We absolutely love our guides who dedicate their lives to showing people how to see sacred, wild places through their eyes. Our guides, who are passionate, professional, avid advocates for the land and keepers of the wild, are the main facilitators that help make each trip an unforgettable one.
Ian Mauhs is here to share with us his passion and guiding knowledge to offer insight on what it is like to lead treks!
Give us some details about you.
I grew up in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where I started guiding sea kayaking trips on the Hudson River. The area is rich with history and legends, and I liked telling the stories to my guests. I studied Wilderness Leadership at SUNY Potsdam and manned Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower for a summer, overlooking the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. I volunteered on an ambulance in New York and later operated an ambulance in Crown King, Arizona. I started working for Wildland Trekking in 2015 when the Great Smoky Mountains branch had just opened, and transferred to the Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018. In the winter, I am the head of Mountain Safety at a ski resort in Colorado.
What is your favorite Wildland Trekking trip? Any specific story or memory you can share?
My favorite trip is the FONTANA LAKE – HAZEL CREEK backpacking trip because it starts in the lowest parts of the Smokies with a 30 minute boat ride across Lake Fontana to the most remote section of the Park. The land had been logged and mined until 1944, and you can find the remains of broken cars, old cemeteries, and railroad tracks through the dense temperate rain forest foliage. Hazel Creek is beautiful when the rhododendrons are blooming, and great to hop in after hiking all day!
Where is one place in the world that you haven’t been to, but would like to go?
One day I would like to explore the beaches, volcanos, and jungles of Nicaragua.
Any advice or insight you’d like to share as an experienced trip leader for future hikers?
I would say my best advice to new hikers is to read books about the places you want to explore. In the Smokies, most guides read the adventure narrative called “Our Southern Highlanders”. You can sit down with a map when you read it. In the book you learn that Kephart joins a hunting party up near Lawson Gant Lot, an old cabin on the ridge. He writes about the bears sleeping on the Tennessee Side and crossing over to eat on the North Carolina side, a behavior determined by the terrain, and he describes the ridges and valleys that he used to hunt the game. On our APPALACHIAN CREST, VALLEYS & BALDS trip, we pass by Lawson Gant lot, and you can paint a pretty good picture of where these hunters were in the early 1900s. Place-names and stories throughout the country reflect how the Native Americans and Pioneers used the land around them, which helps us connect and make sense of seemingly untouched, wild places. Furthermore, the strategies of expeditions in the past were determined by the land, and they shed light on what you’ll be traveling through in modern times.
Interesting fact about you or the places you love to hike?
While exploring the Southeast, the Southwest has been challenging and eye opening to me. The desert landscapes are surreal to someone who grew up in the Northeast and it is a treat returning to the Adirondacks and backcountry skiing through the High Peaks region. There’s open alpine zones on the tops of the mountains, countless slides, and the beech and oak forests are open enough to carve some good Telemark turns.