Keeping our participants and guides safe during COVID-19
Kate and I and our Guidess team are so excited to be leading adventures again. With new regulations and recommendations being updated regularly from the Center for Disease Control we wanted to share our COVID-19 requirements so you are aware of what precautions we are taking to keep you safe while providing a fun outdoor experience.
Keeping groups small
This is something we do with our trips anyway to reduce the impact on the environment, especially on overnight adventures. With COVID we are keeping our groups to 10 or less.
Staying 6 feet away from each other
Most of the time in the outdoors we are able to stay spaced out and recreating outside is still one of the safer activities you can do right now.
Providing masks if they are needed
If there’s a time we need to be close together, we have masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer easily accessible.
Separate sleeping areas
On overnight adventures we usually combine people in tents to reduce the impact on the land. We are providing tents or hammocks for each person who needs them so we can social distance.
Asking “COVID Questions”
More than likely you have been asked the “COVID Questions” by now. Before trips we will check in with everyone and ask, “Have you experienced symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days?” “Have you been around someone who has experienced COVID-19 in the past 14 days?” If answering yes to either question we will not allow guests to come on the trip.
I hope this answers some of your questions regarding COVID-19 and how we are keeping you safe. We are grateful that we are still able to get outdoors and enjoy nature during these times. Check out our trips on our website to learn more about what we have coming up.
If you are still in need to social distance please sign up for my Online Guide to Outdoor Wellness, it’s a great online program that provides yoga, breathing exercises, guided meditations, hiking activities and daily journaling prompts.
Join us in a Daily DNK adventure, share on social for your chance to win!
As we go through these unprecedented times, things are changing daily even hourly. We have taken on a new routine with having our son at home full time with us, DNK Presents planned trips on hold, we are still figuring out our “new normal” and how we can remain healthy during these times. I’ve listed some things that you and your family can do right now.
- Hiking/Running/Walking – Some parks are still open, the weather is getting warmer and it’s a great time to get outside. Check to make sure the trails and parks are open in your area before venturing out, with the Hiking Project (app) you can find trails in your area.
- Camping – Have your spring break trips been cancelled? You can still have fun in the outdoors and it’s something you can do with the whole family. Springtime means less bugs, cooler temperatures and sometimes fewer crowds. If going to a campground isn’t an option for you try camping in your own backyard or even in your living room. We could all use something else fun to do inside with the kids, am I right?!
- Biking – Road, gravel, trail – Choose a trail close to home and one you have been on before.
- Tree or spring flower identification – Have fun doing something fun and different in the outdoors with your family.
- Plant a garden – You can order seeds online and have fresh fruit and home-grown vegetables this summer and fall.
Do you have other ideas? Let us know in the comments! Starting today join us in sharing your #dailyDNKadventure by posting a photo or video of what you are doing to stay adventurous and healthy during this time. Make sure to use the hashtag #dailyDNKAdventure and tag DNK Presents on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be considered to win some prizes like one of our new Buffs (neckware) and some sweet DNK Presents stickers. We will be picking our favorite photos and videos and will be selecting winners randomly!
Remember when going outdoors during this time make sure to go to an area close to home, it’s best not to try a completely new trail in a new park, always tell someone where you are going if you are going alone, do not go out if you are feeling sick, stay a safe distance away from people if you see others out on the trails, avoid any unnecessary risk and have fun out there!
Mountain Biker Tips
P.S. Here is a note from Kate and specifically for all the mountain bikers.
– Ride only if you don’t have symptoms
– Ride only with members of your household
– Keep a distance of 6 feet between other riders and while greeting or passing others on the trail
– Ride close to home to avoid spreading the virus
– Ride safely, don’t try any new jumps or drops – avoid any hospital trips
– Wash your hands when you come back home
Stay stoked, be safe and remain healthy!
We could all use a good laugh right now, if you haven’t seen our latest video on Leave No Trace, check it out here!
Turns out being pregnant is an adventure all of it’s own, check out what adventures I was able to withstand during my pregnancy.
Baby Nolan is coming in less than a month and I wanted to take time to reflect and share my experience being pregnant while continuing to guide trips, run a business and live adventurously!
This is our first child so everything is new as Kate and I start to grow our family, and that starts from the very beginning. We chose to get our donor from a sperm bank and worked with the Midwest Fertility Specialists in Carmel, IN. I think I learned more about sperm, my vagina, and the women’s body in general more in those months than I ever have, it was a bit overwhelming but also so fascinating! The fact that we can grow a human in our bodies is something so incredibly amazing and Kate and I are so grateful to be able to experience this process together.
I broke down my pregnancy experience based on some of the adventures and trips I guided below. I hope if you’re a mom or want to start a family it can give you some insight on how to start or continue to live adventurously while pregnant. Of course every woman, every pregnancy, every day is different, I would love to know your thoughts in the comments about your pregnancy journey!
Recreating in the First Trimester
Looking back I think mine was pretty typical compared to other stories I’ve read. My energy levels were pretty low, I had nausea, I had to wake up to pee EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. During this time though I was teaching about 6 yoga classes a week, one was heated at 6am, luckily I never hurled during that class but it was close… I continued to ride my mountain bike, lead rides, coached clinics and led some backpacking trips as well.
One day Kate was driving and I thought I was going to throw up, she pulled into a CVS and got me these wrist bands for people who are traveling and have motion sickness. It looked like I was ready to do an 80’s work out video but it DID work! I felt better! This was probably around end of July or beginning of August so I probably looked a little ridiculous with my sweat wrist bands but totally worth it!
I led a private backpack trip for a group of friends that wanted to try it out. I was also training a new guide on this trip, it was August and the weather was hot and humid. It was still early in the pregnancy so we weren’t telling anyone yet even though I really wanted to tell these women, they were all high achieving ladies in the Indianapolis area, and most were moms.
We set up camp in the backcountry area, hiked to a beautiful lake, took a wonderful swim and made our way back. Two of the women were about to go on big adventures of their own and it was awesome to be together with them before the next big transition in their life, and little did they know I was embarking on one of my own.
I remember on this trip I knew I was dehydrated because I didn’t have to wake up and pee in the night. You have to drink way more water while your pregnant and since we hiked all day, it was hot, etc. I didn’t have enough, so I do remember thinking when recreating to make sure I’m drinking plenty of water, and of course it’s always good to drink plenty of water in general.
More Adventures in the Second Trimester
For me this started in September and went into December. Probably about week 15 for me I noticed I felt better, I didn’t have to eat saltine crackers and preggie pop drops to soothe my stomach. I did get some energy back but this was also a big transition time for Kate and I so I feel like I was still a little tired. We sold our house in Broad Ripple, moved into a rental in Brown County and had most of our stuff in a storage unit there. We also had a sold-out women’s mountain bike camp with our sister company Campside Sessions in Brown County in September and another in October in Virginia so we did not slow down to say the least.
I felt good but I was definitely being more cautious as a rider, Kate many times thought I was not being cautious enough! I listened to my body and when I felt good and confident I went for it.
One event we did was at the Brown County EPIC, a huge mountain bike festival at Brown County State Park, Kate and I teach a free mini clinic for those wanting to ride Hobbs Hollow, the first downhill flow trail in the park. The next day we did a long ride out to Crooked Creek and back. It’s a long ride in general and they open up more trails in the park and in Hoosier National Forest during this event and I remember being so tired, I had to drink SO much water again. I finished but I could tell that the baby was taking up some of my energy for sure!
We had another sold-out Campside Sessions mountain bike camp at the middle/end of October. I was definitely more cautious on my rides at this time, getting to coach while pregnant was super fun though. This camp was in Stokesville, VA which was so beautiful, it has some great rocky, rooty terrain with some steep inclines and really awesome descents. I did get tired more quickly on the ride with the coaches but still had some fun and even let myself get a little bit of air when I was super comfortable. We had a great time and I think it was inspiring for the women to see me out there getting after it too!
Right after this was about the time I needed to start unbuttoning my bike shorts as my rides would go longer! Since I mountain bike I almost always wear a shammy with baggy mountain bike shorts on top. I heard that bibs would be more comfortable for me but I ended up buying some cheap bigger padded shorts that were on sale and was able to ride through with most of my regular shorts through trimester two.
After October I then got to lead with my wife and another one of our guides, Candice Baggett an amazing women’s backpacking trip in the Big South Fork National Recreation Area in November. It was pretty cool since over the summer the last time Candice and I did the trip to scope it out I had just gotten inseminated, but it was too early to know if it had worked. Here I was now 20 weeks into pregnancy on the same trail with a bunch of rad women, it was awesome! I felt great and at that time if you didn’t know me it might have just looked like I had too much ice cream LOL! Although I was starting to realize the extreme lack of pregnancy or maternity clothes for hiking, backpacking, or outdoor adventurous women in general! I could have worn my other pants with snaps but over time the belly bands would get annoying to me and almost all my pants I really liked had snaps so I couldn’t use the maternity waste bands that go into buttons.
Over all the second trimester was great, I can see why it’s usually considered the “favorite”. After feeling nauseous, tired, waking up to pee in the night, and extremely painful breasts and nipples, the second trimester was a breath of fresh air!
Living Adventurously throughout the Third Trimester
For me this started at the end of December, what a ride it had been so far! Kate and I closed on our new home in Nashville, IN the weekend before Christmas. We were officially Brown County residents, the same place we had gotten married just 3 ½ years ago and about to expect our newest addition to the family. After our last big trip of 2018 backpacking it was nice to have some family time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, this also gave us some time to move in and get settled. Although I think we’ll be settling in for a while, seems like there is always something to work on with a new house!
Our Indiana winter was not that forgiving this year. We as well as most of the rest of the country experienced the polar vortex with the extreme negative temps. The one thing I had going for me was that my body temperature was higher so that was been nice to be able to walk outside and feel good even with the colder temperatures!
I definitely started taking it a little easier in the winter months, naturally as our bodies should. DNK Presents always lead free monthly hikes and bike rides in and around Central Indiana, this program is also growing with our Ambassadors expanding throughout the U.S. and Canada. Kate led a New Year’s bike ride in Brown County State Park and it was great. We had the perfect snow weather for riding, we did the ride over the weekend so it was during the day and we all loved it. I was unsure how I would feel about riding in the snow – it can be very slippery but when I got out there I felt confident and comfortable so I just kept going.
We led our first Wild Women’s Hike of the year at the Stone Head Conservancy, and we had an awesome turn out. We focused the hike on new goals and aspirations for the year and many people had really inspiring goals to share, one woman had been diagnosed with cancer 6 months prior and opted to get outdoors instead of taking treatment and was doing great, another woman had lost 80 lbs. after suddenly losing her brother the year before, the exercise she started doing was hiking. I shared that my goal was to have a healthy, happy baby.
As far as my body since the weather was colder I was not doing as much longer outdoor activities so I still felt really good as my belly was growing and growing. The peeing in the night started up again and my breasts we sore again but it seemed not as bad as the first trimester maybe because I was used to it more now?
Usually this time of year Kate and I get to play out West or like last year I was in Guatemala leading a yoga retreat so this year I knew I wasn’t going to get a taste of any warm weather since I was in the “no fly” zone now. With our move it also didn’t work that we take a trip before I went into my third trimester too. Kate did head out West to Sedona, AZ for our annual women’s mountain bike camp and then stayed the following weekend to coach for Ryan Leech at the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. Since I had had a healthy pregnancy and after discussing it with our Midwife we were all comfortable with her leaving for almost 2 weeks as I was in the 35-37 weeks of pregnancy!
The weekend she got back we had our baby shower which was super fun. At 37 weeks and 5 days I went on Kate’s women’s bike ride in Brown County State Park, I wasn’t sure again how I would feel but again I started riding and felt really good with my knees hitting my basketball sized belly as we went up and down the hills of Brown! We rode the North Gate Connector and North Tower, most of the other trails were closed due to rain and mud. We went on about a 6.5 miles and had an absolute blast, we were all tired but felt good taking a nice ride after a long winter! Now I will say during the ride I felt good, the next day I was teaching a yoga class and giving a Thai massage and I was sore! My sacroiliac (SI Joint) was really sore but after a day of stretching it and exercises I felt much better. I may have slightly over done it but it was worth it, you can’t beat getting out early spring when the weather was nearly 70!
During the third trimester of bike riding I will say at this point I had to move on to my GORE WEAR bike shorts, they were the only pair I had with an elastic waste with build in shorts that I loved! I wore a belly band on this ride because the shirt I wore wasn’t quite long enough for the the big baby belly. It also kept me warmer but I will say half way through the ride I took it off!
I’m officially over 38 weeks now so I have a full term baby inside me, we had a final ultrasound to confirm head was down, fluids, placenta, etc. and yes all systems are go! The ultra sound tech said she estimated about 7 lbs. 4oz. this could be off by 7 oz. either way but yes that’s a nice sized baby in there!
We had another 70 degree day and Kate and I got out to hike a beautiful trail where our March Wild Women’s Hike is located, Browning Mountain, it’s at 928 ft. which is pretty mountainous for Indiana! It’s a steep incline, you go up about 400 ft. of elevation in less than a mile but the view and scenery is totally worth it.
The Next Big Adventure – Preparing to Meet Our Baby!
These final weeks we’ve been preparing for our home birth! We’ve got packets of birth kits for our Midwife and her assistance, the Aqua Doula is set up close to our laundry room, we’ve got just about everything we need for our new baby bundle to arrive so soon!
You can tell from reading this that I mention my wife Kate a lot. I can’t imagine going through this without her or having someone to help with the hard days. I am SO lucky to have such a great partner in my life, we are so excited and ready for this next big adventure in our lives.
This week I’ll be at 39 weeks so I’m wrapping up my adventures for this blog now in case baby arrives, but I will update afterwards for sure. I wanted to wait as long as possible so I could share my entire adventure experience while being pregnant. I really have enjoyed carrying a child, I’m so grateful Kate and I get to bring in a new wonderful life into this world and share our love of adventure and the outdoors with them.
Meet our 2019 summer Adventure Guide Intern Abbie Downes! Read below to learn how outdoor challenges and adventures has impacted and changed her life. We are so excited to have Abbie join the DNK Presents team this year!
What is your name, where do you live. What do you do for a living?
My name is Abbie and I currently live in Bloomington, Indiana! I grew up in Indianapolis, so my whole life has been spent in Indiana discovering what the Midwest has to offer.
Currently, I spend my days as a student at Indiana University studying Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Human Ecology. I left IUPUI in 2017 to move my life an hour away so that I could study the outdoors and how to encourage people to reap the benefits of the natural world. I hope to use my degree in outdoor recreation and passion for lifestyle wellness to expose people to a simpler, more meaningful life.
How has the outdoors impacted your life? Why do you believe it can do the same for others?
The outdoors has given me a space to center, reset, and gain perspective. Looking to the metaphors supplied by taking a closer look at nature has always made me feel a little more grounded and optimistic. For example, understanding that we are creatures of the earth and work in cycles just like the plants that thrive in summer and are dormant in the winter. Nature has taught me to be more gentle with myself as we go through our own seasons too. I want to share this with others because I believe we all have that innate connection to nature that needs to be nurtured. A brief step outside can alter the entire course of your day as it restores attention and gives the space to find perspective.
Could you share a story about the outdoors that has taught you something about yourself?
I was involved in a program called CORE (Conservation Outdoor Recreation Education) at IU in the spring of 2018. It was an intense program that I did not feel prepared for at all that focused on all types of outdoor recreation and leadership training. I was the girl that enjoyed sitting outside and observing my surroundings, not the adrenaline junkie ready for anything. However, it felt like a challenge I needed to face.
One of the learning components was focused on rappelling and climbing. I was definitely most fearful about this trip and imagined myself becoming paralyzed in fear at the top. We travelled to Southern Illinois to Giant City State Park and prepared to rappel the next day. To my surprise, I volunteered to be one of the first groups to go down. Once at the edge, my instructor guided my movements and I put all of my trust in him, myself, and my gear. I slowly started moving my feet down the rock and figured out the coordination involved with the ropes and how to position myself. My mind was so focused on the technique that I wasn’t even thinking about where my body was in space. My feet made it to the ground and my heart was racing.
That night I kept thinking about how I didn’t give myself the time to overthink and allowed my body to perform. I later realized how many things that I have told myself to be afraid of, ultimately giving into the fear and overthinking. Who knows how long it would have taken me to come to this conclusion if it weren’t for this opportunity to learn it on the side of a rock wall. About a year later, I still think about that and try to intervene in those thought patterns when they come up and question whether they serve me or not.
What is your first significant memory of the outdoors or nature in some way?
When I think back to my childhood, I don’t remember having a substantial passion for the outdoors until I was in high school. This was the time that I began daydreaming about mountains, traveling, and how the Pacific Northwest was obviously the only place that I would be happy (spoiler: wherever you go, there you are). Once I graduated high school, I took a trip to Bozeman, Montana to visit a friend. While we didn’t get up to anything too adventurous, I experienced altitude for the first time and cried when I saw Bridger Bowl from the window of the passenger seat. It felt like I was home and that was my signal to keep pushing on with my interest in the outdoors, wherever that led me.
Why do you feel it is important in today’s society to get outdoors and disconnect from technology?
From what I have gathered from friends, strangers, and everyone in-between, technology has a hold on us that we aren’t necessarily comfortable with. However, it has become so engrained and second nature that it can feel almost impossible to distance ourselves from it. It’s a great tool, if we use it correctly and aren’t slaves to it. The outdoors is the perfect place to leave it behind, spend time looking up at the world around us, and connect with our deeper selves or the people joining us. Technology has given us a mindless, constant distraction we can retreat to any time we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts. Finding peace, being mindful, and working through our issues is so much easier when we create the space for our inner wisdom to shine through. We hold our truth and the outdoors assists those truths with coming to the surface when we are getting back to the natural connection we all have with the earth.
What is your favorite outdoor gear?
One of my biggest comforts during CORE was my pair of down booties. A few people had these in the beginning and I thought they were incredibly silly and a waste of space. I accept that I was wrong. By the time expedition came around, I grabbed a pair and never looked back. Everyone knows the joy of putting on those fresh socks at the bottom of your sleeping bag at bedtime, but it’s worth experiencing the added delight of slipping into down booties. Treat your feet, they’ve gotten you everywhere you’ve been.
Does unisex or women’s specific gear make a difference for you?
I don’t have too much of a preference, although I usually like men’s gear color options more than women’s. A lot of reviews I’ve read mention how women’s gear color choices are always bright pink, purple, etc. and many women would prefer gender neutral colors like green, blue, and orange. I typically stick with women’s gear, assuming that it is built better for my body. There are times that I look into other options when the women’s gear isn’t fitting my needs.
Why do you feel it’s important to get more women specifically outdoors?
The beauty of the outdoors is that it can benefit anyone that takes the time to set foot in it. The outdoor industry is heavily comprised of male athletes, guides, and adventurers. Women absolutely have a place in the outdoors as well, but may feel intimidated to try new activities that are typically dominated by males. We feel like we belong when we see people we identify with doing those things. This goes for race, gender, economic standing, and more. By creating spaces where women are celebrated and events are made for them, we take away just one more barrier that may keep them inside. It is vital that as people in the outdoor industry, we make an effort to be as inclusive as possible so that we can share the gifts of the natural world with all. The outdoors won’t turn anyone away and we shouldn’t either.
Don’t let the cold weather stop you from getting outdoors.
Since our company is based in Indiana many times people ask us what we do in the winter, “we don’t stop!”, we say with a smile. The winter season is one of our favorite times to recreate! Your outdoor activities don’t have to end when the weather gets cold, here are some reasons to keep your outdoor activity going all year long.
1. Fewer people
Enjoy going to some of the most beautiful places in the winter when the crowds are lower, you can see a whole new side of the trail with the winter snow or ice and by enjoying some solitude with fewer people there.
2. No bugs
Leave the bug spray at home, you won’t need it this time of year! In the Midwest we know our summers can get pretty muggy, and it’s only a matter of time until we get that first bug bite or see other creepy crawlers like spiders and ticks. Enjoy this time of year when the bugs are gone!
3. New winter sports
There are so many fun outdoor sports to try in the winter like cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, ice skating. If you’re not into trying out a new winter sport you can always go sledding down your favorite hill and of course you can hike and mountain bike all year round too!
4. Feel the burn
In many cases you actually burn more calories in the colder winter weather rather than in warm or hot weather. Our bodies are working harder to keep warm increasing the metabolic rate and if there’s snow on the ground that acts as more resistance whether your hiking, trail running or mountain biking. So get out there and feel the burn! Don’t forgot to hydrate just as much if not more in the winter and if you’ve been sweating get indoors quickly after working out to avoid hypothermia.
5. The snow is fun
From snowball fights to making snowmen or snowladies, what’s not to love about playing with the white stuff! The picture below is us with our homemade snowman and snow bike while we took a break on our last winter mountain bike ride in Brown County State Park.
We hope you enjoyed our list of why we love winter recreating, you can check out what winter events we have coming up on our website here: https://dnkpresents.com/events/.
Now we would love to hear from you! Why do you love getting outdoors in the winter months? Let us know in the comments and share where your next winter adventure is headed!
DNK Presents just launched the first Adventure Ambassador Program for people like you who are interested in building a community for more women, or gender neutral individuals to get outside and be empowered by the great outdoors. There is a vast gender gap of men vs. women but fortunately that gap is decreasing because of more organizations that are providing a safe space for women to feel comfortable and confidence outside. Ambassadors will build the outdoor community in their area by leading free open to the public hikes, bike rides, rock climbing, paddling, yoga or meditation experiences, and sharing events, and posts via social media. If you’re interested in building the outdoor movement in your area please contact us!
Welcome to the DNK Presents Ambassador Team Lauren Fields! Read on to learn about Lauren!
Who are you?
What is your name, where do you live. What do you do for a living?
My name is Lauren Fields and I live in northeast Indy. More specifically, it’s a plot of woods along Mud Creek between Castleton, Geist, and Fishers.
I work as a Content Marketer and do some light graphic design and photography. And I get to do it all from home, in the woods! I specifically work in the food industry, so most of my writing and photography are for recipes and cooking tips. I’m also freelancing to expand the types of projects I get to work on.
How has the outdoors impacted your life? Why do you believe it can do the same for others?
I’m my happiest self when I’m outside. Even more if I’ve just done something that makes me feel badass. I like to set adventure goals each year to keep adding to my experiences and expand what I’m comfortable with.
Being outside is like therapy for me. The fresh air helps me remember to breathe more deeply. It’s a reminder that I’m part of something bigger than myself, which helps pull me out of my head and evaluate my concerns more clearly. Being outside helps me remember that it’s just as important as an adult to allow freedom to play and daydream. I think a lot of my anxiety and stress comes at times that I’ve neglected my need to step away from to-do lists and just explore.
I think it’s common to feel overwhelmed with what is demanded of us every day. To spend time outside, especially with others, is a way of maintaining sense of self and direction among everything that’s going on.
Could you share a story about the outdoors that has taught you something about yourself?
I’ve always wanted to do a solo backpacking trip, which I finally did this summer. I went to a place I’m familiar with – Red River Gorge – to ease my nerves of going alone. I had a terrible run-in with a forest officer on Courthouse Rock who saw my gear and thought I was camping there. I was only taking in the view before continuing on the trail to set up camp in the woods, at a legal camping spot. His verbal aggression and the fact that he wrote me a warning for something I wasn’t even doing really just had me frazzled. My solo backpacking was off to a terrible start. But I was encouraged by some friendly hikers who I made quick friends with, and their understanding helped me pull myself together.
By the time I was setting up camp it started raining. I was planning on trying my new wood burning stove, but I didn’t have any kind of fire starter and all the wood was wet. I was so hungry and my clothes were all wet, and all I wanted to do was give up and go to Miguel’s for some pizza. My irrational nighttime fears were setting in, and since I was having no luck with the fire, I walked back towards the trail to see what was making the noises I was hearing. I found some camp neighbors who were starting a fire, and when I asked what their secret was, they generously shared their fire starter with me. So I was able to cook my minute rice with shiitake mushrooms and had a warm meal after all.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of distant thunder around 5 am. I was planning to be back on the trail by 7 to beat the storm (which I was expecting thanks to the weather app), but it sounded like it was coming much sooner than expected. I didn’t like the thought of waiting it out in my tent, and I also didn’t like the though of it pouring down before I finished packing up. So I packed up camp faster and sloppier than ever. It was still dark and I was having a hard time finding my way back to the trail, but when I finally did, it felt like a major victory. But since it was still dark I was concerned about spooking a bear. It wasn’t until the sun started to rise over the gorge and the clouds had moved onward that I was able to shift my thoughts from fear of the unknown and instead to the excitement of starting a day this way.
I learned that my inner voice can be the most irrational when I feel unprepared. I may be quick to feel defeated, but to accept defeat means I would be missing out on the whole experience. Each moment where I felt defeated was followed by something up-lifting. I remember this story when I’m feeling defeated because it reminds me to shift my perspective and look for the encouragement.
What is your first significant memory of the outdoors or nature in some way?
I grew up camping with my family and our friends, 5 families total. I remember being young and playing in massive puddles on multiple camping trips. I didn’t recognize this importance until recently, but to me now, this represents not giving up on the adventure. Our parents could’ve probably scheduled a rain check each of those times. But maybe it’s more realistic to accept that conditions will only rarely be “perfect” and then we’ll make the most of it.
Why do you feel it is important in today’s society to get outdoors and disconnect from technology?
We live in a world where there is always something demanding our attention. And if we’re not deliberate about what receives our attention, we can easily be robbed of our time. I think this is why it’s so important to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. Because nothing is demanded of us outside.
If we open our attention to the way the moss grows on the rocks and the trees, or the way the birds are flying overhead – we are allowing ourselves to take part in the physical world around us.
What is your favorite outdoor gear?
I mainly kayak, backpack, and I’m new with climbing. Buying specific gear for all 3 activities would cost more than I can spend. So my favorite gear is anything versatile that I can apply to different activities.
For instance, I use my backpacking pack to carry all of my climb gear to the crag. I really like the nice rope bags that are minimal and specific to climbing gear, but my pack is more than enough.
Also though, for one specific splurge, I really love Ice Mule coolers. I have the roll-top 15 Liter which floats behind my kayak or is carried by my significant other when we climb or hike (while I’m carrying the pack). Because I love to pack fresh food, and in the summer, a good trail cooler is where it’s at!
Does unisex or women’s specific gear make a difference for you?
I’m not sure if I have a preference. I think it depends on the item and availability. When I was trying on packs, I only tried on the ones built for women. If none of those had felt right, I would’ve tried a unisex pack. But with my sleeping bags, I bought unisex.
Why do you feels it’s important to get more women specifically outdoors?
I think it’s important for women to be among women. So we can help lift each other up and share our unique experiences together. Some of the burdens that we carry as women feel lighter when they are understood with no explanation. I mean, we have to worry about having enough menstrual products while climbing a mountain! If we have a group of women together, chances are one of us has an extra tampon. That alone is a benefit of getting more women together.
But deeper than that, I think there’s a certain level of empowerment when women are taking on something that has been male dominated for so long. It’s our way of saying We’re Here Too.
Learn more about the Red River Gorge and things to do here: http://www.redrivergorge.com/
We are so excited to have Lauren as a DNK Presents Adventure Ambassador, we hope to see you on an adventure this year!
Have your period with confidence on your next adventure and see what feminine hygiene products are best for you and your body.
It was my first real backpacking experience with my wonderful partner but not yet wife at the time Kate, we made plans to hike in Deam Wilderness, part of Hoosier National Forest in Central Indiana. The first night we drove down after work and car camped next to the trailhead so we could get an early start on the backcountry trail the next morning. We set up camp, had some veggie dogs over the fire and lay down under the star filled sky. Nestled in our tent we fell asleep easily.
The next morning we woke to the sounds of the birds chirping, gently waking us from a peaceful slumber in the forest. I quickly realized their was something else that was waking me up, I let out a sigh as I came to the realization that my period had decided it was real comfortable in the woods too– funny how it always seems so show up at those special moments in life! Luckily I had a stash of tampons in the car so I was prepared, until I wasn’t prepared. We started out on the hike and I ended up forgetting that tampon stash. Realizing this on our hike to the backcountry where there was no sign of any women’s hygiene products for miles and miles, what was I to do? Sit on a moss patch for the rest of the weekend?
That is when Kate said, “Why don’t you use the Diva Cup”?
Diva Cup? At first I thought she was referring to a Diana Ross megaphone. “What the hell is a Diva Cup?”
I was astonished at this product Kate was describing but had NEVER heard anything like it before, probably because women don’t talk about feminine hygiene products since it’s something still considered so taboo.
I ended up surviving my period in the woods and went home to our natural food store in town and bought my first Diva Cup and honestly my first few experiences were far from life-changing. We only have one bathroom in our Broad Ripple bungalow and Kate more than once had to run outside to pee in the backyard because I couldn’t get the damn thing out of my vagina. Feeling defeated I was leaning one foot on top of the toilet the other bending down trying to get a good angle; I had flashes of blood splattering across our white bathroom and shower curtain, or even worse, going to an urgent care and having a stranger digging the Cup out of me! Needless to say for me anyways there was definitely a learning curve. My advice; don’t be afraid to dig deep, the yogi squat position is your friend, and breathe. Also, there are different brands that are for different shapes because as we know ladies we are not all the same shape and size so please shop around when looking for your next moon cycle product. I’ve listed some more products below for you to check out.
One of the things I love about Diva cups or any type of period cup is how much waste I am now eliminating. According to the Diva Cup website the average woman uses 300-420 tampons/pads per year and spends $100-$225 on these items. Plus many tampons and pads contain harmful ingredients such as surfactants, adhesives and more, if this is harmful to the environment then why the hell are we putting these things inside our bodies?! Not to mention toxic shock syndrome.
Another super benefit I love is that now that I use the Cup my cycle is shorter, yes ladies it’s real and it happens to many women who switch from tampons to a Cup. Why? When we are shoving a condensed cotton tube into our vagina how exactly is that allowing our period to “flow”? Easy answer, it’s not, it is stopping the flow and not allowing our cycle to naturally release. When you use cups or other similar products your period literally flows out of you. I went from a 6-7 day period to a 3-4 day and many of my friends have also experienced this! Can we say life change?!
Despite the disruption that can happen when Aunt Flow decides to show up remember ladies having your period means we are healthy women, so let’s make the most of this time. Check out the links I have below on some of my favorite non-tampon moon cycle products that are more environmentally friendly, healthy, and safe. Let us know what your favorites are!
Diva Cup – http://divacup.com/
Me Luna – https://meluna-usa.com/
Ruby Cup – http://rubycup.com/
*There are several more, these are a few that me or my friends have used!
Other products we love:
Go with the flow – https://animosa.co/go-with-your-flow-1/
What is your favorite period product? Why do you love it so much? Let us know so we can share with our outdoor women’s community!
Note: I am not an OBGYN nor do I play one on this blog. I am a wilderness guide, owner of an adventure company, DNK Presents, and avid outdoors-woman. I have tried a lot of period products in and outside the backcountry on many adventures near and far. I hope this article helps you whether you are taking your first outdoor adventure and have always wondered about what to do when your period comes or simply wanting to try and find other options for your feminine hygiene needs. #KeepBleeding #PeriodProducts
I recently came across Out There Adventures and Elyse Rylander through the article published in Outside magazine a couple of weeks ago. I was so excited to learn that this company existed I contacted Elyse through the Out There Adventures website and asked if I could interview and share her story with our DNK Presents community. Being a lesbian owned adventure company in the midwest Kate and I love that Elyse’s business focuses on empowering LGBTQ youth through the great outdoors. Elyse also started the first LGBTQ Outdoor Adventure Summit, what is this you ask, you’ll have to read and find out! I hope you enjoy this interview and learning more about Elyse and her business.
- What benefits did the outdoors have on your life as you were growing up in the midwest and discovering your sexual identity?
The outdoors saved me. I was incredibly fortunate to have parents who placed emphasis on connecting with nature and spending time outside. From my first canoe trip down the Wisconsin River at four weeks old to family camping trips to weekends at the ski hill just north of our house, time outside instilled in me a deep connection to myself, my family and my place in the grander scheme of things.
This was furthered by my summers spent as a canoe and kayak instructor at Rutabaga Paddlesports Shop in Madison in high school and college. Rutabaga served as the launching point for my career in the outdoor industry, and also connected me to a number of women who have profoundly changed my life, including Mo Kappes who was my boss at Rutabaga and also at Adventure Learning Programs at the University of Wisconsin. I met Mo right as I began exploring my queer identity and she was the first openly gay woman I had the opportunity to regularly interact with. Mo became a mentor of mine (still is) and is the Chair of my Board of Directors.
As I have gotten older I return to wild places to find solace and to re-center myself. It is the one place in which I am able to be myself wholly and be freed of socialized constraints.
- What inspired you to take the big plunge to start your own outdoor LGBTQ business?
I always joke that I would up on this path as the result of a mix of youthful enthusiasm and ego, and if I’m honest a bit of naiveté of what it would actually entail to grow a non-profit…
But at its core I just wanted a place for other queer young people to be able to have access to the same opportunities to cultivate community and connection that I was given. I am not much of a believer in meritocracy and instead believe that privilege and opportunity are products of luck. We are lucky to be born of a particular race, class, region, etc. which breeds opportunity, and even down to our genetic makeup we are nothing but a roll of the die. From this perspective I believe deeply that when you are lucky enough to be given the tools to succeed it is imperative to take that luck and those privileges and create opportunities that share your luck and success with others.
So, my motivation has always been centered on the desire to create more opportunities for the next generation of queer individuals to connect with new experiences, create community and most importantly deepen their sense of self.
- What has been the biggest surprise as you have grown your business?
I am not a patient person, so those who know me would not be surprised to hear me say that the slow growth has been the biggest surprise, and also biggest frustration. I very much thought if we built it they would come in mass, but that has not at all been the case. I knew we’d experience certain outreach barriers, but seven years ago I did not fully understand the depth and breadth of these issues.
As a result, everything I have done since OTA’s inception has been an outreach mechanism. From the expansion of our programming regions to program partnerships to launching LGBTQ adult programs to organizing the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, it has all been focused on trying to increase the number of conduits in to the industry and to these outdoor recreation and conservation opportunities for queer young people.
- Could you share a story of a participant of Out There Adventures and how the experience changed their life?
Over my years in the industry I have thus far amassed something like 100 field weeks and worked with thousands of people from an immense array of ages, backgrounds and abilities. So, after extensive research I have concluded that queer young people are the most fantastic demographic to work with. I have never seen with such consistency a group that is SO kind, compassionate, understanding and caring. It has been a privilege to work with every queer young person that has come through our program, and over the years I have had the ability to work closely with one of our program participants in particular.
Zander McRae came on OTA’s first ever expedition in 2015. We spent eight days sea kayaking and camping in the Central Salish Sea when Zander was 17. Because it was a small group we were able to do a lot of one-on-one connecting with the participants. After the trip he remained enthusiastically engaged in our programs and last summer we teamed up with NOLS to get Zander to Australia for a three week sea kayaking course (his first time traveling abroad as well).
The trip helped Zander find the confidence to re-route his life plan and he is now embarking on the path to become an outdoor educator and will be beginning a semester outdoor educator course with Outward Bound this fall.
- What is your favorite trip to guide and why?
I am a paddler through and through, so any trip on the water is preferred over land-based trips. My favorite OTA trips to instruct are our 5-8 day San Juan Islands sea kayaking trips. My favorite trips ever guided are multi-day sea kayaking trips in the Prince William Sound of AK.
- If you could go on your own adventure anywhere, where would it be?
New Zealand, hands down. I’ve heard the Milford Sound is very similar to the Price William Sound, and I figure I need to interrogate this notion for myself.
- What is next for Out There Adventures?
Oofta! That’s a big question! So much is next for OTA. We’re expanding our program operating areas and hope to be across the country by 2020. We’re growing our adult programs and our program partnerships to offer more and more ways to get OUT there, and eventually I’d love to be able to bring a seasonal offering to Alaska since a part of my heart will always be there.
- Tell us more about starting the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit.
Turns out that like starting a non-profit launching a conference is pretty darn exhausting, but also immensely exhilarating!
The idea for the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit came from attending and supporting other identity-specific events in 2017 such as the Women’s Outdoor Summit for Empowerment and PGM ONE. It made a lot of sense to offer a space focused on the issues more specific to queer identities as it relates to outdoor recreation and conservation.
The result wound up as nothing sort of astonishing. We would have been happy with 40 people and a few sponsors. Instead we had to firmly cut off registration at 140 and worked with over a dozen sponsors including The North Face, The Wilderness Society and the National Park Service.
Since the event it has been most exciting to hear about the connections and partnerships that have been made as a result. I’m very much looking forward to offering this space again this year, and also to be able to expand our offerings as we continue to strive to meet the diverse array of interests and needs of the queer community.
I’m also excited to see the ways in which it is helping to change the industry. It’s hard to ignore hundreds of folks coming together around this idea of queer outdoor equity, and we need to keep pushing the industry until they become far better at representation and engagement of this demographic.
Elyse (she/her) has worn many hats in the outdoor industry and education worlds. Since 2006 she has taken thousands of youth and adults on outdoor adventures all over North America, and during these adventures the interrogation of equity, access and privilege played a central role. In 2011 Elyse began her journey as founder of OUT There Adventures, a 501(c)3 dedicated to further bridging the gap between the LGBTQ community and the natural world. Along this path, Elyse has worked tirelessly to reduce outdoor access barriers for all members of the LGBTQ community. This has resulted in dozens of publications, presentations, interviews, trainings and program partnerships aimed at increasing queer visibility and further complicating the narrative of who goes outside and how. Elyse’s work has appeared in places such as the Rutledge International Handbook of Outdoor Studies, in print and person at industry events such as Outdoor Retailer, and in March of 2018 Elyse was named a “Top Woman in Conservation and Environmental Justice” by ECODiversity Magazine. Elyse is also the co-organizer of the annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit. Outside of her work, Elyse is known for her sense of humor best conveyed through perfectly timed message GIFs, and in her [rare] free time she can be found paddling through the central Salish Sea.
From A Campside Sessions Participant…
“I am generally an outdoorsy person; the military has exposed me to many things like rappelling, survival skills, navigating, etc, and I feel confident in my skills. Despite this, there has been one thing I’ve been wanting to do for a while that I haven’t quite gotten up the courage for yet: a solo backpacking trip. I’ve had plenty of hesitations about this idea for a long time now, but when I think about it, every single one of the excuses I come up with can be overcome easily. The main thing holding me back has been fear, and watching the film (Live Adventurously) you made about your first adventure weekend for the four women, I was truly motivated to conquer that and try this thing that I’ve never done before, for the first time. I just really felt that you needed to know about the impact you had on me, since you were talking about wanting to expand your impact outside of Indiana- you already have! Additionally, the film was beautifully done and really portrayed the magnificence of each of the women; I can’t wait to see what you guys do next.
Working with the two of you (Danielle and Kate) Erin, Charlotte and Jenny was truly phenomenal. Each of you have such a presence. You are warm, encouraging, funny and solid leaders. Again, not only was I able to learn so much about mountain biking, but it was just so renewing to meet so many rad women doing really cool shit. Working with men all day, every day, can make you forget all of the powerful qualities that women bring to the table, and I am so endlessly grateful that I was able to witness all of them this weekend. Thank you so much for all you are doing.”
-Emily Wren Campside Sessions Mountain Bike Participant
Emily’s words truly moved Kate and I and we wanted to share what she wrote to us with all of you. Kate and I love what we do and we are truly grateful for all the adventures we get to guide, people we get to meet, and the beautiful places we get to travel to. Being an entrepreneur is hard, being a woman LGBT owned business, and starting an adventure company in Indiana (something that’s never been done before) is even harder.
I read an email from a fellow woman co-founder this week, Jen Gurecki of Coalition Snow, about her struggles as a woman founder. I completely related, and while I would love to stay it’s all fun and sunshine, it’s not, just like on an adventure some days things just don’t go right, the wind changes the weather picks up and it rains…hard and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to stop, you trudge through, carry on, and slowly the sun begins to peak through the trees. It’s on these trips or during these times of the week when things just don’t seem to work, we are tired, the to do list is never ending; but then the next day the sun comes out, we get an email from a participant saying that their experience with us changed their lives like the one from Emily above, we keep going, we keep moving, and we won’t ever stop.
That is the only reason why DNK Presents is still here – because of YOU. We have fallen, we have made mistakes, we have had set backs but that is when we get stronger, we rise up and we will never ever ever give up.
We hope you don’t either.
When you come on an adventure with us it will challenge you, it may be hard at times, it might even rain, but it also might just change your life. We hope that you leave feeling inspired, ignited and empowered to take on the world – however that looks for you.
Keep on adventuring,
Danielle & Kate
The Venture Out Project
The biggest surprise to me was how many folks have come on more than one trip. When I founded Venture Out I thought it’d be the kind of thing where people came on one trip, learned some skills and then went to backpack on their own. But what I found was that for so many folks, Venture Out was their only trans or queer community. In many cases our participants may have had friends online, but many had never hung out with, or even met, another trans person. People come back for a second, third, fourth or even fifth trip because they know that’ll it’ll be an opportunity not just to be outside, but to make friends and find community.
I found out about TVOP in 2015 when a friend posted something about it on my Facebook wall. Like “Hey look at what these queers in New England are doing”. I’m originally from New England, but was/still am living in Portland, OR. I immediately contacted Perry, the founder of TVOP, and asked I could lead a trip for him. We agreed on a week long backpacking trip that summer on The Long Trail in Vermont. There were three guides and two participants!
Six months later, he hired me on as his Office Manager and now I’m the Director of Operations. We also now fill our trips to capacity (and even have wait lists!)