Women Who Howl: Wild Wisdom with Alpine Lily

We sat down with Ashley Gossens, a writer, adventurer and nature lover living in Seattle, WA. We knew as soon as we discovered her piece about climbing 30 peaks before her 30th Birthday that there was a bigger story to tell. Ashley shares her frequent adventures as well as book recommendations to inspire adventurous women on her blog,  Alpine Lily.

Please describe your 'day job'.          
I'm an aerospace engineer. Basically I make sure your airplane doesn't fall apart!

What draws you to nature?             
I've always felt a deep connection to nature since I was a kid. I grew up in the mountains in Pennsylvania and was always playing outside and exploring. These days I seek out nature for peace and rejuvenation. When my soul feels empty, I go to the mountains to refill it.

Why are you inspired to find yourself outside?
Growing up in nature, I had the tendency to take it for granted. Since I moved to Seattle ten years ago I found a totally new perspective of what the outdoors has to offer and I found a never-ending playground in the Cascade Mountains. I am always looking to discover a new place or trail, and there is enough here to keep me busy for a lifetime!

How have experiences in nature influenced your daily life?
My experiences in nature have taught me the importance of hard work. We all know that to achieve the best view you must climb the most difficult trail. There is a sense of accomplishment that you get at the end of a hard won journey or a long mountain climb. I remind myself of this frequently in my daily life.

You must do the work to accomplish great things.

With nature as your teacher, what has been your toughest lesson?
Certainly patience and accepting limitations. Sometimes the hardest lesson, in life and on the trail, is knowing when to give in and to forgive yourself for it.

How has spending time outside influenced your life's path?
Spending time outside has enriched my life in so many ways. As a naturally nervous and cautious person, I used to steer away from risk and from some more adventurous things I wanted to do.

Since I started hiking solo many years ago, I’ve gained a self-confidence that I did not have before. Going out into the wild alone and equipping myself with the knowledge I need to be self-sufficient and safe has been an incredibly empowering experience.

On the flip side, I've also found that spending time in the outdoors with friends and family enriches those relationships in a way that nothing else has. It's a time to disconnect from distractions and really listen to each other.

What advice would you give to someone just venturing into the outdoors?
Find the thing you love to do outside, whether it's hiking, climbing, or skiing and do it as much as possible. Read books, take classes, find the gear you need. Find others who love what you love and spend your time with them and learn from them. Once you master these skills, teach others and give back. Encourage others to do the same.

How do you howl often everyday?
I love this question because it implies that you can howl often everyday. I hate the popular notion these days that we can only be free and our best selves on the weekends or that we have to "escape" our daily lives to experience nature. There are so many ways to bring love for the outdoors into our daily lives and homes. Draw and paint your favorite landscapes, wildlife and flowers, write a blog about your adventures, read an outdoor adventure book, go for a walk, plant some native plants in your yard, join an organization that teaches kids about the outdoors, join a rock climbing gym. The possibilities are endless!

How has exploring the outdoors affected your confidence and inner self-talk?
Exploring the outdoors has given me confidence that I don't think I could have gotten any other way. I've done things that I never thought possible when I was growing up. I've climbed mountains that I love and I've gained a local knowledge that is invaluable. When I feel overwhelmed or like things are piling up on me, I tell myself to take things one step at a time and break it up into smaller goals, just like climbing a mountain.

Our everyday lives can consume us at times. What fuels you to live wild?
My fuel is knowing that living wild makes me feel better and stronger. I also know that I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and I must not take it for granted.

What's your one piece of wild wisdom for our community?

If there is something that you’ve been wanting to do, something that you feel deep in your bones, I encourage you to find a way to just do it. It’s ok to be scared, you are not alone in that. The best thing to defeat fear is knowledge, so learn everything you can.

What book is on top of your required reading list for women?
There are so many, I can't just pick one!! So here are six:

Breaking Trail by Arlene Blum
Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion
Extreme Sleeps by Phoebe Smith
A Woman's Guide to the Wild by Ruby McConnell
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery