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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 helpless.”

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 Cuisine.

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 unhappy.

“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 shed.

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.

examining Anasazi artifacts

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.”


Find out more about What Our Clients Say.

Where to you want to go? Take a look at Destinations.

Learn about the activities we offer. Go to Activities.

New to camping or backpacking? Take our Pre-Trip Class and learn the basics.

Find out more about Carole Latimer's gourmet cookbook for campers, Wilderness Cuisine.

Questions or comments? E-mail us. (Note: We will not give out your e-mail address, phone number or mailing address to others.)


Phone: 510.849.9292
Toll-free outside California: 888.378.1978
Fax: 510.644.3811
Mailing address: Call of the Wild,
2519 Cedar St., Berkeley, CA 94708
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