Chacos column: The doyenne of the trail

Andrea Chacos
Enjoy the Ride

I’ve always loved guys, especially smart ones with a personality and good looks. But as I get older, I’m attracted to strong, self-assured women even more than Chris Hemsworth and Jason Momoa combined. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the women I’m drawn to have a fancy French name, too. They are called doyenne, and she is the oldest, most experienced, and often most respected woman involved in a particular type of work.

I stumble upon a group of doyennes in the wild while my dog Jenny is taking me out for a Friday morning hike on a popular trail. Tunes pump out of my earbuds and I’m singing to songs my kids say the actual musician does a better job at executing than me. I assure my sarcastic offspring that in a previous life I was most likely the lead singer in a very edgy rock band. I loudly butcher the lyrics anyway because I’m alone and Jenny doesn’t mind my voice. Her tail is wagging as we meander through the woods.

I turn the corner, look up, and collide with a gaggle of older women. Startled at seeing such a large sea of silver this far from the trailhead, I step aside to catch my breath and let them pass. They laugh and talk excitedly with one another. They’re happy and don’t seem out of breath at all.

I smile, the big goofy kind to match their energy. I’m ready to put them behind me when one of the women stops to ask me a question.

I’m usually not interested in chatting to anyone other than Jenny when I’m hiking but I quickly get wrapped up in the group’s positive spirit and succumb to them wholly. We talk for a short time, and when I finally get back to the parking lot, I can confirm three things.

1.    Connections are key.

I am told about 60 women make up this weekly hiking group. I counted ten on this particular Friday, still an impressive turnout because I can rattle off a fistful of excuses why I’d rather hike alone any day of the week.

The group assured me that as I get older, I will want to connect with others because I will have the time and desire to do so. They acknowledged that right now it’s okay to crave being alone. It gives one time to digest and sort through ideas and process feelings. 

I tell myself time alone is crucial for my family’s well-being. Instead of audibly processing the details of my day at the dinner table, I can give space and attention to my loved ones who have their own needs I want to support. At times though, maybe it’s best to be with a group of wise women instead?

2.    Strong, self-assured women are intoxicating.

Overall, older women have more life experience than me, are emotionally more stable than my younger friends, are grounding to be around, and can offer a perspective my peers don’t yet possess. With only minutes together, I was able to feel the trust these women have in themselves and sense their authenticity. I want to be around women that fuel my curiosity and help me build up confidence in myself. As I drive away, I think finding a group like this could be in my near future.

3.    Jenny is my doyenne of the trail.

I remind myself that I often hike with my companion, Jenny, and I think we have a healthy relationship. My dog likes all the music I spin, especially when I play the Hamilton musical soundtrack and switch to Eminem’s rap without warning. Jenny also enjoys every trail I choose and doesn’t mind when I switch my cadence every quarter mile. Jenny listens to my rantings, looks at me intently, and wouldn’t dream of interrupting me, ever. Jenny is easygoing.

To this day, I haven’t found a man nor woman that could match Jenny’s unwavering support, especially when we’re on a hike. I doubt age, good looks, or the wisdom of a few women on a recent Friday morning could sway my opinion. But I may find myself joining a weekly women’s group for a more interactive and balanced relationship, just in case I’ve been wrong all this time.

Andrea Chacos can be reached at

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