I led my first back country trip at the age of 17. It was a two-week canoe trip leading seven Girl Scouts into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and the adjoining Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. It was June. It was cold. It rained every day, sometimes all day. There were bugs, numerous portages, and an encounter with a black bear. It was an amazing trip. I've had many other wonderful and meaningful experiences in the outdoors since then.
Some of them have been straightforward outdoor adventures; others have taken on a certain mystical quality.
As a young adult I dropped out of college; not because I was failing in my studies, or out of money or seeking something different; but because my grandmother was dying of cancer and I was the person who could most easily put my life on hold and be there for her. If you have looked after someone through a terminal illness; you have a sense of what the next year or two were like. It was emotionally draining. Profoundly so. It was the formative experience of my young life and I would eventually come to understand the incredible gift my grandmother had given me. But first, in the months following her death, I took to the woods to heal.
We were living in Ellsworth Maine and I, with exactly one long weekend of backpacking experience, decided I was going to hitchhike with my dog to the AT and hike to Katahdin. So I did. I found a cheap backpack, assembled food and clothing, walked out the front door and stuck out my thumb. Three rides later I was sitting in the back of a pickup of a couple going four wheeling who drove me right up to the AT deep in the 100 mile wilderness.
I decided early on that hiking with my dog for long days would be boring so I gave him a backstory. He was a dragon who wanted to find love; so he got himself enchanted into a rather ugly little dog (in retrospect not the best of decisions). The only thing that could change him back was encountering a real princess.
Little chance we would encounter one in a roadless, remote section of Maine. We had some wonderful philosophical conversations as we meandered around lakes, over mountains and across bogs. I can't remember now what we talked about; only that his perspectives did not feel like they were simply made up by me, but like they came from somewhere else. I couldn't explain it then. I am not sure I can now. We walked and slept under the stars and it was a really, really good experience.
I met a number of thru-hikers on that hike on the AT. Sitting in the lean-tos at night I learned they were on their own journeys, leaving heartbreak and change behind them to walk through the forest. The trail was they same; but the experiences of each of them traversing it was not. Each was absolutely unique.
I've learned it's not necessary to journey into the outback to be deeply connected with the natural world because 'wilderness' is everywhere. It's nearby in a local park, in a back yard. The 'more than human world' has an infinite capacity to connect with people in a way that is meaningful to each individual. My role as a guide is to encourage that connection. I don't know what form it will take and it doesn't matter that I don't. I couldn't possibly be that wise. But the forest is. Peace, insight, grounding, connection, wonder, gratitude--these are some of the words people share with me at the end of a walk.
So, yes I do have extensive outdoor experience including hiking, camping, trail running, backpacking, canoeing, skiing, snowshoeing and more. But that's not where my head is nowadays. If you want to go fast, I'm not a good fit. If you want to go slow: get close with nature and develop deep connections, please explore this website and sign up below to join me on a walk.
Outdoor experiential qualifications include: Maine Master Naturalist, Certified Interpretive Guide, Volunteer leader Maine Chapter Appalachian Mountain Club for over a decade. Current in Advanced Wilderness First Aid Certification. Wilderness Education Association Graduate. I am vice-president of the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization.
Other related experience: I've pursued a decades long professional career supporting protection of our nation's natural resources and I am just as comfortable discussing hard science and national resources policy as guiding an immersive experience in the forest. You can find out more about it by reading about me in Portland Magazine's November 2019 issue about the 10 Most Intriguing People in Maine.
Jeanne In The News