Joy vs. the Wilderness, part 1

Yesterday, I returned from a 9-day backpacking trip to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado. It was the 23rd annual Wilderness Trek for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) — a fundraiser that has raised more than $160,000 since 1994.

First, I am happy to report that my son Jordan and I reached our goal of raising $5,000 for JWRC! I had such a great time receiving all the checks in the mail and reading all your notes of encouragement. Thank you so much for believing in us and for supporting this amazing organization!

Second, I am OVER THE MOON to report that, with your support, JWRC received a record number of Trek donations this year! Donations continue to trickle in, so I will report back with a final number as soon as I hear. Your support will help JWRC continue to keep kids safe through prevention education. In 2015, JWRC trained 10,317 people at 110 different host sites. The Center also provided case management support to 36 new missing person cases in 2015, and 73 total cases with on-going support and advocacy.

If you’d still like to make a donation to the 2016 Wilderness Trek, go to https://foundation.gundersenhealth.org/protectkids and under “Designation,” please choose “Trek Donation – Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.”

Now, a little bit about the trip…

Last Thursday, July 14th, I took the day off work and started packing for the Trek. Having never done anything like this in my life, I enlisted Jordan’s help in packing my bag and culling any unnecessary items.

Once packed, we loaded the car and headed off to northeast Minneapolis for a send-off reception at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. Patty and Jerry were both there, along with their daughter, Carmen, and her two young daughters. They had each brought their teddy bears to show me that I didn’t need to be afraid of bears. (How cute is that?!)

This was the first time Jordan and I would meet the rest of the Trekkers, and I was curious to know who they were and how they had ended up on the Trek. Here’s what I was able to figure out:

Bill: Leader of the Wilderness Trek for the past 23 years. He is a retired school teacher and co-founder of Wilderness Inquiry, a non-profit adventure travel organization. For many years, he also organized fundraising treks for the American Lung Association.

Amy: A teacher/administrator with the Minneapolis School District, and an experienced mountain hiker. She has attended nearly every JWRC Wilderness Trek over the past 23 years and has worked with Bill on several other trips.

Duane: A Registered Nurse who works for the University of Minnesota’s Interventional Radiology Department. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the Trek due to a sprained ankle, but he did attend the reception.

Lucy: Duane’s wife, and also a Registered Nurse. She is also the sister of Rick Hansen, who was instrumental in organizing the first Wilderness Trek in 1994. This was her second Trek.

Patrice: Another RN who works with Duane in the Interventional Radiology Department at the U of M. This was her first Trek.

Joan: A Nurse Practitioner from Forest Lake who also knows Duane. This was her second Trek.

Michelle: A teacher from Plymouth, and a friend of Amy’s. This was her first trek. (Coincidentally, I learned Michelle is also good friends with a friend of mine from high school. Small world.)

Tim: A retail manager from Blaine who played hockey and soccer with Jacob when they were young. Their families got to know each other through sports, and they all became close. Tim and his father, Gary, participated in several Treks together over the years until 2013 when Gary passed away from a sudden heart attack. Today, Tim continues to participate in the JWRC Wilderness Trek in his dad’s memory.

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After the send-off reception, we loaded up a Jeep, a Volvo, and a Land Rover with our packs, then around 7pm, we hit the road.

Other than a few stops for food, bathroom breaks, and a broken sun roof in the Volvo, we drove straight through to Colorado and arrived at Snowy Peaks Campground in Buena Vista around 6pm on Friday, July 15th. Jerry and Patty’s son, Trevor, was there to meet us with his two young boys who live just outside of Denver. (They went to dinner with us and camped overnight, but didn’t join us on the Trek.) We were also met by Marty and Joan from Utah who did join us for the first part of the Trek. (Joan is a cousin of Duane’s.)

At this point in the game, I’m a little tired from the car ride, but none the worse for wear. I have absolutely no idea what I’m in store for over the next six days. Holy cow.

More soon.

NEXT: Joy vs. the Wilderness, part 2…

2 Comments

  1. Kathy Almendinger |

    I can’t wait for “more soon”.

  2. Patrick Kerrigan |

    I saw you on that new John Walsh program in regards to Jacob. Hopefully it will generate some invstigative leads.

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