As a woman, every time I go on a trail run or ride my bike I am guarded against the possibility that another person’s hands might touch me without my consent. I am not alone. Many women have been sexually assaulted and harassed, or have been rattled hearing the stories of others.
Fortunately outdoor men have been our allies, using their deep and sometimes louder voices to silence buddies making inappropriate sexual remarks. Outdoor men have at times been my biggest supporters, encouraging me to get outside by offering to watch my child or by helping me carry my gear.
This past Saturday mountain men from across the Blue Ridge showed up in Washington, D.C. to march with friends, wives, daughters and mothers, showing that strong men have our backs, literally lifting up the women in their life.
In return, the women lifted the spirits of everyone. Together we envisioned a world where women feel safe on the rivers and trails, imagining how many more women might join us outside if they feel less risk to their personal safety. We left inspired by a common vision that we can do better for each other and for the environment.
These five mountain men talk about why it was important for them to head to D.C. this past weekend.
Tim Bell: Tim and Sara Bell own Green River Adventures and the Gorge Zipline in Saluda, N.C.
“I went to D.C. because I was pretty appalled by the normalization of Trump’s behavior, including his comments about women. Sara’s family is matriarchal and you could say my nuclear family is too. I wanted to protest this the best way. Sara and I bought airplane tickets the day after it was announced, it was a family decision and we wanted our kids to be part of it.
I have a young daughter who I would like to defend from Trump-ism. I also have a son who I want to raise believing everyone should be equal. My hope is that he never sees it through another lens. I believe this is how we change our society. One generation never considered it, the next becomes aware of it, and the following generation makes changes.”
David Clarke: David teaches Spanish and whitewater boating at the French Broad River Academy for boys in Asheville, NC. He learned to kayak when he was eleven and loves paddling the Green River and the French Broad.
“I’m going to DC to fight for the rights of all people. The rights of women and minorities and women matter to me. As a white man, I’ve seen that in some ways I go through life is easier, that people mess with guys less. If one day I have a daughter, I want her to be able to enjoy that same ease navigating her life.
My mom has been a big influence, and I’ve always had an easier time relating to women so I’ve had many close female friends. Women expose us guys to different points of view and help me verbalize what I’m feeling.”
Roger Zbel: Roger owns Precision Rafting in Friendsville, Maryland. He loves paddling the Upper Yough and all the rivers in Northern West Virginia.
“I’ve been married to Nancy for twenty-two years and I’ve seen her grown. She volunteered at our daughter’s school and then became an assistant. She went back to school and earned a masters degree in education. She’s inspired me by her example. When she sees someone has a need she doesn’t walk away, she steps up to change it. She’s taught me that I can make a difference and change things if I show up.
My daughter recently graduated from college and I want her to be a strong and self-assured, so that she can find her own path forward.”
Andrew Holcombe: He is the school director at French Broad River Academy for Boys and also teaches science. His grandparents started the Nantahala Outdoor Center and he grew up on the river, surrounded by strong women. And then I married Anna. (Andrew is married to Anna Levesque, professional kayaker who has dedicated her career to empowering women.)
“One of the primary reason I went was to support my wife. It’s important for our relationship to support the things we care about and Anna deeply cares about this.
I think people have a responsibility to act when we don’t agree and I’m learning how to do that myself. It’s not always easy to figure out how or where.
Everyone ought to have equal rights and ability to voice his or her opinions. In this society, my voice as a white male I can express my opinions with ease and I would like to use it to speak up for voices that aren’t as easily hear.”
Mark Moseley: Mark graduated from Brevard College with a degree in Wilderness Leadership. He loves getting outside with his friends, backpacking and hiking, sometimes he a climbs and boats.
“I went to D.C. to support every woman I know – past, present and future. We live in a society that doesn’t see women as equal to men and I can’t comprehend why that is. To me it’s the right thing to do and I feel called to support women’s rights.
I don’t think men stand up enough. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t know what to do or if it doesn’t impact them. My female friends tell me I’m one of the only men who likes their posts on Facebook having to do with women’s issues.
When I told my best friend that I’m going to the women’s rights march, he said let’s go. This isn’t political. It’s about my conscience. I have so many friends that say they can’t handle what’s going on, but they need to need to be paying attention.”