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We Hike to Heal Celebrates Women, Nature and Community

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Mar 09, 2020 05:20 PM |
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The monthlong event culminates with a virtual event with hiking, meditation and journaling.

UPDATE: Due to the coronavirus, the group hikes for this event have been cancelled. However, the creators of We Hike to Heal will be offering a virtual event on March 28. Check the website for details. 

On March 28, women celebrate the healing powers of nature and community on trails around the world. The events mark the end of We Hike To Heal, a monthlong experience in March that encourages women to practice mindfulness and spend time in nature. The event is for anyone who identifies as a woman.

While the month is already underway, you can join at any time.

Michelle and Kenya Jackson-Saulters created We Hike to Heal, which runs all through March. Groups hikes are planned on March 28.  

A surprise beginning

We Hike to Heal began almost by accident. The co-founders, Michelle and Kenya Jackson-Saulters, who were newlyweds, both enjoyed being outside. They found it was a way to deal with the anxiety and depression they had both struggled with. Kenya, who has a background in psychology, specifically working with women, began adding meditation and journaling their nature time.

On the summer solstice in 2015, the couple went up Strong Mountain, a popular hiking area in Atlanta. Kenya led a meditation with Michelle and a couple friends. When they were done, other women at the summit asked them about the program.

“And we were like, this is not a program, this is our life,” Michelle said.

But Michelle and Kenya immediately saw the potential. If those women were interested in joining them, others would be as well.

By September that year, Kenya and Michelle were leading hikes on what they call the Outdoor Journal Tour. At first they hiked mostly with friends, walking for a couple miles then stopping to journal, meditate and talk. Sometimes the conversations were light and sometimes they were heavy and hard.

“Every time we were out, people would ask what it was. We were predominately black women and it’s not something you see out on trail as often,” Michelle said.

A month for healing and reflection

The Outdoor Journal Tour started as a passion project for Michelle and Kenya, and it still is, but it’s grown from the beginning. A couple years ago, they added We Hike to Heal as a single month dedicated empowering women.

“We Hike to Heal is really a laser focus on the larger mission of the Outdoor Journal Tour, which is creating a space for women to enjoy the outdoors. But We Hike to Heal uncovers that connection to a larger community of like-minded women and a connection with the space.”

They chose March because it’s Women’s History Month. Throughout the month, participants of We Hike to Heal receive prompts and exercises to encourage mindfulness and connections with themselves. The program is free, and includes weekly emails, but for those who would like a bit more, there is also a $20 downloadable workbook that offers more guidance and an easy way to collect your thoughts throughout the month. Participants can join at any time, and if you join late in the month, you’ll get emails to catch you up.

Mindy Lockhard (holding sign) will lead a group hike on March 28 as part of We Hike to Heal. 

Ending on a high note

This year, the month concludes with 57 group hikes, hosted across the U.S. and stretching as far and Iceland and India. They’ll be low-key and include time to connect with other women as well as with yourself through journaling. (UPDATE: The hikes have been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, but you can still enjoy the virtual events.)

Michelle and Kenya believe the journaling is an important part of the process.

“There is power in writing things down and getting them out of your brain and onto paper,” Michelle said. “Sometimes we have realizations of things that we’re not even consciously aware of. And until we take time to process our thoughts, we can get caught up on autopilot. In the day to day of adulting, we don’t always have time to think deeper about the things that happen to us and the patterns in our lives. … It’s a tool for processing things.”

Mindy Lockhart, a self-described nature nut, was set to lead the Seattle area hike and has led hikes in the past. She jumped at the opportunity to become an Outdoor Journal Tour ambassador.

“Their mission resonated so well with me,” she said. “I had been on my own journey and found so much healing in hiking and being outdoors, along with doing the inner work, including journaling and meditating. I just felt a strong pull to be of service and provide this opportunity for others on their journey.”

Mindy led a hike last year and is looking forward to doing so again. She emphasizes that the hikes are gentle and welcoming. They’ll be around 3 miles roundtrip with low elevation gain. At some point, the group will take a break for journaling and mediation. There may also be mindfulness exercises throughout the hike.

“I love bringing people together and creating a space for community, connection and healing in the great outdoors,” she said. “We live in a world of too many distractions. People are so disconnected these days — from themselves, from others, and from the natural world. Being in community is integral to healing, and We Hike to Heal creates an opportunity for women to come together, move their bodies, share their stories and tap into their inner wisdom and the healing power of nature. It’s a powerful combination!