Alpine Women Collective
A Q&A with the duo empowering women to
greet the outdoors and conquer any summit.
Photos by Alpine Women Collective
How did you start the Alpine Women Collective?
We are Sarah McLean (graphic designer) and Cait Bourgault (photographer). We’ve been best friends for a few years now, and ever since we met, we’ve been spending as much time as possible outdoors, hiking, seeing new places, and experiencing new things together.
We started the Alpine Women Collective (AWC) as a means to share our love for hiking with more women, and to do so by combining our passion for hiking with our two creative occupations. We wanted to be able to utilize our abilities in design and photography to get the message out to women about how empowering an activity hiking can be. So, with a website, an Instagram page, and big dreams, we launched the Alpine Women Collective in February, 2016.
What do you hope to accomplish through this program and why do you think getting outside is so important?
With the AWC, we hope to instill a sense of empowerment and ability in women who might not otherwise push themselves to try hiking. For years, we’ve heard people doubt our abilities and worry about us as we head out on hikes, and we realized that often, those doubts and worries are exclusive to women. It can be discouraging to be told constantly “It’s too dangerous” and “Don’t go by yourself”. So we’re on a mission to replace some courage in women, and to introduce more people to the mountains we’ve grown to love. We want to help hikers feel confident, empowered and safe on the trails they chose.
We feel that it’s important to get outdoors because simply, the outdoors is limitless. Anywhere we go in the world, the outdoors is there. And where there’s outdoors, there’s adventure. Mountains, forests, rivers, valleys; they’re all there for us, and we’ve learned that they make great tools for challenging ourselves, clearing our minds and bettering our lives. We love that you can trek through a nationally preserved forest and see a place that only those who took the trail you took, have seen what you see.
Tell us about the camping and hiking weekend in Maine.
Our Camden Hills State Park retreat in June was an absolute blast for us. It was a 2-day trip, provided to us by Maine’s Midcoast (@mainesmidcoast on Instagram), in which we brought nearly 30 women hiking to Mt. Battie and Mt. Megunticook, we camped out at the Camden Hills State Park campground, went sailing on A Morning In Maine, explored the town of Camden, and on the bus ride back to Portland, we took stops at Waterman’s Beach Lobster for lunch and Oxbow Brewery in Newcastle for some brews.
Any special or funny moments while camping at the retreat?
It was such a treat for us to see this group of women – most of whom were meeting for the first time – become so close in such a short period of time. It was amazing to watch the friendshipsstrengthen while the weekend unfolded, setting up camp and hiking. When dinner-time came around, we all sort of realized at once that it felt as if we had known each other for years. To see these women bond over similar interests and a shared ideology was really special to us.
Will you be hosting more camp weekends in the future?
We will! We have a 3-day camp retreat in the works for Summer 2017, with the Western Maine travel region, and we’re also hoping to bring the AWC to the White Mountains for a night or two sometime soon.
Do you have any favorite camping spots?
We love camping anywhere in the White Mountains, especially Franconia Notch State Park. Any of the Appalachian Mountain Club huts make for a really cool experience. We’ve really enjoyed Recompence Shore Campground at Wolfe’s Neck Farm because it’s close to Portland and easy for a quick weekend getaway. Other favorites are: Balsam Woods Campground in Abbot, ME and Flood’s Cove Ocean Island Campground in Friendship, ME.
Favorite hiking spots?
The White Mountain National Forest never disappoints. There’s a mountain for everyone, and no matter how ambitious you’re feeling on a given day, there’s a hike for you. Some of our favorite hikes have been in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, Franconia Notch State Park and Crawford Notch State Park. We’ve loved exploring the 52 With A View and 48 4,000 Footers lists, which offer loads of stunning views and countless hidden spots like waterfalls and overlooks.
Sarah’s favorite hike: Mt. Jefferson / via Caps Ridge Trail
Cait’s favorite hike: Mt. Lafayette / via Old Brindle Path
Do you have any camping gear recommendations? Or a recipe you like to make while camping?
When it comes to gear, we really believe in making it affordable. While it’s awesome to be decked out in top-of-the-line gear, it’s not the most sustainable option for people just getting into hiking and camping. We’ve found lots of really great gear at Goodwill, Marden’s and on Craigslist. While we do recommend favorite brands like Marmot, Osprey, Merrell, and Outdoor Research for the essentials, we most often recommend that new hikers get scrappy with their camp and hike outfit, see what’s available secondhand, and try recycling some gear before buying new.
Our favorite camping recipe would definitely be the camp burrito. The night before, we load a tortilla full of rice, beans, tofu, salsa, and vegan cheese (or whatever you like!), wrap it in aluminum foil, and store it in the cooler until the campfire’s roaring. Set them on a rack (foil and all) just above the flames, and let them heat up for a good five minutes on each side. The tortilla gets a little charred and the insides get all melty. So good.
What are your favorite things about New England?
We love that New England gives us a little bit of everything. We look to the East for the sea; we look to the West for rolling mountains. We can taste beer in the Old Port, and we can gaze the stars just a town over. We love that nature is preserved and respected here, that our beloved White Mountain National Forest is only a drive away, and that the people here are rugged, yet so kind. Each of our four seasons is a world different from the next, and we love that in New England, we’re close enough, able enough, and free enough to go pitch a tent during all four.