My name is Bethany Gleason and I have a mission!
The mission is to be one of the first people and one of the first females to bike and hike the brand new Iron Belle Trail in my beautiful home state of Michigan, summer of 2016. I will also be finding the 10 best things to do along the trail and the 100 best contenders in the hopes of promoting the state of Michigan as “The Trail State.” My hope is to inspire people to get outside and explore the beautiful state of Michigan and to inspire women, young and old, to follow their dreams.
I would love if you followed my journey throughout this process–from planning for the trip through to the final experience! Here’s a little history of why I am doing this:
I was raised in Michigan and my family would go on the occasional camping trip growing up, but I was not what you would call “outdoorsy” back then. In fact, most people could tell you that while I have always been athletic and active, I was more interested in wearing velour jump suits and rhinestones in my ears than I was in exploring the outdoors. It wasn’t until my Junior year of college at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, that I went on my first “outdoor excursion.” At the time, my younger sister Annie, also a Hope College alum, had been guiding wilderness trips for Young Life out in Colorado and was a fairly seasoned backpacker. We decided to take a siblings backpacking trip while in Sedona, AZ, as my parents slept cozily in their hotel room. As you can see from this picture, I clearly had no idea what I was doing, and also very clearly did not care about appearances. Even after this experience, where we ended up hiking out in the middle of the night due to the fact that I was uncontrollably shivering in my probably 40 degree rectangle bag in the middle of January, I was still intrigued and decided that I needed to learn more about this so called, “outdoors.”
I got my very first Black Diamond primrose harness back in 2007 and started climbing at the local climbing gym in Grand Rapids, Inside Moves, with my friends Brady, Eric, and Jesse. I decided that the outdoors was something I was very curious about and wanted to learn more. So in typical Bethany Gleason fashion, I went all in and signed up for a semester course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Alaska. That summer of 2008, I ventured to Alaska to spend 3 months backpacking, glacial mountaineering, and sea kayaking and my life has been incredibly different ever since. It truly was a life changing experience. From the amazing instructors, beautiful landscape of wild Alaska, type two fun tent bound for 7 days, incredible people on my trip, to the countless skills I learned and things I learned about myself and the world around me, I was hooked.
Since then, I finished up a degree in Physical Education from Hope College. I have worked at the University of Michigan’s Outdoor Adventure Program as a trip leader, rental specialist, and climbing wall manager, and now run the Adventure Program at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colorado. I also run the Outdoor Club at Eaglecrest, coach our school climbing team, am the junior class sponsor, and am a sponsor for the Creek Outdoor Leadership Training Club at a neighboring Cherry Creek High School. During the summer, I also lead backpacking trips for an organization called Big City Mountaineers. I am incredibly grateful for the experiences that I have had and want to experience my beautiful home state of Michigan in a way that I never took advantage of when I was living there. There is a pride in people who are from and live in Michigan that is difficult to explain to those who are not Michiganders. We have da yoopers, us trolls below the bridge, pasties, Michiganawesome, the Motor City, Mackinaw Island and delicious fudge, the Great Lakes, beautiful Fall foliage, some of the friendliest people in the country, and miles and miles of amazing trails. We truly are America’s High five, bringing joy and beauty into the country in a way that could only be Pure Michigan!
So here’s to exploring this beautiful state and discovering the 10 best things to do along the Iron Belle trail! Wish me luck and let the adventure begin!