an open group for every woman and gender diverse person who wants to get outdoors but doesn’t know where to start. Many groups are fantastic places for people who are already hiking or having outdoor adventures regularly to meet each other, but we aim to be a starting point.
The majority of our hikes are beginner friendly, and usually take between 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to complete. We don’t focus on how many kilometres you’ve done, because more often than not, our hikers are capable of much more than they think!
We always go at the pace of the slowest hiker, and there is never any rush to the finish on one of our hikes. We expect and plan for lots of stops along the way, to take selfies and point out the mushrooms and animals we meet along the trail. I’ve heard from some of our members that when they’ve been on hikes with other groups, the hike was promoted with the expectation that they would support the slowest hiker, but found themselves rushed along. At EYCZ we take the need to support everyone at their own pace really seriously – you’ll find a leader at the rear of each of our hikes, chatting to the person who is taking their time.
We enjoy the experience of being outdoors, caring for our physical and mental health through reconnecting with the natural world. It means we build friendships with people we would never have met otherwise – one of the things I cherish most is the diversity of age in our group, and the ability to connect with people way outside my normal social ‘bubble’.
Escaping Your Comfort Zone hikes want you to feel that no matter your size, skin colour, where you were born, your religion, your favourite song to dance to, who you’re attracted to, your disability or anything else, your body will never be seen by us as a problem to solve, but rather as an individual person who is on your own journey and wants to have adventures along the way.
They hike multiple times a week all over Melbourne, Geelong and beyond, and also have groups in Gippsland, Canberra and Sydney. You can get all the details at www.escapingyourcomfortzone.com. Or find them on Facebook @escapingyourcomfortzone or Instagram @escapingyorucomfortzone
The Melbourne Women’s Walking Club is an active club for women walkers of all ages and includes both metropolitan and country members. Their program covers a wide range of activities, however the club’s primary focus is bushwalking with walks of various types, gradings and distances frequently scheduled.
These activities include daywalks, backpacking, base camping and accommodation trips. Members can also participate in urban walks, cycling, canoeing and conservation work. They have regular social gatherings throughout the year and a training program in bushwalking skills.
You are welcome to join the club as a guest on one of their walks if you would like to give bushwalking a go! Contact Jane Matthews here.
The idea for the women only club was mooted at a large Girl Guide Camp. Many of the leaders were bemoaning the fact that they had no like-minded women to walk with. Consequently the club was formed, a walk planned and a cake made! Many of their foundation members are active in the Girl Guides but membership extends to all women who love walking, talking, laughing and dare we say it, eating!
Members come from all over Victoria, communicate and plan by email only and meet for the Annual General Meeting each June. At this meeting, walks are decided, leaders volunteer their services and decisions are generally decided by consensus.
Their annual itinerary of walks includes monthly walks, which often are walks from a weekend base. Twilight walks, pack carries, interstate and overseas walking trips are also included throughout the year. Each year a ballot is conducted for the best walk of the year and ‘Ned’, a replica of their mascot is awarded to the leader of this walk. Ned hitches a ride on each walk.
Overseas trips have included trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, and hiking from the source of the Thames to the sea along the Thames Path. This was not as everyone suggested a lengthy pub crawl, but an historical and educational ramble! The Bushrangers Womens’ Walking Club Inc goes from strength to strength each year with a growing membership of women who love the bush. The can be contacted here.