Member Portrait: Gerry “Trail Builder”

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REI Member since 1980.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I’m a 66-year-old woman who moved to Seattle in 1979. About 10 years ago I got involved in the Washington Trail Association (WTA), one of the best volunteer organizations around. You get stuff done and you are so much more appreciative of what it takes to put a trail together.

2. Why is “outside” important?

It helps me feel centered and connected to the world. You never get lonely if you’re outside; there are all these living things around you. When I was working as a physical therapist, I worked with people with some really awful illnesses. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t been getting out and seeing beautiful things.

3. What do you love about being an assistant crew leader with WTA?

The nice thing about being an assistant crew leader is you get to make sure people have a good time on the trail. I very much enjoy talking to people and letting them know that they are important.

It’s fun to connect with younger people and see where their life is going. For kids that are 12 or 13, especially the girls, it is a difficult age. It is empowering for them to put on a hard hat and feel that they’re strong.

Gerry with a hard hat

4. You have an impressive number of days (132) on-trail with WTA. What keeps you heading back out there?

To begin, in the world of WTA that is not an impressive number. So many people have hundreds of days more than me. But I head back out there mostly for the people. You just want to hang out with them. You never know what you’re going to talk about.

5. Who inspired you to get outside?

I read a book called Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille. I don’t even know why I read that book. She talked about just being in the woods and it sounded like a good thing to do. I had done some hiking in the Adirondacks and the Catskills, but when I moved out here after physical therapy school, it was so much easier to get out.

6. In whom are you fostering a love for the outdoors?

I’m a volunteer with walking field trips for a bunch of 8th graders from the South Shore K-8 School. I’d like to think that I’m exposing them to something. It’s a very diverse group of students, and many are not outdoor oriented. I’m old enough to be their grandmother. I like them to see a competent older woman.

7. What is your favorite piece of gear and what’s the story behind it?

Boots are always the most important piece of gear—they’re what get you where you are. I have these wonderful Asolo boots. The young man at REI easily took an hour and half to help me fit the boots. I am fond of really heavy leather boots. I feel grounded to the earth.

8. What does being an REI Co-op member mean to you?

When I first moved here I joined REI my first month. On Friday nights I’d walk up to REI and I’d shop. It was my big excitement of the week. I respect REI. Being a member is being a part of a tribe. You’re part of the “in” crowd.

Gerry hiking

9. What other adventures are on your bucket list?

I am part of another group called Wilderness Volunteers. It’s a great organization. I spent a week in Arches National Park removing an invasive grass. I worked in Dragonfly Canyon; it was just magical. This March I’m going to Tucson to remove another invasive grass in Saguaro National Park.

10. What is your advice for the younger generation?

I would say my piece of advice is to get outdoors as much as you can, wherever you can, and enjoy the feeling of connectedness with nature. Also, everyone who loves the outdoors needs to be very vigilant, because nature and the environment really need our help. Any effort you put into it will be rewarded richly by wonderful friends, feeling great mentally and physically, learning so many interesting things, and having a wonderful sense of peace.

Looking for more inspiration? Read other REI Member Portraits here.

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