Wilderness Volunteer's Leaders
All Wilderness Volunteers' Leaders are experienced volunteers who generously give their time to plan and lead the trips. They are the heart of Wilderness Volunteers! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer leader, read this.
Sit back and read about this incredibly talented group of adventurers!
's introduction to wilderness and the active and solitary opportunities that it offers began in the mid seventies when she and her young family went west to Oregon. Coming from the corn fields of Indiana, she had never experienced wild, beautiful and vast public lands. She gradually moved from "using" them to working to preserve them as an activist, serving with various environmental organizations in Oregon. She's thankful Wilderness Volunteers allows the opportunity to give back to these lands she's grown to love so much.
Carter and Robin Bland are recent transplants to the Western Slope of Colorado after living and working for many years in New York City and the Hudson Valley. They have been involved with WV since 2004, and volunteer time for numerous other organizations including Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, the NY-NJ Trail Conference and the Appalachian Mountain Club. They are experienced kayaking instructors and enjoy all aspects of skiing, hiking, biking and paddlesport.
Brian Boneis an avid backpacker, mountain biker, backcountry snowboarder, and general adventurer who has volunteered with WV since 2006 and led trips in Colorado’s wilderness since 2008. A recently-retired USAF officer, he and his family have re…re-located to Colorado from New Mexico and now work to live, enjoying more family time and introducing their young son to the joys of the outdoors with the Rockies as their playground. Having previously volunteered as a camp leader for young cancer survivors in Southern California, Brian sought a new volunteer experience upon transferring to Colorado in 2005. He found the week-long retreat to live simply and work with his hands high in the alpine meadows of Colorado a kind of catharsis against the stresses of our always-on, ever-connected lives. He is looking forward to the day he can backpack with his son over the same bridges and trails he and his fellow Wilderness Volunteers have helped restore and maintain.
Lee Cooper has been leading WV trips in Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, and Utah since 2006. He loves being in the wilderness as evidenced by the fact that he spends 6-7 weeks a year sleeping on his Therm A Rest. When home in Tucson, Arizona, he spends most weekends monitoring the backcountry and trails of Saguaro National Park East as a volunteer. Lee has always come away from WV trips amazed at the wonderful people he meets and how much work they accomplish.
Aaron CrosbyI discovered Wilderness Volunteers in 2012 from a WV advertisement that I had stashed away years earlier. Finding and replying to it changed my life. My first WV trip was Russian Olive removal along the Escalante River in Southern Utah, and I was immediately hooked by the vast and other-worldly landscape of canyon country. The companionship and camaraderie that I have had on my trips has increased my desire to do more trips, and my love of the wild outdoors and my enthusiasm for people has given me the confidence to learn how to lead trips. To keep from being consumed by man-made modernity and cramped urban living, I spend as much time as I can walking on stretches of idyllic New England beaches, and backpacking in the White Mountains, a relatively short but very steep and rugged mountain range, whose tree-less summits are subject to intense cold and wind. I have a Napoleon complex about the Whites, and feel the need to defend them; its tough competing with the big boys out west!
lives in Louisville, KY. He was originally involved in Boy Scouts and continued his love of the outdoors through his adult life. He enjoys hiking, canoeing, downhill and back country skiing. Trips include Utah, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and the Eastern States. His first Wilderness Volunteers trip was to the Colorado National Monument and he volunteered to lead trips shortly thereafter.
loves hiking and back packing in the national parks and has been to many, my favorites are the Grand Canyon and Glacier. In 2000 he discovered the canyons on Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah and returns frequently to explore the canyons and enjoy the ruins and rock art. About the same time, he discovered WV and started doing yearly trips in 2003; the trail maintenance and archeological surveying trips take him to remote locations. He stays in condition for thee projects by training year round to compete in sprint distance triathlons. Back home in Tennessee he is on the boards of the Friends of the South Cumberland State Park Recreation Area, and the Friends of the State Parks Coalition, which supports the Friends groups across the state. He is a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee.
Katy Giorgio is a Massachusetts native but relocated to Juneau in 2012 to fulfill her long time dream of becoming an Alaskan. She enjoys the easy access to trails, glaciers, fishing, wildlife, skiing and the sea. Katy has done WV trips from New Hampshire to Alaska to New Mexico, and many places in between. If you ever find yourself on one of her trips, you'll be guaranteed to hear a few of her legendary (family-friendly) jokes.
Susan Holling combines a love of food and cooking with an outdoor experience to find her little bit of heaven. A native Oregonian, she loves to be outside and especially meeting other outdoorsy people who don't mind working hard. She has several WV trips under her belt and looks forward to many more.
Peyton Hutton lives in Northern Virginia, and friends call him a "bulldozer in hiking boots" when clearing paths along the Appalachian Trail. He enjoys backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, southern Utah, and has learned that vegetarian food isn't all that bad.
Jen Jackson lives in Sandpoint, Idaho, where she tries to balance life as a writer, wilderness explorer and environmental activist with her husband and baja-dog Dio. A recent transplant from the arid desert southwest, Jen's returned to a soggy place reminicent of her childhood home of Medford, Oregon, but annually makes a journey to Escalante country to refresh her soul.
Ben Johnson grew up in Northeast Colorado but has spent a lot of time camping and backpacking in the mountains of Colorado and in Southern Utah. He has been backpacking since he was old enough to walk and carry the camp pan in his backpack. He lives in Grand Junction, CO where he enjoys backpacking, camping, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and snowshoeing. He has been on several WV trips and enjoys meeting others interested outdoor adventures.
lives near Seattle and spends far too much time writing software. He has a chronic attachment to trail maintenance and likes it almost as much as hiking.
is originally from the east coast and moved out west as fast as she could where she can enjoy the great outdoors daily not just as a weekend warrior. During the summers she spends her time biking & hiking and in the winters she teaches skiing in Steamboat Springs, CO. She has worked on many volunteer trail projects across the US, volunteers at the many biking events for Bike Town USA and she helps run Steamboat Movement (Yoga) Fest. She feels blessed to live in such a beautiful spot that just happens to be surrounded by 3 wilderness areas!
is from Oregon and Northern California. She has been backpacking since 1970, and is always looking an opportunity to be in the wilderness. She also enjoys photography and travel. She works at REI and loves to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with others. She is excited to have found a venue of stewardship for the lands she enjoys.
Bill and Sue Koenig are from the Chicagoland area. They are active in hiking, biking, running, swimming, and canoeing. They have lead WV trips to Arizona, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine and Wyoming. Sue had also volunteered on WV trips to Washington and California. Sue and Bill have also participated in service trips with other volunteer organizations including helping out in New Orleans, Cedar Rapids, and Nashville after those areas were heavily flooded.
Misha Kokotovicis hopelessly addicted to the red rock canyons of the Colorado Plateau, where he once worked as a park ranger. Though he has also been known to scramble up the occasional peak in the Sierras and the Southern Rockies, he requires regular fixes of Navajo sandstone. He currently supports his habit by teaching at the University of California, San Diego.
Ann KruseAnn lives in the Seattle area where she works as a leadership development professional. She and her husband Curt Mobley (also a WV leader) hike, kayak and snowshoe whenever possible. Ann's first WV trip was in 2001. She also volunteers with the Sierra Club and Washington Trails Assn.
Tom Laabs-Johnson has been camping since childhood; horse pack trips, canoeing, hiking, biking, but solo backpacking is the favorite. He lives outside of Salt Lake City, working in a psychiatric children's hospital where his office walls disappear into posters and pictures of Southern Utah.
has always had a love for the outdoors. He has been a runner, cross country skier, and bicyclist his entire adult life. He rediscovered his love for backpacking, after a 30 year hiatus, by participating in Wilderness Volunteer trips. He has been volunteering since 2003. You can recognize him on a backpacking trip by his 40 year old Kelty frame pack which he refuses to retire. In 2014 he retired from his job as an Accounting Instructor which has allowed him to pursue another old love - bicycle touring. In 2015 he biked 1,200 miles to attend his high school class reunion and this summer he completed a 4,800 mile cross country trip from Seattle to Boston. His retirement has also allowed him to participate in more WV trips and to increase his contributions by becoming a leader. Jerry grew up in the mountains of South-Western Pennsylvania and has lived in Seattle and Colorado. He and his wife now enjoy living in Madison, WI; but he takes every opportunity to spend time in the mountains of the Western and Eastern U.S.
Reed McDowell lives in Portland, Oregon, enjoying the outdoor opportunities of the Great Northwest. His favorite hiking areas are those along the Columbia Gorge. He and his wife, Beth, are currently attempting to hike every trail in Forest Park, and ride their bikes every chance they get. In addition to hiking and biking, Reed loves camping, canoeing, fly fishing, birding, learning Spanish, exploring the wilderness and helping others do the same.
Dudley McIlhenny is originally from Manhattan where he was a management consultant, only at ground level when walking to work. Since relocating to Utah, he has turned to volunteer activities but, more importantly, has discovered the wonders of hiking, rafting, and back country skiing/snowshoeing and is now much more connected to the earth.
has lived in Southern NJ all of his life. He started doing trips with Wilderness Volunteers in 2008, enjoys all types of trail work, and has been on trips from Maine to Alaska. Dennis also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and 3 months during the winter at YMCA OF THE ROCKIES, SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH in Granby, Colorado. He enjoys hiking, backpacking, paddling, biking, downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Jim McKeon lives in Eastern Pennsylvania. His early involvement with the Boy Scouts of America enabled him to develop backcountry skills. This was a springboard to developing a lifelong interest in the wilderness experience. He
enjoys backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking and trail running, as well as, observing the flora and fauna of the areas he is visiting. He is very interested in herpetology and has spent time in the field observing reptiles and amphibians. Wilderness Volunteers enables him to give back to a cause that promotes utilization and protection of our wild areas.
John McLean is an Arizona native, who has been hiking and climbing throughout Arizona and California for over 35 years. He loves to crush rocks and destroy invasive species (but in a good way). John also graciously volunteers his time by serving on the WV Board of Directors.
Don Meaders lives in Albuquerque and is happily retired from his work in the commercial construction industry. Don has worked in North Kaibab for over 20 years and has perfected the technique of "McClouding." He's one of the few who can carry a 24-lb rockbar uphill for miles.
Curt Mobley is a never-quite-retired oceanographer who has been playing in the outdoors for 50 years and leading WV trips for ten. His adventures have evolved from rock climbing and mountaineering, through mountain biking, to sea kayaking. In recent years he has paddled in exotic locations from Greenland to Greece to Panama to Fiji, and many places in between. When on land, he divides his time between red-rock country and the green mountains near his home in Sammamish, Washington. He holds Wilderness First Responder certification.
is Wilderness Volunteers Executive Director and lives in Flagstaff, AZ, where she bides her time between adventures. She likes snorkeling, whitewater rafting, hiking, skiing, and hot springs. She's done WV trips all over the country including WA, AZ, CA, ID, CO, HI, NM, UT, AK and MN.
started Wilderness Volunteers in 1997, along with John Sherman and Vince White-Petteruti. She developed a passion for wilderness and service trips in the Sierra Club where she served as chair of the Service Trips Subcommittee and a member of the Outing Committee. She has participated in more than 200 service projects across the country. She lives on the edge of the Colorado Plateau and enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking. running rivers and the adventure of life.
Gerald “Jerry” Norton
Learned about WV from an ad in the back of Backpacker magazine. Loved the idea of giving back and finding new areas to see and discover. Originally from Upstate New York, he has always had a passion for exploring the outdoors, camping, backpacking, and fishing the Adirondack Mountains. Transplanted to Nevada via the Air Force (now retired), he has learned to love the West and all that it has to offer. He started volunteering for trips in 2014 and co-led his first trip in 2017.
Dave Pacheco has led WV trips since 1998 and has worked for over 20 years as a grassroots environmental organizer. Dave enjoys meeting new people with interests in volunteering, exploring new wild places, fishing, hiking, and snowshoeing. He proudly gives something back at his day job with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and thoroughly enjoys meeting new people on projects with similar interests.
Charlie Phy is a retired Highway Engineer who worked for the New Jersey Department of Transportation for over 37 years. His full time home is in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. He now spends about 4-5 months a year at his cabin in Mesa, Colorado. He has backpacked since 1978, mostly in New England and numerous backpacking trips in the southwest and northwest. He enjoys hiking, biking, downhill skiing, XC skiing and snowshoeing. He also volunteers one week a year at the Headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
As an elementary school teacher Chris led his students in dozens of outdoor adventures and on his own time loves hiking, climbing, rafting, and biking with his family and friends. One of his greatest compliments came from one of his students who said, "Mr. Roberts, you're kind of a nature nut aren't you."
Ruth Rosenstein is a native New Yorker who enjoys the freedom of backpacking in the wilderness. Always looking for an excuse to travel, she is an avid camper and hiker seeking wildflowers, mountain lakes and grand vistas. In her sparetime, she is a triathlete and a Boy Scout leader.
Michael Ruhsenberger grew up in Seattle and spent as much time as he could hiking, climbing, rafting, and fishing in the Cascade Mountains. He recently retired from the military after 22 years as a naval officer, fighter pilot, and diplomat. He now works as a process improvement consultant for industries that operate in high-risk environments. Michael joined Wilderness Volunteers in 1999 and participated in trips to California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming. As recent transplants to the Denver area, he and his wife are looking forward to raising their two children in an outdoor environment and teaching them the ethical standards that will ensure our precious wilderness areas are preserved for generations to come.
Rick Russman has hiked, biked or kayaked in every area of the United States and when not playing in the White Mountains of NH, leads trips in the southwest and Rocky Mountains. He is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Ruth Sarvis works as an insurance agent weekdays and spends weekends exploring Western Washington with her family. She is an avid hiker in the Cascades and is encouraging her daughter and nieces to explore the outdoors year round.
Patricia Schaffarczykretired from working for Fremont Unified School District. She loves to hike around the Bay area where she lives, and backpacks in the Sierras. For a number of years she has participated in Wilderness Volunteer trips in Hawaii, Oregon, and Arizona, to join others in giving back.
is a Washington native, a Flagstaff, Arizona transplant, and the Program Manager at Wilderness Volunteers. She loves trail running, skiing, rock climbing, rolling down hills, backpacking, rafting, getting mud on her face, and essentially anything that will enable her to get into a wild place surrounded by inspiring friends. Taryn grew passionate about conservation work while in college, finding that protection of public lands is one of the most valuable and rewarding things one can do in life. (Not to mention the fact that it allows us to play in the most spectacular places!)
has staffed over 110 trips for the Sierra Club and Wilderness Volunteers since 1990. These trips have been in wilderness areas spanning the continent and have involved trail construction and maintenance, invasive species removal, fence repair and removal, archeological survey and documentation, and many miles of backpacking, hiking, and canoeing.
Carleton SheppardHaving cooked for WV trips since 2003, Carleton Sheppard enjoys preparing hearty, wholesome meals, often with special treats. A former newspaper editor and ceramist, she is annually challenged by growing tomatoes at 7000' in Flagstaff.
Zig Sondelskigrew up on a farm in Wisconsin and so got to spend plenty of time outdoors. Once on his own, he moved west and discovered that the outdoors could be even more fun than the farm was. His primary activities are backpacking, bicycling and rafting in the warmer months and snowshoeing in the winter. Zig got to retire early and can now better balance his play vs. work time with an occasional consulting project. He makes Utah his home, which, for him, offers the best of a lot of things and not much of the other.
Jennifer Sublett lives in the beautiful state of New Mexico and gets to play outside for work and for fun! She loves desert, mountains and everything in between, plus a New Mexican-style breakfast burrito every now and then. Her real reason for hiking, backpacking and doing trail work, though, is to get in shape for cross country ski season, or anything else that involes snow.
Laura Sutherlin is a newer Wilderness Volunteers leader but is not new to loving the outdoors. She has enjoyed hiking, biking, backpacking, canoeing, skiing, and just about anything outdoors since her childhood. Laura grew up in Kansas but now lives in the Colorado front range. When not outside playing she works as a physical therapist.
Aidalicia Swertfeger is vying for that “life less ordinary” as she attempts to merge her zest for the outdoors with her technical education in communication design. Growing up in the foothills of the Sierras, Aidalicia lived for winters snowboarding in Tahoe, something she misses greatly. Having moved to Austin, Texas to complete her degree, she has realized she needs texture and pitch in her horizon. Planning on a Pacific Northwest relocation, she’ll continue on as a runner, an IPA girl, an avid solo traveler, a thru-hiker and a practitioner of minimalism.
David Taylor lives and grew up in the Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho area. He takes advantage of the abundance of hiking and biking opportunities in the North Idaho area and the easy access to camp and hike in the National Parks of the Northwest and Northern Rockies with a special affection for Glacier National Park.
Cheryl Walczak originally from Chicago, has been interested in the beauty and history of the West since family vacations as a child. Now based in Utah, she has been associated with Wilderness Volunteers since 1999, enjoying trips in Utah, Texas, and Oregon. She'll explore just about anywhere her two feet will take her.
Red rocks, mountains, wilderness, hiking, biking, skiing, camping, running, unplugging, staring at the night sky in search of aliens (or shooting stars), traveling the world, cruising in my Westy, having fun and generally enjoying life … these are a few of my favorite things. I glimpsed a WV ad in the back of Backpacker Magazine in 2008 and was hooked on giving back with WV every year since. I'm counting the days until retirement (still too many years away) when I can kick back, relax and volunteer more than just one week a year. When I'm not on the road, I'm living in Colorado Springs with my husband and cat.
A native of the hinterlands of Missouri whose wanderlust has taken him to all 50 states, but prefers those which constitute the four corners of the American Southwest. Former Peace Corps volunteer, frustrated triathlete, and amateur naturalist who owns far too many field guides. Believes proper stewardship of Spaceship Earth far outweighs in importance any other issue currently on the political agenda.
Kathleen Worley grew up in Reno, Nevada, which perhaps explains her love of the high desert as well as the granite spires and crystal clear lakes of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. She has done WV trips in Nevada, Utah, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. When not outdoors, she is either onstage or teaching theatre at Reed College in Portland, OR.
A native New Yorker, Mark takes every chance he can get to hike and backpack in the Northeast, mostly in the Catskills, Adirondacks and White Mountains. He particularly enjoys rugged ascents and rock scrambles. His favorite trips of all time include those to the Sierras, Cascades, Grand Canyon, Zion, Galapagos and Escalante. Other interests include skiing, snowboarding, surfing and baseball. When not engaged in outdoor adventure, he manages the finances of the Long Island Rail Road.
has lived his entire life in Illinois and Ohio before moving to Salt Lake City in 2006. Since then Tony has been able to develop his love of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, skiing, boating and backpacking. Tony leads projects with Wilderness Volunteers because it gives him the opportunity to see places that he had never heard of, to meet great people who enjoying working and playing outdoors and to give back to the natural world that makes it all possible.