Katie Ryan, Executive Director
Katie joined Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center in March of 2005. She brings fifteen years of experience organizing and leading field education programs throughout Oregon, Washington, California, the Yellowstone region, and Canada. Before coming to Opal Creek, she was directing programs at OMSI’s Cascade Science School in Bend, OR. At home in the mountains, she has dedicated her career to sharing these special places with students of all ages, believing 100% that people need to experience wild places in order to care about them. Having spent three years living full time at Jawbone Flats, Opal Creek has become one of her absolute favorite places to share. Katie worked as our Program Director building our ever growing programs from 2005-2009 and took over as Executive Director in October of 2009. She now lives in Bend, OR with her husband Joe and dog Murphy. When not working on behalf of Opal Creek’s amazing programs, Katie spends her time skiing, hiking, rafting, and just trying to be outside as much as possible.
Hometown: Cazenovia, NY
What are you thankful for this year?: New bridges
Playing on your iPod right now?: Phish – pretty much always
Currently reading?: In the Temple of Wolves by Rick Lamplugh
Guilty pleasure?: People magazine
Describe your ideal sandwich: A true NY deli sandwich–crusty bread, turkey, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, cheddar, and just a little dab of mayo. With a true NY pickle on the side.
Favorite outdoor spot?: Steens Mountain
When you’re not working, you’re: Hiking, rafting, skiing, spending time outside with my dog Murphy and my friends and family.
Who’s your hero?: The many people who face physical and mental disability with courage and grace.
Favorite quote: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” –John Muir
Kaitlin Baer, Kitchen Assistant
Happy in the trees
Majestic ancient forest
Old-growth stole her heart.
Hometown: Oceanside, CA
What are you thankful for this year?: My family’s health and happiness, and returning to work in the most beautiful kitchen
What’s playing on your iPod right now?: Beach House
What are you reading right now?: Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins
What’s your guilty pleasure?: Cheese. So much cheese. Too much cheese.
Describe your ideal sandwich: Focaccia, lots of veggies, lots of cheese.
What’s your favorite outdoor spot?: Opal Creek! And anywhere by water laughing with friends.
When you’re not working, you’re: roadtripping, drawing, laughing, exploring
Who’s your hero?: Hands down my mom and dad.
Favorite quote: “I don’t have a favorite quote.” – Unknown
Grace Boehm, Outdoor Science Instructor
Grace hails from Kansas City, Kansas. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in history and environmental science from Goshen College (IN). She is a runner, climber, explorer, and bread-baker who likes iced coffee with a dash of cream. Previous to Opal Creek, she was an environmental educator at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center in Albion, Indiana and worked as a camp counselor for 3 years in the Rocky Mountains. Grace came to Opal Creek first as a backpacking intern in 2015 and is delighted to return as an instructor for the 2016 season.
Hometown: Kansas City, KS
What are you thankful for this year?: Transition and big opportunities.
What’s playing on your iPod right now?: James Taylor
What are you reading right now?: Woodswoman, by Anne LaBastille
What’s your guilty pleasure?: Early 2000s sci-fi/fantasy television and pop country music
Describe your ideal sandwich: A hard French baguette with stinky cheese and olive oil on the side. Simplicity makes the best sandwich.
What’s your favorite outdoor spot?: Sentinel Point in the Pike National Forest, Colorado
When you’re not working, you’re: lounging in my hammock, on a run, or climbing whatever is nearby
Who’s your hero?: Arlene Bloom, who was the expedition leader of the first American and first all-woman team summit of Annapurna in the Himalayas. Her team proved that women had the skill, strength, and courage necessary to make difficult and technical climbs. The 1978 Women’s Himalayan Expedition’s accomplishment had a positive impact around the world, changing perceptions about women’s abilities in sports and elsewhere.
Favorite quote: “I can’t seem to let go of the wondering. That’s a good thing. But meanwhile, I may give my life meaning by throwing myself recklessly into it daily, as if something astonishing is happening and I am part of it. It is and I am.” —Robert Fulghum
Adam Chenoweth, Fall Program Intern
Adam grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. He went to college at the University of Minnesota -Duluth where he studied Environmental and Outdoor Education. He has been working in the outdoor education field for four years as a trip leader for summer camps in Northern Minnesota, as a student leader in his university’s outdoor program, and as a dog musher last winter. Adam came to Opal Creek to work at a place with a strong focus on environmental education, and to explore a new part of the country.
Hometown: Andover, MN
What are you thankful for this year?: The opportunity to live, work, and explore in a new place.
What’s playing on your iPod right now?: Trampled by Turtles–Duluth, MN, represent!
What are you reading right now?: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
What’s your guilty pleasure?: Eating dairy products despite being lactose intolerant.
Describe your ideal sandwich: Whole wheat bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and chipotle mayo.
What’s your favorite outdoor spot?: Cherry Lake in Northern Minnesota. The lake is mostly surrounded by tall cliffs, you can drink straight from the lake, and it requires steep and rough portages to get there. Canoes only of course.
When you’re not working, you’re: Pursuing my own adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities such as whitewater paddling, rock climbing, and snowboarding.
Who’s your hero: All of the mentors and teachers who have taught me about the outdoors.
Favorite quote: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Jay joined the Opal Creek team in 2016. An adventurer by heart and experiential educator by trade he has been inspiring awe and beauty within natural areas since 2002. Jay brings to Opal Creek his creative mind, years of program facilitation, and the ability to wonder at the natural beauty of the land. Previously he developed educational programs for a farm & wilderness preserve in Northern California and served as a field educator at an outdoor school in Southern California, in addition to his many years supervising residential programs. Jay holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis on Nature Center and Camp Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a Master’s of Science in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University – Mankato. He enjoys trail running, biking, water play, scrambling, photography, and interacting with all types of animals.
Hometown: West Allis, WI
What are you thankful for this year?: I am thankful for my continued good health and the opportunity to travel, explore, and adventure.
Playing on your iPod right now?: Gramitik – Muy Tranquillo
Currently reading?: Experience and Education by John Dewey
Guilty pleasure?: hot water
Describe your ideal sandwich: My ideal sandwich is a grilled egg, cheese, and avocado sandwich with pickles and sprouts and a bag of sea salt & vinegar chips.
Favorite outdoor spot?: In a tree or on a rock.
When you’re not working, you’re: In the woods running or taking photos with my camera.
Who’s your hero?: I admire Dr. Seuss for having a strong positive impact on the populace through his simple and creative thoughts. This is how you influence the world in less than twenty words – “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will ever change no it will not.”
Favorite quote: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” –Jimi Hendrix
Chris Golden, Kitchen Assistant
Chris is a desert dweller from Tucson, AZ. After 25 years of living in the dry climate, he was ready for an environmental change that would complement his love for the outdoors. When passing through the Northwest during a climbing trip up the western United States, Chris fell in love with the forests and weather of Oregon. Upon discovering Opal Creek and all it stands for, Chris leaped at the opportunity to join the team.
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
What are you thankful for this year?: New people, places, and opportunities
What’s playing on your iPod right now?: Serengeti
What are you reading right now?: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
What’s your guilty pleasure?: Video games
Describe your ideal sandwich: Hardy bread, lots of veggies, toasted
What’s your favorite outdoor spot?: Smith Rock
When you’re not working, you’re: in the climbing gym or outside hiking
Who’s your hero?: Nico
Simon Gray, Facilities Assistant
Simon grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and attended the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, where he received a dual BS/BA in conservation biology and American history. Simon likes to think of himself as an adventurous soul who is open to all the greatness that life has to offer—soaking up the bright lights of the big city and basking in the solitude of wilderness. Commonly seen or heard singing and playing music around camp, Simon is an aspiring musician who encourages you to bring an instrument on your next trip to Opal Creek.
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
What are you thankful for this year?: My strange and wonderful family
Playing on your iPod right now?: Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John
Currently reading?: Count Zero by William Gibson
Guilty pleasure?: Burt Reynolds movies. No wait, why would I feel guilty about that?
Describe your ideal sandwich: Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy
Favorite outdoor spot?: Palisades Lake along the John Muir Trail
When you’re not working, you’re: Strummin’ my guitar or exploring the woods
Who’s your hero?: Ry Cooder
Favorite quote: “All I know is that I know nothing.”
Gabrielle Haber, Development & Communications Manager
A New England native and long-time Oregon resident, Gabrielle Haber spent three years working as Opal Creek registrar before transitioning to development and communications at the end of 2014. After graduating from Lewis and Clark College with degrees in both Art History and Anthropology, she spent six years in farmers market work and food access activism, culminating in the founding of Kitchen Share NE in 2013. She loves putting her writing and strategic planning skills to good use for Opal Creek’s grants and communications, and is currently on a continuing mission to hike all of Oregon’s 45 wilderness areas.
Hometown: Westford, MA
What are you thankful for this year?: Forward movement
Playing on your iPod right now?: Van Morrison
Currently reading?: Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams
Guilty pleasure?: Cheesy sitcoms on Netflix
Describe your ideal sandwich: A hot, messy Reuben on sour rye
Favorite outdoor spot?: Anywhere on the Oregon coast overlooking the ocean
When you’re not working, you’re: Either hanging out with all my favorite farmers at the Hollywood Farmers Market, or exploring the trails of the Pacific Northwest.
Who’s your hero?: My cancer-beating, twinkly-eyed grandfather who can out-cycle me any day of the week, and then do it again tomorrow.
Favorite quote: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” – Che Guevara
Janelle Hammerstrom, Registrar
Having recently moved to Portland from Richland, WA, Janelle is excited to be joining Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center as Registrar. Janelle graduated from Willamette University in 2011 with a bachelor’s in Mathematics and a minor in Studio Art. After graduating, she moved back home to eastern Washington where she spent a couple years working as a research associate in the Advanced Power & Energy Systems group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. A member of the Mid-Columbia Symphony and part of a very musical family, Janelle has played bassoon for roughly 13 years and is looking forward to finding groups around Portland to play in. Additionally, Janelle is passionate about the visual arts and is working to boost her skills and exposure as an illustrator.
Hometown: Richland, WA
What are you thankful for this year?: My family, my health, and the opportunity to be a part of OCAFC
Playing on your iPod right now?: Júníus Meyvant’s “Color Decay” on repeat
Currently reading?: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn & Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Guilty pleasure?: Terrible puns
Describe your ideal sandwich: Breakfast sandwich! Delicious bagel, salty fried egg and extra sharp cheddar
Favorite outdoor spot?: The middle of a river on an inner-tube in summer
When you’re not working, you’re: Hunched over my dining room table working on a drawing, playing bassoon, running, or hiking
Jessica Hutchins, Outdoor Science Instructor
Jessica first backpacked through Opal Creek in 2012 and was charmed by the tiny Jawbone Flats and its residents. Little did she know that in a few short years, she herself would be living and working here. With a bachelor’s in Psychology and a graduate-level diploma in Montessori Elementary Education. Jessica has worked with a variety of students, from infants through adults, most recently working for the last five years in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education. Jessica’s two biggest passions have always been education and the great outdoors, and she is thrilled to return to the OCAFC staff this year and share her enthusiasm with new audiences.
Hometown: Portland, OR
What are you thankful for this year?: My strong family, both family of origin and the ones I’ve created with friends. And I’m thankful my cat Henry gets to join me in Jawbone.
Playing on your iPod right now?: Fleet Foxes and Tycho’s Awake. On the record player? Paul Simon’s Graceland and Fleetwood Mac’s Future Games
Currently reading?: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Guilty pleasure?: Iced lattes from Insomnia Coffee Co.
Describe your ideal sandwich: Pretty much any sandwich that is made by another person (they taste better!) and cut on the diagonal. This piece is essential.
Favorite outdoor spot?: Glacier National Park. Any national park, really, but this one takes my breath away.
When you’re not working, you’re: Well, normally you’d find me camping or somewhere hiking in the woods, but now that it’s my job…you’d probably still find me in the woods. Or maybe Powell’s or in a thrift store.
Who’s your hero?: Dr. Maria Montessori
Favorite quote: “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
Bryan Kurz, Summer Intern
Bryan was an Americorps volunteer for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks before coming to Opal Creek. He grew up in Kansas and graduated from Kansas University with a degree in Environmental Science. Bryan heard about Opal Creek through a friend and decided to move to Oregon to realize his dream of working in an ancient forest ecosystem.
Hometown: Kansas City, KS
What are you thankful for this year?: Good friends and good beer.
Playing on your iPod right now?: Trampled by Turtles
Currently reading?: Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama
Guilty pleasure?: Flaming Hot Cheetos and crispy M&Ms
Describe your ideal sandwich: Tuna, no crust
Favorite outdoor spot?: Bear Creek Campground at Pomona Lake, Kansas
When you’re not working, you’re: Usually just sitting around listening to music
Who’s your hero?: My older brothers, Danny and James
Favorite quote: “Become like water, my friend.” — Bruce Lee
Gabe Moore, Food Service Manager
Gabe was raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She traveled throughout the states after culinary school and settled down in Portland in 2010, where she continued to hone her skills as a baker and cook. In her off-time she enjoys traveling, running, yoga, and hiking new trails.
Hometown: Iron Mountain, MI
What are you thankful for this year?: The culture, diversity, magic, and superstition that I got to experience this past year at Opal Creek and on the road during the off-season.
Playing on your iPod right now?: Kendrick
Currently reading?: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Guilty pleasure?: I try not to harbor guilt for anything pleasurable that life throws at me.
Describe your ideal sandwich: Banh mi
Favorite outdoor spot?: A little cove on the John Day River right outside of Spray, OR
When you’re not working, you’re: On the trails with my dog, Mud, bumming around with friends, or on long runs around metro-Portland.
Who’s your hero?: Any person who is completely aware of their freedom and take advantage of the life they’ve been given–and Rebekah Yglesias.
Favorite quote: “This cosmic dance; bursting decadence and withheld permissions, twists all our arms collectively. But, if sweetness can win, and it can, then I’ll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.” – The Old Tart Toter – Adventure Time
Brian O’Neil, Facilities Director
Brian first came to Opal Creek for a Wilderness First Responder certification in 2009. While up for the ten-day course he quickly became enamored with the pristine beauty of the ancient forest as well as the community and lifestyle Jawbone Flats affords its residents. Prior to Opal Creek, Brian enjoyed working in the elements as a river guide, ski patroller and senior wilderness therapy instructor. When not at work you’ll find him in the mountains, on the river, or missing putts on any of Oregon’s fine disc golf courses.
Hometown: Rip City! (Portland, OR)
What are you thankful for this year?: Lots of big change in my world and a lot of positive things happening with my family and friends
Playing on your iPod right now?: Peruvian pan flute station on Pandora
Currently reading?: Thunder Over the Ochoco by Gale Ontko
Guilty pleasure?: Honky tonkin’
Describe your ideal sandwich: Toasted cinnamon raisin bagel, guacamole with greasy fire-cooked summer sausage, rocket, smoked Tabasco and melted sharp cheddar.
Favorite outdoor spot?: About 20 to 25 miles south of Mt. Thielsen is the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted
When you’re not working, you’re: taking long walks on the beach
Who’s your hero?: Dr. Who
Favorite quote: “Hard tellin’ not knowin’.”
Megan Selvig, Jawbone Flats Coordinator
Megan moved to Jawbone Flats in 2015. A proud Midwest native, she has been fortunate to live and work in many distinct places. After graduating from Luther College in Decorah, IA, with a degree in Environmental Studies, Megan was a teacher/naturalist of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where she developed an affinity for wetlands and the amphibians and reptiles that inhabit them. Most recently she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Paraguay, where she learned to slow down and listen to the howler monkeys and dwarf frogs. At Opal Creek she enjoys hunting for ‘phibs, playing in the snow, conversing over yerba mate, and learning and teaching about the ancient forest.
Hometown: St. Michael, MN
What are you thankful for this year?: Living close to nature and far from distraction
Playing on your iPod right now?: Jesse and Joy
Currently reading?: The Circle by Dave Eggers
Guilty pleasure?: Spanish love ballads
Describe your ideal sandwich: Anything grilled
Favorite outdoor spot?: A mucky swamp
When you’re not working, you’re: playing the piano in cabin 9, or drinking mate/tereré
Who’s your hero?: My dad
Favorite quote: “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo
Irshad Stolden, Summer Intern
Irshad is an aspiring outdoor recreation leader. Before reaching this point in his life, he spent the majority of his life as a multi-sport athlete. Fortunately for Irshad, his talents were recognized and he was offered a full athletic scholarship to play football at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. As time went by Irshad realized that his aspirations to be a professional athlete weren’t going to happen. This led to a period of figuring out who he was outside of athletics and what other things could fill the void. The result of his soul-searching led him back to a place he called home while growing up called Hidden Villa. He worked there last summer as a camp counselor after being absent from the camp (and nature) for several years. The natural wonders of the outdoors, and the impact of sharing his knowledge and silliness with the kids, re-awoke his passion for the great outdoors, which has led to his interest in Opal Creek.
Hometown: Ontario, CA
What are you thankful for this year?: Beginning my path as an outdoor recreational leader. I spent most of my life as an athlete and once it was time for me to move on I had no idea of what to do next.
Playing on your iPod right now?: All of Erykah Badu’s music
Currently reading?: Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book
Guilty pleasure?: CHOCOLATE!
Describe your ideal sandwich: Peanut butter, jelly, Nutella, bananas!
Favorite outdoor spot?: Big Sur, in central California
When you’re not working, you’re: On a trail strumming my guitar.
Who’s your hero?: My mother! She’s the strongest person I know!
Favorite quote: “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.” –Tony Robbins
Barrett Zimmerman, Outdoor Science Instructor
Barrett has had a passion for nature since youth. As a boy scout, he spent many hours exploring the outdoors and relishing in its wonder. Prior to his arrival at Opal Creek, he worked as a garden educator at Sauvie Island Organic Center and as a harvest and stewardship intern for the Portland Fruit Tree Project. This is Barrett’s first year at Opal Creek and he’s excited to share his love of the natural world with visitors.
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK
What are you thankful for this year?: My terrific friends and the wonderful people I got to work with at the Portland Fruit Tree Project
Playing on your iPod right now?: Skeeter Davis
Currently reading?: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Guilty pleasure?: Taylor Swift. Actually, I feel no guilt about this.
Describe your ideal sandwich: It would have to involve cheese. Probably a grilled cheese with pear, fontina, goat cheese, and ghost pepper salt.
Favorite outdoor spot?: Any secluded beach along the Willamette
When you’re not working, you’re: Watching a movie at the Laurelhurst or playing board games and watching the Blazers with friends.
Who’s your hero?: Ron Swanson
Favorite quote: “Do you think horses get songs stuck in their heads?” –Tina Belcher