Time to Reconnect: Native Women’s Wilderness

“It’s not my people that have to reimagine who should explore the outdoors. It’s everyone else that needs to. It’s the outdoor industry that needs to change and include all people of color to explore our earth, just like my people always have.” – Native Women’s Wilderness founder Jaylyn Gough. 

Yenabah” is a Navajo name meaning “Warrior woman who wanders the mountains.” This is the Navajo name of Jaylyn Gough, founder and executive director of Native Women’s Wilderness. True to her name, Jaylyn founded Native Women’s Wilderness to get Native women outside and break assumptions about who is and who deserves to be outside. 

We sat down with Jaylyn to learn more about her motivations for creating this meaningful organization. 

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HOKA: What is the mission of Native Women’s Wilderness? 

Jaylyn: To inspire and raise the voices of Native Women in the outdoor realm. To encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the wilderness. To educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. 

HOKA: Why is it important to you to encourage connection with Ancestral Lands? 

Jaylyn: The land our ancestors walked on is the land that gives us strength. It gives us an opportunity to see who we are, but also who we could be. We receive healing from the land. There’s the Trail of Tears, there’s the Long Walk, and there are so many places where I can feel the strength of my ancestors as I walk. If they were able to get through the Long Walk, I can overcome the challenges of my life. 

Our history may be broken. Too many spirits, hearts and lives are broken. The land is crying. But I believe that the only way to reimagine what can be, the only way to heal, is to revisit and connect with the land that connects us all. I think many people who have that connection to the land feel that strength, and honor the land, and honor our ancestors because it’s who we are. It’s engrained in us. To be in the land is to live and breathe for me. I don’t have to think about it. It’s how I get through life. 

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HOKA: Through your life, has your personal relationship with being in the outside ever gone through a change? 

Jaylyn:  As a child living on the reservation, everyone looked like me. Everyone had the same black hair. We would play outside and we would flick baby rattlesnakes at each other, or boys would put black widows in my hair. I think once I realized that not everyone looks the same in the “real world” it became a huge injustice to me that not all people were represented. Why is it that only white CIS gender people are allowed and are represented outside? Why can’t my people be represented outside? Why are we not given the same opportunities when, actually, this is our land and it’s through broken treaties and pushing our people off into the reservation that we have lost this? We know the land better than anyone else.   

So that has really propelled me to figure out, how do I make it? How do I get a little girl to look up and see someone that looks like her outside, and give her that opportunity to do amazing things? I want her to know that she can be a mountaineer and go climb Fourteeners or even Mount Everest.   

Meet Jaylyn and Native Women’s Wilderness in HOKA ONE ONE: Time to Reconnect. 

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Evelynn Escobar-Thomas Chisels Away at the Perception of What a Hiker Looks Like

Four years ago I went on my first national park road trip with my husband and it changed my life. Now fast forward to the present. We ventured out on an amplified version of that trip. This time with my mom, a nature newbie, in tow. 

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Being based in Southern California (most specifically, LA) has its perks. We spent three days in three states. Equipped with the HOKA Kaha and Toa, we got a chance to spend time at these national and state parks along the way: Valley of Fire, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley. 

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Although this wasn’t our first rodeo, we are by no means professionals. Experienced at best. This road trip and the hikes we did can be accomplished by people of all skill levels: from someone like my mom, whose trip was filled with firsts, to someone like me, who has learned and grown in these vast beautiful spaces over the past few years. They’re for people of all genders, people of all backgrounds. They’re for anyone with an adventurous spirit and an affinity for the outdoors. 

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Bringing my mom on this road trip with us was special. Before this, the only other National Park she had ever visited was the Grand Canyon. In one short weekend, I was able to witness how this outdoor experience changed her outlook on what it means to really getaway.

Being out there and present in itself is so empowering. To be able to chisel away at the perception of what a hiker at these parks looks like from one generation to the next is incredibly moving. To be a representative of my community and ultimately an ambassador of this experience and these spaces is something I don’t take for granted. And to be an agent of change or to at least plant the seed in those who would’ve never given these types of activities a thought – whether it’s because of a lack of accessibility or exposure culturally etc – is rewarding. If you have a car and can cover lodging and gas (it’s even more affordable if you have a tent and stay at campgrounds), you too can do this!

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Our itinerary for day one included Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah. Since the Valley of Fire was just a stop on our way to Zion we only had time for two small hikes— the Fire Wave, a 1.5-mile trail, and White Dome, a 1.25-mile loop. While there were signs recommending we stay off the trails because of the heat, we ventured out and enjoyed the trails anyways. If you do head to this park in the summer, make sure to bring a ton of water or it can definitely get unsafe pretty quickly. It was about 90 degrees while we were out there. They don’t call it the Valley of Fire for nothing. Thankfully we were well equipped to stay safe and hydrated during our visit.

If you only have time for one hike at the park I highly recommend doing the Fire Wave. It leads to a smooth basin covered in beautiful streaks of multi-colored red rock. Although the Valley of Fire is technically only a Nevada State Park (fun fact: it’s actually their first state park!) it packs a big punch. It’s definitely worth the stop along the way. 

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Last but not least, we ended our day with a 1-mile hike taking in the views of our final destination, Zion National Park. The Canyon Overlook trail is an awe-inspiring must-do for anyone’s first visit to Zion. It’s not strenuous at all, but it does lead to a grand view of the western part of the park. We ended our night at a hotel right outside the park in Springdale and rested up for Saturday’s big Arizona adventure.

Next up was an early morning hour-and-a-half mini road trip to Page, Arizona, where Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon awaited. These stops aren’t the most strenuous, but the sights are amazing. If you haven’t been to Horseshoe Bend recently they now have an official entrance gate, parking lot and walkways – all things that did not exist during my first trip to Page. Since Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are about 15 minutes away from each other, you can knock these out relatively quickly. After Horseshoe Bend, we went on a guided tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. Home of Microsoft wallpapers, popular Instagram photos and more, this well sought-after slot canyon mystified us just as much as the first time we experienced it. The smooth red canyon walls and formations in the rocks leave you awestruck. One of the highlights this go-around was the dino footprint our tour guide pointed out to us right outside the canyon. The Southwest can sometimes feel almost mythical. After our tour, we headed out another mini road trip a bit deeper in Arizona to Monument Valley, a new destination for us all.

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During our first variation of this road trip, we opted for the Grand Canyon post-Antelope Canyon. The Grand Canyon and Monument Valley actually have the same drive time from Page. If you haven’t seen the Grand Canyon I highly recommend going there first on your variation of this trip, but if you have, then Monument Valley is the way to go. The drive over was amazing. The variations in rock formations and colors made for a beautiful ride. Once we got there, we headed out on a tour of Monument Valley’s restricted lands. For those of you who don’t know, Monument Valley is on Navajo Land. Anyone can drive the scenic route, but to go deeper you have to be accompanied by a Navajo guide. Exploring the restricted lands was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. Getting to hear Navajo folklore and the history of the land from our guide, Vern, was magical. The energy and sights in Monument Valley truly leave you feeling enriched and energized. After a full day of sightseeing, we headed back to Zion (an almost 4-hour drive). This part was a bit rough but the day we experienced made it so worth it.

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After spending so much time out of Zion we dedicated the final day to face the one and only Angel’s landing, inside the park. For my mom, it was her first major hike so this was a pretty big deal. Anyone who knows Angel’s Landing knows it’s no easy feat. It felt as if the culmination of everything we experienced over the weekend came to a head at this final test, if you will. We strapped on our Kahas and Toas, and we made our way up the 2.5-mile trail. Although the trail is short, it is considered to be one of the park’s most strenuous hikes. It can get pretty narrow, has tons of drop-offs, all the while being over 1400+ ft. up. Not to be discouraged though, we saw people of all ages and levels heading up the trail. Things really started heating up once we hit the chain rails. If I had a dollar for every time my mom thanked HOKA for the traction up the narrow pathways I’d be rich! It’s true though. Not only did the Kaha and Toa do their job, but they kept us comfortable every step of the way. Whether it was in the lowest of the Antelope Valleys or the peak of Angel’s Landing, we were covered. After some grit and determination (also known as tight clenching grips and muscles), we ended up almost 1500 ft. up at the tippy top of Angel’s Landing.

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There couldn’t have been a better end to our grand adventure. The hike for sure pushed my mom to her limits. After all she experienced over the weekend, she literally came out on top and accomplished a trail she never would’ve imagined herself doing. I, on the other hand, was happy to finally get Angel’s Landing under my belt. My husband and I never got to complete the trail during our first visit because of time. Completing it during this second trip felt so vindicating. One thing to note though, there were a ton of people enjoying picnics at the crest. Had we known that was the thing to do, we definitely would’ve come prepared with something to eat. On the way back down we basked in our accomplishment and inevitably had to begin the trip back home. But first, we caught an impromptu helicopter ride to get a closer look at Zion! After taking in views from an even higher elevation we finally hit the road and made it back in the wee hours of the morning. 

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If you’re up for the challenge I highly recommend this thrilling road trip itinerary to anyone and everyone. It will be one of the most grounding weekends you’ll ever have! Get out with your friends and family, explore and push yourself and your HOKA shoes to the limits. You’ll be glad you did.

Shop the HOKA Toa here.

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Shop the HOKA Kaha here.

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Tear down, build back up, repeat: Bringing diversity to the outdoors with Jose Gonzalez

Tear down. Build back up. Repeat.

Some of us like to work out, whether it’s hitting the gym, pursuing a sport with discipline, or some other physical activity for process or outcome, be it indoors or outdoors. This is not dependent on body size even if we may desire a certain fitness level—to look a certain way, feel a certain way, perform a certain way.

For me, I like to run, especially hitting the trail for a trail run. I do it for spiritual, mental and physical health.

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One thing about working out is that it is you agreeing to put yourself in a physical state of discomfort. We likely don’t say, “OK, time for me to go put myself in a state of physical discomfort,” and yet that is the reality of what is happening as we put our bodies through the stress of building muscle by breaking it down and then regenerating it to be stronger, faster, nimbler, etc. We place stress and demands on our physiological systems to adapt.

We can go on a trail run, a long hike, climb, or engage in another activity that we may enjoy and have fun doing, while we can still be putting our body in a state of discomfort, especially if we are training.

I see a comparison to work we do on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors and overall in the environmental and conservation field, where discomfort is also part of the process and some of us actively do not engage in the work to avoid that discomfort. We may think first about the discomfort rather than the goal and work that goes in for any desired outcome. We fear the training. We fear the experience.

Furthermore, when working out we do not simply go and lift the heaviest weights in the gym, climb the hardest mountain, run the most technical trail, ski down the steepest slope and so on—especially if we are doing it for the first time.

That is one of many ways we can get hurt.

We need some type of plan, goal, support system and a look at what feeds us, literally and figuratively speaking. Maybe we need a coach. Maybe a way to check progress. Maybe we need a new diet.

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We also need to look at self-care and restoration, how and when you rest and take care of yourself in order to keep going and not give up. Checking in with yourself to address harm, to heal and get back on track or reassess your goal.

I share all that because “diversity work” in the outdoors is critical, for a host of reasons that include closing equity gaps, honoring all of our unique and diverse connections to the land and addressing the reality that the communities of today are the audiences and stewards of the outdoors where we play and a public lands system that provides a wealth of benefits.

That is an important reality to acknowledge: the present and future of nation is one of difference, diversity and plurality — and we need to honor, respect and value that for the health of the outdoor industry and our public lands.

Yet many may fear doing this work for the discomfort that is part of the work. We cannot let fear dictate how this work needs to be done.

Supporting diversity in the outdoor space is also not about being trendy or reactive. It is an outcome of intentional work that will include mistakes and hence planning on how to address that. We will trip and fall and skin our knees on the trail. It will hurt. We get back up and run again. But we also do not want to be careless about how we trip or hurt others, hurt ourselves or take others down with us. Hence the importance of situational awareness and support.

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We value diversity in our natural landscape. No one really says, “That’s a beautiful monotonous forest,” or “lovely homogenous ecosystem.” Yet we may stumble on recognizing or even verbalizing why that diversity should be seen, heard and valued in communities that recreate in those same landscapes, that work in outdoor industry brands, that design and create in the narrative of the outdoors, that lead companies and organizations.

The simplicity of why diversity is important is because it provides the beauty, complexity, expansion and strength we see in the natural world. That matters in public lands, our outdoor brands, our conferences, our marketing, our production and our leadership in the outdoors. It is the horizontal and vertical spectrum. That means the diversity of lived experiences and diversity of outdoor experiences connecting in the landscape. It is also moving beyond our communities as objects of programming and marketing and being part of the design, co-creation and leadership of the space.

It is needed.

And we need to engage in the workout of what that is. To evaluate what resources and support systems are needed to have it be successful, not merely relying on good intentions and wishful thinking. To experience discomfort while not getting hurt — or at least knowing how to respond with a first aid kid and healing.

I think we can do it, with a proper workout plan.

Diversity is strength, diversity is challenge, diversity is growth, diversity is valued, diversity is needed.

Happy, and safe, trail running.

 

Rock solid

Screen-Shot-2017-09-29-at-3.49.25-PM“My mom is 87, and she loves the outdoors — she always has. We decided to take a trip to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and the Colorado River. My favorite part about this trip was how excited it made my mom. It was also fun to get a little drunk with her. We chose HOKA hiking shoes for our trip because they are light, supportive, comfortable and give you the ‘flying’ feeling of a HOKA. My mom loves her pair. She said she felt rock solid.”- HOKA Fan Nick Freedman

Stop waiting until the time is right

Screen-Shot-2017-03-01-at-2.18.01-PM“Alex McMahon was diagnosed with a rare cancer at the age of 20. He was given six months to live and through pure determination and grit, he lived for five years. He had a bucket list, and his biggest item was a backpacking trip through the mountains. He began researching, which was about all he could do through parts of his chemo. We would discuss when we thought he would be physically able. I offered to bring another of our cousins into the hike plans so that we could carry his gear for him, but I knew better. There was no way he would allow that. He died this past October at the age of 25. I stopped by my aunt’s house, and she shared with me that Alex had only given one request, and that was for his backpacking gear to go to me. The first thing she brought out was a pair of shoes. I had never heard of HOKA before. These shoes sat on the shelf in his closet waiting for the day he could use them. It was that moment that I knew what I had to do. My family and I backpacked through the Smokies in memory of Alex. Alex taught me to stop waiting until the time is right to experience life, just go for it. And that is what I plan to do.”- HOKA Fan Derek Wayne Clifford