Mission Accomplished: Certify as a Field Leader

I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and there is a section in the book that resonated with me. Gilbert describes possessing a creative mind is like having a border collie for a pet. Without a job, that breed of dog can become destructive and will eat the couch and drywall. She asks us to imagine that our mind is that border collie. What stops us from eating the couch?

Being a member of the outdoors community in Manitoba stops me from eating the couch. I feel a calling to promote the outdoors not only to other women but to young people as well. As a parent, sharing my joy, skills, knowledge, and admiration for natural places is imperative so that the outdoors can continue to be enjoyed and cared for by the generations to come.

I had the absolute pleasure of spending the weekend with five leaders from Backcountry Women as we earned our Outdoor Council of Canada Field Leader certificate with the winter module. Matt and Brent from Wilderland Adventure Company taught the course.

We learned to effectively plan and execute a hike and event, risk management, safety, and group management.

My motivations for wanting to be an outdoor leader are to show people that the trail can be a phenomenal guide to work through problems. I want others to honour their emotional well-being and to care for their mental health. I feel called to pay it forward and to empower women to make their mental health a priority.

I envision leading hikes where women come to the trail to heal from whatever has been thrown at them. I envision leading hikes where it is okay and even encouraged to talk about our mental wellness. I envision leading hikes where there is no shame, no stigma, and no judgment for what has brought an individual to the trail.

There is of course the physical activity component of hiking. Exercise is vital to holistically managing mental health and I love the feeling of moving my body over challenging terrain to show myself what I am capable of. I aim to balance challenging environments with nature therapy depending on my needs at the time.

I feel blessed to have been welcomed into a community of like-minded individuals who want to see continued growth in outdoor leadership in Manitoba. I am beyond excited to be a part of it in my own, unique way. I am also nervous as well because I know that my approach is different. All I can do is remain authentically me and trust that the universe is guiding me where I am needed. The trail will provide for those who choose to hike with me.

Between all of the valuable information we learned, so much laughter and fellowship was shared over the weekend. I felt that I could be myself, even when expressing anxieties about the written exam. Writing tests has always stressed me out and in many ways I think school would have been a little different had test anxiety been a concept that was talked about. The seven of us, instructors and leaders, just “clicked.”

Something that I was glad to hear reiterated by the instructors was that the leader of the hike does not always need to be in the front. A leader can float between participants to engage and check-in, and get the lay of the land from all angles. During the field portion of our training, we each took a turn leading the hike and I chose to lead from the middle. I was taught this method when I was a Sea Cadet and prefer it to this day.

Matt was in front of me and we were hiking along, all was going well, when all of a sudden he decided to throw his hiking poles down and take off running through the field and into the bush, yelling that he was going to take a picture of a deer. My natural reaction was to chase and yell, “MATT! MAAAAAAATT!!!!” I don’t know what I would have done had I caught him. Tackle him? I reacted the way I did because I often hike with kids and at one time, my daughter was very notorious for taking off. She was and still is a runner! My mom instincts kicked in.

The over-exaggerated running off into the bush and hiding was to simulate a missing group member. In my mind, I knew what needed to be done but when the words for instructions came out of my mouth, it was a mumbled-jumbled mess. Something that I know I need to work on is to collect my thoughts first before speaking, even in my life off the trail. Fortunately, the co-leader remained level-headed and a plan was put into action, but not before I pointed at Brent and told him he better not even think about running off (again, my mom instinct kicked in.)

When it comes to hard skills (versus soft skills), I definitely need to work on my fire making skills as a whole. I am good at throwing axes for recreational fun but I definitely need to practice chopping wood and building (and maintaining) a fire. I would also like to learn more about local edibles, animal prints and scat, and Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing).

I have some great ideas for outdoor events in 2020 and I am looking forward to seeing them come to fruition. See you on the trail!

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