Next Steps in my Quest to become Professional Hikertrash

I’ve been quiet on the blog since coming home from the Appalachian Trail last summer, but all has not been quiet, in fact, I’ve been dreaming and scheming…sometimes for hours every day. Why? I have figured out my next step in hiking-as-a-profession…I’m starting a long-distance trail consulting business!

This business idea is a natural evolution of what I’ve been thinking and doing for the past seven years (since starting work on the Oregon Desert Trail in 2015), but it goes deeper than that. I could say it’s a natural evolution of what I’ve been thinking about for over 20 years now.

Back in the late 90’s when I was navigating my way through a bachelor’s degree in communications and looking at my choice of major and minor (graphic design & writing), I was well suited to glide into the slick world of advertising. Through ad campaigns and persuasive TV commercials, I could have made my mark with clever visuals and turns of phrases, but this niggling desire to have my 40 hours a week count towards change in the world…positive change in the world…redirected my vision. Instead of moving up to Chicago to work for a fancy ad agency, I hitched my cart to international development in the Peace Corps.

There was a fair amount of flailing about in Burkina Faso, West Africa. I spent long hours, weeks, and months sweating in my village, wondering at my life choices thus far, and sinking into loneliness and cultural bewilderment…but I also learned to show up each day, chit-chat in a new language, and find meaning in the work. Then there were the books. I read hundreds of books during the two years I spent in the village of Zogore…one of the most pivotal being There are Mountains to Climb about a woman’s hike on the Appalachian Trail. 

That book helped direct my attention once again, and I set off on my attempted Appalachian Trail thru-hike on the first day of spring, 2002. Even when I reached Katadhin five months and two days later, I didn’t know how the long-trail experience would become the narrative thread to my career and life all these years later, but I definitely became comfortable with challenge, with being uncomfortable, and with trying new things. I was someone who wondered what was over the next mountain and enjoyed the steps it took to get me there. Curiosity was, and continues to be, my constant companion.

So I started thinking about change. How can I change the world for the better with my skills and interests? I narrowed down my focus to information design…specifically, I enrolled in grad school in London in the Design Futures program at Goldsmiths College. Design Futures was, and is, very idealistic. It asked us: How can we create a better world through design? Or better yet: How can we design a better world? It was the perfect next step for my thinking…and I had the fresh experience of half a year spent outside to marinate the ideas of broad cultural change…of systems design.

My dissertation focused on museum exhibits…before grad school, I had completed an internship at the Smithsonian in Washington DC where I played with the idea of information design within museum exhibits. I loved the idea that in an exhibit, a person could walk through a three-dimensional space and come out the other side having had an experience, perhaps one that would influence the way they see the world, or at the very least, present some new information or art that communicated something of importance…information design! But I took that idea a step further and posited that we needed to remove the museum exhibit from the museum, we needed to create experiences – that is where the true influence and learning will come from…an interactive, full-body, curated three-dimensional space with a theme. Then I called it the Eco-Interplay Ethic. Now I call it a long-distance trail.

In the years between grad school and starting to develop the Oregon Desert Trail (my real application of these ideas into trail form), I hiked many more miles, worked professionally on trails and as a graphic designer and writer, and continued to explore the intersection of hiking, extended time in nature, cultural change, and design.

Over the past few years I have hiked a series of trails and routes where I wanted more: I wanted maps to show exactly the features and information I needed, I wanted a data book that made it easy for me to plan the day’s mileage and overall flow of the hike, I wanted resources that would streamline my planning and hiking experience. So I created them. I had been creating trail resources for the Oregon Desert Trail for years now, refining and editing the materials so that hikers would have everything they needed to be successful on the 750-mile hike. But what the Oregon Desert Trail also offered, was an opportunity to embed environmental and public lands information into the hiking experience. The ODT was created to connect the recreation community to conservation issues along the route, I was designing my “museum exhibit.” 

When the Greater Hells Canyon Council started re-envisioning the Blue Mountains Trail and wanted to develop a similar concept to the Oregon Desert Trail, things started to align in my mind. Trails could be a more intentional path to engaging hikers with the issues affecting the trail…can long-distance hikers be the advocates that environmental and conservation organizations need? 


In this business, I will improve the hiking experience on long-distance trails through developing new/enhanced/better trail resources like maps, guidebooks, and digital tools. I will help trails with community, hiker, agency, and stakeholder development. I will create systems to better manage trail information updates, trail maintenance needs, and hiker expectations. Basically, I will be the creative problem solver for long-distance trail organizations and developers and go even further if my interests align with the trail organization. I will embed environmental and conservation information into the trail materials to activate the recreation community in stewarding and participating in the issues that affect that particular trail. And the real ulterior motive? Help hikers see they are connected to the world we hike through, that what affects the forests and rivers affects us too, and maybe, just maybe, we will make different decisions based on those connections.

And the really good news? ONDA and the Oregon Desert Trail is my first client…I will continue to manage the route and help hikers be successful out there.

Through this blog you have come along with me on many of my long-distance hikes over the years, and I hope you will come along with me in this new venture as well. I will explore this new direction in my professional life through this blog, and don’t worry, there will be many more morning coffee-induced blog posts coming! One of the best ways I will know what a trail needs is to hike it. 🙂

I am planning a fun online launch party on March 8. Please come if you are interested! As part of the launch, I am also hosting a business shower. This is the first (and probably only) time I will be asking for financial support from my community. One of the fun things about working as a volunteer and for non-profit organizations for much of my adult life is I don’t have a massive savings account…even $5 will offset the cost of my business phone number for a few weeks.

If you do want to come, please shoot me an email…I have some important updates that I’ll be sharing with folks via email before and after the event (including some party favors!) so please give me a heads up so you get the full experience. And I’m doing everything I can to make it an enjoyable experience.

Thank you for sticking with me on this blog through the many challenges and opportunities long-distance hiking has put in my path. There is so much more to come. 

23 thoughts on “Next Steps in my Quest to become Professional Hikertrash

  1. There is no end to your tenacity and wonder at what is next for you!  Your energy and ability is amazing.  Never give up.  Love always.Mom and Dad

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am thrilled you are ready to launch and as always you are well prepared and organized ! Loved learning more of your life journey to come to this place. As a board member of Greater Hells Canyon Council I’m grateful for all your help and insights on the Blue Mountains Trail. You can connect the dots from hiking a long trail to conserving what we love like no one else I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Renee:

    You don’t know me but I have been following your blog for years. It has been a source of enjoyment and I always look forward to your next adventure. 

    I would like to support your next chapter but I need to either get an address to send a check to or do you have a Venmo or PayPal account?

    div>Wishing you the best

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s