Growing up as a Kansas farm girl, I spent a lot of time outdoors doing chores and taking care of animals. But my favorite thing to do was walking along the cow trails in the pastures, exploring ravines, climbing trees, laying down in the prairie grasses and watching cloud formations.
Fast forward to my career as an Extension 4-H Youth Specialist. In 1981, I was attending the National Camp Association Conference when the Philmont Boy Scout Adventure Base Director gave a presentation on opening their programs to 4-H members. At that time, I was searching for something that would entice older kids to stay in 4-H. To make a long story short, I visited Philmont in 1981 learning all that I could about backpacking and training adults and teens for a high adventure experience. My tent camping experiences were zilch (tarps over the clothesline in our backyard).
In 1982, I coordinated my first Outdoor Adventure Experience, taking 48 teens and adults to Philmont for a life-changing experience. And, I was hooked. From 1982-2010, I coordinated Outdoor Adventure programs for hundreds of 4-H teens and volunteer adults in Oklahoma, Virginia and Kansas as a State 4-H Program Specialist. We backpacked, canoed and white water rafted in wilderness areas in New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia, Minnesota and Utah. I recruited adults to serve as crew advisors, capitalizing in their expertise in camping skills . Most importantly, I looked for individuals who had a passion for and ability to work with teens in a challenging outdoor situation. In many cases, their teenage children also went on the trips.
Along the way, I participated in a two-week WEA Outdoor Leadership Workshop in Driggs, Idaho. I served as a Trip Leader for OSU Outdoor Adventure, backpacking in the Grand Canyon 3 times. As much as anything, I discovered that I had an innate ability to bring people together, build a team/community and open the doors for incredible outdoor experiences. And, those experiences led to life-long friendships and a network of individuals who still have a passion for the outdoors.
Thus, the Trail Sisters is a very special group of women, ranging in ages 28-76 years of age, with a diversity of careers. I might add that the guys were a bit envious of our adventures and thus, the Fall Gathering was created to include them and and their kids (our future adventurers!).
I retired in 2011, had two total knee replacements, am coping with severe arthritis in both feet and physically can't do what I used to do. But, I can still bring outdoor adventure loving people together and coordinate incredible experiences!