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Meet our Trail Guides…

Our Trailbound guides:
• Began as trip participants – just like you
• Were chosen for their friendly, positive, and sensitive attitudes
• Are certified in CPR and first aid
• Enjoy, and are experienced in, guiding women’s hiking groups

Carol Ruhter
Carol Ruhter (aka “Scout”) is Trailbound Trips’ founder and guide. When other little girls were playing with dolls, 5-year-old Carol was leading imaginary friends on nature "tours" of her farm and creek. Who knew that 35 years later, she’d choose that for her life path? Carol founded Trailbound in 1996 to help women experience nature’s magnificence and its life lessons … and to inspire women’s confidence, camaraderie, and playful, adventurous spirits. She’s been interviewed on those topics on several national radio shows and authored pieces published in Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace and in Daily Seeds ~ From Women Who Walk in Faith. Her love for nature was nurtured by her farm upbringing and her family. Carol and her husband have two adult children who live in Colorado.

Connie Brownell
Connie Brownell (aka "Running Water") serves as a guide for Trailbound’s weeklong trips, including Montana, Washington, Minnesota, Utah, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, and New York’s Finger Lakes. She grew up hiking, camping, and skiing in Montana and recently returned to the mountains she had missed for so long. A retired high school science teacher, Connie shares her vast knowledge of plants, animals, and geology. She enjoys boating, skiing, hiking, traveling to new places, golfing, photography, and knitting -- and finds inspiration in creation’s beauty, from rocks and plants to the stars above. Connie and her husband have three married daughters and seven grandchildren.

Debbie Hager
Debbie Hager (aka “Lambeau Leather Lucy”) doubles as Trailbound’s business manager and a co-leader for our getaways and weeklong trips. She’s been with Trailbound since 2006, and has co-led most of our trips at some point over those years; two of her favorites are Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail and Maine’s Acadia National Park. She’s a farm girl...born and raised on fresh air and exercise, and is an avid hiker, fitness-walker, snorkeler, and kayaker. When not hitting the trails or travelling with her husband, Debbie works in hospital patient relations. She and her husband have one adult son.

Marty Ramey
Marty Ramey (aka "Acorn"). You can find Marty hiking mountains almost every day, rain or shine, as she seeks inspiration for thought-provoking devotions discussion-starters on which she collaborates for Trailbound. In addition, she serves as a business consultant for the company. She currently works for a small family-owned insurance agency, is passionate about serving others, and has collaborated with Carol Ruhter on a collection of outdoor devotions. She and her husband have two adult sons, who bring them immeasurable joy.

Joyce Baila
Joyce Baila (aka "Hellbender") serves as a guide for Trailbound’s week-long trips, including Vermont, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Acadia. A former physical education teacher, Joyce loves the outdoors and has never met a hike that she didn’t like. A dedicated adventure-lover, Hellbender has viewed nearly all of the major western Carolina waterfalls; kayaked Western North Carolina and South Florida rivers; hiked Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, Zion and Smoky Mountain National Parks; worked 10 summers at a boy’s outdoor adventure-camp; and scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef. Of these events, her favorite all-time highlight was winning the lottery for a permit (with her military son) to hike and explore "The Wave" at the border of AZ and UT. She is a pickleball enthusiast and an ambassador for that sport in Palm Beach County, Florida and amuses her friends with her cartooning skills. Hellbender winters in south Florida and spends May through October in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband "Bear" of 36 years. They raised three boys who are working on families of their own. (Note: Hellbenders are rare salamanders in N. Carolina streams.)

Colette Szczesny
Colette Szczesny (aka "Zip") serves as a guide for Trailbound’s weeklong trips, including Acadia National Park, New York”s Finger Lakes, and Utah. Colette thrives on being outdoors working in her flower gardens, hiking, sailing, skiing, kayaking, biking and - most recently - playing pickle ball! (Do it while the body still says "yes" is her motto!) Colette is a recently retired business owner and serves on several non-profit boards. She enjoys cooking, entertaining, world travel, and most important, spending time with her husband. She loves walking with her dogs and is an active volunteer with a Labrador Rescue & Adoption. She feels very blessed to now live in two beautiful areas of the country, southern Wisconsin and Utah. Colette and her husband have one adult son who lives in Chicago.

Jody Winfield
Jody Winfield (aka “Rebel”) guides for Trailbound’s weeklong trips, including Sedona, North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Acadia, Yellowstone, Washington, Glacier, Big Sur, Vermont, and Shenandoah. She is great fun out on the trail (living up to her trail name), knowledgeable, personable, and safety-conscious. Her love for nature started at a very young age ... growing up in the mountains of Colorado, exploring with her family, snow skiing, and motorcycle riding. Jody and her husband live in Western North Carolina. In addition to hiking, she enjoys golfing, motorcycle riding, and promoting a not-for-profit student scholarship program.

Jeannette Wolff
Jeannette Wolff (aka "Randonee") has been hiking with Trailbound since 2001 and guides Trailbound adventures in the Apostle Islands and Washington state. She also scouts new locations for weeklong trips each year. During the school year, Jeannette is a speech pathologist at an elementary school. In addition to hiking, Jeannette loves to travel and run, and is an avid reader. She lives in Lake Bluff, IL and has 3 adult children.

Nancy Austin
Nancy Austin (aka "Hawkeye") is our fabulous Facebook correspondent! She joined Trailbound in January 2009, happy to meet other women who enjoyed the beauty of nature’s scaled-back winter landscapes. She hiked weekly in the Chicago area with Trailbound’s "Wednesday Girls," and has also ventured with us to Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Minnesota, Arkansas, Shenandoah, and to the North Woods for two dogsled adventures. She moved to the Kansas City area in 2013 and is now back home in the state where her love of nature was nurtured as a little girl on weekend camping explorations at a lake near her small town. Her hobbies include fitness walking, photography, volunteering in the community, and quilting (she owned her own quilt shop). Nancy and her husband have one adult son.

Janet Hillier
Janet Hillier (aka "Musher") guides for Trailbound’s day-trip bike rides and some getaways, including the Apostle Islands. She earned her trail name on two Trailbound dogsled trips, and has also joined us for our Wild Woman Tri, Sedona trip, and moonlight kayaking. Jan loves outdoor activities; on any given day, you’ll find her running, biking, swimming, or kayaking. She’s also a half-marathoner and is on a bowling league. She quips with a smile, "Sometimes I just let the day take me wherever it is I should be going." Jan has a daughter who is married.

Donna Lill
Donna Lill (aka "Jet") is happiest when outdoors on the trail. The simplicity of hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing in the great outdoors leaves her in a perpetual positive frame of mind. The opportunity to share the wonder of nature with like-minded women is very special. Of all the activities, she likes the speed involved with downhill skiing and cycling, so she is known on the trail as "Jet." Donna is retired from teaching, and keeps busy with her two grown sons, extended family, crafts, music, and volunteering.

Marlene Tres
Marlene Tres (aka "River Rat") guides for Trailbound’s day trips and getaways. She grew up literally following in her father’s footsteps, as he took the family exploring and camping in America’s wild places, particularly the Southwest. Marlene earned her "River Rat" trail name on numerous whitewater rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. She serves as the early childhood director at a Lutheran school and is involved in church and community volunteer projects. Marlene and her husband have a daughter and a son in college.

Stephanie Blatchley
Stephanie Blatchley
Stephanie Blatchley (aka "Spirit") serves as a guide for Saturday day trips in Northern Illinois and for Trailbound’s weeklong trips. She loves the outdoors: exploring, reflecting and receiving the "nature fix" that feeds her spirit. Stephanie is passionate about the outdoor classroom and experiencing learning that deepens understanding self and the world at large. She enjoys hiking, biking and kayaking, and loves to see the joy these activities bring to others. During the school year, Stephanie is a reading specialist for grades K-5. She and her husband live in Barrington and are the proud parents of two grown-up children, a daughter and a son.

Julie Kanak
Julie Kanak (aka "Wander Woman") is a guide for local day trips and getaways. She spent most of her professional life in the non-profit world ... at a foster care agency, a hospice program, as a professional mediator and as executive director of an international peace organization. No matter where she was working though, this "unabashed tree-hugger" always had time to get out into nature! She loves to wander the world with her family, her friends, and also just by herself. Julie lives in Barrington, is the proud mother of 4 wonderful young men, has been married to her college sweetheart for 30+ years, and is currently enrolled in a Master’s program in Social Justice. She loves reading and travelling, hosting exchange students, singing (poorly) and dancing (wildly). She looks forward to getting to know Trailbound’s "Wild Women" and exploring together!

Karen Pogalz
Karen Pogalz (aka "Cairn") is a suburban girl with a wild woman’s heart. A guide for Trailbound’s Northern Illinois day trips, Karen’s quest for adventure was fostered at an early age through regular road trips in the family station wagon. Canoeing through the Canadian wilderness and backpacking through Europe developed a wanderlust that could only be tamed by love.
Being married for over 25 years has been an incredible journey. Karen and her husband have two teenage boys that take them to wild places like the skiing in Lutsen, MN and day hiking the Appalachian Trail. Karen and her family like to raise chickens, ride bikes, and plan their next adventure.

Sara Reif
Sara Reif (aka “Rocky”) handles Trailbound’s online registration and payment systems. She joined in on Trailbound’s day trips before relocating to Loveland, CO, in 2012. Rocky spends as much time as possible at her "namesake," nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, and has developed a love for hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and kayaking. She and her husband have two adult sons, one beautiful daughter-in-law, and a Portuguese Water Dog.

Diana Schmid
Diana Schmid (aka "Spidey") is our " virtual guide", tweaking, updating, and expanding Trailbound’s website. One of her favorite parts of being our web designer is being one of the first to find out about all the amazing Trailbound adventures. Spidey has been hiking with Trailbound for 12 years … on day trips, Midwest getaways, and weeklong trips. She especially loved her trip to Glacier, because the scenery is breathtaking. Diana enjoys fresh air, hiking, games, dancing, music, and spending time at their second home in North Carolina. On Sundays, you’ll find her tapping her toes and "tooting her flute" with the praise band at her church. In her "day job," Diana customizes software as a programmer for a consulting company. She and her husband have two adult children.

Renee Mueller
Renee Mueller (aka "Northwoods Girl") is our administrative assistant. Renee brings a high-energy, highly organized work ethic to Trailbound Trips. She has worked in the corporate world for over 30 years as an executive assistant and continues to volunteer for numerous organizations including school, church and Scouts. Renee and her husband have a daughter in college and a son in high school. When Renee isn’t running around with family activities, she enjoys their two dogs, crafting and card making, gardening and many outdoor recreational activities.