When Monserrat Matehuala went to college—and found the outdoor rec program—she fell in love with the outdoors. But something still made her feel reluctant. “When I started leading trips with the rec program, I felt like I needed to leave my identity as a woman of color at the door,” she says. Raised the oldest child of a single mom in North Carolina, she hadn’t felt the outdoors in the U.S were accessible before, and as much as she was growing to love the outdoors, she still felt hesitant about diving in. “I experienced many micro-aggressions and push back to the point where I questioned if the outdoors was a space for me,” Monserrat says. She kept on—eventually becoming an outdoor educator and climber. Which is why she’s excited to head up a new program with Women’s Wilderness that’s designed specifically to help black women, indigenous women and other women of color to feel at home outdoors, and ready to lead others there as well.
The program—called Trailblazers—involves seven sessions in Colorado from July through October, covering topics ranging from trail etiquette, filtering water and first aid to planning and leading a trip with others. “The program will be very holistic,” Monserrat says. “We’re not just covering technical skills, we’re actually focusing on knowing the land beyond just the trails—knowing its indigenous history and why that’s important, and also making sure they feel they’re able to facilitate a group. It’s different leading groups than going out by themselves, and I hope they can all step up to be in leadership roles.”
The entire course will be guided by an advisory council of members from Brown Girls Climb, Black Women’s Alliance and Native Women’s Wilderness. And, since the course is subsidized by sponsors—like Outdoor Research!—the cost is on a sliding scale to help keep it affordable.
The deadline for applications is July 1. Check out more information on the Women’s Wilderness page here.