When it comes to loving and caring for our natural places, habits learned early carry through life. That’s especially true for Sam Hesla, a 30 year old Wilderness Inquiry volunteer from Minneapolis. When Sam, born with Down syndrome, was six months old, he took his first camping trip with his parents. And when he turned one, his parents took him on his first canoe ride. He was in his life jacket and propped between his mom’s knees in a laundry basket.
From there, Sam’s love of nature blossomed. He grew up appreciating nature and the way green spaces and open water made him feel–from state parks to the parks in his neighborhood. He got to go to the Boundary Waters when he was 6, and it’s where he finds peace and purpose in his life. He’s an avid and expert swimmer, and loves the cool waters of the northern lakes.
When Sam was 15, he joined Wilderness Inquiry, in the Adventure Leadership Program that uses camping and outdoor skills to teach and encourage leadership. He completed the program when he turned 18, having visited and camped in places like Yellowstone National Park and Montana. He loved the program so much that he joined as a volunteer leader. With an additional 3 years of training in kayaking, canoe skills, lifesaving and other skills, Sam is well equipped to help lead adventure camping trips. He’s helped lead trips in the BWCA and the Apostle Islands.
Sam works hard to be an example to his campers, being the first to carry packs and preparing people for portages. He enjoys camp cooking–his specialty is scrambled brownies (recipe link) and he loves anything he can help prepare on a camp stove.
As a true outdoorsman, Sam understands that in addition to enjoying our outdoors, we have to take care of them. When he was asked what he does to take care of his campgrounds, he listed a number of things he does, “We leave no trace. It’s important to respect the animals and your campground by keeping all of your food in your bowl. The animals have to feed themselves” He went on to add, “Fire safety is important–what goes in the fire stays in the fire. Don’t poke at it, don’t play with it.”
Sam is earnest about his duty as a Wilderness Inquiry Guide. He knows that as a volunteer, he’s setting an important example to the campers who take part in the program. He is quick to help set up tents, do dishes–making sure he puts any soapy water into the forest and not the lake. In addition to being in the field, Sam volunteers 4 hours a week to help prepare the gear for packout at the warehouse.
Sam loves where he lives, and it shows. Between his work with Wilderness Inquiry, camping with his family, or on walks to Sea Salt at Minnehaha Park, being outdoors is Sam’s happy place.
Going Upstream means loving and caring for where we live. Sam is a shining example of how we can be excellent stewards of our natural places when we take the time to appreciate them.
Learn more about Wilderness Inquiry here
Try your hand at making scrambled brownies here