Here at the National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education (NCOAE), we’re especially proud of our Women’s Wilderness Initiative, which enables women of nearly all ages to ditch the spouse, the kids, the job and the college coursework for a full seven days and — instead of all that — focus on themselves.
Notice we didn’t use the word “pamper.” As a matter of fact, the only pampering that goes on during these weeklong wilderness excursion is mental in nature. That’s because we take care of everything. By the time you show up for our North Carolina Women’s Wilderness Initiative course, we’ve already handled the logistics. The food is purchased, the meals are prepped, the course transport van is gassed, your gear is ready and the route is already vetted and selected.
Your role on a Women’s Wilderness Initiative is to unwind from your day-to-day tasks, focus on setting personal goals, develop additional leadership skills, and have fun backpacking in the great outdoors and river rafting with a group of like-minded women.
We’re firm believers that being in the backcountry allows for a freedom that can’t be found in an urban or suburban setting. Backpacking by its very nature sets a subtle pace and we only go were our feet can take us.
Things slow down tremendously when you’re on the trail, and this allows for quality time with yourself, establishing a sense of place, a connection with nature, reflection and gratitude, and an opportunity connect with other women. And the constant and tranquil flow of a river provides a great opportunity for release and goal setting.
Feel a little intimidated by the thought of forced marches and navigating monster rapids? Fear not. Our Women’s Wilderness Initiative is tailor made for women who are not regular backpackers and rafters. The trail is mostly flat and the river is very easy to navigate — no massive rapids to negotiate. What we’ll be doing is hiking about five miles a day for four days, and paddling down a calm river for the other three days.
We start things off by having the guide team confer with all of the women on the course to see where they are ‘at’ when it comes to outdoor skills, and we then allow each woman to choose their challenge individually. All the outdoor and technical skills needed are taught so that you (if you choose to do so) can navigate the backcountry independently.
Our activities include backcountry cooking, setting up camp, paddling the river, making heads or tails out of a topographical map, and learning other skills as challenges present themselves.
What a backcountry trip like this does is remove any tiny bit of self-doubt or intimation, leaving you with not too much that can hold you back. A trip like this also further confirms your strengths and helps you to release insecurities.
When we’re not hiking or rafting, you are involved in our flagship leadership curricula, practicing yoga, sharing stories, journaling, making art or just napping under the trees.
And if you’re worried you might not fit in because you’re too young or too old, consider this: We limit each trip to about eight women with two professionally trained guides. Our youngest participant last year was 20 years old and our oldest was 61. Most of our hiker/rafters are in their mid-30s.
As for equipment, we provide a complete pack list, and we have an online store stocked with great gear at even greater prices. Or you have the option to rent gear from our warehouse. Nobody wants you to go out and stare at a wall of hiking boot in an expensive boutique outdoor store.
If this sounds like a great way to get away for a week and charge your mental, physical, emotional and social batteries, please check out the North Carolina Women’s Wilderness Initiative course listing or call the NCOAE Office at (910) 399-8090 for more information.