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  • 26 Apr 2017 9:55 AM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)

    Hello there, Women Outdoors!

    This is a long overdue explanation of our decision to return to Sargent Center for the 2017 Gathering. The process of choosing where we would hold the 2017 Gathering was far more complicated and difficult than you might imagine.

    But first, here's a registration reminder: prices go up $50 after May 4. If you haven't registered yet, now's the time!

    Before I dive into the decision-making process about the venue, I want to share with you some details on how this year will be different from past years in a few important ways:

    1. We won't have the minimum Sargent Center payment of $10,000 hanging over our heads. That's important, because our attendance numbers have been sliding down, and it was getting to be a scary financial commitment.

    2. We may be sharing the venue with another group. That's the tradeoff for removing the $10K minimum. We don't know yet who we might share it with, if we share it at all. But we do know that...

    3. We won't have the run of the place as we've had in the past. As well, there will no longer be a discount for camping—Sargent Center doesn't make any money on it, so they've removed the discount and it now costs the same to tent as it did to stay in the Yurt Village. They'll figure out which lodges/dorms they'll put us in, depending on our attendance numbers. We can safely assume that we probably won't get to sprawl out in a cabin with just a few friends as we have in the past. Expect that we'll be in rooms that are shared with others.

    We're well aware that returning to Sargent Center is a disappointment to the members who have to travel a looooong way to get to New Hampshire and were hoping we'd wind up in a more western location in 2017. Choosing a location that would give them a needed break on travel time was a core point of our deliberations. Before I explain what those deliberations entailed, let me tell you that we are now looking into signing a contract with a fabulous venue in Western Massachusetts, in the Berkshires, for 2018. They're checking to see if Memorial Day weekend is available. If not, we may explore other weekends at that venue in 2018. WE HEAR YOUR PAIN, NEW YORK AND ALL THOSE WHO'VE TREKKED A LONG WAY TO SARGENT FOR YEARS OR NEVER COME BECAUSE IT'S TOO FAR!!

    What factors went into the decision?

    To get to this point, the Gathering Committee researched 11 possible venues in 6 states: NH, MA, CT, VT, ME and NY. We focused on features including whether we needed to have our own insurance policy, accessibility for handicapped and elderly members, price, outdoor features such as access to boating or mountains, dates of availability, and more. All of the deliberations, and a good deal of haggling over prices, were done with an eye toward avoiding sharp price increases. We want MORE people to come, not fewer because of sticker shock!

    We wound up with two venues that were neck-and-neck on all of those points. We picked Sargent for this year, and we're hoping to hold the 2018 Gathering at the Berkshire Outdoor Center in Becket, MA.


    A HUGE THANK YOU... the members of the Gathering Committee and the Board of Directors for their hard work on this project. They untold hours doing research online, by phone, and even visiting sites in person, throughout New England, as well as deliberating on conference calls. As an organization, we're simply blessed to have all these talented, passionate volunteers take so much time out of their lives and expend so much energy to do this on our behalf.

    And of course, huge thanks go out to all of our members who lead trips, to our Regional Contacts for their hard work, to our web mavens Sandy and Kathleen for keeping the machinery of our site up and running, to Anna DeSousa for keeping her treasury magic going while we seek a new treasurer to step into her shoes and give her a well-deserved retirement, and to each and every one of our members who bring their warm, wonderful selves to outings and to the Gathering.

    You all make this hard work worthwhile. Thanks for sharing your stories, your laughter and your gorgeous hearts.

    See you at the Gathering! 

    Your Servant & President,

    Lisa Vaas

  • 28 Feb 2017 10:37 AM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)

    It's in San Francisco, but it sounds interesting. Here's the letter I just got about it from the organizer: 

    Hello Women Outdoors,

    My name is Teresa Baker and I work on efforts of diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces. I do this by creating events across the country that offers a welcoming environment for all.

    I'm writing to make you aware of an upcoming summit I'm partnering on with the Presidio Trust and the NPS, which will take place June 14th & 15th at the Presidio of San Francisco. This gathering will bring together women who have made the outdoors their playgrounds and work stations. Hikers, climbers, skiers, educators, CEO's and women who have taken a stance on environmental protection. 

    While this gathering will address matters that may affect women specifically, EVERYONE is encouraged to attend. This summit is intended to be fully interactive with opportunities for all in attendance to share their personal stories of on the job biases and various strategies for overcoming adversities. 

    This 2-day summit will be broken down in traditional format as well as nontraditional formats. The first day will consist of the traditional indoor conference setting with speakers, tabled conversations and open Q&A sessions, followed by an evening of campfire discussions at Rob Hill, which will also serve as outdoor lodging. The second day will be all outdoors, a camp setting dialogue and exploring the Golden Gate National Rec Area, (Marin Headlands, Muir Woods). 

    There are currently 4 guest speakers, Kelly Martin, Chief of Fire and Aviation at Yosemite, Rose Marcario, the current President and CEO of Patagonia, Dr. Carolyn Finney, Professor at the University of Kentucky and author of Black Faces in White Spaces and Alyssa Ravasio, founder of Hipcamp.

    This will be a fun, but purpose driven atmosphere of learning, sharing, collaborating, listening and most of all, bonding over concerns that many face in their day to day lives in the workplace and outdoor spaces we all love and cherish.

    While it would be great to have everyone attend both days, I understand if only one day of attendance is possible. I hope you will consider this invite as I believe it will


     women in positions of power in the outdoor industry, which will aid in empowering all who are in attendance


    Here's a recent Jane Goodall article on the work I do: ​Fighting For The Environment Through Inclusion. And here is the event page where updates will be posted: Women's Outdoor Summit For Empowerment

    Thank you,

  • 30 Oct 2016 7:34 PM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)

    Hello, hiking kayaking biking walking jumping diving swimming women!! It's August while I'm writing this, so I hope your summer's going great? If we don't get this to you until fall, then switch that to past tense, please! As in, I hope you HAD wonderful adventures in the outdoors, met some new friends and/or hung out with old friends, and enjoyed whatever part of the outdoors you found yourself in, all without too much sunburn, chafing, scraped knees or exotic tropical disease acquisition.

    So here I am, writing to you in my new role as president of our much-beloved organization.

    "Say what, now?" say those of you who missed the 2016 Gathering. (Where were you?! We missed you!)

    OK, to bring you all up to speed, here's what went down at the Sargent Center in New Hampshire over Memorial Day weekend:

    1. The board met without a president. We knew that was coming, as our former president, leader extraordinaire Kim Otis, had already let us know she was stepping down. (Please do read her farewell letter in my previous post).

    2. I offered to step into the gaping hole left in Kim's wake.

    3. The board said "Yes, please!" and thus I became your new Fearless Leader.

    4. Besides Kim, the board of Women Outdoors said good-bye to two other extraordinarily hard-working, smart, highly valued members who served vital roles in the organization for years and years: Treasurer Anna Desousa and Regional Contact Coordinator Kathleen Long.

    5. Cherished newsletter editor Franny Osman and layout editor Stein Feick, who've put their bottomless talent to work for a magnificent number of years to bring us this vital publication, resigned. As it now stands, we don't have anybody taking their place, though April Judd has been working on getting out one last print newsletter. Want to take over as magazine editor of the print edition? Drop me a line, at, In the meantime, I'm working with a newish WO member—the uber talented Gina Kamentsky—to put together an e-newsletter that will be keeping you up to date on everything the board is working on. Some of you have had the pleasure of going on trips with Gina already. Let me tell you, she's as talented at graphic design as she is at paddling in rough waters and portaging over crazy distances!

    6. We had yet another fabulous, fun Gathering, brought to us through the hard work of the staff at Sargent Center, the women who lead our workshops and activities, and our incredible Gathering coordinators, Elissa Mattson and Alice Sherard, and of course our registrant, Anna Desousa. We hiked, we listened to a marvelous keynote from a woman who's taken her two daughters hiking all over the world, of course we dragged those two daughters into a skit at the talent show even though mom had figured they'd all leave after her talk, we practiced kayak rescues in Half Moon Pond, under Bonna Weiler's wonderful instruction and in her great boats. And holey moley, the water was bathtub warm! Global warming is a catastrophe, I know, but wow. It was easy to jump in that water this year!

    Before we get to anything else, please join me as we all bow our heads and send out waves of gratitude to everybody I just mentioned, as well as all the other treasured board members, past and present, to all of you who came to the Gathering and made it so much fun, and to those of you who we still love and who we hope can come to the Gathering in 2017 and beyond.

    So, anyway. I got a call from Western Mass. Regional Contact Nira Harper Hinard the other day, and she asked me, "So what's the story, are you the president now?"

    I hemmed and hawed and finally said YES! I had appended the word "Acting" to "President" when I offered to take on the role at the Gathering, since my current board term is up in 2017 and I'm not sure how long we can keep chugging along without a Treasurer and a Regional Contact Coordinator: two roles required by our bylaws.

    But for now, we're functioning. I'm the president. We're having a good time. We just had our fall retreat at Stump Sprouts in Western Mass. We have new blood on the board. Thankfully, Anna's agreed to serve as treasurer as we hunt for her replacement (somebody with QuickBook and accounting skills—know anybody?! If so, get in touch:!).

    The result of the board retreat and the hard work of the Gathering Committee that was formed at the Gathering: We have exciting news to share about the Gathering. That deserves its own post. Stay tuned!

    With deep affection,

    Lisa Vaas

    Eastern Mass.  

  • 30 Oct 2016 7:15 PM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)

    Note from current WO President Lisa Vaas: Apologies for the delay in publishing this letter, which Kim Otis was kind enough to write to us all a few months ago. We said it at the Gathering, and we'll say it again: Kim, you have worked so very hard for this organization. For 3 years, you lead us onwards and upwards. We will be forever grateful for all the things you accomplished in your tenure and how you motivated us all. We are sending you virtual hugs and thanks galore! Now, onto Kim's letter:

    Letter from the Outgoing President:

    Hello Friends, 

          I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our board members for their tremendous efforts in keeping this organization running.  Without the time, talent and dedication that these women put forth, Women Outdoors could not continue.

    I'm delighted that we continue to find, motivate and inspire new members to step into the Board of Directors role and become the new leadership for our organization. These are the members who will continue to make our group thrive.

         I'm sure many of you are aware that 2016 was my third and last year as the President of Women Outdoors.  I was initially involved in the organization as a member  in 1994. I've been on the Board since 2008, first as a member at large and then as the President.  I would like you to see the progression of involvement  which is common for many of our Directors.  This (you) have become my community.

         It’s where I go to see familiar, friendly faces, and it’s where we come to find common objectives and goals.  We offer a valuable service to the women’s community. Our mission statement is inclusive of all women;  coming together in Women Outdoors gives us the opportunity to share activities and adventures in the outdoors.  We also act as environmental stewards, supporting conservation efforts and programs throughout our regions.

         You have an opportunity to contribute, to be the next leaders, to determine the direction of this organization. Every magazine issue, every discussion, every update to form or policy, every adjustment to the bylaws of the organization: they all start at the Board of Directors meetings.  Please participate. 

    If you are interested, if you are concerned, come and join the leadership committee. We need your time, talent and efforts. We need your fresh ideas and enthusiasm.  We always have fun making it happen.

    Please join us.

    Fond Farewell,    

    Kim Otis

    Outgoing President (2013-2016)
    Board of Directors  
    Women Outdoors Inc.

  • 30 Oct 2016 2:40 PM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)

    Note from WO President Lisa Vaas: A fall weekend at the Stump Sprouts retreat center in the Berkshire Mountains has become a yearly tradition for Women Outdoors. When we were there earlier in October this year, we were all deeply moved as our dear friend and Women Outdoors member Kesana Krasaeyan shared with us how she's evolved from a shy first-timer to a joyful part of our community. She was kind enough to write up this article to describe what that weekend retreat felt like the first time she went in 2015. It's a delightful read, and Kesana, we want you to know that we are as delighted to have you with us as you are to have found us! Here's to more fun and more friends!

    Day 1:

    It was almost dark by the time I arrived at Stump Sprouts. I was a little nervous walking into the lodge, not knowing what it would be like to spend days and nights with a group of people whom I mostly don’t know. This was a big concern for me because I don’t know how to socialize with new people and often feel uncomfortable. Once I walked into the lodge, I got the first warm welcome hugs from Joanne and Lisa.

    Joanne walked me out to find my room at the farmhouse, but the room was taken. Joanne came back to Lisa and kept working with her to make sure I got a bed. Joanne personally showed me around all the rooms in the lodge and took care of me throughout the night. I really appreciated her hospitality. It made me feel at home. To me, bed was not a concern at all. I have a sleeping bag and can sleep anywhere. I finally ended up sharing a two-level bunk bed in a room with three other members. This was the first time in the past twenty years I have shared a bunkroom with strangers. It brought back the memory of backpacking trips long ago. I excitedly climbed up the ninety-degree upright tiny steps to my top bed and realized it was not as easy as in the old days 20 or 30 years ago, but I had fun spending the nights like the old days.

    Before I went to bed, a group of members invited me to the farmhouse, which had a pool table and ping-pong table. Judi taught me to play pool. My first hit of the ball made the ball jump in the air before it dropped back to the table. That was quite an experience. Then I learned to play doubles ping-pong. The first round, I hit the air instead of the ball. My eyes had not yet gotten used to the fast moving ball. I improved after playing for a while. Then we started to play ping-pong in our own style, without rules. We hit the ball anywhere it dropped or bounced, ceiling, wall, or floor. Late at night we went back to our bedroom to be sleeping beauties. With the amount of laughter we had had, I was sure we would sleep like babies.

    Day 2:

    The first morning at Stump Sprouts, I woke up with my two eyes wide open and a big “WOW” on my mouth. Lovely fall foliage made a beautiful display behind the see-through wall of the big glass windows in the living room. The view was breathtaking and looked as if it was a huge painting of beautiful hills full of colorful fall foliage under the morning rays of sunrise. This was a big surprise for me since I had found that this year the color was not as beautiful as last year and I had never expected Massachusetts to have this beautiful fall foliage. Since I moved to Massachusetts, I have gone to see fall foliage every year in New Hampshire, Maine, or Vermont, but never Massachusetts. When I walked out to the terrace area, a few people were already there, enjoying morning coffee under the sunrise, surrounded by colorful flowers and hills. It was a delightful and vibrant morning.

    When I walked back to the kitchen, my nose absorbed yummy smells that made my taste buds start working even before I got the food into my mouth. I stopped by the kitchen, talking to our creative chefs, Lloyd and Suzanne, the owners. They used fresh, home-grown vegetables, fruits, and flowers from their gorgeous gardens. The menu was so well-balanced, with a variety of meat and vegetables dishes. Some dishes had a touch of Asian flavor and some had amazing unique flavors created by our chefs. Every dish and every meal at Stump Sprouts was incredibly delicious, especially the homemade fresh bread. I dreamed about its soft, moist, chewy texture at night. I ate like a giant pig.

    I joined the hiking group led by Stef and Deb. It was a perfect day for hiking, with a beautiful bright sky and colorful trees. As the group explored the trail, I felt like I was inside a painting. Everywhere I looked, around me and up to the bright blue sky, there was a blending of splendid colors. It was not just the beauty of the nature I saw through my eyes, but being in the woods as part of the nature took my breath away. I really did feel as if I were inside the colorful painting. Later, I took a ride with Ann and Jamie, college buddies, to Williamstown, where they had studied. The college campus was classic and the town so neat. The roads to the town were spectacular, with fall foliage along curvy roads.

    In the evening, Monica had a “non-art” art group making lanterns decorated with whatever we found around the area. I myself did not join the art group, but I was really amazed by the creativity of their work. Later at night, a group set up a campfire. I did not join the campfire outside because it was too cold for me. I was not used to the cold weather since my country only has three seasons: hot, super-hot, and extreme-hot. I just watched the campfire from the living room. A while later, Monica moved the set of lighted lanterns to the campfire. The moment I saw the colorful lighted lanterns with a background of a camp fire surrounded by a group of people, I rushed outside with my phone to take that picture. The setting was too beautiful to let go without capturing it in my phone, regardless of the freezing cold temperature outside. When I walked closer, I saw the impressive moment. The flame of the camp fire, the group of women standing around the fire, the breeze, and the smell of wood burning really made me feel the “friendships”.  I could not resist joining the group. We then started singing songs. What a gorgeous night! I had a sweet sleep with the song "Auld Lang Syne" softly echoing in my heart.

    Day 3:

    I woke up because I heard the word “s-n-o-w.” Was it really snow? I was very surprised because it was October 18, not even close to November. I jumped out of my bed and ran outside in pajamas with my phone to catch the snow while it was still sprinkling. I was in such a hurry that I forgot about the cold and I did not even have my jacket on. The snow changed the look and the mood of the whole landscape. Although the colors were fading, it created another type of romantic beauty. Looking at the view through a thin layer of tiny snowflakes, everything was totally different from yesterday. I could not believe things could change this much overnight. After enjoying snowflakes in the morning, we had to get ready for bog exploring in the area before heading back home. I took a ride with Deb, Stef, Joanne, and Beth, who was an Alaska expert. We had fun talking in the car. Once we got there, we took Deb’s canoe and Bonna’s kayaks out and paddled to the bog. I felt so good to be on water in the kayak with wonderful people doing a great outdoor activity. Thanks so much to Deb and Bonna for their generosity. We explored about three bog islands. Stef found a little tiny very cute “mushroom” with a berry hanging above it. I desperately wanted to take the picture of this mushroom since it was so cute and in a unique position, but I did not have my phone with me. I kept berating myself for not taking my phone with me, for at least an hour. After exploring the bog, we took a short walk along the edge of the pond and drove back to the lodge for a yummy lunch before we went home.

    As I was leaving Stump Sprouts, I thought back to the first night I walked into the lodge. My mind was nervous, my heart was empty, and my brain was small. When I left Stump Sprouts, my mind was filled with confidence, my heart was full of joy, and my brain had grown bigger. This whole weekend I spent with Women Outdoors had opened my eyes and mind. The experiences I got each day of being with the group were so valuable. Even though some of us had just met for the first time, we laughed together, we cared for one another, we thought of each other, and we never left anyone behind. Friendship is like a bonfire that lights up darkness; it lasts as long as we continue putting on wood. Thanks to Women Outdoors for setting up such a great event that lit up my life.

    Kesana moved from Thailand to the United States in 2004 and has been living in Massachusetts since 2005. “I have always loved nature, but I am new to outdoor activities because my world has always been so tiny, in one small community. When I found Women Outdoors last year, my world grew bigger. It started to get me involved with outdoor activities, and I love it.”

  • 19 Aug 2016 9:35 PM | Kathleen (Administrator)

    The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. To celebrate the big day, admission to every one of the 412 National Parks will be free for four days from August 25 - 28. As we like to say at Women Outdoors, nurture your nature. What better way to do it than to enjoy America's best idea - our National Parks. See you in the outdoors.

  • 17 Mar 2016 2:57 PM | Kathleen (Administrator)

    The Run of the Charles on Sunday, April 24, 2016, is the largest canoe and kayak race in New England, attracting over 1000 paddlers each year who participate in 6, 9, 19, and 24-mile races in canoes and kayaks. It is put on by the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) to showcase the recreational potential of the Charles River and raise funds for the protection of the watershed in eastern Massachusetts.   

    Women Outdoors fields a team for the 24-mile canoe relay race, which consists of 5 legs, each about 5 miles long. Pairs of paddlers trade places in the boat as the racers paddle downstream and portage around several dams (using portage wheels, of course!). Each racer commits to ~3 hours at the river during the race, though you can make a whole day of following the paddlers down the river and join us for a picnic and victory party at the end.  

    Women Outdoors has entered teams in the Women's Division in each of the past 5 years, and won prizes each time. Join the team for this year's race on Sunday April 24 and be part of the Women Outdoors victory. Each team member contributes $25 (WO member) or $35 (non-member) toward the team registration fee. Women Outdoors National covers the balance of the registration fee for the team.

    There will be practice sessions in April to stretch the paddling muscles, though team members outside the Boston area often practice on their own.

    To sign up, email team captains Deb ( and Judi (, or use the EasternMA Meetup page.

  • 17 Mar 2016 1:44 PM | Kathleen (Administrator)

    Spring is here and that means the Women Outdoors National Gathering is just around the corner. Join us Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30, 2016, at the Sargent Center in southern New Hampshire for three wonderful days of fun, friendship and adventure. Stay tuned for more details.

  • 29 May 2015 4:52 PM | Kathleen (Administrator)

    We have some very exciting news! Kim Otis, president of Women Outdoors, will be interviewed on a new satellite radio show called Titanium Outdoors this Saturday, May 30 at 8:20 a.m. The best way to hear the show is through live streaming on their website, Kim's interview will be about 10 minutes long.

    The host of the show, Matt LaDuke, will talk with Kim about Women Outdoors, how it benefits women, the kinds of activities our regional chapters offer, the role our national organization plays in promoting the local regions, and how women can get in touch with Women Outdoors.

    The show airs live this Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. but if you can't catch it then, the show will rebroadcast at noon on Saturday, May 30.

    Be sure and listen online at on Saturday at 8:20 a.m.

  • 08 Mar 2015 8:20 PM | Kathleen (Administrator)

    MurphyWe're pleased to announce our keynote speaker - Mary Murphy (just "Murphy" to her friends) - founder of Mountainsong Expeditions in Worcester, VT. Murphy grew up in the forests of Maine and has felt the call of the mountains in her soul since she was young. She has been leading wilderness trips professionally since 2005, mostly in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York. In 2009, she solo-hiked the entire Appalachian trail and will share her experience with us.

    Murphy is passionate about helping others reconnect to the spirit of the land by becoming competent and comfortable in the wilderness. She is a frieMurphyndly, approachable and inspiring teacher. Some of her favorite skills to share are safe and responsible backcountry camping, canoeing, archery, wilderness survival (shelter, fire, navigation), woodland crafts, first aid, and ethical hunting. She sees wilderness expeditions as a path to personal empowerment and spiritual connection with the land and our deepest selves.


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