It all started with the skunk.
I was sleeping by the fire with the local Boy Scout troop when a large mephitid with gastrointestinal problems mistook my eyebrow for a chew toy. I woke up peering into a large set of glowing eyes and a row of sharp teeth filled with a bubble bath like solution that oozed menacingly onto my chest. It’s at that point in life that I decided skunks are up to no good. Previous to that foamy encounter, I held no animosity towards skunks. I had come across them many times in my numerous trips into the mountains. But in the words of a not-so-famous clockmaker, “time changes”.
This experience was not my first time in the woods, nor was it my first time encountering danger in the wild, but it proved to be fairly representative of my childhood experiences, containing one part adventure, one part danger, and one part sweaty eyebrow.
As a child, adventure was my passion, and wilderness was my medium. I began my life in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by pavement, finely manicured lawns and the daily visits of a creepy ice cream truck. I played night games, traded baseball cards and raced my friends and their sisters on racecar video games. I also made “will someday be in prison” type friends. So my parents uprooted our family and moved to a small town called Elk Ridge. Even though it sounds like a retirement community for aging hunters, it was surrounded by wilderness and wildlife. In winters, the elk would bed down in our yard and lean against the house for warmth. A truly wild place.
Elk Ridge was where my life really began. With the mountains and forests within walking distance from my home, I spent the next 8 years exploring every inch of the surrounding wilderness. My parents loved the idea of me adventuring (is that even a word?) by myself so much they required me to be accompanied by an equally irresponsible friend. This rule did not work for me as my friends were noisy individuals and I never saw wildlife or caught as many fish in their presence. So as any honest and moral child would do, I lied about friend participation and set out on my own. Sorry Mom.
During those early years I had many “don’t try this at home” moments that shaped me as an individual and taught me about safety, responsibility, and stewardship, and ignited a fire within my conscience that has only grown over the years and has now consumed every part of me, including my hair.
Since my childhood, I have lived in the jungles of South America, traveled the western United States camping, fishing and adventuring (there’s that word again). I received a degree from Utah State University in wildlife science with a minor in fisheries and spent the last 10 years working for various agencies and organizations as a field wildlife biologist where “not dying” was part of the safety requirements.
The life of a field biologist isn’t easy, especially working nights while raising 5 kids. So in January of 2016, I decided it was time for a career change. I found myself living in one of the most beautiful places in the country and my piggy bank had developed a bad case of constipation. So I did the most logical thing I could think of, become a substitute teacher. I quickly realized how little the youth of today know about the outdoors. You could ask a kid to program a computer and they could do it as an afterthought. But ask them to identify a Bald Eagle, or cast a fishing pole, and the first thing they would do is to ask SIRI “what is a fishing pole”. Therefore, I started a business to get the kids and families off the couch, away from the video games and into the wilderness. I call it Tyee Outdoor Experience.
Co-founder & Education director