Gowns for Greenbacks: A New Project

Not that I don’t have enough going on, what with three dogs, a sixteen year old daughter, a full-time job, and several time-consuming hobbies (making lists of mountains and then climbing them being rather time consuming but also committing to a yoga practice of sorts, staying competitive with my running, and attempting to be a locavore), but as is often the case, one idea just playfully batted around has snowballed into a full grown project.

The Catskill 35 have been hiked in nearly every imaginable way: the fastest, the fastest without a support team, barefoot, in winter, by gridders (the 35 in every month of the year – 420 climbs in all), as part of the Catskill Hundred Highest… pretty much, you name it and it’s been done. Except in a ballgown. As far as I know, no one has ever hiked all of the 35 tallest mountains in the Catskills in a ballgown. Until now.

I know it sounds a bit stupid. The gown will get ripped, stained, destroyed most likely. That’s ok. A ballgown will probably be kind of uncomfortable to hike in. That’s ok too – my experience with “hiking pants” so far is that they are also pretty miserably uncomfortable (hence the title of this blog – it isn’t just a clever image – it’s what I do). The idea is definitely a “because it is there” notion that once planted in my brain, won’t shake loose. The image is compelling to me: hiking boots, smartwool socks, a hideous hoochie-mama strapless magenta/fuschia/turquoise/grape nightmare of a gown, with maybe bike shorts underneath, traipsing through the woods. Perfect.

It kind of captures something central about who I am: attention-seeking, in a playful (albeit ridiculous) way, thumbing my nose at convention, and being just a little in-your-face about the whole “hiking clothes” fashionistas on the trail. It’s all good-natured – when I wore my awesome Prana ripstop water-resistant funky print polyester yoga pants on the trail I can’t tell you how many people asked if I was really wearing my pajamas. And expressed concern for my health and safety since they couldn’t possibly be water proof, warm enough, etc. I don’t think anyone believed me when I assured them I was fine and the pants really were up to snuff and I don’t think anyone really cared much. At least they weren’t denim! I wish they came in leopard print…

After I roped in another woman (one woman hiking in a ballgown = mentally ill. Two women hiking in ballgowns = fundraising project) I got to thinking. As long as we’re doing this, we should expand it into a real project, with a purpose. We should turn it into a fund raiser – that will give it some structure and credibility, although everyone who knows me personally will know that the fund raiser aspect if just a way to look legitimate when really this is just all about the wacky appeal of being in the woods in a ballgown. Gowns for Greenbacks was born.

So here are the details: the G4G hikers (Melissa and I) along with any others willing to tag along will hike all 35 of the highest Catkill peaks in the non winter season, clad in a ballgown. The gown will be worn for the entirety of the hike and there will be trail head to trail head documentation of that. The gown must be a gown (not simply a dress), as determined by Melissa and I – it’s gotta be Over The Top. If the gown gets destroyed that’s fine – another gown may be impressed into service. We’re trying to avoid sequins or beads as they’ll get ripped off pretty easily (leave no trace, y’know?).

The fund raising aspect works like this: we plan to collect sponsors or pledges. The money can be offered

  • per mountain
  • per mile
  • per foot (or 100 feet) of elevation gain
  • lump sum for the whole shebang
  • any other way the check writer wishes to part with some moolah

All the money collected will be donated to the Catskill 3500 Club. We haven’t gotten started yet, so any ideas, suggestions, or other input is welcome. As are other G4G hikers (in gowns) or companions (in tuxedos).

For more information, please contact me directly using any of the usual ways: email or Facebook messages, or private messages on the ADK High Peaks forum. And start ducking now: the call for sponsorships will begin shortly!

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