Why Such a Natural Theme?
Early in my life, I had the fortunate circumstance of stumbling into a profession that combined my passion for exploring wild places and the spirit to pitch in during the peak season. I worked as a seasonal guide, cook, trouble-shooter, cheerleader and plate spinner for 15 years.
These skills are transferrable.
After a very intense job as a street outreach counselor in Boston in the mid-80s (and during the early stages of the HIV epidemic), I cleaned out packed up and found a job a Summer Outdoor Program Leader at Windsor Mountain International in New Hampshire. I headed south to Key West and the Everglades National Park for the winter.Just a week before spring break, I arrived into Big Bend National Park and met Big Bend River Tours' owner (and how very successful author) Beth Garcia.
Guiding~ providing a competent, multi-skilled, encouraging approach to leadership in unfamiliar places~ is an integral part of who I am and what I do.
In 1995, I accepted a position as a Program Coordinator for the (now defunct) Alaska WIlderness Recreation and Tourism Association and moved to Juneau to manage operations. During the summer, I learned my way around sea kayaks with the help of Alaska Discovery, In addition to running interference for the Program Director, I orchestrated many day trips including bear viewing in Admiralty Island. With time and experience, I eventually led remote, multi-day trips in Berner’s Bay,Glacier Bay and fjords in the Tongass National Forest.
When I moved to Anchorage for a position with the Alaska Conservation Foundation in 1998, I guided trips in the Gates f the Arctic National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during my paid time off. I continued to work in more remote rivers of the Arctic Refuge with Arctic Wild before leaving the state to attend graduate school at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in 2004.
I became "Half Day Helen", mastering storytelling, river reading and oarsmanship on 3-hour scenic float trips on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. Those experiences inspired me to venture to Alaska and join the Alaska Wildland Adventures team. I honed skills as an intrepetve guide in the Russian River valley and Denali National Park. That first summer, I was the first Type 1 Diabetic to secure a USCG “Six Pack” license to operate motorized boats across Skilak Lake and was also promoted to a seasonal program manager. I went back to Big Bend and skied in Colorado for the winters, returning to Alaska each summer.
With my new MBA, I lucked into working as a Director of Outdoor Programs and Special Projects for CampFire USA Alaska Council. I worked my last wilderness guiding experience on the Marsh Fork of the Canning River in 2008.
Over a couple of summers before I left for Southeast Asia in 2011, I picked up a few trips with Mountain-Travel Sobek Alaska program. Through my years as an expatriate, I explored wild places in Thailand, Tanzania, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bhutan and Myanmar.