When adventure calls, you go. When something motivates you, you get active. And when you find something you are stoked about, you share the experience with others! After all, stoke is better when shared with friends right?!
That is exactly what Sharron did when she started the Girls Who Hike LA (GWHLA) group. Not only did Sharron bring together local girls who share a love for hiking… she built a community of 3000+ amazing female hikers spread across the U.S.
Naturally, BE THE RAD is stoked about the GWHLA group and we were lucky enough to catch the founder, Sharron, in between her excursions to learn more about why she is so dang rad, why the group is bad ass and how we can get involved.
Interview with Sharron, Founder of GWHLA:
Tell us about yourself Sharron. Who you are, where you are from what you do.
I’m a SoCal native, born and raised in Orange County who moved to the Los Angeles County area when I was 23. I’m currently a full time insurance agent/full time GWHLA advocate. A lot of people think those couldn’t be more opposite occupations, but insurance is a LOT more intricate than what the average person sees! Always keeps me on my toes, just like GWHLA does on a daily basis.
What inspires you?
Not to sound cheesy, but the GWHLA members inspire me. I can always log onto GWHLA and tap into some adventure another member is having that day. We are all so supportive of each other and it’s such a welcoming environment, not to mention I’m always learning of new trails myself through the other girls! The group is borderline addicting… my desire to adventure on a daily basis has been ignited even further as a result of the other girls.
Tell us about GWHLA. When and why did you start it. What is your mission?
Girls Who Hike LA, or GWHLA for short, is a group of Los Angeles County-based female hikers. Our mission is to create a community a likeminded women who can connect, network, and discover together through our Southern California trails.
I started GWHLA because when I grew up, I was not really immersed in the hiking/camping world. My first camping trip was in my early 20’s. I loved the idea of getting out and exploring, yet I had no foundation/confidence to begin exploring and no girlfriends who were up for trying this out with me. When I moved to Los Angeles County, I finally began to venture off the fire roads, learn how to pack a day pack, get a little better at sensing directions and which plants to avoid on the trails… basic trail knowledge. However, I still had no girlfriends who wanted to do this with me! I started this group in January 2016 because I knew I wasn’t the only girl in this boat… I figured there had to be women out there in my community who either 1. were beginning hikers and simply needed a little extra guidance and support in order to hit the next level or 2. were experienced solo hikers and wanted to find other ladies to share their adventures with. GWHLA has actually blended these two types of hikers together through our events and closed Facebook group, and the empowerment between members has been beyond phenomenal.
How has it grown?
We have a little over 3,100 members at the moment. Every Facebook profile is prescreened by a team of moderators before they are allowed into the closed Facebook group. This assists in making sure no guys/fake profiles/spam makes their way into our online community. The very first Meetup, I made the mistake of selecting a location that didn’t have service anymore so I couldn’t reach anyone once I got to the trailhead early. I literally turned around with my dog and began to walk back to my car because I didn’t think any girls showed up… and wound up running into five girls who were looking for me in the process! Since then, our events have grown to 40+ girls and our September group Meetup had 65 spots, which sold out in 3 minutes flat.
What is your favorite trail?
In the U.S. – Watkins Glen State Park in Ithaca, New York. I felt like I was looking at a real-life portrait… especially in the wintertime.
In California – my personal “Laguna Loop” in Laguna Canyon (Orange County). Doesn’t come up on AllTrails but it’s about 6 miles, 1,300 ft. elevation. I used to take my little sister there all the time when I was in my late teens so it has memories attached.
In Los Angeles – Mount Lukens via Stone Canyon Trail. 8 miles out-and-back with a 4,100 elevation gain. Overgrown, tricky, narrow single track. Most opt to take the front/easier way, which makes for an empty trail with a killer training workout.
What is the best part about GWHLA?
Meeting girls from all over the county that I may have never had the opportunity to get to know!
What are your future plans for GWHLA?
I can’t say a lot at the moment as paperwork is processing 😉 I can tell you the following smaller things though.. We are currently establishing a volunteer sector that works with local nonprofits such as TreePeople and TrashFree Earth to assist in trail maintenance and cleanup in the area. We are also expanding into overnight/weekend/out of county trips. Our first backpacking trip was last weekend (led by a moderator in the group, Morgan Young), where she took 11 other girls through Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park.. some of the girls backpacking for the first time. We have a Big Bear trip planned and Channel Islands, Utah, and Yosemite trips in the works. We will eventually make it out to Havasupai, Big Sur, the TCT, the JMT… a girl can dream.
What’s one thing that is always in your travel bag and why?
Chapstick and Visine. Chapped lips are no bueno during hikes and dry eyes lead to headaches!
What does BE THE RAD mean to you?
To me, BE THE RAD means that giving back to the community is admirable and something that one should strive for. You WANT to donate your time to improve the dirt we walk on. You want to be that rad part of our community. I think GWHLA strives to be that “rad” through connecting each other, empowering each other, and giving back together to our Southern California trails.
What is a good hiking tip that you can give to our readers?
Download the trail maps on your phone ahead of time. Whether that be AllTrails for a hike or using the Offline option on Google Maps for a backbacking trip. You can complete a trail dozens of times and come back a year later to a totally different trail. Always good to have technology as a backup.
Who can readers contact or follow GWHLA?
Go to http://www.girlswhohikela.com or search @GirlsWhoHikeLA on Instagram. Both have links to our closed Facebook group.
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Remember to always BE THE RAD YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!