Executive Director Karla VanderZanden
Karla grew up on a small farm in western Oregon as an only child of older parents. The nearby woods that fringed the fields her family leased for their wheat became her haven. She began outdoor education as a high school assistant in Washington and Multnomah Counties Outdoor Schools for 6th graders (Portland area). Later, she fell in love with river-rafting in college at U of Oregon where she earned a B.S. in Recreation/Outdoor Education and an Elementary Education teaching certificate. She learned she could use the river as a classroom for nature studies and to promote active civic engagement. At 27 years old she was a member of a nine person team that completed one of the first river running descents of Karnali River in western Nepal on a 55 day expedition, aka “American Himalayan Whitewater Expedition of 1981.” They had no film crew, no radios and of course no cell phones. Karla also worked as naturalist at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies for 3 years where she created elementary level curriculum and teacher training program, taught adult courses, community education in Winter Ecology, and led snowshoe walks for public. In 1986, she earned a master degree in Natural Resources from Utah State University. She had moved to Moab in 1980 to work for BLM as River Ranger on the Green River, and later, three years on Westwater. She started CFI in 1984 with co-founder Robin Wilson, who died of cancer 1991.
Lead Naturalist Guide Christy Hicks
Christie was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, CA, where her family soon recognized the signs of a tree-hugging, water-loving, wander-lusting outdoorswoman. They supportively watched with great curiosity as she took her BA in Molecular Biology from Pomona College and years of experience teaching adjudicated youth in East LA and simply decided in the spring of 2004 to quit her job, drive from LA to Guatemala and back again, only to “get on the bus” with the Audubon Expedition Institute that fall. This bus took her through the wilds of Alaska, showed her the mysteries of the desert Southwest and unfolded the riddles of the whole Eastern Seaboard, finally granting her an MA in Environmental Education after a stint at Jackson, WY’s Teton Science Schools. She promptly returned to Moab and began work with CFI in the spring of 2005. Since then, she has been returned for many seasons with CFI, but also spent her summers as a river guide in Alaska and Idaho, taught Chemistry at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, taught yoga and managed a studio in Crested Butte, CO, led international trips in Nepal, India and Thailand, and- finally- came to the realization that THIS is probably the best day of her life. She is honored and excited to return to Moab and CFI this spring as the Head Naturalist Guide, dreaming up relevant and meaningful ways to share this landscape with others, and then doing it.
Operations Manager Dave Montgomery
Dave grew up “in the woods” of New England, with a strong attachment to the outdoors – hiking & skiing mountains, canoeing rivers & lakes, and climbing cliffs & peaks. He also had a predilection for environmental causes and activism. After college, he moved out west to climb & ski the “big” mountains. Soon after, he began a career in environmental activism, working with Greenpeace across the US and Canada. This eventually led to a few years of marine/ocean based work in such places as Antarctica, New Zealand, South America, and the Persian Gulf. Upon returning back to the US he transitioned into field biology, living and working in the Grand Canyon and northern Arizona. Then it was back to sea, working aboard an eco-tour ship sailing from Newfoundland, down the eastern seaboard, through the Panama Canal, along the west coast of South America, and ultimately back to Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. He eventually found his way to Moab in the early 90′s – drawn by the canyons and desert – and set down some roots. He’s lived here ever since, with occasional sojourns in the form of self-support long-distance bike touring in New Zealand, Baja, and along the Great Divide. He’s worked in the bicycle industry, with tour companies, in music & stage management, and graphic design. His background and experience in logistics and operations management brought him to CFI in 2013, where he looks forward to helping people learn about, and connect with, the beauty and wild nature of the Colorado Plateau.
Communications Coordinator Franklin Seal
Originally from Tacoma, Wa, Franklin graduated from Washington State University in Pullman, Wa with degrees in English and Theater and has worked in communications and in non-profit organizations in many capacities. He discovered the magic of canyon country by accident while on a 1992 road trip to see the deserts of the southwest for the first time in his life. Shortly after that trip he moved to Moab and has been a fanatical lover of the canyonlands ever since. His first job in Moab was working as a horse wrangler at the semi famous Pack Creek Ranch, where one of his greatest heros, author Edward Abbey spent many of his later years. His greatest passion is running the many rivers that wind their way through canyonlands.
Registration Coordinator Alison Hillis
Alison was born and raised in Moab. Growing up she discovered a love for camping, hiking and rafting. After high school she attended Western Washington University, then transferred to and graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. After college Alison returned to Moab and reunited with her love of the great outdoors, adding new hobbies like snowshoeing, gardening and raising chickens to the repertoire. She enjoys exploring the vast land surrounding the Moab area as well as traveling to new places and visiting new cities. Her ideal vacation would be spent relaxing on a quiet tropical beach.
Naturalist Guide and Field Camp Coordinator Dave Malutich
Dave was born and raised as an only child in a small town tucked in the pines of north-central Wyoming. His love and appreciation of nature developed early on his many adventures into the woods and mountains of his backyard. But, after graduating high school, he was eager to branch out and see what the world had to offer. For a change of scenery, Dave began college in New Orleans, LA, but soon realized he needed to find his passion. With some time away from the university lifestyle, Dave had his first formal introduction to the world of outdoor education and extended wilderness expeditions on a semester Outward Bound course in the Big Bend country of Texas, Copper Canyon in Mexico, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota. After that, he knew he needed to pursue a career in the outdoors. After earning a BS in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina-Asheville, the West was calling his name, and he returned to Wyoming to work as a Wilderness Ranger for the US Forest Service and as a community organizer for a wilderness advocacy non-profit. Dave first came to CFI in 2010 as the Field Camp Caretaker and Cook and immediately fell in love with the Colorado Plateau, and he has been coming back ever since, continually learning and taking on new roles. In his seasons away from CFI, Dave enjoy exploring new landscapes, spending time with family and friends, playing music, cooking good food, watching sunsets, and learning new outdoor skills. And he is really excited to help you experience the wonders of canyon country.
AmeriCorps VISTA Capacity Builder Curtis Tripp
I was born and raised in Southeastern Connecticut, spending time each summer camping and hiking in the mountains of New England, swimming and paddling around the shore. I grew up exploring the small backyard forests of Connecticut, climbing trees, looking for insects and salamanders under logs and trying to catch frogs and turtles in the ponds. Moving to northern Indiana to study Environmental Science and Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, I missed the mountains and the forests. I began making long cross-country road trips to the West during school breaks to hike, climb, study the geology, and revel in the scale and wildness of the landscape. I first passed through Moab on one of those trips, and wondered to myself what it was like to be one of the folks lucky enough to live in such a beautiful place. After graduating from Notre Dame in May of 2012, I moved to Haiti with my wife, Noelle, the following day. I spent the summer volunteering as she completed the research for her master’s degree, then we came back to the U.S. and moved out to Moab a few weeks later, where I joined the CFI team as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Business Manager Heather Palmer
Born and raised in Moab, Utah Heather spent much of her childhood hiking, hunting and camping with family. She studied general education at Utah State University – Moab Extension and is now CFI’s bookkeeper. Heather enjoys working for CFI because of the easy going people and atmosphere, and she believes in our mission. She also owns her own business, HNP Corp, a bookkeeping firm begun in 2011, and works for High Point Hummer and Lost River Trading Co. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her husband,2 year old son, Jax, and 6 year old boxer, Bella. She and her husband are expecting a new baby in July.
Apprentice Guide Xandra Odland
Xandra grew up in New York State, where she spent summers sailing and wandering around barefoot in the outdoors. Much time was spent hiking and adventuring with her family in New York, Michigan and New Mexico. After spending her senior year of High School in Mulhouse, France, she attended the University of Albany in New York. Although her studies focused on Anthropology and Psychology, she ultimately decided that the most rewarding experience had been teaching children and adults how to sail on the Hudson River. After completing a NOLS Rocky Mountain semester, she stumbled upon YMCA Camp Orkila, where she taught Outdoor Environmental Education and Expedition Sailing. In pursuing her desire to learn cool things outdoors and share them with others she has made her way to Moab to become a part of the CFI family.
Apprentice Guide Brad Hanson
Brad hails from Klamath Falls, Oregon but is at ease pumping his own gas from his time spent working on farms and ranches. He is an Outward Bound and Peace Corps alumnus who is equally at home on a basketball court or a swift river. Brad’s passion of the natural world and living in it spills over into all aspects of his life. One day he aspires to have a self-sustaining homestead.
AmeriCorps Camp Caretaker Shawn Crawford
Shawn has lived a full and varied life. For twenty years of his adult life he worked in the construction industry in varying capacities from day laborer to vice president of design and construction, overseeing the construction of hotels throughout North America and the Caribbean. Upon the birth of his only child Alta, and with the support and encouragement of his wife, Shawn took what was once an avocational activity, hardshell kayaking, and turned it into the vocation of boatman. Shawn now has twenty five years or so on the river, in locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, Interior West and Southeastern United States. Shawn’s collegiate education includes undergraduate studies in Philosophy and graduate studies in Humanities. When not reviewing the philosophical works of Martin Heidegger or Zen philosopher Dogen, Shawn is either making plans for, or enjoying, his next river trip with his wife and daughter.
Camp Intern Abigail Carroll
CFI Guest Guide Specialists
Guest Guide Allyson O’Conner
Growing up in Southern Indiana, the woodlands and diverse wildlife in my own backyard inspired my interest in the natural world. Canoeing the Blue River in Indiana was my first “swiftwater” experience. Well acquainted with the green hills of the Midwest road biking and hiking in my younger years, it wasn’t until college that I started venturing to the mountains and deserts of the West. My first raft trip in Desolation Canyon on the Green River at the age of 19 sparked my interest in the subtle beauty of the desert world and extended river journeys. Being very involved in the outdoor program at Indiana University, where I graduated with a degree in Public Health, I continued to boat in the East until I made my way out West after graduation. Western rivers and the canyon country around Moab have become a new home. As a Naturalist-Guide for CFI for the past 4 years, I have gained so much appreciation for desert rivers and plan to continue getting out in the field between duties as CFI’s Marketing and Registration Coordinator. I love exploring this unique place with kids and adults alike and am happiest with oars or a paddle in my hand. In my free time, I enjoy biking, boating, hiking, skiing, and taking time to savor the special moments on the river’s edge and exploring the Southwest’s stunning landscapes.
Guest Guides Eric and Charlene Atene
Eric and Charlene, both Navajo, have been guest guiding on CFI trips for years. Eric has always been attracted to the outdoors, ever since he was a teenager. And he has been working for CFI for much of that time, doing river trips and wilderness trips with pack stock provided by Rainbow Bridge Outfitters, the company he and Charlene own. Charlene grew up in Mexican Hat, Utah and when she is not out in the wilderness is a librarian at Monument Valley High School.
Guest Guide Rebecca Martin
Rebecca came from Vermont to the Southwest in the spring of 1988 guiding a combination adventure/cultural programs involving Grand Canyon hiking, Rocky Mountain backpacking, a San Juan River trip and Navajo Mountain service/cultural exchange. Along with backcountry guiding and running a construction company together with her husband, Rebecca loves tending her garden, orchards, and flock of free range laying hens. Her passions include changing lives through experiential learning/community service, wild lands and spectacular landscapes, focusing on cultural diversity, archaeology, Native American shared experiences, photography and the power of silence. Rebecca has a Master’s degree in Intercultural Administration, specializing in Cross-Cultural Training and Advising, and an undergraduate degree in Perceptual Psychology and Cultural Anthropology.
Guest Guide Joel Tuhy
Joel Tuhy has been a full-time resident of Utah since 1980, and of Moab since 1992. He and his wife Cathy, married in 1982, have two grown sons. Joel earned an M.S. degree in 1981 from the University of Idaho. He is a self-described amateur naturalist, and his greatest interest and specialty (to the extent that he has one) is plants. This interest extends to relationships between plants and their habitats, which leads to companion interests in the geology, soils, weather, and even (for crying out loud) animals of the Colorado Plateau. Joel enjoys photography and prefers to use film with manual camera bodies and lenses. His favorite subjects are wildflowers, rising or setting full moons, and repeat views through-the-seasons of Moab-area scenes.
Guest Guide Tamsin McCormick
A native of Zimbabwe, our Director and Board Secretary, Tamsin has lived in the Four Corners states of the US since 1977. She holds Bachelor, Master and PhD degrees in geology, and has been teaching college courses in geology on the Colorado Plateau since 1993. She has served as a naturalist guide on river and land-based trips since 1994 and joined Plateau Restoration as a Board Member in 1996. Tamsin is currently Adjunct Faculty at Utah State University in the Department of Environment and Society and Department of Forest, Range and Wildlife Sciences.
Guest Guide Nicky Haroldsen
Nicky was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah where she lived until she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University. After graduating with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management with an emphasis in Outdoor Leadership she moved to Moab, Utah. Following her passion for running rivers and sharing her love for the outdoors with others, she found a good match in Canyonlands Field Institute. Between trips and various other jobs around the country and around the world she often made her way back to the red rock deserts of her native Utah and eventually put down roots here. In addition to running rivers she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, yoga, and spending time with her partner, hound dog, chickens, ducks, and bees.