If you like the idea of a women-only group with the mission to "Strengthen bodies. Feed minds. Calm souls," you can't go wrong with She Ascends.

The Minnesota-based hiking and wellness nonprofit organization was first established in 2019 in Stearns County. From there, chapters were launched across the state including in McLeod and Meeker counties earlier this year. 

Jamie Broll of Hutchinson is the McLeod County chapter leader. She is part of several Minnesota hiking groups on Facebook when she learned of She Ascends. Broll liked that the organization brought women together who love nature, the outdoors and is based on wellness.

“It's not just about hiking,” she said. “It's for all levels, even for people who go for walks. It's very inclusive. It's geared toward all types of women.”

Broll and her husband, Steven, are avid hikers, but she was looking for an opportunity to connect with other women who enjoy hiking. While She Ascends had chapters in a number of Minnesota counties, there wasn't anything in McLeod County. She also liked the idea of starting something new in this area that hadn't been done before.

One of the advantages Broll said of being part of a statewide organization is that marketing is in place and its a nonprofit organization. So far, the McLeod County chapter has three official members and at least 10 women who have signed up for hikes. It also has more than 50 women who have joined the McLeod County private Facebook group. 

"We've had a lot of interest," said Noelle Meyer, chapter leader for She Ascends Meeker County. "Our Facebook group is about 70 members, with eight to 10 regular people who come on the hikes. We're always looking for more women age 18 or older."

The best way to find out about local She Ascends events is to follow its Facebook page: She Ascends (McLeod County) and/or She Ascends (Meeker County). 

SHARING A LOVE OF HIKING

Meyer credited Broll, a coworker, for introducing her to She Ascends.

"She told me about her interest in this hiking group," Meyer said. "It got me interested too. We set up a Zoom meeting with the founder and the regional leader and we went from there."

Meyer said she connected with the She Ascends core values, which aim to connect women of all ages to each other, nature and to themselves so they can live happier and healthier lives. There's no comparisons, no competition and no judgment — only empowerment to ascend.

Meyer stepped up to launch the Meeker County chapter because "Meeker County doesn't have any groups like this," she said. "It's a great opportunity to help our community grow and for women to get out and meet new friends and share similar interests with them."

The two chapters conducted their first hike in January and since then have continued to meet monthly. In addition to scheduled events, Meyer said there are pop-up hikes, which are spur-of-the-moment events, which are announced on the chapters' Facebook pages.

"You only hike for about an hour, so it doesn't take up your whole night," she said.

On Saturday, McLeod, Meeker, Stearns and Morrison chapters are hosting their quarterly spring event: Find your HIKE(her) Within 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Glacial Lakes State Park, which is 30 miles south of Alexandria. Activities range from a 3-mile hike to lunch at Rolling Forks Vineyards in Glenwood. For more information, visit hikehoppers.org/she-ascends.html.

While chapters are organized by county with local activities, the state organization is looking beyond its borders and talking about hosting hiking trips outside of Minnesota, as well as internationally. 

Like Broll, Meyer has always enjoyed hiking. The two women share a love of being outdoors, exercise and the support of women who share the same interests.

"I love hiking, going into the mountains," Meyer said. "I've been in Australia and New Zealand hiking. I'd like it so we can switch it up with different activities such as kayaking with hiking. We haven't done that yet, but that's the goal in the future to do some kind of event."

As a newlywed and newcomer to Litchfield, Meyer appreciates the camaraderie of kindred souls the group offers.

"Everyone is so welcoming and friendly," she said. "This group let's me meet a lot of people really fast and I feel comfortable to call Litchfield home.

For now, both women are looking to grow their chapters. 

"People are thinking about it," Broll said. "We're new and we're getting the word out. There's more than a dozen chapters and it keeps growing."