Board of Directors Feature: Jacob Camp

American Hiking is pleased to announce the addition of four new members to the Board of Directors: Jacob Camp, Jeff Hayward, Felicia Kemp, and Yann Tanini. All of us here at American Hiking are excited for this outstanding group of outdoor enthusiasts and trail advocates and we ask you to extend your warm wishes to each of them. During the next few weeks, we will be highlighting our newest Board Members and sharing what brought them each to American Hiking and their insights on why sharing and preserving the hiking experience is so important.

First on the introduction trail is Jacob Camp!

Jacob Camp’s connection to, and appreciation of, the outdoors started with The Boy Scouts of America. As a Scout, he learned one of the most important lessons hikers need to know – your feet are first priority. “We were doing an approximately 25-mile hike as part of our orienteering merit badge, and we were on the last third of it, and it had been raining off and on all day.” Once they arrived at a rest point  “All the fellow Scouts wanted to sit down and eat, and I just remember the first thing I wanted to do was sit down and get a pair of dry socks on. So that’s what I did, and then I helped all my other friends get their food.” Once everyone had finished dinner, the other Scouts admitted they too wished they had comfy dry socks on their feet! “That was really, for me, memorable – ‘hey, you always take care of your feet’. If you don’t take care of those, you’re not going anywhere, because that’s your foundation for moving.”

Turning to the trails

Jacob has over ten years of experience working as a data scientist crunching information, problem solving, and offering insights to advise federal agencies, commercial enterprises, and nonprofits. “Often when I’m on a trail, I allow my mind to wonder.  I’m thinking about philosophical frameworks, thinking through an algorithm or mathematical problem, or sorting through some of life’s tensions.” Jacob explained some of the other benefits he gets from hiking. “Being able to disconnect and reconnect with the natural world and recenter myself and focus on aspects of who I am that have nothing to do with my professional life, is essential. It helps me rebalance. It’s not only the connections with myself, but with others on the trail too. Whether that’s discussing life experiences while we’re on the trail or helping out a fellow hiker who is asking for guidance or needs a little bit of help.”

How building trails empowers advocates

Jacob has been an important part of American Hiking’s stewardship work for several years as a volunteer and a Crew Leader. While living in the Washington D.C. area, Jacob joined his first Volunteer Vacation in 2016. “My very first one was up in Northern California in the Trinity River area, and I just fell in love with it. The next one I did was the Bitterroot…last year I did two more, and this year I signed up for three volunteer vacations.” Jacob sees the importance of Volunteer Vacations, not only as a way to improve trails, but also to build communities. “The opportunity to  connect with other people who are passionate about the trails and maintaining them, and whether it’s something they’re doing for the very first time or something they’ve been doing for years, is so rewarding. To have those life experiences and exposures is just outstanding and is a key component of what I love about American Hiking.”

Jacob went on to explain how people’s involvement with Alternative Breaks and Volunteer Vacations can then lead them to become strong and dedicated advocates for trails. “Having that opportunity and exposure helps build appreciation, love and connection to our trails and natural spaces. Programs like Volunteer Vacations help build  a support base to champion trail advocacy and stewardship with our elected leaders.” Strong programming not only allows vital repairs and improvements to be made to trails, but also builds communities and empowers individuals. These organic communities for maintaining our trails are key to help advocate for trail funding on the local and national levels.

Advice for new hikers

Whether hiking Half Dome, maintaining trails in the Bitterroot, or enjoying his local Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, Jacob has some great advice for people new to hiking. Yes, take care of those feet and also, “Start close to home. Finding what fits and works for you is always what’s the most important. You can start along a path, or even street venues that are along natural spaces, if they’re available for you in your community. I believe  that’s something we need to work on as a society, we need to ensure access is a viable option and equitably available.”

Jacob looks forward to continuing his work to help inspire more people to get outside, give back to the trails they love, and ensure our natural spaces can be enjoyed by all. “I strongly  believe that being connected to the outdoors helps us be better individuals, but also be better members of society.” Please join us in welcoming Jacob, and consider working alongside him, and all the other outstanding AHS Crew Leaders, by signing up for a 2024 Volunteer Vacation.

Jacob’s Favorite Hikes:

The Enchantments, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Cranberry Wilderness North-South Loop Trail, Monongahela National Forest

Photos courtesy of Jacob Camp