Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center building worker Kayla Lipinski, 23, knows the discomfort of being a single woman on a hike. Lipinksi said she knows what it’s like to constantly watch for possible threats, even in the familiar terrain of Clear Creek. That’s why she believes her women’s hiking group provides a safe space for the women of Denton.
“Having this group allows us to get out and really enjoy nature together,” Lipinski said. “We support each other.”
Woman’s We Hike Wednesdays began in October 2021 when Lipinski and her former boss were looking for ways to involve more people in Clear Creek. After looking at other large backpacking groups, they noticed a trend of female-led encounters in North Texas. Soon after, Lipinski began leading her own guided hikes so the women of Denton could comfortably enjoy the outdoors.
“We wanted to have a safe and exclusive place for women to meet other like-minded women who also love hiking,” Lipinski said. “It’s something they can put on their calendars so they can look forward to seeing [Clear Creek] each month.”
Denton resident Sandra Sessions, 47, who went on her first Woman’s We Hike on April 6, thinks having such groups in her community makes women feel more connected with others . She said having this sense of familiarity with the attendees of these encounters can make women feel more secure and want to become more active in their interests.
“You may find that you have more camaraderie and feel more comfortable overall,” Sessions said. “Knowing that you’re not the only woman there really helps put you at ease no matter the size of the group.”
The women’s group meets on the first Wednesday of every month to hike different Clear Creek trails, with each event lasting from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the trails and weather conditions. On these hikes, Lipinski often shares his favorite facts and details about the nature center and its surroundings. She said that in addition to providing women with a safe space, Woman’s We Hike also allows group members to connect with each other about nature and its importance.
“Working here, I work with people like me who care about preserving spaces like this, so it’s really cool to meet other women in the community who are also interested in this,” said Lipinsky. “[Woman’s We Hike] gives me the chance to see others appreciate this awesome place where I am working for the first time.
Sharon Betty, project manager for the Elm Fork Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist, 68, believes the Woman’s We Hike group reflects Clear Creek’s overall mission to serve and meet the needs of its community. By having specialist groups like Woman’s We Hike, Betty believes the center is able to better connect with many people across Denton about their common natural environment. Betty said these connections are what can help strengthen bonds between members of a local community.
“It makes me so proud to have something like this offered in the Denton community,” Betty said. “It’s so fulfilling and satisfying to provide spaces for people to enjoy nature and to be able to teach it to others. I mean, where else could you get that kind of service in an environment as safe as Clear Creek? »
Several Clear Creek staff members hope that the center’s programs and groups can bring more attention to all that the center has to offer. By doing so, Clay Thurmond, project manager for the Elm Fork Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist, 69, thinks more people across Denton will join the nature center’s efforts to respect and admire the local land.
“We try to pass on that enthusiasm and knowledge to try to get people to like it,” Thurmond said. “Once they start liking it, they’ll start caring about protecting it.”
By directing Woman’s We Hike, Lipinski believes she can help other women learn that they can all belong in nature. As she continues to host such get-togethers, Lipinski hopes more women will feel comfortable participating outdoors and can grow to appreciate the uniqueness of Clear Creek and its community.
“I really wish more women could come visit me and feel safe here in nature,” Lipinski said. “They can have a space where they don’t have to always look over their shoulder and worry about something happening to them. They can feel safe with us and finally be able to experience the hidden gem that is Clear Creek.
The featured image: Woman’s We Hike participants walk on a trail at the Denton Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center on April 6, 2022. Photo by Jami Hitchcock