I grew up working on farms, walking long distances and playing sports.
From my father, I inherited a long gait and strong work ethic. From my mother, a natural athletic ability and fierce competitive nature. She was a young girl of the 60’s and 70’s, and a part of the first wave of US female athletes able to play on high school sports teams because of Title Nine.
As a farm kid there was always one more task to do, so it was important to be efficient. I turned mindless tasks into competitions, like who could plant the potatoes the fastest. I conditioned for soccer by running hills and racing the tractor back to the barn. Weight training came in the form of carrying 5-gallon pals filled with tomatoes and squash. My strength and passions grew from sports and outdoor spaces.
Those spaces were also healing for me. Before my first birthday, I was diagnosed with asthma and when hospitalized as a young child, my father made a camcorder tape of the barn, so I could watch the cows and the calves that I loved. As I grew, my lungs improved, then at the age of 10, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine. My journey with UC challenged me as an individual and athlete, with intense pain and fatigue that took me out of sport seasons completely.
When ill and recovering, I’d go outside and walk around barefoot. I’d run my hand along the tall meadow grass and pick flowers. Every now and then, I’d find an owl or hawk feather and bring it back to my room. Being outside gave me hope and strengthen my faith. Whatever pain I had inside, I could endure if I was outside.
My college years brought me to a small liberal arts school in the Adirondack Mountains. After I graduated from Paul Smith’s College, at the age of 23, I entered the field of Wilderness Therapy as a field instructor. At the time, I knew nothing about the world of therapy or camping. But I knew nature healed and that I wanted to be in the mountains. Being a Wilderness Therapy instructor for four years proved to be the greatest learning experience of my life. Our world was broken down to the basics and with all distractions removed, our students were able to talk about and process their emotions.
Today, I’m a college professor, social justice advocate, writer, endurance athlete and brand ambassador for Crua Outdoors and SheJumps.
Why it’s important to me to be a Brand Ambassador for Crua
I was introduced to Crua Outdoors in 2019, in the months before COVID was a part of our daily vernacular. Crua planned to run a large outdoor expo at Paul Smith’s College during the summer of 2020 and asked me to be the guest speaker and talk about some of the mountain expeditions I’d gone on. The event was altered due to the pandemic; however, I’d been introduced to Crua as a company and enjoyed working with them. They donated tents and camping gear to Paul Smith’s College to help a program I run with students that was inspired by my field days as a Wilderness Therapy instructor.
I remember the days when every penny I had went towards a college education. I remember the first time I saw the price of a sleeping bag. I remember thinking, “Maybe I need to look at other jobs.” Cost is a real limiting factor when it comes to who can recreate. Crua values diversity and inclusion and supports the work I do as an ambassador in my classrooms and also on trail. Many of my students, have never camped and cannot afford the gear. They are interested but can feel overwhelmed at where to start. Ask yourself: Can you afford the gear? Do you feel safe in outdoor spaces? Even if you answered yes to both of those questions, please understand that the majority answer no to at least one of those answers. Every day, people are denied experience because of income, race, gender, ability and sexual identity. Experience is privilege.
That’s why it’s important to be a Brand Ambassador for Crua Outdoors. Representation matters.
My favorite thing about Crua and their products
I’m all about being cozy. To me, nothing’s better than the simple pleasure of curling up in a quilt or sleeping bag at the end of a hard day on trail. Crua’s designs are creative and lots of their products are launched through grassroots crowdfunding. I’m all about grassroots for social change. It comes from the people on the ground doing the work.
The Ambassador’s Life:
While Professor is my full-time job, my heart and soul identify with being an endurance athlete. I love ultras, anything over a marathon distance and I partake in Fastest Known Times. This past fall, Katie Rhodes and I became the first women to thru-hike all 46 Adirondack High Peaks unsupported.
This summer, I’m training to climb all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days supported - Read More... It’s roughly 147 miles and 65,000 feet of elevation gain. Crua is the sponsor for our aid/sleep stations. In order to break the speed record, I’ll be on the move for 20 to 21 hours a day, resting/sleeping only 3 to 4 hours. My crew needs support and aid stations to stay at their best, so that in turn, I can stay at mine.
Whether or not I accomplish the physical task, our team’s mission is much bigger:
- Acknowledge land rights of the Haudenosaunee.
- Support diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces
- Support LGBTQIA
- Advocate for Mental Health awareness
- Raise funds for SheJumps, a non-profit that supports and encourages girls and women to get outdoors.
At the end of the day, no one person can do it all. Nor is one person supposed to. That is why it is important to work together. And that is why I work with Crua Outdoors.