Happy Birthday BRHC


Blue Ridge Hiking Company turns Ten Years Old in 2018! We are planning to celebrate this milestone by expanding our courses, offering more education and inspiration online, and creating community events for the residents of Western North Carolina. There will also be plenty of cake.

Yes, if our marketing (ahem... Caet Cash) and our strategic planning (that’s you Sarah Matzke) goes well then you will hear about the big birthday. What you won’t hear about, apart from this blog, is the fact that I spent the past twelve months debating whether to walk away.

It wasn’t that Blue Ridge Hiking Company wasn’t working, it was. But it looks a lot different now than it did ten years ago and my role in the company has changed. In the beginning I was the only guide, the only secretary, the only bookkeeper; in the beginning I was the only everything.

Then along the way, something wonderful happened! We discovered that women and men, families, older couples, individuals with special needs, tourists from other states and other countries wanted to get out in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. And that meant that I needed help. So I took on other guides, then an office assistant, and eventually a manager known as the Head Guide.

There was an inverse correlation-taking place: my liability as the owner increased as my time on the trail and communication with clients decreased. At the end of a decade, my role with Blue Ridge Hiking Company involved personnel management and hiring, paperwork, permits, and risk management - plus I was always on call in case something went wrong (and hardly ever on the trail).

As the company grew, it changed; and so did I. My opportunities to speak and write increased and provided a career apart from BRHC. I also gave birth to two beautiful (read needy) children. I questioned why I would hold onto a hiking company when speaking and writing were more profitable, more family friendly, and didn’t require liability insurance and risk management consultants. It was time to make a decision. I either needed to step up or step back.

So, here I am.

It took some soul searching and a 1,200 mile hike to provide clarity, but I am confident that I want to be involved with Blue Ridge Hiking Company. I want to help it grow because I want to help other people get outside in a tangible way. Inspirational talks and educational books are helpful tools, but there is no substitute for someone taking someone by the hand (sometimes literally) and leading him or her into the woods.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that I only guide a handful of trips, I am embracing management and focusing on the positive experiences that we provide our clients. I accept that long hours, tedious paperwork, scary legal forms, and having a charged cell phone in my pocket are part of owning a hiking company. I may not get to interact as much with our clients, but I love working with our admin and guides to try and provide the best possible experience for every one of our hiking groups.

The truth is that I started an outfitter at age 24 so that I could spend time in the woods. However, I am stepping into the next ten years with Blue Ridge Hiking Company because I am committed to getting other people outside – even if I have to sit indoors, on my butt, and run a business to make it happen.

*If you're up for reading some more stories of perseverance that can apply to business, hiking, family and LIFE in general then consider placing a pre-order for my new book The Pursuit of Endurance. You can place the order with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million or my favorite Asheville bookstore Malaprops!