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
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