Our Mission

We know that planning an outdoor adventure can be time-consuming and challenging. Adventure East makes it easy to have fun, outdoor experiences where you can focus on enjoying the natural beauty of Western Massachusetts without the hassle of planning and figuring out logistics.

We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to safely and easily enjoy the outdoors regardless of skill level or the ability to access the gear and material necessary for an outdoor experience.

We aim to provide the resources that will help anyone and everyone be able to experience the outdoors in Western Massachusetts.

Land Acknowledgment

Developed in collaboration with the Nolumbeka Project

We must acknowledge that we are occupying and benefiting from this Indigenous land upon which we stand, upon which our personal homes and businesses are located.

In addition to the land, we also acknowledge the beautiful rivers that are part of Indigenous homelands: the Pocumpetuck (Deerfield), the Pocomegon (Green) the Paguag (Millers), the Chicopee, and of course the long river, the Quonektacut.

For thousands of years this has been the traditional territory of the Pocumtuck people and their Indigenous kin and neighbors: the Nonotuck/Norwottock, the Agawam, the Woronoco, the Tunxis and the Podunk among many others.

This is still the homelands of the Pocumtuck and neighbors, they are not gone, they are in the air that we breathe, their voices linger in the landscape and riverscape.

We acknowledge the continued presence, resilience, and sovereignty of their descendants the Nipmuc/k and the Abenaki. We will continue to acknowledge and support all Indigenous communities in our activities upon this land and upon these waters.

The Team

Brian Pearson (he/him)

President

My life has been an adventure, starting from my first home on a lake next to a small ski hill, 600 vert! We moved to Colorado when I was 8 and I launched my first “start-up” when I was 12, raising quarter horses. We moved to Vermont when I was 15 where I learned to mountain bike before there were shocks on bikes! I did experiment with a real career in health finance. After completely burning out, my wife and I went on an adventure backpacking through South America for seven months. Settling in Santiago, Chile, I built a travel company opening up some of South America’s first cat skiing, wine lodges and pop up glamping. It’s nice to be settled now in a peaceful and beautiful valley where so many adventures are less than an hour away. I love campfires and cooking on a fire.

Shannon Timothy (she/her)

Director, Sales & Marketing

I am a Brooklyn-born, Western Massachusetts raised, extroverted introvert with a passion for writing. I'm the ‘meander through the woods, picnic next to chipmunks’ kind of outdoorsy but am game for a good hike. Just tell me first because I am never wearing the right shoes for a spontaneous adventure. I have 20+ years of experience in the service industry with 15 years spent managing a well-loved and much missed café in Northampton, MA. Though I genuinely enjoy working in a food service environment, I joined the Adventure East Team with an eagerness to combine my loves for connecting with community and bringing joy to as many people as I can, and then – of course – writing about it. When I’m not busy scribbling away in one of my many notebooks I am likely to be found making extensive (and awesome) playlists, obsessively reading product reviews, and seeking out dogs to pet.

Ami Jean Aubin (she/her)

Director, Education & Wellness

I was raised free range, allowed to explore and connect with the natural world. Memories of balancing on logs perched over the river behind my childhood home and running through the corn fields fill me with a sense of belonging to nature. After a long career in the restaurant industry as the owner of a popular French bistro, I’m now returning to those childhood roots and regaining that sense of being connected to nature's web. As a trained Forest Bathing and Mindful Outdoor Guide my mission is to help people find that deeper connection within the forest. My most enjoyable hobbies include gazing into the sky while searching for migrating birds and examining the ground for animal toes. I’ve recently completed a wildlife tracking apprenticeship with my tracking mentor George Leoniak and have become a certified naturalist through Mass Audubon. I’ve discovered that the more I learn about our mother earth, the more mysterious she becomes. Creating a sense of eternal curiosity. There is nothing I love more than being with a group of people in the forest while attempting to unravel these great mysteries of the natural world.

Ben Drake (they/them)

Operations & Safety Manager, WFR/WFA, Wilderness Survival and Team Building Instructor, Camping, Hiking, & Paddling Guide

Born into a family of educators and environmentalists, the woods have always called to me. An avid backpacker and hammocker, I can often be found during the winter in the White Mountains, challenging the elements and testing equipment. My biggest career-based passions are team building, emergency medical care, and winter survival. I love introducing people to outdoor activities and using the wilderness to help strengthen teams and develop individual leadership. My love of travel has led me to multiple international medical relief missions, over 200 roller derby bouts across the east coast, and work as an emergency manager for festivals across the US. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking in so many locals, and always find some of the greatest beauty in New England. I would love to help you and your group develop, grow and strengthen, all while having a blast playing in the outdoors.

Brad Walker (he/him)

Paddling Guide

I was born 2,000 feet from the Cooper River in New Jersey. Back then, it was so polluted they didn't need signs warning folks to keep out. It is no wonder the canoe in our garage was only used for special trips farther from home. The driver's license was my ticket to paddling. Suddenly my friends and I could go to the Shore and paddle back bays, navigate islands with nesting herons, and explore tangled creeks of the Pine Barrens. Years later my daughter was born in a hospital overlooking Kachemak Bay and there was no question that she would enjoy a ride across the bay at just 5-days old! Now, in addition to supporting Adventure East activities, you might spot me paddling the whitewater of the Deerfield, Millers, and Connecticut Rivers.

PS: The Cooper River has been clean enough that in 2006 they built an amazing boathouse and host national championship rowing regattas - we support the Clean Water Act

Dr. Brenna Werme (she/her)

Yoga Instructor

I am a certified Embodyoga® teacher and chiropractor and I've been studying and practicing yoga, almost exclusively with Patty Townsend at what was formerly the Yoga Center in Amherst, since 2000. I have been a local chiropractor to the valley since early 2013, specializing in prenatal care, pediatrics and specific gentle techniques to help people discover their own healing potential from within. I've been privileged to teach locally for YCA, 50/50 Fitness, Amherst College, F45 and within my own practice. In 2019, I and fellow friend and teacher Lizzy Tyler, took a group of 26 women to Amorgos, Greece to lead a week-long, in-depth retreat. My classes are fluid and fun, sparking curiosity and desire into awareness of the different body systems and ease within. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, Sunday crossword puzzles, football season, and cooking while my pup waits patiently for food to fall.

Carley Elkin (she/her)

Biking, Hiking, and Paddling Guide

I've been lucky enough to be adventuring in Western Massachusetts since I was in diapers! With a summer home in the Berkshires, my summers were always full of paddling, hiking, biking, and lots of time enjoying nature! Since then, I went on to get my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Adventure Education and Pedagogy from Springfield College. I've worked and led trips in the Rocky Mountains, the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the Whites to name a few but at the end of the day, the hills and rivers of the Pioneer Valley are home. When I'm not working you can find me cozied up in my hammock with a good book or taking a walk with my family!

Dan Finn (he/him)

Caving and Paddling Guide

For nearly a quarter century I have had the great joy of paddling solo and with many great people in amazing places like Georgian Bay, the Thimble Islands of CT, the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, the coast of Maine, the San Juan Islands of Washington, Vancouver Island, and many beautiful canyons in Lake Powell. Whether I'm paddling locally or far away, I love the feel of the paddle and kayak as it moves through the water. In my concern that many of us have a one-sided relationship with the planet - where many of us get a lot more from nature than a lot of us give back - I love taking people into beautiful places to help deepen their connection with the world around them. As a friend who I took paddling once said, "I can see why you like kayaking so much, cause I've never seen you smile more."

Darya Zelentsova (she/her)

Photography Guide

Originally, I'm from Kyiv, Ukraine, where I graduated from the Kyiv National Linguistic University. I used to be a Turkologist for a while, then I turned to Journalism. I worked as an author, editor, and editor-in-chief at various fashion and travel magazines (Cosmopolitan (Ukraine and Russia), Only You, Mini, Auto Lady, etc.). Before moving to the US, I graduated from Kyiv Photography School. Later, I earned a certificate from the Digital Photography School at the Cornell University. I've been doing photography for about 10 years, and my photographs have been published in different magazines and newspapers, on websites, and on posters all over the world (National Geographic, Audubon, L'Officiel, Cosmopolitan, Canon USA, Gastronome, etc). 

I do portrait, pet, wildlife, landscape, and commercial food photography. 

Mass Audubon 2019 contest winner, Nature Photographer of the Year finalist (2021). 

You can view my gallery here: https://darzel.pixels.com/ 

Dave Dersham (he/him)

Birding & Hiking Guide

I moved to Amherst from Eugene Oregon when I was still small. When I was 9, I discovered that our live-in sitter was enchanted by birds, and I immediately caught the bug. I’ve continued to bird throughout my life, punctuated by excursions to Kenya, Belize, and various sectors of the United States. For the last 12 years, I’ve contributed to the Christmas Bird Count, a volunteer group that provides population data for the benefit of conservation biologists. The CBC is considered the longest running “citizen science” survey in the world.

Birding blends the physical to the psychological in dazzling ways. It forces you to slow down, to become more mindful, to listen, to observe, to remain both patient and persistent. As a hiking guide, my pace is perhaps steadier, but no less appreciative of the unfolding landscapes, hues of shifting light, tributaries of air, meandering scents, both sharp and sweet. While at times physically challenging, Adventure East's overall ethos leans toward a more contemplative and inclusive approach to outdoor recreation — an endeavor open to anyone aligned with their own curiosity.

Garth Shaneyfelt (he/him)

Biking & Hiking Guide

I have been hiking, biking, skiing, and adventuring for over 35 years.  From multiweek bike-packing trips on both coasts to hillwalking & mountaineering in New England, Pacific NW, Europe and South America, and organizing group outings here in Massachusetts there is always something to explore.   My family moved to the CT River Valley 17 years ago and we continue to find great places to get outside right in our backyard.

Joe Jewett (he/him)

Cross-Country & Backcountry Skiing Guide

My ski journey began at age 3 when my parents started teaching me to climb up and slide down the hills on the Saxon Woods golf course near our house. My parents were sailboat racers-that was how they met-but they also loved winter sports. When my brother was born, our family bought a piece of land in Fayston, VT where we would, over time, spend weekends building a cabin as a family. What a joy it was to be able to choose between Glen Ellen, Sugarbush or Mad River Glen. As soon as we knew better it was always MRG so that is where my brother and I learned to be good skiers. Skiing there prepares you for almost any sort of backcountry conditions. Later in my 20s I moved to Montana for my musical work and got some more education. When I returned east in 2000, I began the typical spring pilgrimage to Mt. Washington where I’ve skied most of the routes - but there are still several I’d like to ski. One doesn’t always get to choose at that mountain! I even got in on a group trip with David Goodman who has written many excellent guidebooks about backcountry skiing in the Northeast that are published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. In September of 2020, I went back to school to get myself qualified to be an Outdoor Leader; first, Wilderness First Responder, and then a class fall semester at Greenfield Community College in their Outdoor Leadership Program. Next two courses with AIARE in Avalanche safety and rescue, PSIA Nordic Level 1 and ACA (American Canoe Association) Level 2. I have taught Alpine skiing for two seasons in Montana and coached Alpine Ski racing at the Academy at Charlemont for two years.

 

John Burns, aka "Burnsie" (he/him)

Botanist, Hiking Guide

I am a botanist specializing in rare and endangered plants, edible plants and mushroom identification. With my extensive knowledge of New England forests, I enjoy leading folks on nature walks and hikes and helping them gain a new appreciation for the environment as well as the plant-life unique to Western Massachusetts.

 

 

Laure Van den Broeck Raffensperger (she/her)

Hiking Guide, Trail Running Coach

I grew up in suburban Belgium and lived in a big city in England for 8 years, but the first time I visited Western Massachusetts, it felt like coming home. I had never seen a bear, a hummingbird or a porcupine before, and I'm still very excited that we share our world with these creatures. When you pay attention to nature, there is something special about every season. Few things make me happier than listening to a concert of frantic spring peepers! Hiking, running and snowshoeing are my preferred modes to enjoy the woods. Among the many highlights of my life here I'd include hiking the MA miles of the AT, running and snowshoeing up Mount Washington and being co-race director of the New England Green River Marathon. I'm a RRCA Level 1 running coach, and I'd love to help people discover the joys of trail running!

Meghan Jacokes (she/her)

Hiking Guide

I am restless unless outdoors. If I am not convincing others to wake up at 3 am for the next meteor shower or planning my next backpacking trip, I am likely hiking with my infant, partner and extremely energetic dog in the Valley. I relocated to the area 7 years ago from Michigan where you would find me constantly hiking a dune, snowshoeing, paddling the rivers, or jumping into the Great Lakes. At the University of Michigan, I combined my two passions for education and the environment with masters' degrees in Natural Resources and Secondary Education. As a former Park Ranger at Arches and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I love supporting people's curiosity and empowering them to explore their environment be it their backyard or on a peak.

Mike Akrep (he/him)

Biking Guide

I grew up in Massachusetts, and have had a normal arc of going to school, earning an engineering degree from UMass Amherst, getting married, etc. But in the background at all times is a love of bicycle exploration on back roads and abandoned railroad grades. From leading small groups of friends as a kid, up to leading multi-state, high end gravel tours, I love sharing the beauty of quiet trails and roads with old and new friends. A particular interest is 19th stone railroad and hydro power infrastructure that can still be found deep in New England's forests. As I often say on many of my ride postings, "Hope to see you out there!"

Monica Aguilar (she/her)

Trail Art & Hiking Guide

I started my Thru Hike of the Appalachian Trail - a trail that spans 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine - back in 2018. My interest in creating art was sparked again while I was on the trail; I would see so many beautiful views and learned to appreciate the minutiae around me.

Now, combining my love for the outdoors and art has been a great sense of joy for me. Since then, I have taken my watercolor sets with me on many human powered adventures including my backpacking trip along the continental divide and half of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I grew up in Eastern Massachusetts only experiencing day hikes. Once I moved to Western Mass it felt like the ultimate freedom to explore and recreate. It has become a new home for me. Now, I am a professional artist, and I am always looking for the next big adventure to calm my mind and serve as inspiration for my paintings.

Sean Condon (he/him)

Biking Guide

When not riding or racing any of my ten bikes (like handbags and shoes - a different one for different occasions - and no, I don't play favorites with them), I have been professionally working as a mechanic on bikes of all kinds for almost thirty years and own the mobile bike shop, Speed and Sprocket Cycle Works. Road, mountain, cyclocross, tandem...you name it and I’ve ridden and/or worked on it.

In addition, I’ve also ridden or volunteered my mechanical services at numerous charity rides around New England, such as the Pan-Mass Challenge, Katelynn's Ride, Will Bike 4 Food, the Rodman Ride for Kids, the Connecticut Challenge, and others. For a spell I ran an Earn-A-Bike program for urban youth in Holyoke where I taught kids the intricacies and joys of being a mechanic, sat on the Board of Directors for MassBike and the Pioneer Valley chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), and served as a community member and co-chair on the Holyoke Bicycling and Pedestrian Committee.

You can find me pedaling twelve months of the year, whether it’s the paved and dirt roads of the Connecticut River Valley or the digital routes of Zwift!

Trevor Brightman (he/him)

Hiking & Paddling Guide

I'm a native of suburban Boston, whose love of the outdoors started with backyard games and sledding as a kid with friends and family. Over the years, this passion has advanced and evolved to include hiking, camping, paddleboarding, kayaking, snowboarding, and more. My love of new experiences, and desire to give back, led me to an AmeriCorps Service year after college. This included Hurricane Katrina relief in New Orleans and Wildland Firefighting in Arizona. I always loved making home movies as a kid, so after studying communications in Charleston, SC I worked in TV production for 10 years at ESPN. TV took me to Los Angeles for a while, where I worked as a Visual Effects producer and manager. I'm also a National Park junkie; some of my favorites include Yosemite, Glacier, Channel Islands, Zion, and Arches.  These days my home base is in the Pioneer Valley, a short walk away from the beautiful Deerfield River.

Zhem Behr (we/us)

Caving and Hiking Guide

I am originally from upstate New York - Hudson Valley - and moved many years ago to Western Mass for the progressive culture of the Pioneer Valley. I have moved around the valley over time and have come to call it home through hiking the plethora of conservation areas and off trail adventures. Some of my favorite things to do while hiking are showing people and foraging for (and eating!) wild edibles, berries, and mushrooms. I am keen on the geological history of places, which brings me to caving. I love to explore the underground world! I am a 10+ year member of the National Speleological Society (NSS #58857) and an active member of the Vermont Caver's Association grotto, the northeast's most active caving and karst community. I have been taking small groups on caving expeditions to NY, VT, and Western Mass for several years. By joining Adventure East, I have the opportunity to expand on these adventures, bringing a greater awareness and appreciation of hiking and caving in the eastern woodlands to a more diverse group of people. As a person who is dedicated to educating people about interesting aspects of our natural history, habitat, and the animals and plants that rely on caves, I work to preserve this amazing resource through cave cleanup, trail maintenance, and cave acquisition. The northeast is home to several thousand caves and I am honored to share a tiny slice of these natural wonders through Adventure East.

Jacob Lindeman (he/him)

Advisor

My earliest childhood memories are escaping into the woods behind our house and getting lost in adventures. That is still one of my favorite things to do, and I wish that everyone should (repeatedly) have that kind of experience. I went to a Maine "back-woods" summer camp with no electricity and no electronic "transistors" allowed. I learned to cook and bake on a campfire. Food shared on the trail is a highlight for me.

I have been a cook in a pizza shop and a grease wrench in bike shops. I love mountain and road bike rides, hiking and snowshoeing on (and off) trails, and whitewater canoeing. Making things is what I love to do the most. When I grow up, I want to build a canoe. My children call me "the fix-it-up chappie." It is always time to make the world a better place and revitalize our ecosystems.

Collaborators

Connecticut River Conservancy

Connecticut River Conservancy is the voice for the Connecticut River watershed, from source to sea. We collaborate with partners across four states to protect and advocate for your rivers and educate and engage communities. We bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote enjoyment of your river and its tributary streams. Healthy rivers support healthy economies.

Eagle Eye Institute

Eagle Eye Institute offers hands-on learning experiences in nature while providing underrepresented communities - particularly youth of color – opportunities to engage in environmental stewardship, advocacy, and career exploration. With 200 gorgeous acres of trails to explore at Eagle Eye’s MountainStar Forest, we look forward to planning a wide range of experiences, including educational programs with naturalists, yoga, vegan meals, and pop-up camps. All of our experiences with Eagle Eye directly support their mission through a financial contribution included in the price of our offerings.

Kestrel Land Trust

Kestrel Land Trust works with landowners and other organizations and agencies to conserve the land and natural resources that are so important to us in the Connecticut River Valley. Through community engagement Kestrel Land Trust provides opportunities for people to care for protected land while strengthening connections to nature and to each other. Our collaboration with Kestrel gives us an endless number of opportunities for exciting outdoor experiences. We look forward to planning trail walks with naturalists, yoga in the woods, bike rides, forest bathing, and bird watching excursions, just to name a few! All of our experiences on Kestrel Land Trust properties directly support their mission through a financial contribution included in the price of our experiences.

Mass Audubon

With a commitment to both nature and people, Mass Audubon works tirelessly to actively preserve over 40,000 acres of land across Massachusetts and ensure that nature in the Commonwealth continues to thrive. Through education, conservation practices, and advocacy, they are able to make significant impact on the reservation of nature for both wildlife and people. With the land that they preserve, Mass Audubon has incredible access to some of the most beautiful properties in Western Mass and the Connecticut River Valley and we are excited to be partnering with them for adventures this season. We have plenty of hiking, snowshoeing, and exploration programs planned at Arcadia and High Ledges throughout the winter and beyond.

Nolumbeka Project

The Nolumbeka Project envisions a Connecticut River Valley where the histories, cultures, and persistence of Northeastern Indigenous Peoples are recognized and celebrated, and where all beings coexist in balance and reciprocity. They host Indigenous presenters sharing their cultures and histories at annual gatherings, as well as at educational programs for the public and in schools. Nolumbeka Project works to protect and preserve the land, especially the ancient multi-tribal villages of which Wissatinnewag is an integral part. We strive to serve as a bridge between cultures and between past and future generations. We work to fulfill our mission and vision as nolumbeka (Abenaki), “the calm waters between the rapids.”

The Trustees

For more than a century, The Trustees have been working to conserve and protect land across Massachusetts while building engaging new programs to share their expertise with people throughout the state. We are mutually excited to collaborate on programming to get more people outside and connected to our special places in the region and build the next generation of stewards of the natural world.

Western Mass

The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitor's Bureau is a 501c(6) non-profit membership-based destination marketing organization focused on growing tourism in Western Mass. The Bureau is governed by a Board of Directors representing the membership. The GSCVB promotes Western Mass as the epicenter of discovery – from the vibrant nightlife and culture of its urban cultural centers to the pure majesty of the region’s lush outdoors. Western Mass has inspired innovation, adventure, creativity and pioneer spirit for centuries.

Career Opportunities

Calling All Guides!

We are looking to grow our team of guides, instructors, and educators. If you have experience in road/gravel biking, touring kayak paddling, or are knowledgeable about trails and conservation areas in Western Mass, then we'd love to talk to you!

If you are interested, we invite you to contact us at jobs@adventureeast.com and provide us with information about your areas of experience and interest. A recording of one of our guide information sessions is also available upon request.

Thank you!