If you ask anyone in Illinois, primarily my mother, I’m a bit of a fashionista. I spent more time in the local mall (Woodfield) than I did at the local nature preserves (Spring Valley). Now to my credit, I worked in the local mall in high school and my first few years of college. But that doesn’t explain my overstuffed closet or massive amount of jewelry.
The change began about five years ago, when the store I worked at closed and I was forced to find a new job, and stumbled upon a job at Spring Valley Nature Center.
It was perfect for me. My field of study was in education and it was a chance to work with kids, though a bit younger than what I planned to work with. It was also half day, which allowed me to take the summer course I needed to be able to graduate on time. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be preparing me for my next adventure.
As a junior in college, I took a learning service trip to Kayenta, AZ, a little town on the Navajo Reservation where I got the chance to be in a classroom setting for about a week. Beyond the classroom, I got the chance to see and explore some of the most beautiful place the four corner area has to offer.
And the adventure stuck. For the next year and a half, I played with the idea of going out there to live and teach on my own. And on Oct 4th, 2012, I began teaching at Kayenta Middle School.
It was a huge change for me, and not one without bumps in the road. And the longer I stayed in Kayenta, the more I realized that going back to the city was not in my cards. This fashionista has turned into a hiker.
Over looking Kayenta
About a year into Kayenta, I met Marshall. He was a California farm boy that worked in Flagstaff. We bonded early on in our relationship over our love for hiking and our insistence that his dog Diesel was the cutest thing in the world. We decided to give the long distance thing a try and made it about two years before I made the move permanently to Flag.
Diesel soon had competition, as I picked up a little Rez stray that I named Bentley. My first attempt to catch her failed, as she slipped out of my yard. Thankfully I found her a few days later, eating orange peels outside the Elementary school, and she quickly remembered that I had food.
Bentley dove head first into our lives, and quickly learned to tell the difference between my work clothes and my hiking clothes. I was also not allowed to leave her behind, knee injury be damned. Bentley is also the first to tell me when it is time to go to bed on our camping trips, sitting in front of our tent impatiently, giving me the stink eye.
Marshall, Diesel, and Bentley are my main companions in my hiking adventures. They keep life interesting as we explore the world around us. They (the dogs mostly) are the ones that get most excited for our adventures in the Southwest!