Kayla Lipinski, Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center building attendant, 23, is familiar with the uneasiness of being a woman hiking alone. Lipinksi said she knows what it is like to constantly keep watch for possible threats, even on the familiar grounds of Clear Creek. This is why she feels her female hiking group offers a safe space for Denton women.
“Having this group allows us to go out and get to fully enjoy nature together,” Lipinski said. “We have each others’ backs.”
Woman’s We Hike Wednesdays began in October 2021 when Lipinski and her former boss were looking for ways to get more people involved with Clear Creek. After looking at other large hiking groups, they noticed a trend in female-led meets across North Texas. Soon after, Lipinski started leading her own guided hikes so Denton women could have the opportunity to comfortably enjoy the outdoors.
“We wanted to have an exclusive safe place for women to meet up with other like-minded women who also enjoy hiking,” Lipinski said. “It’s something that they can put on their calendars so they can look forward to seeing [Clear Creek] every month.”
Denton resident Sandra Sessions, 47, who attended her first Woman’s We Hike on April 6, believes having such groups within her community allows women to feel more connected with others. She said having that sense of familiarity with those in these meets can make women feel safer and want to become more active in their interests.
“You may find you have more camaraderie and just feel more comfortable overall,” Sessions said. “Knowing you’re not the only female there really helps put you at ease, no matter the size of the group.”
The women’s group meets the first Wednesday of every month to hike different Clear Creek trails, each event lasting from 30 minutes to two hours depending on trail paths and weather conditions. On these hikes, Lipinski often shares her favorite facts and details about the nature center and its environment. She said aside from offering women a safe space, Woman’s We Hike also allows those in the group to connect with each other over nature and its importance.
“Working out here, I work with people like me who care about preserving spaces like this, so it’s really cool to meet other women from the community that are also interested in that,” Lipinski said. “[Woman’s We Hike] gives me the chance to watch others get to appreciate this awesome place that I work at for the first time.”
Sharon Betty, a project manager for the Elm Fork Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist, 68, believes the Woman’s We Hike group reflects Clear Creek’s overall mission to serve and meet the needs of its community. By having specialized groups like Woman’s We Hike, Betty feels the center is able to better connect with many across Denton over their shared natural environment. Betty said these connections are what can help strengthen the bonds amongst those in a local community.
“It just makes me so proud to have something like that offered in the Denton community,” Betty said. “It’s so fulfilling and satisfying to offer people spaces to appreciate nature and be able to teach others about it. I mean, where else could you get that kind of service in such a safe environment as Clear Creek?”
Several members of Clear Creek’s staff hope the center’s programs and groups are able to bring more attention to all the center has to offer. In doing so, Clay Thurmond, a project manager for the Texas Master Naturalist’s Elm Fork chapter, 69, believes more people across Denton will join the nature center’s efforts in respecting and admiring the local land.
“We try to convey that enthusiasm and that knowledge to try to get people to appreciate it,” Thurmond said. “Once they start appreciating it, then they’ll start caring about protecting it.”
By leading Woman’s We Hike, Lipinski believes she can help other women learn they can all belong in nature. As she continues to organize such meets, Lipinski hopes more women are able to feel comfortable participating in the outdoors and can grow to value the uniqueness of Clear Creek and its community.
“I’d really love it if more women could come visit and feel safe being out here in nature,” Lipinski said. “They can have a space where they don’t have to always look over their shoulder and worry about something happening to them. They can feel safe with us and finally be able to experience the hidden gem that is Clear Creek.”
Featured Image: Participants of Woman’s We Hike walk on a trail at Denton Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center on April 6, 2022. Photo by Jami Hitchcock