‘Wild’ Women Hiking the Conejo Wilderness and Beyond

By Mira Reverente

Piotrowski wanted to create an environment where women show up, hike, get fit and feel safe.

Group founder and leader Piotrowski wanted to create an environment where women show up, hike, get fit and feel safe.

Angeline Duran Piotrowski remembers her wild “Aha” moment. “I was driving and marveling at all the gorgeous scenery around me,” said the Calabasas resident. “I just decided I wanted to hike all these trails and bring friends with me.”

The driven and daring diva of the trails formed her own all-women hiking group in 2013 and christened it Wild Women Hiking.

“I wanted to create an environment where women show up, hike, get fit and feel safe,” said Piotrowski who likes to bring along her selfie stick for those precious, picture-perfect moments.

The group offers adventures like “Trail Tone on the Secret Trail in Calabasas” or “Backbone Challenge.”

Now numbering at a few dozen, the women usually meet up around 9:30 a.m. at a pre-determined meeting place or trail head after the usual weekday frenzy of sending husbands and children off. Men, guests and children over 18 are welcome as guests, but the group is primarily for women.

The women usually meet up around 9:30 am at a pre-determined meeting place or trail head.

The women usually meet up around 9:30 am at a pre-determined meeting place or trail head.

Dues are a bargain at $10 per month and members log in online to RSVP for a hike, chat with fellow members or arrange carpools.

Piotrowski does her homework by scouting the trails before the actual hike, timing it, keeping an eye out for obstructions and even locating the nearest restrooms.

“Angeline really looks out for us,” said Wendy Suarez of Agoura Hills. “She does a headcount, hands out copies of maps and even gives us a history lesson sometimes.”

On a particular Thursday morning hike to the Danielson cabin site and monument in Newbury Park, Piotrowski briefly touched on Richard Ely Danielson’s legacy, donating the land now known as the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

A glorious waterfall in Newbury Park was the mid-point treat of a recent hike.

Glorious waterfalls were the mid-point treat of a recent hike.

The nine women in attendance that day were treated to a bonus spectacle of glorious waterfalls on their way up to the monument. “I am in awe and can’t believe this is here,” said Courtney Kensington, one of the newer members, gazing up at the waterfalls and navigating the large rocks to get a closer view.

Emiko Parise was right behind her, climbing rocks and dodging tree branches without a moment’s hesitation. The mom of twin girls said she hikes to achieve balance in her life. “It nourishes my soul and after completing a hike I feel like I did something for myself that day,” she said.

For Paula Heintz, the challenge appeals to her. Semi-retired from teaching and accounting, the avid cyclist is looking forward to more switchbacks and single tracks like the recent Backbone Trail trek the group undertook in her “Malibu backyard.”

“The camaraderie and budding friendships in the group are just wonderful and uplifting,” said Cindy Stern of Marina del Rey, who doesn’t mind the long drives just to meet up with the ladies.

Fearless leader Piotrowski always brings her selfie stick to capture those picture-perfect moments of accomplishment.

Fearless leader Piotrowski (extreme right) always brings her selfie stick to capture those picture-perfect moments of accomplishment.

Amidst the background noise of hiking boots crunching on gravel, the chatter and chuckles were non-stop with discussions ranging from spouses (or the lack thereof) and kids to shoes and Chapstick. Nothing seemed to be off-limits under the shade of old oak trees and amidst poppy-lined pastures.

Daria Lamborne was content listening in on the upbeat conversations during the 1,400 foot-climb to the turn-around point at Danielson Monument. “I definitely come for ‘me’ time or girlfriend bonding time,” said the Granada Hills resident.

What’s next for these wild, winsome women of the trails? “Well, there’s the big Rim to Rim hike at the Grand Canyon in May,” said Piotrowski, also an avid backpacker and camper.

At least three members, including her and Karen Dahl, will be trekking the 24.2 miles from the North Rim to the South Rim of the famed national landmark in Arizona.

For some of the women, there is "balance in the universe," after a hike.

For some of the women, there is “balance in the universe,” after a hike.

Dahl doesn’t seem fazed by the distance or the enormity of the R2R challenge, as it is often called. The mom of two embarked on a 10-day hike with her dad in Nepal, back in October. “It was a father-daughter trip of a lifetime. I’m glad I went with him, not knowing if it would be his last hike,” said Dahl, a former banker from Westlake Village.

Meantime, it was time to start the nice and easy downhill trek back to the trail head at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. The wild women were off again and busy planning for their next adventure in the wilderness.

For more information or to become a member, click here.

 


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