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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 34 - Not Quite Strangers: How Nature & Adventure Stole Our Hearts

Not Quite Strangers | Outdoor Adventure

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Not Quite Strangers: How Nature & Adventure Stole Our Hearts

Alicia, what did you bring?


I brought my camera and lens.


That was almost disturbing but we’ll come back to that. Thank you. Kathy, what did you bring?


I brought my Garmin inReach satellite communication device.


We're in for a treat. I never know what people are going to bring and it always gives me a level of excitement. I'm curious about why you brought what you brought. This show is all about inspiring curiosity, which curiosity peaks with these objects, for sure, but also building connections. In a moment, you'll learn why I brought these two together. More than anything, the fact that we're having a conversation between two people who have never met before is all about disrupting the status quo and that's what this show is all about.


Thank you all so much for reading. Please go to to subscribe so that you don't miss a single episode. You can also subscribe on my YouTube channel, Connect to Joy so that every time a new episode is out, you get a notification. For my two guests in this episode, I'm going to start with Alicia. You have a very intimidating-looking object with you so it makes me a little scared. Alicia and I have known each other since pre-pandemic. We met each other because we were both Toastmasters in the Dallas, Texas area.


Alicia, I feel like you've always been in my life because we connected so quickly. We always act silly when we're together but for this conversation, we're serious. This is important but most of the time, we're quite silly and playful. I so appreciate it. I remember we went on a road trip for Toastmasters to Louisiana a few years back and that was a hoot. We talked the whole way down, went deep, had fun, and all of it. I so appreciate you.


You talked a lot.


I was going through a hard time so I appreciate you listening. Kathy, you have a little flavor of this is how it might go on some occasions. The reason I've invited Alicia to the show is she has a passion for nature and wildlife. She and her husband have forever and ever gone on these wonderful trips to Yellowstone National Park and have always come back jazzed about every single experience.


There were a lot of the experiences she shared with me and I thought she should probably share it with more people. I thought, “The show would be perfect but who would I introduce her to who loves nature as much,” and enter Kathy Holcombe. Kathy and I met because both of us took a course in a Heroic Public Speaking course. I don't remember exactly the moment but we had these Zoom classes and lectures. Every once in a while, somebody would have an opportunity to share their speech topic, what they were dealing with, and why they brought it up.


Kathy, I remember you said something about adventure, how important that was to you, and that you wanted to democratize adventure. You wanted everybody to have a sense of adventure in different areas of life. I was like, “Me too. I want adventure.” You and I ended up having a one-on-one chat. I was so impressed because of some of the stuff that you and your family do.


I'll let you share more about it but your lifestyle is so geared for exactly that, having adventure in all areas of life. You and your family demonstrate that. I was like, “Only Kathy could meet Alicia and have something that would be beyond just, ‘This is what I like.’” You guys could elevate the idea of adventure and nature and bring those two together. That's why I invited you to the show. Thank you for saying yes. With all of that said, you got my version of how we met. Anything that you would add to that interaction when we were strangers?


I remember sitting in class and we were sharing our big ideas about how we were going to change the world. I remember you talking about meeting a stranger and breaking down these barriers and how magical it was. I'm super excited to experience this because it blew me away when you first started talking about it. It was a great first meeting and a growing friendship ever since.


It’s my brand of adventure, Kathy. Welcome. Alicia, anything you want to add? 


At Toastmasters group, I volunteered at a PBS station here in Dallas. I had not seen her ever before. I'm sure our paths crossed before that but someone wanted a group photo of all the volunteers. We gathered up and I ended up somehow in the back. I'm 5'2" and Valerie is like 8 feet tall. She turned and looked at me. She goes, “You need to be up here.” She made a little quip about my height. I was like, “I like you.”


It was a positive quip, I'm sure.


We’re still friends, right?


It worked. She came out of the picture, which is the best part. Right before we started the episode, you had an opportunity to have a brief intro. We discovered that both of you are from the same state. We can continue that conversation because I was like, “No. Save it for the show.”


It was interesting when I mentioned my accent. I say weird things because I'm from Arkansas. We have a different accent. I said, “I'm from Arkansas.” Kathy said, “Where exactly?” “The Little Rock area.” She goes, “I'm from Hot Springs.” That was my take on it.


We’re an hour away from each other. That's pretty remarkable coming together and that close growing up.


When did you move away from Hot Springs?


I went to Hendrix College when I graduated. From there, my husband, and I moved out to Colorado to start our life of adventure. We moved from Colorado into an RV in 2014 and have been traveling the world ever since. Arkansas is the root but I feel like the whole world is home.


Where are you now?


I'm at the University of Colorado, right on the Arkansas River. The water right outside is going right home.


Since you brought up the accent, I'm curious. What is the accent? I don't know if I can distinguish the two of you using an Arkansas accent.


My accent comes back when I drink wine and talk to my mom. We've traveled so extensively and I've lived in so many places since then. My accent changes depending on where I am and who I am with.


Valerie, you wrote a beautiful essay about picking up and mimicking other accents when you're with that group of people. I also do the same. When I go home, I always revert to that draw. I wanted to say wasn't earlier. That's where this came out. We merged syllables and that's an Arkansas accent.


Can you speak to each other in Arkansanese?


That would be asking way too much.


I've lived in Texas for twenty years and Alabama is where I went to high school and college. I could understand it. Both of you brought some objects that you feel connect you to your love for nature and adventure. I would love to hear more about these objects. We'll start with Alicia. Share about this very impressive but slightly intimidating object.


This is my Nikon D6. It's the latest Nikon body and a 200 to 500-millimeter Nikon lens. I take this setup, as well as another camera and a smaller lens to Yellowstone every time we go. We travel to Yellowstone every year in our motor home. We did have a fifth wheel that we pulled with the heavy-duty truck. We have a lot of friends who full-time like you do, Kathy, so I understand what you're doing and I love it.


It's not enough to say, “This is what I use to take pictures because this is what I use to take pictures.” You got to give us a little bit more than that because that's some serious picture-taking equipment.


It's about 12 pounds. I put it on a tripod. I carry a tripod with me. My husband and I go to Yellowstone every year and we've been going since 2006. I remember the first time we went in 2006, as we were leaving, I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I told my husband we had to come back. Yellowstone stole my heart. Bless his heart, he has made that come true every year.


We take our camera gear. I have a big camera. I also have a smaller camera that I carry on my hip, which they call a hip camera. I have my shoulder strap. When we put up our setup, if the animal approaches us and the lens is too long, then I can go to my other camera, which has a shorter lens, and capture the animal from that distance. The reason why we go to Yellowstone is to photograph wildlife. I've started taking landscape photos. I'm not a professional photographer by any means. It's just a hobby and passion to be in nature and outdoors.

Not Quite Strangers | Outdoor Adventure
Outdoor Adventure: If an animal approaches and the camera lens is too long, use another camera with a shorter lens to capture its picture from a distance.

We want to hear more because you are officially Alicia in the Wild. Do you have pictures there that people could see if they wanted to check them out?


Yes. My website is new and under construction but you can certainly go to my Facebook page and find photos that we've taken.


Kathy, any reactions, questions, or follow-ups?


I have a million questions. We love Yellowstone. I want to know your animals and what you've seen while you're there. We've spent a lot of time there as well. My husband's a professional photographer and that's how we make our living. I love Teton and Yellowstone, which are adjacent.


I'm giving a presentation about Yellowstone black bears. I'm going through it year after year. This is the first time I'm going to be talking about black bears. I've talked about grizzly bears and Yellowstone. It’s thousands of photos I'm going through. I’m trying to find the ones that will make an impact. We've seen everything from elk, mothers with their calves, and bison.


It's sad but we watched a funeral procession of bison. I know that sounds weird but a bison had been killed and there was an actual procession of bison giving their respects to the deceased bison. It was so touching. I've seen mother otters who have had to grab their pups out of a den and move them because the river was raging and the water was rolling.


The mother otter had to grab the pup out of the den, save them, and take them to another place so that they wouldn't drown. We've watched a couple of grizzlies courting. We've been blindsided by these grizzlies. We've seen so many amazing things. I love sharing those stories to inspire people to get out in nature and see what it's all about.


That's amazing. The wildlife is why I go out as well. It's such an amazing and special thing. That energy whenever you see this wild being out there, and you interact with it and make eye contact, with your big lens, I'm sure you're right on it. It's one of the most magical, powerful things out there.


Kathy, to that point, sometimes you don't realize that the animal is looking at you because I'm looking through the lens and have the shutter down. When I look back at my photos and see that that animal is looking directly at me, it makes me emotional every time. That's happened over the years. When I see that happening, I stop photographing and connect with the animal. I have to. It's so special.


It's a special gift to experience that.


How did you experience that? When did you first experience that?


Many different times. Probably my earliest memory of that was going out into the wild in the Pacific Ocean with my parents on a boat. We had a gray whale that came right up a jade touching our boat. I remember it rolling on its side. I was about five years old. My memory is that its eye was the size of a playground kickball. I remember this giant eye looking. I was leaning over the edge of the boat. It was probably only a couple of minutes but it felt like forever. We stared at each other. It dove underneath our boat, came up the other side, breached, and smashed into the water. It was powerful. I was like, “That is so big.” How lucky we are to be able to see and experience that.


It's interesting because as I hear the two of you share this passion for wildlife, you’re being a part of life in the wild. It's not just observing it. It sounds like these two moments for the two of you have been to be present and connected. What is it that drives the two of you? Kathy, I'd like to hear more. You have an object you want to share with us too but I'm curious. What is it that connects you so deeply in those moments?


To me, it's a moment to pause and be there. It's a deep curiosity. I want to know what's happening and try to understand because I have a huge amount of respect for wildlife. We were in Alaska one time, watching grizzlies feed on salmon. Our daughter was about ten years old and we were able to park our RV right on the side of the river. We watched. It was a mom with two cubs and she was teaching them how to fish and hunt.


Abby's asking a million questions. We're taking it all in. We can learn a lot about ourselves and the world by pausing, slowing down, taking in those moments, and connecting with everything that's going on around us like the sight, smell, light, and temperature. All of that comes together. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it. When that all comes together and you stop to take it in, it's magic.


We can learn a lot about ourselves and the world by pausing and slowing down. 

It must be something in Arkansas because that also sounds intimidating. I've seen wildlife and I love these moments when I get to see something that's unique, probably at a distance. I don't think I've had the experiences that you've described of having that face-to-face and eye-to-eye connection. For me, it’s more like a novelty. It’s not the deep spiritual experience that I hear the two of you share. It also sounds scary in some ways to me. It could be perceived anyway. I'm curious. Any fear, Alicia, in those moments? You're talking about a black bear or a grizzly that's staring back at you, or a huge whale that's underneath your boat.


No. There's peace. Kathy, you'll agree. It's weird to explain. It's both excitement with peace and calm. For me, my heart glows. I get warm.


I would call it wonder. I have a huge, healthy respect for things bigger than me. Part of it is knowing how they behave, giving them space, and paying attention. Animals are somewhat predictable. If you watch and understand them and give them space, usually, you're safe.


I've seen bears and whales, not to the closeness you have but I have that with horses. I don't know what it is about horses but there were times that I've ridden them. I've been with them in different places, too. I've ridden horses in Costa Rica, Argentina, and all over the States. I don't even know why. I have no idea what it is about horses. We didn't grow up with them. My mother also has a love for horses too but when I've been with a horse and I look into the horse's eye, I have what you both describe.


I don't consider the horse a wild animal. Most of the horses I've interacted with have been in some domestic environment right there on the ranch or some corral being ridden for entertainment. It must be different, especially when the animal is out in the wild. They've not been tamed, trained, or harnessed. They're just out there. That's fascinating. I want to go back to the object Kathy brought. I know that beyond making intense eye contact with gray whales, you want to make your way around nature. Tell us about what you brought.


I'm so curious to know what Kathy has brought and what she does with it. I can't wait.


This is my ticket to freedom, confidence, and ambition to try crazy things. This is a satellite messaging device and we got this in 2018. It has two-way messaging. I can send out a text message or receive one from anywhere. What that's done for me is it allowed me to go on a backpacking trip all by myself across Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was something I'd always wanted to do. I'd always dreamed about it but I didn't have the confidence to do it by myself.


I was like, “If I can talk to my husband every once in a while, he could give me weather reports. If something goes horribly wrong, I can figure it out together with someone else or another human.” It's a connection point. That led to a 70-mile low backpacking trip across Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which led to 1,000 miles of self-powered adventure across North America. It's allowed me a whole different experience in the wilderness.


We've done a million adventures together, my husband and I, along with our daughter. It’s big things way in remote places. When I have to be the one that makes all the decisions, carries all the weight, and has to progress across these vast wilderness areas independently, there's a huge amount of responsibility and accomplishment with pulling that off on my own. It's the best tool that I have. I feel like it has unlocked this whole other world that I get to explore at my pace and terms, which I love.


Hats off to you, Kathy. I've heard of some of the things that you did. You were going on a 200-mile journey. Tell us about that experience and how it ended up.


I had a 3-week gap between 2 events. The Colorado trail intersects both of the events in Colorado. There's a midway point in Buena Vista, Colorado and it ends in Durango. It's 280 miles between the two. I was like, “I've got three weeks. I'll walk.” My husband, Peter, and daughter, Abby, looked at me and were like, “We're going to drive because that's crazy. We'll see you there in three weeks.” It was a pretty ambitious goal. I had to cover at least 14 miles a day, which is pretty far. I made it 50 miles. It was an adventure that I didn't get to finish.


That might've been exactly what I needed at that time because I've done all these things and I've been successful. I was feeling I knew I could do it. I had it in the bag. It was just grinding out the miles and getting it done. This one was hard. I had a 40-pound pack on and it was steep terrain. I started in the monsoon season. It rained the first four days. Everything I had was soaked and heavy. On day five, I got caught in a lightning storm. As I was running down the hill, I tweaked my knee a little bit.


It's funny. The speech that I was working on with Valerie was all about perseverance and gumption. “You can do this. You just have to go for it. Don't stop,” and all of these things. On day five, I was like, “I can't walk. There's no persevering through this.” It was this hard thing. I was writing about it on social media. I talked about it. It's just walking. I can walk this far. I know I can do this.


It was a lot of soul-searching to throw in the towel and be like, “I'm not going to do this now. I'm going to put a pause, give my body time to heal, get some lighter gear, come back, and do this with somebody else.” It's tough by yourself. It was interesting to learn that about myself. I'd had a lot of other experiences and that might've been exactly what I needed for this trip. The wilderness teaches you what you need when you need it.


The wilderness teaches you what you need when you need it.

Alicia, do you have a question?


I have a couple. I do understand what you're talking about having that moment where you're thinking, “I've got to quit and give up something that I love and I wanted to accomplish,” but you learn from it. You become a better person and then you're prepared for the next time. I know you'll complete that goal. Sometimes, we're just in the moment, even with my camera. I'm photographing the animal and then all of a sudden, something happens and it's so special and magical. Did that happen to you in the Smoky Mountains somewhere?


Yes. It seemed something like that happened daily but the biggest moment was after I'd done almost 50 miles, a hurricane came through the Appalachian. It was unexpected. I'd hiked a bunch in the West but I didn't know about hurricanes in the mountains. That was new to me. Right before I was going to finish, I got a message from Peter and he was like, “You better hunker down. This is bad.” On the AT, they have these stone shelters. I raced through a hurricane with trees crashing and pounding rain. The trail turned into a creek. I made it to the shelter.


It was at this moment that I was so close. I'm 16 miles from the end and there was a hurricane outside. There was an evacuation point where I could do 5 miles to get to a trailhead or go 16 miles to the end. I messaged Peter on my Garmin and was like, “I can't go anywhere. It's too dangerous to leave the shelter. Let's figure this out in the morning.” It rained all night long. The rain was coming under the shelter roof and everything was soaked. I fell asleep eventually through all of that. At 4:00 in the morning, Peter dinged me on my Garmin and said, “You've got a clearing. Go to the end.” I was like, “Like the finish?” He's like, “Yeah, run. Charge. You've got a break.”


I looked out and the clouds were swirling but the rain had stopped. It was not windy. I'm running down the trail. Pretty soon, this whole valley opens up. It's sunrise. I can see some blue in the sky. I sat down on a rock. At that moment, I realized that I was going to finish it. That was powerful. I didn't even want to move. I had fought all these things. It felt like everything had been a battle to that moment. All of a sudden, I was like, “I don't want it to end. I love this.” Sitting on that rock, watching the sunrise, and taking all that in that was a magical moment.


I want to be clear. Was this the first experience you did on your own?




I have three brothers. I'm the only girl. All my three brothers are Eagle Scouts so they've had their share of outdoor adventure. I even joined them because I thought the Girl Scouts were lame when I was growing up. This was in the '80s. They were doing brownies and stuff. My brothers would come back telling all these grand tales of being out and killing a chicken with their bare hands. I thought I wanted to do that. They had cool stuff to share. I didn't have enough.


I did some volunteering at the Boy Scout camp and it was humbling with some stuff. You had to dig your hole to go to the bathroom. I'm like, “I don't know if I’ll do that.” I did it because of the, “If I can do anything, you can do it,” kind of thing but on my own, I’m not sure. First of all, women with whom I interact on a regular basis just don't talk about nature and the wilderness or being in the wild or engaged the way the two of you are. I'm curious. What do you talk about with other women? Do you have a lot of women in your circle who love wilderness and being out in the wild like the two of you? Alicia, what do you think?


I have formed a community through my previous work as a speaker coach and strategist working with coaches, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business owners and helping them with their speaking business or their speaking so that they can make business. I have all of those types of friends, people who are very business-oriented. I love this community because they've supported and encouraged me to finally live in my heart's passion, which is being a wildlife storyteller, advocate, and photographer.


I'm not ready to pass up my existing community but I do want to add people like Kathy. I'm starting to reach out to others. I'm part of a Facebook group for women, Wildlife Photographers. I want to be connected with other women who love this as much as I do. On that note, Valerie was extremely instrumental in introducing me to a Conservation Director at the Dallas Zoo who invited me to be a board member of the Texas Black Bear Alliance. I'm building relationships in Texas regarding wildlife. I've met some amazing women and men. There are a couple of women who work with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. I'm so thankful for Valerie introducing me to strangers.


I'm mostly thankful for you giving yourself the opening to pursue your passion. You talk so much about what you want. Kathy, the context that Alicia and I met each other was Toastmasters, both of us in district roles or officer roles. We were not just giving speeches. It was about building the community and supporting and developing other people.


Alicia, you've been so instrumental for me, too. The more you talk about it, I’m like, “Why don't you give me more speeches about this stuff? You send out a calendar for free to everybody of all your wildlife pictures. Why?” It’s like seeing someone who so thoroughly loves what they’re doing with so much joy and passion. It's not just a hobby for you. What you have, what you express, and what you give is a gift. I'm like, “Why would you not give it away and go to the highest level?” That's why I'm like, “Go meet some folks. I'm not that person.”


One of the reasons why it was hard for me to jump right into it and not do it sooner than later is I had in my mind that I had to be a professional photographer, have a photography business, have covers on magazines or at least in articles of magazines, or sell these. When I realized that I could share my stories that would impact people, that's when I pushed that block or hesitation out. There was a lot of help on that, too.


Alicia has to do a Heroic Public Speaking course because that's a whole different community of folks, specifically around speaking. What you have and the message you have will be amplified and directed in such a way. Kathy, what about you? What does your community look like? Do you have a lot of other women who enjoy what you do?


My community is almost all professional kayakers. The people that we spend the most time with are the best in the world at the sport. I'm the baby of the group. I'm the one that they are always coaxing along saying, “You can do this. You're going to be fine.” Technically, all of my friends are much more astute than I am and these are phenomenal athletes but they don't go way out in the wilderness like I do, which is why I end up going by myself a lot. There are not a lot of people who are willing to walk 300 miles with 40 pounds on their backs.


In the adventure sports arena, particularly, some pretty powerful all-women experiences happen. I've been a part of a few of them. The dynamic is so unique when you get a group of only women out doing something. There's a lot more collaboration, cooperation, and support. I love going out with families, men, and all kinds of things too. There's an amazing thing that happens.


I paddled from Key Largo to Key West with a group of five women. It's one of my all-time favorite trips that I ever did. When somebody was tired, there was another person right beside them and singing some obnoxious 1980 song in their head to keep them paddling as they could reach the milestone. Whatever it was, the camaraderie was something that I hadn't experienced any other way.


I'm ready to find that, Kathy. I'm excited that that's on my horizon. When you told me that you have made adventures with just yourself, when I was in my twenties, I backpacked across Europe alone because I didn't have any other friends who wanted to do that with me. Valerie, you've had adventures alone because you wanted to see and do it. You did it, whether someone went with you or not.


I didn't invite anybody. It's like, “It's going to be my trip. I get to do what I want to do.” Sometimes, that's great and sometimes, it's a little boring. I get it. My brand of adventure has more to do with novelty. As I listen to the two of you, I don't have the level of commitment to do the same thing and go deeper and longer. For me, it's like, “I want to go zipline in Utah or hike into a volcano in Costa Rica.” It’s a unique, interesting experience, especially when it has to do something with the culture.


I will tell you one of the silliest things I ever told anybody. Right out of college, I went to work for an organization that was based in Broomfield, Colorado called Up with People. I was part of the staff. Every once in a while, we were there for several months for training. Every year, we'd go back for some additional training. There are quite a few of the people who were based in Colorado who would love to do outings with the staff as a team building or bonding thing. Everything had to do with something with nature. We're going to go hiking somewhere. I was like, “Again. Seriously?”


I remember saying, “I could never live in Colorado because I do not appreciate nature the way you guys do.” That was the silliest thing to say. I remember being so turned off. “I can't enjoy this day because you want to do too many things outside.” As I'm older, I get it. I'm not quite the city girl I used to be. I remember being so present to the mentality and commitment that people who I interacted with towards the outdoors that I didn't share. Kathy, that's one of the things that drew me so much to your message and speech. Tell us the big idea because that would also be compelling.


My big idea is that we all need outdoor adventure. It doesn't have to be backpacking 300 miles. We all just need to be outside, even in short bursts like 20 minutes or 1 hour a week, or going on a walk. There's a whole bunch of research about how the wilderness impacts our overall well-being and how it can be as effective in treating depression and anxiety. I believe that we all need more adventure in our lives. We're all on this continuum. Wherever you are at a particular moment, that's what you need.

Not Quite Strangers | Outdoor Adventure
Outdoor Adventure: We all need outdoor adventure. Getting into the wilderness impacts our overall well-being and effectively treats depression and anxiety.

I believe that. That's amazing. The two challenges that come up for me are we've been in a pandemic mode. When you and I met, I missed having some adventure. I don't do the travel that I used to do. That's what was bringing me some of that. That's one piece. The other piece is as a woman, I feel much more fearful about doing things out in the wilderness by myself. I feel there's a level of threat, not even the animals I don't think, to be honest with you. I hear kidnapping and rape. I'm like, “I'm not going. Sorry.”


We're from Panama originally but Black. They did share often that they met several other Black people, specifically from the US, who mentioned that being outdoors is the worst thing that a Black person could do during very long moments of history, like hundreds of years in this country. That was the other thing that was in my head. We lived in Alabama for eight years, at least I did. Some of that also seeps in there. I wanted to share that. What do you get out of that? What have you heard or seen that resonates there?


There are so many layers to that. As women, we're told all our lives to be careful. “Don't go by yourself. Watch out for all these dangers.” Honestly, the wilderness is where I feel the most safe from other people because it takes a lot of effort to get out there. I feel much more at risk from other people in a city. There are a lot of people and who knows what they're thinking.

Not Quite Strangers | Outdoor Adventure
Outdoor Adventure: You can feel safer in the wilderness than getting out into urban areas. There is no way to know what other people are thinking.

Especially if you're in the backcountry, it's too difficult.


It's often very similar to being in a city. You have to be very situationally aware of what's going on all around you. Know your environment and the potential risks. Know if a hurricane could come through the mountains because that could be devastating. Like you have your city demeanor, city attitude, and all of that, you have to have that in the woods, too. It comes with practice.


That's what is so important as you make your way into taking on adventure. You do it a little bit at a time. For my mom to go on a mile walk in a city park by herself is a big deal and scary to her. When she does it every day for a month, all of a sudden, it's normal. Maybe going to a trailhead and doing a mile there, you develop comfort like anything else that you do.


Alicia, do you camp? You do RV stuff but what other things do you and your husband do that would be in the adventure bucket?


You mentioned about going back to the same place. We've been doing this for many years every year. There are other national parks out there. We've made a little dent in some of them. Our primary focus is wildlife but that doesn't mean we're not going to go to Acadia National Park, sequoias, or redwood forest. Those are beautiful places. We've been there.


As far as safety is concerned, if you're going to Yellowstone, you have to know the weather and have the right attire because, in Yellowstone in June, it can still snow. I've had that happen. It can be hot or cold. You need hiking boots, long pants, or sweaters. Most importantly, there are two other things you need to know. You need to know the regulations and rules and how far away you need to be from a certain animal.


For foxes, coyotes, and bison, it's 25 yards. For grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, it's 100 yards. You've got to have that in your head. You've always got to be searching and looking. Is the animal approaching you? You have one tool. In case you need to deploy it, it's bear spray. Kathy has her Garmin satellite phone. We carry our bear spray with us every time. It's hooked onto my belt and my husband hooks it onto his tripod. He keeps one in his back pocket, too. That's how we maintain safety.


I'm going to overshare here because I want to tee up. I'm going to ask you the same question. I have gone camping, even though it's not something that I would do the way that you all do it. I remember on two occasions, I went with a great friend of mine. He loved outdoor stuff. I love being with somebody confident about it and who knows places. I'm like, “I'll go, sure.” He went someplace in Oklahoma and camped overnight. It was my time of the month. It was tedious and tough. It was only overnight but felt like the most uncomfortable. That's one.


I remember the second time. We went to Big Ben National Park and spent the night someplace out in the middle of nowhere. These were not official campsites. That's the thing. It was a tent. He had his truck. I would have to go behind the truck in both times. I remember that was my time of the month. I was like, “Why does this happen?” I should have known but I didn't want to say no because that was the time that he wanted to go. I made it work. The second time, I knew better. I got one of those little mini pop-up tent things with a toilet seat. I set myself up because I was not going to go through the whole squatting on a truck and all that but I am curious. As women, we have to deal with other things. Do you have a story or a moment that you want to share?


I am so angry about this incident. I know that sounds dramatic but you have to understand that grizzly bear number 399 is my bear in Yale and Grand Teton National Park. I know she's everybody's bear but she's the most famous bear in the world. Everybody flocks to Grand Teton to photograph her because she's so visible with her cubs. I met her for the first time in 2006 with her three cubs. She's had three cubs, 2 cubs, and 1 cub throughout the years.


In 2021, she turned 24 years old. In all of us, the regulars, locals, and photographers, she won't have a litter. She came out with not 1, 2, 3, but 4 cubs. It's astounding. It's not common. COVID hits and cancels my spring trip. I'm seeing photo after photo of everybody who said, “Forget COVID, I'm going to the park.” There's my mom with four cute little cubs and I'm sick about it. I have a total FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. That fall, we decide to go.


I specifically spent 4 nights in Teton and 2 days in Yellowstone. We spent driving 150 miles each way for 2 days in Tetons. Finally, I saw her on the third day. She's across the river. The sun is coming towards us. The sun is in our eyes, which means the literal orange, big ball in the sky is glaring down on us and all you see are silhouettes, not even good silhouettes of the grizzlies. The grass is tall. I sat out there for three and a half hours and I had to pee. There are no facilities around in a wild park. I'm thinking, “Do I leave myself? How do I do this? I don't want to leave.”


I texted a friend who was watching her from the other end of the river. I said, “We're going to head out. We'll be back in a little bit. I've got to relieve myself.” He's like, “Okay, see you later.” My husband and I had packed up our stuff and left the parking lot. Fifteen minutes later, Bill texts me and says, “She just crossed the river. You missed it.” I do not know a workaround but I'm going to find one. That's a pitfall, especially with a small bladder.


Kathy, what about you? We cannot end this conversation until you share some nature calls.


This is another one where I was trying something new by myself. I decided I was going to kayak across the Everglades. There's a 100-mile trail called the Wilderness Waterways Trail. They have little chickies. It's a deck that sticks up out of the Everglades that you can camp on. I was like, “I'm going to be up above the gators and all the scary things that live in the Everglades. This is going to be amazing.” What I failed to consider was that it's 10 miles between the chickies. I had one day of wind and it took me twelve hours to get from one to the other chickie.


The Everglades are composed of mangroves that have porous roots that stick down. There's no land anywhere. It was open water the whole way. There was no way I was getting in the water because there were scary things that lived in there so I had to sit in my boat for twelve hours. That was a bladder of steel day but it was hard. Unfortunately, the wind was only bad that day. It was a headwind that day. The other day, I had a much better time but that particular day was the longest period between.


You didn't relieve yourself at all?


I didn’t. I didn't want to go in my boat because that was yucky. They're gators everywhere and even crocs in the Everglades. There are giant snakes. You can't see in the water. It's all tannic and yucky. There was no way I was going.


I couldn't have done it, especially since I know that urine is sterile. Bear Grylls drinks it.


That’s a bad idea.


It would have probably called the gators over or something like, “Human.”


Kathy, isn't that a fear of being in water if you're menstruating or something? That would be my fear.


Mainly, what we do is whitewater. Usually, in cold rivers, there's not too much to worry about other than rapids that'll take you out. In the ocean, that's a whole different animal. I generally stay in my boat in the ocean and go from land to land.


I don't necessarily share the same level of commitment but what this conversation has done is like this reel in my head that's coming back of all these snapshots of things. I've done paddle boarding off the coast of Waikiki. It was an open ocean. I've seen whales in Maui. I've done horseback riding and all these different moments like camping trips and stuff. I do like nature in my way. The two of you have highlighted the appreciation for it that I don't talk about very often. I don't connect to it the way you do. I don't take photographs or do regular trips. Part of it always gets buried as a moment in time.


I'm so grateful that I have two people that we can geek out. I'll probably watch, listen, and mock. Unless we go on a trip together, I'm down with that. I want to start to zoom out a little bit of our conversation. The two of you did not know each other. We've been talking about getting together for this show for several months. I'm curious about what's it been like from the very moment when I reached out to you to talk about this with a random person to now. What's in your mind about this experience?


I love meeting new people and connecting with people all around the world. At the same time, I was like, “I don't know what we're going to talk about. I wonder if we're going to have anything in common.” Adventure and wildlife, if we kept talking, there would be a million other things. What a joy this is to connect on so many levels. It's been amazing.


There are so many things. We didn't even get into the RV life. We have a motor home but there's so much more to discuss. Valerie, you asked me in 2021, “What do you think about this idea for a show?” I thought, “I liked it.” I like meeting people who I don't know. You never know what you're going to learn. I was so on board with it from the get-go. I want it in the spirit of doing it. I did not look up your name on Facebook, search for you on Google, or anything like that because I wanted to experience this whole adventure.


I hope that there's more whether or not we do a trip altogether but I want to make sure the two of you connect. I do think that there's a community of people who need other women like you who need to also connect with their inner adventure, whatever that looks like, however deep, far, or wide that goes. Who knows? This is a moment in time when a lot of people have been waking up to what they've missed in life, what they have buried, and what they've forgotten about. They see that there are so many different aspects of living that they may have not experienced that appeal to them. It's going to be a nice little wake-up conversation for other people. Any final thoughts or words as we begin to wrap up?


Take a moment out into nature. Get to know it. It's not too late to repair the damage that we, as humans, have done. Protect wildlife and habitat. That's my message. If you're on board with that, seek me out.


Take a moment out into nature. It is not too late to repair the damage that humans have done.

Valerie, you say that you are not so into nature but I can see your adventurous spirit shining through very clearly. I encourage everyone reading to explore that and see what that adventure spirit is that's inside. Do one thing that you're uncertain about and see how it goes. That will lead to many more adventures.


Now that you brought that up, I have another question. Last question. Between the two of you, I'd love to hear about that one adventure that it's on the bucket list that you haven't done yet or haven't quite found the guts to do. What's that one thing? I'll share mine. I would love to have a nomadic lifestyle in the Sahara desert. If I could hang out with some nomads for a week, and I don't know what they will do, I don't care. That would be on my bucket list. What about you, guys?


I'm going to Morocco in 2023 to be in the desert under the night sky in the Sahara. We're going to touch base and that's going to be our adventure.


You have to pick something else, Kathy, that's on your list that you haven't done or you don't have in the books but you've dreamt about it.


I'm doing this. I'm going to be 50 in 2024. I'm planning my big adventure. This is the big whopper bucket list. I want to paddle from Seattle to Alaska. Peter and I are planning this. It'll take 3 to 4 months. It's over 1,000 miles through the inside passage. I cannot wait. I'm so excited about it. It's big and bold but Peter's going with me. I'm super excited.


My adventure that's on my bucket list can tie in with yours because my husband and I want to plan 3 to 4 months of traveling from Dallas up through to Alaska. We’ll go through Canada, explore some of the inside passages, take our motor home, camp, see the wild, and end up in Alaska somewhere.


You two have been amazing. Thank you so much for saying yes to this experience and for sharing your passion for wildlife, nature, and adventure with all of us. I know that there's somebody who’ll be inspired to even consider adventure from a different perspective or do something that they never thought they could do on their own because of what the two of you have shared.


There's more conversation to come. We have to plan our trip to Morocco. There's stuff that we're going to do. We'll let everybody know how it is. Thank you two so much for coming. I want to thank the audience who's read this fantastic episode. If you haven't subscribed already, I encourage you to go to so that way, you don't miss a single episode. Go to the YouTube channel, Connect to Joy, and subscribe there. More than anything, go out and have a wonderful adventure, either meeting somebody who you've never met before or going to do something one of these two ladies has inspired us to do. Thank you all so much. Have a wonderful rest of the day.


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