There is quite a bit happening behind the scenes at the Bigfoot Trail Alliance and it is time we share one of our recent achievements. We would like to officially welcome Gretchen Ziegler, Aaron Babcock, Jacob Shinners, and Dennis Houghton to the Board of Directors. We now have 11 people in these positions and will be looking to bring on one or two more later in 2023.
Meet the new board members
Growing up in Kansas didn’t offer much in the way of wilderness or hiking, but Gretchen was lucky to have parents who took her and her brothers camping every summer in Colorado or the west coast. She left Kansas for good in her 20’s to live briefly in Oregon before landing in Humboldt, where the fabulous public lands and trails have kept her for over 28 years. Her 35-year career was in the zoo profession, and she retired as the Director at Sequoia Park Zoo in 2020. Along the way she has backpacked in the Rockies and Trinity Alps, triked some awesome rail trails with her family, and enjoys day hikes wherever she can find a trail. In 2019, she had one of the best weeks of her life, in the Yolla Bolly wilderness helping with trial maintenance on the Bigfoot Trail.
Gretchen has served at times on various local non-profit boards in Eureka, including the former Humboldt Bay Trails Trust, and currently volunteers for Redwood Coast Village and the Eureka Sequoia Garden Club, helping coordinate efforts to maintain and enhance native landscaping at the zoo.
Grew up in the coast range of Northwest Oregon and learned to backpack with his parents at a young age. He fell in love with the various landscapes and enjoyed exploring in the diverse wilderness. He earned a BS in Business/Marketing from Oregon Tech while fighting fires throughout the western US and eventually started a small business reducing fuel loads around communities in Redding, CA. After some time he moved back to SW Oregon and helped build the operations side of a non-profit trail organization in SW Oregon called the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Aaron helped find the path to incorporate a paid staff, intern crews, and volunteer trips in order to restore some of the most neglected trails.
Currently, Aaron is the County Coordinator for the Del Norte Fire Safe Council. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Donna, and his two dogs, Siskiyou and Mackenzie, whitewater rafting, and hiking the many wilderness areas in SW Oregon and NW California.
Has spent the past 37 years working in the natural resource field throughout California. Searching for that elusive permanent job in natural resources led to working over 12 seasons on the Inyo, Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests as well as Prairie Creek State Park. A 23-year career with the City of Arcata proved to be the “ultimate permanent trail job with benefits” and allowed for laying out and constructing trails in the Arcata Community Forest as well as forest road maintenance and wetland restoration projects. Currently serving as a trail consultant for the County of Humboldt’s McKay Community Forest, Dennis enjoys passing on all this accumulated knowledge in training California Conservation Corp members and volunteers in building and maintaining sustainable trails.
When not working, Dennis and his wife Liz enjoy camping, going to the river, lap swimming and converting their yard in Eureka from lawn to a food and native plant garden. Their two adult children, Olivia and Will, have pursued interests in art and trail work. Dennis has discovered a passion in “found object” sculpture and figures he now enjoys “walking off-trail even more than walking on-trail”.
Jacob grew up hiking and camping with his brothers in New Hampshire, which lead to a his passion for observing & exploring the natural world. As a young adult he was fortunate to visit the Pacific Northwest. Traveled through the cascade, by Mt. Shasta through the Klamath Mountains onto the redwood coast. He thought one would be hard pressed to find such a beautiful place anywhere. Shortly after he settled in Humboldt and began exploring every chance he could. He found that the mindlessness of hiking on a well built and maintained trail was invaluable in the vast and rugged Klamath Knot. With that appreciation, he began volunteering on trail crews to ensure the legacy of these wonderful & Historic trails. He has volunteered on trail crews on the PCT, Headwaters Elk River Reserve, as well as the Bigfoot Trail.
Trying to make sense of the variability & diversity scene in the Klamath region he found edutainment in the superb publications through the Backcountry Press only to find the Bigfoot Trail Alliance. Jacob currently works doing Integrated Pest Management for a Nursery in Fortuna California. Enjoys learning traditional holistic uses of natural plants, studying history and folklore, woodworking and playing music when not out exploring.
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