Lately, there have been Girafficorn sightings all over the high mountain deserts of Ketchum, Idaho—zooming by on car bumpers, being zipped up under sweatshirts or flashing on the side of water bottles. And, most often, hangin’ with the ladies.
This logo, a magical mixture between a giraffe and a unicorn, is the creation of Sun Valley native and pro skier, Lynsey Dyer. It is also the inspiration behind SheJumps.org—a nonprofit program designed to get women involved in outdoor activities.
“The Girafficorn represents picking one’s head up above the chaos, distraction or any disappointments of everyday life,” writes Dyer. “Instead she reminds us to keep our eye on the prize … If we’re going to change the way the world is, we need some magical friends at our side to help keep us lit up … take another deep breath … and jump, then do it again until one day, you’ve met your goal.”
Together with Claire Smallwood and Vanessa Pierce, Dyer designed SheJumps to connect curious ladies within their community, to provide the opportunity, the education, the gear and even the friends to explore the outdoor world together.
Julie Youngblood, a Sun Valley resident, recently got involved with SheJumps during one of their mountaineering programs in the Canadian Selkirks and decided to bring the program home.
“I think it’s really important for women to be comfortable and active and to have the confidence to try different things—to see what they do and don’t like,” said Julie. “This program gives girls an open platform to try stuff that they may end up loving.”
As Julie explained, if you can’t tag along with a boyfriend, dad or other dudes, it’s not always easy to get involved in outdoor sports (no one likes babysitting the rookie). And even in a small and athletic community like Sun Valley, it can be hard to find like-minded girls willing to try new things.
That’s where SheJumps comes in. With both summer and winter programs in seven regions throughout the US, they offer sessions for all ages and skill levels—things like paddle boarding, kayaking, white water rafting, yoga, rock climbing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, avalanche training and mountaineering, to name a few. There are even programs in Canada and potentials in Chile, the United Arab Emirates and Europe—a veritable smorgasbord for any type of lady looking to try any type of activity.
They also created “The Clubhouse,” an online forum where girls can get online and connect with one another in their region or abroad. “You can ask to borrow gear, crash on someone’s couch or just get together and go do something outside,” said Julie. “And all the girls are cool.”
There are classes for girls to learn how to fix their own bike or tune and wax their skis. "Local businesses donate the equipment and gear and others donate their time to teach other girls how it’s done. It’s entirely volunteer-based,” said Julie.
For her first session as a new SheJumps Ambassador, Julie chose a fall fly fishing class. With help from local volunteer “Lady Lunkers,” as she calls them, like Laura Speck, Kendall Friedman, Rachel Pace, Natalia Ferris and Tami Harrison, she organized a two day fishing trip and casting clinic in Mackay, Idaho—the first official SheJumps event in the Valley.
Of the 22 girls who came out to fish, there were a few who traveled all the way from Salt Lake City and Boise, one stopping through from Colorado, and another who, never having been west of New Jersey, decided to jump in a car and drive across the country to set up shop in Idaho. It also just so happened to be her birthday.
On the first day, all the girls learned the basics of “10 and 2,” tied a few blood knots, practiced casting into hula-hoops and chatted over Bloody Mary’s and beers in Atkinson’s Park (because the first lesson in fishing is “Always. Bring. Beers.”). Afterwards, some went to Penny Lake to practice in the pond and then out for some pizza, football and a birthday celebration at Whiskey Jacques.
Early the next morning, blurry-eyed and gripping coffee, everyone caravanned over Trail Creek to the Big Lost River. Despite spitting flakes of snow and chilling winds, they had an amazing day of fishing at Idaho Basecamp. There were even birthday cupcakes courtesy of Jordan Youngblood, Julie’s twin sister.
Meredith Richardson, who had never so much as held a fly rod before, caught her very first fish while other more veteran fisherwomen ripped some larger lip and showed the newbies a thing or two.
And this is only the beginning, according to Julie.
She has three more SheJumps sessions in the works—a navigation and backpacking trip in the fall, yurt and backcountry skiing trip (hopefully with a Level 1 avalanche course) in the winter, and this spring, a “Get the Girls Out” event, which will involve Olympic hopeful Langely McNeal and a scavenger hunt on Bald Mountain.
“I think a lot of women don’t get involved for fear of looking like an idiot. But for me, I do it anyway,” laughed Julie. “There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with doing things on your own and knowing you can. It gives you motivation to keep getting out there, to keep trying new things.”
It’s women like Julie Youngblood, Lynsey Dyer and the crazy Kritter who road-tripped all the way from New Jersey, that inspire other women worldwide to keep jumping onward, upward and into the unknown.
Julie is always looking for volunteers, male or female, to help out with SheJumps events. If you’d like more information about how to get involved, email [email protected] or Laura Dale, the Intermountain Regional Coordinator, at [email protected]
Also, keep an eye on the SheJumps website or their Facebook page for upcoming events happening in and around Sun Valley.