Explorer Spotlight: Jessica Jean Benson (J.J.)

Name: Jessica Jean Benson (Yes, Jessica Jean is my first name so I go by J.J.) | Age: 29 | Location: Denver, CO.

What’s your day job?
I am a senior negotiator for an energy company.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Mountain Biking, Skiing, and Fly Fishing. I am newer to fly fishing and am working on a goal to fish with self-sufficiency.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
I was born in raised in the amazing little ski town of Crested Butte, Colorado. My mom was an Olympic Ski racer and I didn’t know anything different than growing up on ski’s and in the mountains. I think most of the kids I grew up with there feel that way too.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
It’s probably a toss-up between hiking Scarp Ridge or riding the 401. Both places took my breath away the first time I did them and each year I go back home to do them at least once. There are lots of great spots in CB to grab a drink after, but most frequently in the summer it’s the Brick Oven, “The Brick”, they have the best outdoor patio and its easy to ride there after a long pedal on your bike.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
Depending on the season, my mountain bike or skis, and more recently my camera, but always chapstick with sunscreen (chapped/burned lips are THE. WORST), a waterproof jacket, and plenty of layers.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
I am trying really hard to ride the paleo train right now. Epic Bars are kind of my new jam. Only the uncured Bacon flavor though.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t heavily dependent on Pandora. Tom Petty Wildflowers has been in heavy rotation for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Blackhawk, Robert Earl Keen, Ray LaMontagne, Avett Brothers, and X- Ambassadors.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
My number one adventure partner is definitely my husband Justin, we do everything together. I’m the adventurous one and he is our “compass” - and such a good sport about supporting my crazy adventures. By far my biggest inspiration is my mom. In her mid sixties and after two complete hip replacements and and ACL reconstruction, she crushed the entirely of West Maroon Pass with me this summer - seven+ miles of which were in a complete downpour. She is one tough cookies and I am proud to be the leaf that hasn’t fallen far from her tree.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
I have a serious case of wanderlust right now. There are so many places I would like to go including Norway, Italy, Iceland, Indonesia, and Patagonia to name a few.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
All. The. Things. Being a working girl with limited vacation (as I am sure most can relate) makes big trips tough so I have been making the most of opportunities as they present themselves and am embracing the idea of microadventure. There are still so many cool spots in Colorado I want to check out-- especially in the San Juans. Justin is from Canada and we are working on checking off a long list of to-do’s across BC and Alberta we want to explore when we get the chance to go back.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
Earlier this spring we went back to Canada for a friend's wedding and extended our trip to spend a few days exploring Banff. Sans any camping gear we decided to splurge on a night at Moraine Lake Lodge. Despite the beautiful room we had, I made Justin spend the entire sleepless night out on the rock pile with me so I could photograph the stars because it was bear season and I had forgotten to bring bear spray. Moraine Lake is one of those spots that seems overly photographed on social media, but its really incredible when you get to experience it first hand for yourself. The whole series of pictures I got that night from sunset to sunrise are all pretty special to me for different reasons.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count." --Neal A. Maxwell. It hasn’t lead me astray yet.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.