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Getting Lost Together: New Ipswich woman starts Hike Like a Woman chapter in Monadnock Region

  • —Courtesy photo

  • —Courtesy photo

  • Jacquelyn O'Connor, Molly Rajaniemi and Cindy Lynch enjoy the views and friendship from Kulish Ledges in Nelson.   —Courtesy photo

  • Hike Like a Woman Monadnock joins forces with Willow Tree Yoga and Windblown for a Hike and Yoga Event last Saturday evening.  —Courtesy photo

  • Hike Like a Woman group enjoys the views from atop Kidder Mountain in New Ipswich. —Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 5:47PM

For the past year, Jacquelyn O’Connor of New Ipswich has been striving to make women more comfortable in the outdoors.

O’Connor, who has lived in the Monadnock Region for the past 13 years, started a local chapter of the organization Hike Like a Woman a year ago.

O’Connor grew up in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine, and spent her school days in Millinocket, Maine located at the base of Mt. Katahdin and the end of the Appalachian Trail.

“I grew up in a canoe and hiking and camping, and living in the woods,” O’Connor said.

When her daughter was born, O’Connor started to get back into hiking and exploring the local trails, which are abundant in the Monadnock Region. She noticed that when she posted about their explorations on Facebook, she was getting the same response: “Where is that place?”

O’Connor started a Facebook group called “Getting Lost Together,” where she could highlight some of her favorite hiking spots. But it also got her thinking about more formally organizing a hiking group to share some of these hiking spots, and bring awareness about what the region had to offer.

She applied to be an ambassador for Hike Like a Woman, to gather female hikers together to explore trails and mountains all over the area.

“I know that for a lot of women who wanted to hike, they’re not going by themselves, whether that’s because they are concerned for their safety, or worried about navigation or what might happen if they get hurt,” O’Connor said. “I have that background, and I have no problem going on a trail by myself, but I realize a lot of women don’t, and being in a group gives them that confidence.”

Michaela Balcombe of Peterborough joined O’Connor for her first hike in July of last year, and has been a regular member of hikes ever since. She was one of the members who was interested in getting back into hiking, but was wary of heading out on her own, she said.

“The idea of a group appealed,” she said. “I didn’t feel safe hiking by myself.”

Balcombe, who has three children, said she enjoys the monthly hike as a way to de-stress and have time with other adult women.

“It’s just a great sense of accomplishment when you climb,” she said. “To be able to say you achieved that on the time where you might have just been sitting on the sofa.”

O’Connor said she arranges the hikes to be between one and two hours, because she knows that many women like Balcombe have children and busy lives. She tries for one or two hikes a month, and said they continue on in almost any weather unless conditions are dangerous, as long as people are willing and have proper equipment.

“If people are willing to go, we’ll still go out. We hike when its drizzling, we hiked on New Year’s Day when it was -10 degrees,” O’Connor said.

And O’Connor tries to take advantage of the number of trails in the region by not repeating a hike twice, unless it’s to view a trail taken in the winter during the summer months.

O’Connor will be giving a talk on the Hike Like a Woman program at the New Ipswich Library on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. She will be leading a mother-daughter hike on Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. on Temple Mountain. For more information, or to join a hike, visit gettinglosttogether.com or the Getting Lost Together Facebook page.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.