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Explorer Spotlight: Katie Kessel

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Name: Katie Kessel | Age: 27 | Location: Melbourne, Australia

What’s your day job? 

I’m an accountant here in Melbourne.

What are your favorite things to do outside?

I love hiking and backpacking, but love any time spent outdoors.

What first drew you to the outdoors?

I visited lots of parks in the summer when I was a little girl in California where I quickly became a junior ranger, getting to learn about animals (I really loved the bats and bugs) and go for nature walks. When I moved to Vancouver in elementary school, we lived near a forest on the Seymour River so I spent a lot of time there with my sisters. Since then, I’ve always loved getting outside.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?

Here in Melbourne, I love Wilson’s Promontory. I spend anywhere from two to four days at a time exploring the trails there, which are amazing any time of the year. On the trail, we break out wine and/or whisky platypus sacks, but when I’m back in town I head to The Local here in Port Melbourne. Back home in Vancouver, I would have to say hiking from Lion’s Bay to the West Lion or Mt Harvey. One of my favorite memories is snowshoeing to Mt Harvey right after a big snow dump and “skiing” down to the base. In Vancouver, I spent my time after hiking in the Dover Arms in the West End.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?

My phone and/or GoPro for taking pictures of the amazing places I hike to so I can enjoy the views again later.

What’s your favorite trail snack?

Snickers and an apple! They pair so well together and the sugar picks me back up in the middle of a hard day of hiking.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?

I listen to a lot of music on the road, but Mumford and Sons is probably the most played on the way out to the trail.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/ or funniest? 

My scariest and, in hindsight, funniest moment was on my recent solo backpacking experience in Mitchell River National Park. I was about an hour into my hike and was fully immersed in my walk and enjoying the views. The trail follows the river for the majority of the walk and I stopped a few times to take it in. One of said times, I was at a bend in the track, looking out at the river. Behind me there was a small bit of grass then a large rock wall and in front of me was an extremely steep hill fairly high up from the river. As I’m standing there drinking some water, I hear a little bit of a shuffle behind me, so I whip around. I’m not someone who screams usually, but I definitely screamed when I turned around to see a large furry blob behind me. My instincts definitely told me it was a bear and it was five feet away from me. The blob rushed at me, then at the last second veered to my left and took off down the embankment. It took me a second to realize it was an extremely large wombat, so once I recovered I probably spent at least 5 minutes laughing at how hilarious it must have looked. Quite a way to start off my first solo-hiking experience!

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?

My boyfriend Jeff is my partner-in-crime and my biggest inspiration. He’s also a big hiker and introduced me to backpacking a few years ago. Between the two of us, we always end up finding the right trail and he always talks me through a difficult scramble (I’m a bit afraid of heights, but I’m working on it!). We’re always challenging each other and coming up with new and exciting adventures to go on.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?

Recently, I’ve become mesmerized with the idea of hiking the PCT and/or sections of it, perhaps since I spent my first 11 years in California and would love to experience all its amazing parks again. The section I’m looking forward to the most is Yosemite.

What's on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?

The next big adventure in the works is a backpacking trip to the Overland Track in Tasmania, which I hope to tackle sometime next year!

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!

I took this picture on the last night of my first backpacking trip in Freycinet National Park (Tasmania) with Jeff. It was one of my longest days of hiking to date and we had summited two peaks that day (Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham). When we got to Wineglass Bay, we put our bags down and went down to the beach, both immediately falling asleep on the sand for a nap until the tide came in and a very large wave doused us. I had brought these purple shorts on the trip and Jeff borrowed them since they were the last dry things in our packs (grudgingly - they’re a very loud purple!). I snuck a picture when he didn’t realize it, in turn getting a beautiful picture of the bay (along with Jeff in the hilarious purple shorts). A great memory of a gorgeous day. 

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?

“Onward and upward.”

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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