MEEKER | “I’m loving this!” Jill Dunbar said, leaning on her hiking poles during a break before the final push to the top of the China Wall trail in Meeker. The 3.4 mile hike (round-trip) is the equivalent of climbing 69 floors, according to Dunbar’s FitBit. Who needs skyscrapers, anyway? China Wall, a favorite local trail, promises spectacular views of Meeker and the White River Valley, especially as the area blazes to life with autumn color. A group of four women: Jill, this reporter, Herald Times editor Niki Turner and Jill’s dear friend Gwen, met Saturday, Oct. 1 to hike the trail. The conversation eddied around numerous topics—motherhood, jobs, families, weather, friendships, tales from high school, local wildlife, husbands (not to be confused with local wildlife), past adventures, recipes and Dunbar’s involvement with the group Hike Like A Woman (HLAW). HLAW, the inspiration for the group hike, is an online community founded by Wyoming resident Rebecca Walsh. Currently in its second year, the group has grown to include more than 18,000 women from all over the world, including Austria, South Africa and Estonia. Dunbar was recently chosen as one of 36 HLAW ambassadors, diverse women carefully selected by Walsh to inspire, educate and share their love of the outdoors. Although she originally submitted the application as a sort of “Hail Mary” and was shocked (and a bit terrified) when Walsh notified her of her appointment, Dunbar fills the role perfectly. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she is passionate about the outdoors and helping women remember how amazing they are. “There are so many expectations and responsibilities for women out there,” Dunbar said. “We really have to remember to take time for ourselves.” Between families, careers and the photoshopped perfection that bombards us everywhere, letting it all go for a few hours is an incredibly empowering experience and nature provides a beautiful escape from daily life. “Nature has no expectations,” Dunbar said. It doesn’t care if you put on mascara day or forgot to take the laundry out of the washer. It doesn’t expect you to feed it every three hours. It gives freely of its beauty and asks for nothing in return. It’s a safe place that allows women to recharge, reconnect and realize their full potential. In addition to the physical, mental and emotional benefits of getting outside, the HLAW group itself is a truly unique tribe of women. “We have gals in all ages and stages of life,” Dunbar said. In spite of myriad differences, it is a judgment-free zone. “Everyone supports each other. We’ve never met in person, but some of these ladies have become my closest friends.” Stories, conversations, inspiration and education flow freely on the active Facebook page and the group’s website (www.hikelikeawoman.net), as well as on Dunbar’s blog, lollygaggersblog.com, where she shares both adventures and misadventures, including her most recent hike with her 4-year-old grandson, Jackson, who details his rules for hiking in the most recent post, including “Always hike downhill. Going uphill is hard” and “There’s no crying in hiking, unless it’s Grammie.” To learn more about HLAW, visit their website, social media pages, or Dunbar’s blog.
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