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For the end of the year, I asked the Rugged Outdoors Women+ Write group to contemplate celebration. I've never been much of a celebrator, more likely to nod my head and just keep on working. It's so easy to get caught up in the American productivity mindset, always more to do, more to accomplish, more to make, create, sell-- and forget that we've already done so much.


Today and Everything That Came Before

by Christine Reed

Today I hiked Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. I celebrated the sunshine when the forecast had predicted grey skies. I celebrated the cool, gentle breeze and the fluffy, white, handspun cotton candy clouds. I celebrated getting to wear shorts in mid-December—a simple joy that I never take for granted. I celebrated the air touching my legs and the strength of my muscles pushing me skyward.

I celebrated every shaky step as I walked off a migraine with the help of a hydration push and some electrolyte tablets. I celebrated every confident step as the trail leveled off a bit during the second mile. I celebrated the trail workers that moved rocks, and painstakingly led thousands of hikers up this mountain. I celebrated the stunning views and the mild surprise of something so beautiful in a place with little reputation for such things. I celebrated the magic of this earth and this land and this life.

I celebrated another step in a many years long journey. I celebrated another mountain, another summit, another trail, another push. I celebrated being the person I have worked so hard to become. And now I celebrate the work that is yet to come.

Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman

Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail. 


Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

by Meaghan Martin

“Border - 2.6 mi” the wooden sign read. I hiked in the lead, two sets of footprints following along behind my own. My fiancé and my best friend chatted as they walked, and we wound our way up the narrow, dirt path. Ferns rose on either side of me, and then gave way to trees. 

I was quiet. I’d already hiked over 270 miles on the beautiful and rugged Long Trail, climbing along the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains. I’d been among the company of strangers who became friends, and friends who became family. And now my best friend and my fiancé were here to celebrate with me as I finished my first thru-hike.

“It’s not over ‘til it’s over” I’d whispered to myself under my breath that morning; a little pep talk as I rolled up my sleeping pad. The last thing I wanted to do was jinx myself, get cocky too close to the end, and then slip and break an ankle a few miles from Canada. 

The trees started to thin, and the climb was slowly leveling off. I didn’t check the map on my phone, but I felt somewhere deep inside my center that we were nearly to the end of the trail. The chatter behind me began to grate on my nerves. I needed to reflect on what was about to happen. 

“Guys, I think we’re close” I turned and said in a hushed whisper. They stopped talking and all that was left was the sound of our footfalls accompanied by the clicking of trekking poles and the rhythmical “whoosh-whoosh” of our hiking pants. 

When the monument and the Canadian border came into view, a flip book of scenes began to appear in my mind. I imagined it was something similar to what having your life flash before your eyes must be like. 

I remembered running my first 10k, and the feeling of elation that filled my heart until it felt like it could burst, as I crossed the finish line. Clapping from the crowd and shouts of congratulations from other finishers beside me just made me dizzier as I caught my breath. I wasn’t anything close to fast, but I’d finished the thing that had felt impossible when I’d started running five months earlier. 

I remembered walking across the stage at graduation a couple years later. I’d earned my Master’s degree, and the moment was marked by cheers from colleagues, friends, my own family, and even other peoples’ families. I’d never worked so hard for anything in my life as I did for that little piece of paper. 

And now, I crested the hill, passed the wooden “Long Trail Terminus” sign, and dropped my poles as I made my way down to the monument. When my hands touched it, I learned another iteration of what it meant to celebrate. Now, I was celebrating every second of my years on this earth. A lump formed in my throat, and all at once, I remembered some of the versions of myself I’d been.

I remembered being a child, and wishing death could take me, hoping beyond belief that I’d fall asleep and just never wake up. I remembered the ways I’d battled demons as a young adult, fighting for my life while simultaneously feeling like it wouldn’t matter if I gave up anyway. But now, standing at the monument, I realized just how much it all had mattered. Just how much I never would have gotten to see or do or live for if I’d stopped fighting. 

I realized that a celebration wasn’t only banners, balloons, and cheering crowds. It could also be found in the quiet relief present in a reunion with a loved one after time apart. It could be noticed in reflections on growth, and every time struggle led to success. That day, I celebrated much more than the completion of a thru-hike. I learned celebration could be found in a moment of still silence, on the border of Vermont and Canada, where even the wind forgot to breathe. I felt the universe click into place around me, like finding the final piece of the puzzle that I’d been working on for decades and had thought I’d lost. For the first time, I saw the whole picture. 

Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures


Celebrate (Dancing Shoes)

by Anne Whiting

This piece is an original song with music, available to listen on Youtube

Put those dancing shoes on your feet

Get yourself up out on the street

Kick real high (kick real high!), down real low (down real low)

Turn real fast (turn real fast!), twirl real slow (twirl real slow)

Don’t you think about how it appears

There’s no judgement who you are here

If it’s love that drives you

If it’s joy that fills you

If it’s peace that fuels you

If kindness compels you


I thought I had to have

A reason to rejoice

A rational to smile

A goal to lift my voice

But life is just too short

To frown away the day

Give me dancing shoes now

Make joy, make hope your mainstays

Turn it up


Party horns


And celebrate!

Every day I’m alive

That’s reason to rejoice

Got a few that know me

Who help me lift my voice

Gotta celebrate them

Thank the hearts and hands

Kill the fatted calf now

Set up, tune, strike up the band

Turn it up


Party horns


And celebrate!

Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne


2023 in Review: In a Series of Haikus

by Lauren Jones

what a year it was

bye bye twenty twenty three

gratitude maybe

we celebrate small

every little thing and yet

we don’t celebrate

at all, we can’t yet

nothing big, just smaller wins

deeper drive, our fuel

aspiring journey, yes

thrive in the waiting season

giving up yet, no

we did, we were, joy

four miracles, one heartbeat

In one year, grief, sorrow, glimpse

another chapter, start

soar in twenty twenty four

the journey keeps on

a helper, gifted

join us in celebrating

The year of forty four

Lauren ‘Yardsale’ Jones works professionally as a Colorado state employee and School Counselor. For a living, she hikes, strolls and saunters with her pup Journey on the daily; meanders with her three chickens and nurtures her mini-urban farm with a newly acquired 1956 Canned Ham named Xanadu parked in the backyard. Her husband joined her for many parts of the Colorado Trail serving as the BEST trail angel on the planet and they now have adopted 5 miles of the CT in Segment 9 and are still aspiring parents-to-be. Yardsale’s chosen footware includes crocs, Altra Lonepeaks and ExtraTuf boots. She is also an aspiring author writing casually with the Rugged Outdoors Women Group aspiring to eventually finish her infertility, thru-hike memoir-like sort of self-help/inspiration mini-book. You can follow her venutres on Insta @stillaspiringjourney and @sol_y_luna_soilpluslove


For the Art of Love 

By Kristy St Germaine 

There is no art without love. There is no love without art - Go Art Yourself. - Unknown 

I long for the freedom to celebrate - me. I long for the freedom to celebrate me and not feel like I have to change my name. To run naked in the streets, shouting to all who would hear, “Look at what I did, look at what I made, wrote, acted out” - I am an artist, damn it! 

Yet, deep down, I fear my art has run its course. The clock ticks louder still in the late watches of the night as an unexplained, nightly “thump” in my left ear keeps time: A blaring reminder - Indeed, time waits for no man, and quickens its pace past every aging artist. This became apparent to me one day as I sat, staring at a literal “block” of a box holding the remains of my then-recently deceased mother and her 74 years of unfulfilled dreams. It was then, that I determined to live to the fullest. Too long have I hidden in the shadows: My pain, my passion, my art, my vagina. If only I were French in more than just name. I go too far, no? 

Finally, I am ready to “unblock”, as Julie Cameron, the brilliant creator of “The Artist Way” encourages. If not for myself, for those coming up behind me. To see that my “kids” and grandkids will one day embrace their inner artists. To be naked and vulnerable with their creations, damn the critics, and celebrate who they are, even when no one else does. 

So I step out into the unknown, to lead the way, without map or compass. One day, one page, one poorly placed comma at a time. Damn those early teachers with their bright red pens! Damn the unsolicited criticism I have given, in the name of friendly advice. 

I celebrate ME. The screenwriter that I already am and the one I will become; the actress that I could have been and the tiny stages I hope to charge upon once more. I celebrate my willingness to fail, my will to create, and my hope to succeed. 

I celebrate me. I celebrate you - Love’s greatest work.

Kristy is a soon-to-be front desk agent for Marriott, an Uber driver by day, and a screenwriter by night. She is writing the final draft of a Western and working on a new screenplay with her 78-year-old dad. She's been married to the same hunk of a man for 25 years and is the proud mama to two beautiful young adults, Josh and Heather, and heart-meltingly known as Gramma K to the cutest, budding artist, Jackson Logan. She loves hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, watching movies, and flipping furniture in her spare time.


That's a Wrap!

by Leslie Niedermyer

Thats a wrap!

I put the gear away

Cleaned sleeping bags

Organized cookware, pads, poles

Went through photos

Remembering the breeze 

The laughter

The encouraging words "almost to the top"

The lessons learned

Pitching a tent, lighting a stove

Filtering water

Dehydration, altitude 

Dealing with discomfort

Dirty finger nails

Sore feet, cold hands

Itchy bug bites

The sounds of the wild

Bullfrogs, yipping coyotes

Barking elk

Wind, water babbling

Evening descends

Sunset behind the mountain

Darkness looming 

Stars sparkling overhead

Slow moving mornings

Sore legs

Trudging in the rising sun light

1 more mile to the car

Unpacking your pack

Personal baggage

Little parts of yourself

Left on the trail

The apprehension

It's too big a task

Too much for this body

This mind

You reach the end

Only wanting to do it again

And again

Seeing how it lifts others

Leslie lives in Denver, she owns a women's guided backpacking business; Strange Trails Women's Adventures. Find her on Instagram @strangetrailsco


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