At SheFly, our mission is to help everyone answer nature's call - at work and at play. In our We Wear the Pants series, we feature the folks who go there -- who put our products to the test as part of their jobs. We share their stories and lived experiences in (and with) the wild.
Know someone who wears the pants we should talk to? Let us know in the comments below or share your story to our email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Last summer, our Co-Founder & CEO Georgia Grace (GG) set out into the Sangre de Christo Mountains above Great Sand Dunes National Park in search of Southwest Colorado Conservation Corps (SCCC) Trail Crew Leader Kim Muth. She found Kim in a pair of our Go There™ Pants, sawing away at a fallen tree that had blocked the trail to Medano Lake. Over a campfire that night, GG interviewed Kim about her experience as a BIPOC woman leading a co-ed team and heard more tales from the trail.
Transcription by: Carlie Kenton
GG: So what does a typical day look like for you out here, leading this trail crew?
Kim: Typically we wake up and have breakfast together at 6 am – usually in the dark. Then, we get our tools together to start work by 7 am. We do half an hour of stretching and safety talk. Then we get going, sometimes hike as many as 5 or 6 miles, and we work for about 10 hours. We have two 15-minute breaks and a half an hour lunch. We are usually doing things like cutting trees out of the trail, fixing steep trail sections, regrading trails if the trail tread isn’t where it is supposed to be.
GG: What responsibilities do you have as Crew Leader that others on the crew don’t have?
Kim: Myself and the other Crew Leader – we’re both BIPOC – are both WFR (Wilderness First Responder) Certified so we are the highest in the chain and make decisions for safety. I also carry the In-Reach if we need to evacuate where there is no cell service. We are also experts on how to build trails and teach others this info. We are the only ones who are chainsaw-certified and are in charge of quality control.
GG: What is something about trail maintenance that most people don’t realize or wouldn’t know?
Kim: I think just how much work it is. Those small backcountry trails are all made by hand with picks and shovels. There are no machines going back there. When you see a beautiful row of steps or wall that was all made by hand, that was us. We just pick up giant rocks and dig big holes the perfect size for them to fit in.
GG: Is physical labor the most challenging aspect of your job or is there something else?
Kim: The physical aspect is hard, for sure. Another hard part is making sure everybody is physically and mentally in a good place and interacting with everyone in an appropriate way. I’m part educator, part coach, part manager.
GG: Do you have a favorite part of your job?
Kim: I really like just being out there in a beautiful place surrounded by nature. It gives me opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have to go to these very remote places and hang out for weeks at a time.
GG: Can you talk about why this line of work is important?
Kim: We build trails and make them nice so people will stay on the trail and it is less likely people will walk off into the woods, impacting the environment by stepping on plants, breaking sticks or branches, or interrupting an animal’s habitat. So by creating trails, we create a space where people can go to enjoy nature while preserving as much of nature as possible. Which then allows for the conservation of plants and animals and ecosystems to continue.
GG: As a woman, would you say you are in a minority of Trail Crew Leaders?
Kim: In general, there are way fewer women and people of color acting as Trail Crew Leaders or even joining trail crews. Southwest Conservation Corps has created a space where they are encouraging individuals that might not traditionally be part of trail work like the Woman’s Plus Non-Binary Saw Crew and the BIPOC Crew.. So I think there is a changing culture through various organizations to create these spaces where all people can thrive and be truly accepted in this culture.
GG: What are some of the barriers you’ve seen for women, people of color, and anyone who has not been traditionally represented in the outdoors in this line of work?
Kim: I definitely think there are a lot of people who think women just aren’t strong enough, not capable in an outdoorsy sense. People are excited but they act like seeing women in the outdoors is a novelty and it is a shame things are still this way. I think for women and BIPOC individuals there is some overlap in the issues which we experience. Sometimes there is confusion when white people see people of color in the outdoors. I think many see it, again, as a novelty. They might think, “You’re not from around here. Why are you in these spaces?” I hear people say “city folk are encroaching on our natural spaces.” Those spaces really should be open to everyone and when people see black and brown bodies in those spaces they may think they don’t belong there.
GG: Do you have any advice for other women or people of color who might be intimidated but want to get into this space?
Kim: There are spaces and programs being created to facilitate diversity in these fields. I would say it is going to take a lot of advocacy, of self and others, and risk-taking. We all need to be working towards creating a space that actually serves all of us.
GG: What resources have you found helpful towards this aim?
GG: What has it been like to work on a trail crew during this time when participation in the outdoors has skyrocketed under Covid?
Kim: It is definitely wild that there are [now] so many people out there on trails. Sometimes we are out in the middle of nowhere and see tons of people come by. As much as I love the fact that people are getting outdoors, there are a lot of people out there now that haven’t really learned how to behave in the outdoors properly. The amount of toilet paper we see is so gross and terrible. I think we need widespread education on how to interact with the outdoors appropriately.
GG: Before you owned a pair of our Go There Pants, what was your solution to answering nature’s call in the outdoors?
Kim: Well, you have to walk for a while until you find an appropriate spot. It is so much easier when an appropriate spot is close by. We don’t want people walking off-trail, so the less people have to walk to get away, the better. But also, don’t pee on the trail. Walking far, far away, finding a nice tree to stand behind, getting your ass cold…it was a bad time. Being worried about people seeing. It is definitely less of a hassle with my SheFly pants. You don’t have to go as far. You don’t have to look so hard.
GG: Do you have a pee mishap story?
Kim: I have peed on myself so many times! Either you don’t pull your pants down far enough or stand the right way. It still happens when I don’t wear my SheFly pants!
GG: Do the female members of your crew struggle with answering nature's call more than other identities?
Kim: There is a slight challenge to having a vagina in the outdoors. Finding places where you can get away and pee isn’t the easiest. I can imagine this is the case in other situations. SheFlys definitely saves time and saves the effort of having to go so far away to find privacy. They are even compatible with the chaps we have to wear while using a chainsaw! That is truly a game-changer.
GG: Being a woman in the outdoors who is required to wear a ton of gear, do you have any complaints about the selection or gear offered to women?
Kim: Yes! I really wish SheFly zippers were in everything! We end up having to buy men’s stuff in all the technical gear we are required to have because the women’s is fitted. And, for what? To make our butt look good? Instead of allowing us to get things done. It is really frustrating. I find the waistlines are at stupid heights, the pockets are not as nice as the men’s version, etc., so we just buy men’s. And then I have to roll up everything! It is so hard to find a practical women’s version that isn’t just about style and not function.
Have a story to share about how our Go There™ Pants helped you on the job? Let us know!