A little beat up, but mostly smiling.

Well today was the day that I decided to start cold calling a bunch of outdoor companies to see if I could obtain sponsorships or get some donations to help me be able to do this trip and I’m feeling a bit like this picture: a little beat up, but mostly smiling.

As I was perusing through my pictures to see which one to post, I’m glad I found this one, because I thought, what better analogy than the old “riding a bike” one. This picture was from my very first time back on my mountain bike after only a few very novice rides years ago and I crashed hard. In fact, I would have had to get numerous stitches in my left arm if it weren’t for my friend Elizabeth’s amazing steri-strip application. But even though it hurt like hell, was a scary experience, and cost me some money in the emergency room getting x-rays, I was still able to walk myself off of the trail and now have an even stronger desire to mountain bike.

Today was frustrating. I called 11 different companies, sent emails, and came up completely bloody- yes, the opposite of dry, but I’m going to stick with one analogy here. But I have to remember that this is my very first experience with something I know absolutely nothing about, so much so that I don’t even know what to call it when I talk to people on the phone. I end up just kind of stumbling my way through the request as in “I’m hoping you might be able to sponsor me, or donate some equipment, or something, indistinct mumbling…”

So even though there were quite a few “no’s” today, I have to remember to pick myself up, dust off the dirt, and live my old biking, skiing, climbing, life adage of “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying” and know that there are other trails out there.

Here’s to new trails and “yes’s”!

The Planning Process…

Planning began a while ago, but today it has started to feel real. I tend to get really excited about upcoming projects and adventures, and my go to expression of this is creating a google folder for that adventure. Nerd alert! I started my google folder for the Iron Belle Trail a while ago, but have made some significant progress today!

The biking portion is roughly planned with no real great maps out there yet for it. But I have mapped out the daily itinerary for that portion. In order to get started on the hiking portion, I needed some trail maps and received my first three trail maps in the mail a few days ago from the North Country Trail Association. When I saw the package I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. The maps are very well organized and visually appealing and contain a lot of great information. Today, I mapped out the first re-ration and the first two weeks of the trail on the maps that I had. I ordered three more maps from the Association, joined as a member, and am excitedly anticipating their arrival!

All of my work thus far has consisted of mapping out the route, obtaining information on the trail, connecting with the DNR in Michigan, creating a list of contacts for different land areas, and creating a list of potential sponsors. The DNR has been absolutely amazing. When I first contacted them to see if they might be interested in working in conjunction with me to promote the state of Michigan and increase publicity of this trail, I left a voicemail with the thought that calling the state of Michigan was a long shot. But I was pleasantly surprised when an extremely friendly lady named Jacquelyn called me back right away seemingly excited about the idea and willing to work with me. I was really impressed with her communication and proud to know that my home state has such wonderful people working to promote Michigan’s natural resources.

The significant progress was made in mapping out the first two weeks of the hiking portion and drafting a letter to send to potential sponsors. I am excited and anxious to start the process of obtaining sponsorships as it is something I have never done before and also an area with which I have little to no experience. Even figuring out how to promote this journey on social media has been a huge learning curve because of how unfamiliar I am with social media other than facebook. But it is a journey I am excited to make and one in which I hope to learn a lot!

Stay tuned for more updates on the planning process as they develop!

Let the Adventure Begin!

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.1928841_507387698935_6771_n   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!