I blame my need for adventure on a childhood growing up in the wilderness of Wisconsin. I thought four tree houses, a lake within biking distance and wild-spirited friends were the norm, and have continued seeking the same ever since.
A studious and steady college career launched me head-first into the Peace Corps. A military Coup, noble fight against the Guinea Worm, and many many cases of Giardia later, I left Burkina Faso, West Africa for the seduction of my first long-distance hike: The Appalachian Trail.
The challenges really weren’t that different from the Peace Corps. I was comfortable being dirty, didn’t mind the lack of electricity or running water, and I constantly thought of food I would eat if I had a chance.
I fell in love with walking every day for five months. This was what I was meant to do. That, and figure out that whole career thing.
So I moved to Washington D.C., started interning as an exhibition design intern at the Smithsonian and found myself at one point with a power drill in one hand, a priceless Lichtenstein in the other. Even I surprised myself when my hand didn’t slip as I was unframing the painting.
Well what does one do next? Why go to grad school! I attended Goldsmiths College in London to study exhibition design in the hot-bed of the very, very exiting museum world. (not so exciting to some I might imagine) No matter that I was studying the theory of sustainable design, there were jobs in this kind of thing right?
Reinventing myself take 23.7: moved to Portland, Oregon and worked as a graphic designer until I could get myself on the next trail: The Pacific Crest Trail in 2006.
A solo hike in a high snow year, bring it on! In fact I wasn’t solo all that much. I met amazing people and had amazing experiences on what will remain one of the most incredible experiences of my life. If I wasn’t addicted to living out of a bag for months at a time and sleeping on dirt before, now I was.
So lets try out this whole “making a living by working outdoors” thing. It worked for a good 5 years too. I started by leading hiking and crosscountry ski and snowshoe tours out of Portland; moved to Durango, Colorado to lead backcountry trail crews; taught a lightweight backpacking class at Portland Community College; became a field staff for 2 years at a wilderness therapy company in Bend, Oregon; and then did a season of logistics for Outward Bound Odin Falls.
Those were good years, and I ended hiking more trails like the Northville Placid Trail, Colorado Trail, and Arizona Trail, but I desired a home, and decided to leave the illustrious position where I was barely able to pay off my student loans, for an incredible opportunity with a publishing company in Bend, Oregon.
Editor for the local arts magazine? Writer for the local business paper? Am I dreaming?
A few years of weekend warrioring has done me good. I’ve learned how to ski, packraft, and find myself returning to the outdoor industry. I’m not quite a dirty hiker (although my impending thru-hike of the 3,000 mile Continential Divide Trail in 2015 might ruin that image) or an employee of the guide/outdoor leadership industry…I’m a writer and graphic designer who wants to do everything she’s always known: write and get creative with what I love most, the outdoors.
My return from the CDT coincided with the job opportunity to help establish the new Oregon Desert Trail, wait what? A chance to use all my hiking experiences to help develop a new route in my backyard? Dream job! Well, I had to do the only obvious thing first…hike it. So in 2016 I became the 10th hiker to have completed the ODT…and now I get to play with maps, tell other hikers about the route, lead trail work trips on sections in Eastern Oregon, and immerse myself in the high desert mountains, canyons, playas, and forests of Oregon.
I like to walk…a lot.
My previous thru-hikes include:
Appalachian Trail 2002
West Highland Way 2004
Pacific Crest Trail 2006
Colorado Trail 2007
Arizona Trail 2009
Wonderland Trail 2009
Continental Divide Trail 2015
Oregon Desert Trail 2016