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Home News Blog "C'mon, Let's Do It." — Our Outdoor Mentors: Mothers, Aunties and Grandmothers

"C'mon, Let's Do It." — Our Outdoor Mentors: Mothers, Aunties and Grandmothers

Posted by tiffanyc at May 12, 2023 09:48 AM |

As Mother’s Day approaches, we asked Washington Trails Association staff how the strong women in their lives — their mothers, aunties, grandmothers — were their outdoor role models and mentors, inspiring and cultivating a love of spending time outside.

As Mother’s Day approaches, we asked Washington Trails Association staff how the strong women in their lives — their mothers, aunties, grandmothers — were their outdoor role models and mentors, inspiring and cultivating a love of spending time outside. 

Cassidy with her mother at a river in Georgia. Photo by Cassidy Giampetro.

Exploring new places

Despite my mom's dislike of the humidity and beach, my parents made sure that I experienced frequent trips to the nearby Everglades and Florida Keys in my childhood. But even more, my mom was always a huge proponent of exposing my brother and me to nature we didn't see in South Florida, taking us to mountains and parks across the U.S. every time our family got the chance. She was — and still is — so expressive and enthusiastic about nature's beauty.

It was the exposure to my local nature in Florida and the excitement to escape and explore the mountains every summer that brought me west and cultivated my wonderment for the outdoors that is a driving force in my life today.

— Cassidy Giampetro, advocacy manager

Taking on Challenges together

Linnea with her mother wearing helmets after spelunking in a cave. Photo by Linnea Johnson.
My mom, Cecilia, and I have always connected over our shared love for nature. Inspired by the cross-country road trips of her childhood, she has organized numerous elaborate camping trips for our family — all starting in Ohio with and ending in destinations such as San Diego, Yellowstone, Glacier and most recently, my new home in Washington.

But when I was 13, the two of us took a trip of our own — to Carter Caves State Park in her home state of Kentucky. One of our three guided spelunking trips was a “crawling tour,” which involved crawling through tunnels for over 15 minutes at a time and squeezing through unwieldy passageways. Toward the end of the tour (and I still cannot believe this), we opted to take a side trip through the “Time Tunnel,” a loop that was just 18 inches wide and so short we had to push our helmets in front of us while army-crawling the whole way. 

Whether she’s spelunking or speaking truth to power, my mom never ceases to inspire me with her pluck. Whenever I’m building up the courage to do something new, I need only think of her in a hard hat and headlamp, telling me, “C’mon, let’s do it. We’ll regret it if we don’t.”

— Linnea Johnson, marketing manager

modeling resilience and preservence

Erin's aunt, Kathie, with flowers after finishing her first triathlon post-stroke, 4 years later. Photo by Erin McMillin.

My aunt, Kathie, has always been a strong and driven athlete. Swimming, cycling and especially running have been a core part of her being her whole life. This may be part of what saved her life when she was knocked down by a sudden infection that led to a stroke and major heart surgery in 2018.

The stroke severely affected her control of her left arm and leg, and she had to teach her body all of the complex muscle micro-movements we perform every day to balance and move through the world. As Kathie worked hard to recover, she called on recent hiking memories to remind herself of the joy and strength she was capable of.

Just 2 weeks before the stroke, Kathie and her daughters visited me in Washington and we hiked around Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in an unseasonably warm and colorful October. Those technicolor memories of us smiling in fiery red foliage and deep blue skies meant so much to Kathie and me in the often dark days of recovery. But Kathie was also focusing on the future. Less than a year after her stroke, she moved from Virginia to Colorado to be closer to her daughter and spend more time cycling, walking and — not long after — running! I am so proud of Kathie’s determined recovery and thankful for the life-saving power that outdoor spaces have given to my family!

— Erin McMillin, multi-day trips program coordinator

Instilling a zeal for exploration

Lezlie's mother sitting in an open car trunk. Photo by Lezlie Cox.

Outside every day! That was my mom’s life as a farm kid. When not on a tractor, she was on horseback for chores and for the sheer joy of roaming as far as her horse Pal could take her. Exploration should have been her middle name. And she wanted me to be bold and explore too! Whether to the top of a tree or to another country. Though she never took to hiking, she loved supporting any backcountry trip of mine. When I hiked the PCT, she and I connected at trailheads in the Sierra. While I hiked, she ferried so many thankful thru-hikers from trail to town. It's a memory I treasure of my adventurous mom.

— Lezlie Cox, office manager

enjoying the fruits (literally) of one's labor

Ashton and her mother and grandmother standing outside. Photo by Ashton Weis.

My grandmother emigrated from Germany, bringing little with her save a love of chatting and resilience. She landed in Iowa, where she farmed with my grandfather for many years. When the farm was sold to my uncle, she tended a garden patch that was the envy of the neighborhood. Between her and my mother, I learned that nothing tastes sweeter than a raspberry (or — more likely in Washington — a blackberry) that you’ve grown and harvested yourself, especially when the sun’s out.

— Ashton Weis, administrative coordinator

Supporting a Passion

Joe with his mother on the beach. Photo by Joe Gonzalez.

I was lucky to have had a village of family and friends who helped me connect with the outdoors as a kid, but it was my mom who allowed that to be a possibility. She's always been a huge advocate for exploring the natural world and chasing my passion. Externally, she facilitated programs in my Cub Scout den so the other kids and I could learn new skills outside. Internally, she made sure my camping gear was packed before big trips, that I could participate in events I was interested in and even put up with poison oak-soaked laundry when I came home.

As an adult, my mom has hugely supported my thru-hiking interests. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2016, she drove me down to the southern terminus with my Oma, then she and my dad picked me up in Seattle once I finished. She and my dad managed all of my mailed resupply on the PCT, and gave me and other hikers trail magic on the PCT and Tahoe Rim Trail. They flew with me to Georgia when I started the Appalachian Trail and picked me up from Glacier National Park when I finished the Continental Divide Trail.

My mom even had designed a line of handmade visors to fit my huge noggin, which I've carried on almost every trip over the last 7 years. I bet she didn't think she'd still be so involved in my hiking life as an adult, but I am grateful!

— Joe Gonzalez, digital content coordinator

cultivating curiosity

Erin with her mother and sibling on the beach. Photo by Erin McQuin.

Growing up, my mom loved showing my sister and me all her favorite spots to beach walk and swim. More than anything, my mom shared her passion for being curious about the outdoors. Our living room bookshelf is full of different naturalist guides for all occasions. She taught me that the best way to make observations and ask questions is to hike slowly. 

Do you want to see a great blue heron prowling the shallow waters, looking for its lunch? Do you want to spot the prettiest agate at the beach that glistens in the sun? Do you want to see a sea anemone dance in a tide pool?

To witness these beautiful expressions in nature, it is important to walk slowly, observe and look around. And most importantly, ask questions and research them when you get home.

— Erin McQuin, outdoor leadership training senior coordinator

Getting an early start

Nicole and her mother sitting on a log at a lake. Photo by Nicole Masih-Théberge.

I am eternally grateful for a childhood spent outside, thanks in no small part to my mom. She taught me not only to appreciate nature, but to recognize my part within it. My mom modeled awe and curiosity whether we were in the backyard or camping in the San Juan Islands, and that has stuck with me.

— Nicole Masih-Théberge, statewide engagement and events coordinator

Interested in reading even more stories about hikers sharing their passion for the outdoors with younger generations? We’ve got you covered.