Six women clamber over a cluster of elephant-size boulders to a knob of rock, then peer over the edge into glinting water 18 feet below.
Together, they admire the view, acknowledge their fears, voice a few words of encouragement and count — one, two, three! — before taking a flying leap into Lake Travis. They hit the water, the sound reverberating against the limestone walls, then pop to the surface in a shower of bubbles, slapping palms and cheering their latest exploit.
Behold the Adventure Girls.
Among their ranks are an emergency veterinarian, a business owner, a nurse, an anesthesiologist, an engineer and a federal background investigator. One is a former collegiate swimmer, another a beach volleyball player. One pole vaulted in school; another rowed; one ran track.
The tie that holds them together? Children — and a palpable need for adventure.
These mothers have decided that instead of staying in touch by sitting down for a quiet lunch or a glass of wine, they’d rather jump off cliffs, crawl through caves or hike in the woods. They’re happier scraping their shins or grinding dirt into their elbows than sitting on a sofa. They believe a jolt of excitement makes them better moms to their kids.
Each one has at least three children; collectively, they have 22. They meet every few weeks, always on a weekday, and pack as much adventure as they can into the few hours they share, racing back in time to meet school buses. They’ve hiked at Pedernales State Park, crept through a cave at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, pedaled the South Walnut Creek Trail and taken a dip in Jacob’s Well.
“I have always loved living a life of adventure. Is there any other way to live?” says their ringleader, Genevieve Ali, 45.
Ali says her thirst for adventure began when she was a child and she climbed mountains with her father. “Once a thunderstorm rolled in as we reached the top — I thought I would get struck by lightning and die — all because I just had to touch the patch of summer snow at the top,” she says.
She’s raised her own kids with adventure, small doses at first, such as flipping over rocks in the backyard to find bugs and spiders. Now she takes them on bigger adventures, such as jumping from the same cliffs at Pace Bend Park where the Adventure Girls have convened today.
They hope through their own adventures to encourage their children to take calculated risks, too.
“I feel like this season of life is the most monotonous,” says Amanda Kool, 41. “It’s ‘Groundhog Day’ with kids — so you have to find joy in the monotony, and this helps you reconnect with the joy you had before, as a kid.”
It’s about rediscovering the former you, the one who never hesitated to run outside and push her body to the limits. A little bit of that fearlessness trickles back in with each Adventure Girls outing. It’s about breathing fresh life into the thrill-seeking part of you that was buried beneath work and responsibility.
“We get together with strong women, all Type A’s, who every one of them shines in her own way, and has weakness and isn’t afraid to show it. We hike and climb and vent and release and do it in a healthy way and come back better moms,” says Patricia Ponsart, 37.
It’s all done in a safe way, one that focuses on an active and fit lifestyle.
“Gen is my barometer for how reasonable our choices are that we do for adventure,” says K.C. Singletary, 46.
It’s all about finding adventure in their own backyard, says Ali, who started the group about two years ago. She tells the story about the time one of her sons dared her to eat an entire jalapeno at a restaurant, which she did. She got sick in the parking lot afterward, but she says that hardly mattered.
“It’s all adventure,” she says. “I jumped in the lake. I ate the pepper. It’s truly living life — not just plodding along.”
After their initial jump off the rocks at Pace Bend Park, the Adventure Girls paddle leisurely around the bend to another group of rocks. They climb up on those, flop down on the warm stone, squint into the sun and reflect on the importance of injecting adventure into their lives. Thirty minutes later, they swim even farther up the bank of cliffs, to a spot where they can scramble out of the water, plunge into the underbrush and emerge next to the park road where their vehicles are parked and waiting.
Everyone should form their own adventure group, they say. It doesn’t matter if you try some things and fail at them. It’s all about mixing new experiences into your life and doing things you’re not used to. Life should be filled with firsts, even when you’re 40, 50, 60 or 70 years old.
Adventure keeps us young. It stretches our limits and makes us feel alive. That’s worth the nicks and cuts — and, today, one member’s watch, which has been lost to the lake’s depths.
Mommy lunches are fine, they insist. But this kind of behavior keeps them alive.
“You’re not going to remember those lunches when you’re 80,” Ali says. “I want to look back when I’m 80 and say, ‘We had awesome, kick-ass adventures.’”