Meet Abbey! Abbey is a 3rd year Wild Keeper based in Tennessee, who has also been a Wild Keeper Mentor for the past year and a half! We wanted to get to know Abbey better not only through her experience as a Wild Keeper but also through her experiences in the outdoors.
Abbey was introduced to the outdoors from a young age, instilling her love of nature from the very beginning thanks to her parents. She reminisced that, "I grew up with a big backyard and a sense of adventure! Every summer, my parents would pack me and my siblings up in the motorhome and head out on a month-long vacation across the U.S. and Canada. I have trekked through 46 states and nearly 20 National Parks, along with countless other state and county parks, all because of the love for adventure my parents have instilled in me. One of my favorite trips was camping near Devils Tower, Wyoming (one of the most underrated states)."
Abbey was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018 and has been working towards a more mindful lifestyle ever since. She shared, "during my recovery, I used walks in local parks to get back on my feet and get out of the house! The outdoors has ALWAYS allowed me to escape from my day-to-day work and responsibilities, but after my diagnosis, I've planned my time outside as much as possible to decompress and live in the present."
She's experienced the beauty and healing properties of nature while also facing difficulties in outdoor spaces as a gay woman. Abbey shared, "in the past, when camping or going on long hikes, I have not shown affection toward previous same-sex partners — and this was only for our safety. I have run into situations before where I have been cat-called and yelled at when hiking and it got to a point where I have to hike with a knife. I don't wear headphones, and always hike with my head on a swivel. Additionally, I don't wear or display anything that would show that I'm gay out in the outdoors, especially when alone, for fear of what a group of close-minded people might do. It's insane, but it's necessary for my safety."
Read even more about Abbey and about her experience as a Wild Keeper below!
KNW: How did you get "into" the outdoors?
Abbey: My parents have been taking me out since I was born!
KNW: What is your preferred way to get outside?
KNW: Have you faced any challenges / struggles in terms of inclusion in the outdoors?
A: It has been an issue in some more popular spots hiking with my former partner with groups of men who cat call when they see gay women together - usually when hiking or camping with a partner, I don't hold hands with them or show intimacy in any way for my own safety, especially when I don't have phone service.
KNW: Which would you pick: forests, mountains or desert?
A: This is impossible, so I'll pick all three - forested mountains for a morning hike, then head down to the desert in the afternoon. Perfect winter day!
KNW: What is your favorite thing about being a Wild Keeper?
A: Connecting with others with the same mindset!
KNW: What has picking up trash outdoors done for you?
A: Picking up trash has opened my eyes to how careless some people are. There is really no excuse for leaving your trash behind when it is so easy to carry it back out with you - you took it there in the first place! It has also helped me reduce waste in my own life. I try as best I can to choose products and items that have the least amount of packaging as possible so that waste doesn't end up on the beach somewhere. It's something small, but hopefully can have a larger impact if we all work together.
KNW: Roughly how many pounds do you think you've picked up since you became a Wild Keeper?
A: I honestly have no idea. 500 pounds? The amazing thing about this program is that I pick up trash when I can, and sometimes that is a large cleanup and sometimes that is micro-trash on the beach. So it really is impossible to say!
KNW: What goals do you have for this year? (or beyond?)
A: Working on my self worth, completing my yoga teacher training, and staying cancer-free!
You can find Abbey here on Instagram to follow along on her Wild Keeper efforts and adventuring!