Women can ‘roam the woods,’ hiking alone and unafraid

Tips on how to hike the backcountry, even how to handle black bears. Photo: Learning how to cross rushing water

FLORIDA, April 10, 2013 —They are a young couple in love, although they’re quick to tell you not with each other, but with the great outdoors. 

Rosie Enos and Todd Soprych met five years ago at a dog kennel in Bend, Ore., and quickly found not only a mutual admiration for canines, but also a shared deep and passionate adoration of hiking in the great outdoors.

After comparing notes of their own experiences, negotiating some of Americas most challenging trails, the two started toying with the idea of opening an outdoor guiding service, and not just any adventure company, mind you. 

Rosie Enos and Todd Soprych, founders of Roam the Woods

And thus Roam the Woods was born. Enos and Soprych wanted to focus solely on women, to empower them with skills that would allow them to feel confident in the backcountry, either with other women, or even alone.

I caught up with the two in the Ocala National Forest in north central Florida back in March. With their eyes sparkling from the nearby flames in our fire pit, the two still had nonstop energy at the end of a long day of outdoor activities and happily shared tales from the trails with a small group of women.

Later they talked about their “baby,” Roam the Woods.

Q.: Why women? Why do women need a hiking company that specializing in just women?

Rosie: Sometimes one bad experience can create a notion that we can never enjoy an outdoor pursuit. For women just the thought of the three p’s, peeing, pooping and periods in the woods is so intimidating that it can hold them back from venturing out.  We create a safe, entertaining, and comfortable space to talk about these women-specific concerns.  We want more women out on the trail, hiking solo or with others.

Rosie about to lead a team of women hikers into the woods Photo: S. Kay

The best thing about backpacking is the fact that it is an equal opportunity type of recreation. If you can walk, you can backpack. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are. Backpacking inspires confidence. We want to help others get out there and live their dreams.

Q. Tell me about one of your more well liked programs.

Rosie: One of our most popular programs is a two-week lightweight backpacking course that we run through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, focusing on keeping your pack light, fundamental backpacking skills, personal safety, risk management, and outdoor stewardship. We log a hundred miles on the Appalachian Trail.

Todd: We also get to introduce our clients to the realities of what bear country really is.  On this particular course, we usually see anywhere from ten to twenty bears during our time in the park.  Through this great opportunity, we are able to teach firsthand how timid black bears are as well as the appropriate ways of dealing with black bears and how to properly store your food in bear country. By the course’s end our client’s have a realistic idea of what bear country is.

Q. What are your recommendations about safety issues?

Rosie:  A huge thing to remember is that statistically you are more likely to be a victim in a Wal-Mart  parking lot then on any of our long distance trails across the nation. With that being said, awareness and intuition on the trail are going to be invaluable for everyone, not just women.

Here are a few things to remember:  Leave a detailed itinerary with someone you trust, stating when you expect to be back and give yourself some wiggle room because even the best plans can be pushed back on the trail. Don’t give out personal information.  Listen to your instincts and use good judgment.

Camp away from trailheads and roads and choose campsites carefully. Know the area in which you will be hiking. Think about carrying a personal locator beacon such as a SPOT, and if you are ever put in a serious situation fight back. Predators are looking for victims.  The main thing to remember is to be aware but not scared. I have logged many miles solo and have never felt like I am in danger. 

Todd: And we utilize a variety of risk management strategies in order to keep our clients safe. We scrutinize every aspect through all of our courses to find the most effective ways to mitigate risk for everyone. At the end of the day, the majority of backpackers will tell you the thing they fear most are ticks.

Q. What’s the funniest item you’ve seen brought on a hiking trip?

Rosie: This is a hard question. We work diligently with our participants on the front end of the course so they are weight conscious and aware of what they are bringing on the course and why. The funniest item I’ve ever seen someone bring on a course is Todd, who carries a “woobie” with him. His travel “woobie,” as he likes, to call it is a ragged stuffed dog ear. With that being said, he is going to kill me now that I’ve let that out.

Q. What exactly am I going to walk away with after hiking with Roam?
Our goal is to provide women with a comfortable and supportive space to learn about lightweight backpacking. We work to give you a backpacking toolbox that you can continue to use long after your trip with us is through. Every course is based on learning by doing, so you participate in every aspect of day-to-day life on the trail.

We do believe this is our participants’ experience and the energy you put into the course will be a direct result of what is gained from our program. We want our participants to own this experience so they can feel empowered and go on to accomplish their own outdoors goals.

For more information contact Rosie and Todd at info@roamthewoods.com or go to www.roamthewoods.com

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Sheryl Kay

Sheryl Kay is a twenty-year veteran print and photo journalist covering a plethora of subjects internationally, including medical/healthcare, politics, new business/technology, LGBT issues, travel, and religion. 


In my "spare" time, I'm actively involved with my two children, community volunteer hiking events, a spirited dalmatian, and cultivating my organic garden. I can be reached via email and on facebook

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