Are you a woman who loves the outdoors but is uneasy about going alone? Are you unsure which hiking shoes to wear or how to build a campfire?
Maybe you haven’t seen the wildflowers at Hell Hole Canyon, gone fishing at Lake Morena or picnicking at Potrero County Park.
While many residents soak up rays at San Elijo Lagoon or Waterfront Park, the county and state recreation departments and the San Diego County Fair want you to explore others areas of the county.
This year’s fair theme is “Get Out There,” and rangers want to open people’s minds to the parks and preserves in the county — a biodiversity hotspot.
“Women in the Wild” is just one program helping women gain confidence to go solo.
“We found that there are some women who want to enjoy park experiences but who are afraid to go by themselves, so we’ll just help demystify these outdoor experiences for you,” said Jessica Geiszler, marketing and public outreach manager for county parks and rec.
“We’re going to teach you the essential skills you need to feel comfortable and competent in the outdoors, so you can go out there and just have fun.”
Restarted after a pandemic pause, the Women in the Wild program women teaches backpacking, camping, rock climbing, Krav Maga (self-defense), mountain biking and a variety of outdoor experiences based on interest.
County and state rangers are giving workshops each day the fair is open. (The fair is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in June.)
At the fair’s 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall just beyond the O’Brien Gate, people enter a “ranger station” and learn about flora and fauna native to areas and ecosystems and activities from the mountains to the desert to the beach.
Around the “campfire,” rangers speak about topics ranging from reptiles to birds of prey to the species conservation program to survival skills in the wilderness to biodiversity.
“There are things that live and grow here that don’t live and grow anywhere else in the world, so we should celebrate that,” Geiszler said. “We should take every opportunity to get outside and actually explore those places and see those things first hand.”
The county oversees 156 parks and preserves spread throughout the county. The state runs 18 parks, beaches and a reserve.
State property include Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Border Field State Park, Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Torrey Pines State Beach and natural reserve.
At the fair, volunteers from state parks provide hands-on interactive activities. At 3 p.m. Sunday, June 18, is a Tule Boat demonstration — showing how the Kumeyaay created seafaring tule boats.
The Kumeyaay continue to build tule boats (or ha kwaiyo in Kumeyaay) and host ha kwaiyo launches and races along the San Diego coast.
Also planned are youth activities, including crafts, and ghost stories for older folks who aren’t faint of heart.
“People tend to visit the (parks) that they have been to before,” Geiszler said. “They feel comfortable with what they know. But we want to showcase all of the other wild places that are further out that maybe they haven’t experienced.”
This is a chance for us to say: ‘Hey, have you been to Wilderness Gardens? Have you been to Mount Gower? Have you been to Lake Morena? They are so unique and so cool that offer things you just can’t experience anywhere else,” she said.
She called Tijuana River Valley Regional Park an amazing place, where wildflowers and a bird and butterfly garden can be seen. Also, a campground was just built, which contains yurts.
Hell Hole Canyon County Preserve “has a scary name but is absolutely gorgeous right now,” she said. “Everything is blooming. Some people may have read about it or thought it was too challenging, but there are always opportunities, look a little deeper. They can go on a ranger led hike and learn about the property and then tour it at their level of comfort.”
Three activities has just been scheduled for the Women in the Wild Program.
From 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, is Ladies Night at Summer Movies in the Park. The movie “Pitch Perfect” will be shown. People can touch animal skins and interact with live animals.
From 9-11:15 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, a Krav Maga self-defense course will be offered. Krav Maga is the official self-defense system of the Israel Defense Forces.
From 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Sept. 2, a fishing and kayaking workshop will be held. All supplies will be provided, while participants learn to fish and safely maneuver a kayak.
Reservations, which will be available in July, are required for the Aug. 19 and Sept. 2 outings.
In October is a campout. Camping equipment will be provided for those without it for a small fee. Breakfast and snacks are provided. Nature hikes and stargazing experiences are included. Participants will be taught how to set up a tent, start a campfire and learn survival techniques to build confidence outdoors.
Hiking workshops are set for December and January, where people learn what to wear, what plants to avoid and safety tips for trails. Hikes start with easier ones and progress to a backpacking adventure.
Interest in the outdoors grew by leaps and bounds during the pandemic and demand has remained high, Geiszler said.
The county recreation department has a partnership with San Diego Mountain Biking Assn. and REI, called Ride On Mountain Biking Challenge, where the department provides mountain bikes for people.
There is a safety talk and people go on rides. They can try different county trails with experts in mountain biking.
“Any opportunity for us to get people outside and active is a win for us,” she said.