One Woman Turned Her Book Club into an Outdoor Adventure

Walk in the WoodsJill Hinton wants women to discover their inner heroine.

The Grand Rapids resident has combined a love of books with a desire for adventure to form her new business, Outdoor Book Club.

Her goal is to help women learn something about themselves by getting outside of their comfort zone and, well, by getting outside.

“You’re learning something about yourself that you didn’t think you could do,” she said of communing with nature.

The trips and books that inspire them are unique enough to fit a wide range of interests and outdoor skill levels.

An upcoming September trip centers on a backpacking weekend hiking the Manistee River Trail loop, inspired by Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, his memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail. In October, Hinton has plans for a weekend dog camp at Ludington State Park. Campers will bond with their pooches, and each other, while discussing Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. Her other trips include winter cabin camping, meditation retreats, even wine camps in Traverse City with Rex Pickett’s Sideways as the accompanying book.

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Another shot from the photo shoot with Hinton’s friends.

She said getting women outside and encouraging them to try something new in a “no-judgment” atmosphere is empowering.

“You can bring that back to your everyday life”, Hinton said.

The idea is gaining traction. In November, Hinton took third place in a business plan competition sponsored by CitiBank and V-Wise, an organization designed to promote female entrepreneurs who are veterans. Hinton served in the Army in the late ‘90s.

Reality television has also taken note. A producer from ABC’s Shark Tank called and asked Hinton to apply to be on a special veterans’ edition of the popular reality competition show that features aspiring entrepreneurs pitching their idea to a panel of investors. As of this writing, she’s still awaiting word from the show, on whether or not she was chosen to appear.

Jill Hinton, left, practices yoga with Elizabeth Sanders, owner of Yoga Heat. The pair were photographed doing potential Outdoor Book Club activities to submit along with Hinton's application to appear on ABC's Shark Tank.
Jill Hinton, left, practices yoga with Elizabeth Sanders, owner of Yoga Heat. The pair were photographed doing potential Outdoor Book Club activities to submit along with Hinton’s application to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank.

Right now all of the trips Hinton has planned are in Michigan. She’s expanding to offer periodic workshops, clinics, and customized trips that could accommodate small groups. Eventually she’d love to offer trips in other states and countries.

For now, she’s enjoying meeting the diverse range of women interested in what Outdoor Book Club has to offer. Bonding underneath the stars away from phones, kids, and responsibilities, over a good read, is her idea of the perfect time.

“There’s an immediate rapport with people who love to read books,” she said. “These are women who have stories to tell and want to take risks.”

Want to learn more about that September trip or backpacking in general? Hinton has a Backpacking 101 workshop planned at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus on September 11 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Beginning backpackers are encouraged to attend to ask questions in a friendly, open atmosphere.

Photo credit: Jake Bouma

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