These are excerpts from an article written by Outdoors columnist Tom Stienstra for the San Francisco Examiner
There's two things I hear from women, says
Carole Latimer, who has heard it all from hundreds of women she has
led on expeditions. One is they get left behind on the trail,
and they don't like that. The other thing is they go on a trip, but
their husband takes over everything, even the cooking, and they feel
completely helpless. I hear that a lot from wives. Women hate feeling
Latimer has heard these complaints over and over
again during the past 17 years as a wilderness guide/outfitter for
all-women's adventure trips across California and much of the West.
Men need to make room for enjoying the scene, instead of just
racing ahead to some imaginary finish line, Latimer said.
It's like they think they're in the Olympics.
The solutions, she says, is to put the emphasis
on being here now and not on the day's outcome.
Latimer is owner of Call of the Wild, based in
Berkeley, which runs outdoors trips that span from three days to
two weeks, and include wilderness backpacking, light hiking and
camping and special fitness trips. It has become one of the most
popular adventure programs for women in America, with about 3,000
having completed trips.
Most leave saying they have developed great camaraderie
with their companions, all who are not only learning about the outdoors,
but gaining a new sense of personal power.
In the next two months, group trips are planned
to Yosemite, Mt. Whitney, Kings Canyon and even Alaska and Hawaii.
All trips are women only. Why? Because it's
fun, there's no pressure and there's real freedom that comes with
being outdoors and in the company of women, Latimer answered.
Her specialty is wilderness hiking, camping and
gourmet wilderness cooking; she even authored the book, Wilderness
| As a long-time guide and
lifetime outdoors specialist, Latimer has developed expertise in many
fields, from technical know-how with gear to mastering the psychology
of group dynamics. She also can handle the donkey part,
as she calls it, facing the grunt work of hiking in the mountains.
While many outdoorsmen relish challenges, they
can be new and foreboding for women, Latimer said, especially long
climbs in the mountains. Many women have told Latimer that men make
a big mistake by patronizing their female partners and then dominating
the adventure. Later, they can't understand why the woman is so
Being a man doesn't give you any special knowledge,
Latimer said. The message I hear from guys over and over again
from the women on my trips is, 'Don't be competitive.' A guy often
wants to get to the goal the fastest, to be the first to arrive
at the camp, or manage every decision. It can get carried away.
One answer for couples is having a clear meeting
of the minds over what is likely to happen on the trip, and thus
all parties develop realistic expectations for the adventure.
In addition, she said, if an experienced male camper
wants to help a female companion, the best way to do it is to provide
time and equipment for simple comforts, like getting clean.
Guys are very primal and like to see how
dirty they can get, Latimer said with a laugh. Women
want to clean up. Bringing a solar shower along for her can make
the trip a lot more enjoyable.
One of the attractions of the Call of the Wild program
is that pretrip classes are available to help each participant plan
her trip. By taking out the mystery, she said, a lot of fears are
This includes how to pump-filter drinking water
out of a stream, how to treat blisters so your feet won't hurt when
hiking, how to select the best camping clothing, and what level
of hiking difficulty will be undertaken.
Participants are often eager to talk about the virtues
of the program.
I met Carole in 1989 when I participated
in a six-day backpack trip whose goal was the summit of Mt. Whitney,
said Dr. Sonia Hullman.
My participation amazed not only friends
and family but also myself because I had never backpacked or camped
in my life, and because I had significant case of agoraphobia (fear
of heights). I made it to the summit and I have the pictures to
prove it. She guides the fit but frightened to accomplished things
that seemed quite out of reach.
This theme is familiar among participants. I
had adventures I never thought I would have, said Ellen Hornstein
of San Francisco. A great sense of fun and incredible food
made the trip really special.
The best part of her life, Latimer said, is that
she has learned about the many dimensions of people, as well as
having the chance to experience the best of wild America.
I've learned not to judge people too quickly,
she said. Everybody has strengths, everybody has a story and
everybody has problems. I guess I'm one of the luckier people, because
my life is pretty free, and I do get to go outdoors a lot. I know
this: I'd rather be doing this than sitting under fluorescent lights
all day long.