Strengthen bodies. Feed minds. Calm souls: This is the stated mission of She Ascends, a women's hiking and wellness group that is in the process of establishing a Becker County chapter.
"Our goal is to connect women to nature, to others and to themselves," says group founder Mindi Jenson, who moved to the lakes area after her husband Mark accepted a position as the new superintendent of Detroit Lakes Public Schools last summer.
In creating those connections, she added, the group's leaders hope "to really help them build the best possible version of themselves." Participants of all ages and backgrounds are welcome, from "unlikely hikers" to those who spend as much time as possible out on the trails. Group activities also include things like kayaking, snowshoeing and mountain biking.
Jenson considered herself one of those "unlikely hikers" when she first joined the Minnesota Hiking Club Challenge a few years ago, on the suggestion of her son (she and Mark have three grown children, the oldest of which, Matt, is a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Detroit Lakes).
The Hiking Club Challenge, she explained, is a program where participants attempt to hike all the state parks in Minnesota, getting their "hiking passport" stamped at each stop along the way, for a chance to win free overnight camping stays and other rewards.
"I was feeling disconnected," Jenson said of her reasons for joining the Hiking Challenge. "I was not taking the opportunities I needed for myself, for my own mental health.
"Many of us work full-time jobs, then come home and take care of our families," she added. "It becomes hard to carve out that time for yourself.
"It's (hiking) a great way to get out and get moving," she continued. "There are so many benefits to being out in nature."
From there, Jenson added, she got to a place where she wanted to share her experiences with other women. "It all just kind of spiraled from there," she said, adding that She Ascends now has chapters in more than a dozen counties, including Otter Tail and Clay as well as Becker, and each of which has its own Facebook page.
"It's so much fun," Jenson said, adding that their monthly hikes bring women of all ages and backgrounds together — and once you join a chapter, you can take part in She Ascends hikes scheduled anywhere in Minnesota.
Though it's not quite free to participate — annual dues are $35 for the Becker County group — Jenson says the money helps cover the cost of insurance well as paying for a guide to take the group on its monthly hikes.
"We really try to keep the cost as low as possible," she added.
'Discover Your Fire Within'
In addition to monthly hikes, the Becker County She Ascends group also plans to host quarterly wellness events — the first of which, "Discover Your Fire Within," is set for Saturday, May 1 at the Waubun School Forest, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost to participate is $75 for members, $99 for non-members, and includes an educational hike where participants learn about different types of berries, herbs and flowers that can be used to create natural teas; a healthy lunch — served outdoors, on "nature’s charcuterie boards" — and a class on how to build a campfire. The day's activities will end with a calming meditation by the fire.
To register, use the following link: www.hikehoppers.org/store/p127/S.A._Spring_Event%3A_Discover_Your_Fire_Within_.html