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Explorer Spotlight: Michelle Olmstead

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Name: Michelle Olmstead | Location: Salt Lake City, UT.

What’s your day job?
I am biologist turned stay-at-home mom, although I've remained active and involved in my field. I love passing on my knowledge and love of the natural world to my kids.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hiking, cycling, running, camping, and cross-country skiing.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
I've loved nature and animals all of my life, but I really started getting into more outdoor activities during College when I was studying biology and birds of prey.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
When we are home, hiking to Lake Blanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon has to be my favorite activity. So much beauty and peace to be found there. We travel to Jackson Hole often, and I feel like it's my second home, so any hike in Grand Teton NP fits the bill, followed by a bison burger and Jenny Lake Lager at Snake River Brewing.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
Camera and accessories, backpack, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat!

What’s your favorite trail snack?
Trader Joes partially popped popcorn, honey stinger waffles, and Snicker's minis...in moderation of course!

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
I have very diverse taste in music so it could be anything depending on my mood, but there's always some car karaoke involved!

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/ or funniest?
The scariest thing I've experienced actually happened on the way to an adventure. We were road tripping to Jackson Hole when a car rolled over and flipped right in front of us on I-15. Several people pulled over, including us, and we were sure the driver was seriously injured. What happened next had to have been the result of divine intervention, karma, or whatever you believe in. The woman inside was completely surrounded by airbags, which probably saved her life. Along with my husband, included in the people who were helping to get her out was an EMT. They carefully pulled her out of the car to discover that she only spoke Mandarin Chinese. Amazingly, two young men in the group spoke Mandarin! They were able to translate for the EMT who was asking her questions and assessing her condition. A few more people had showed up by then, including a doctor. I was back talking to a lady and smiling at her cute little grandson who was in the backseat. Just then a semi drove by and flipped up a big rock, which shattered the window on the side of the car where the baby's car seat was placed! Luckily, they had put a blanket up to shield the baby from the sun, and he was protected from the flying glass. Crazy! The ambulance then arrived to take the woman to the hospital, and the men that spoke Mandarin offered to travel with her. It appeared that the lady had broken ribs, and possibly some internal injuries but she was stable when the ambulance took her away. Something or someone was definitely looking out for everyone involved that day, including us, because had we been any closer to that car the result may have been different.

The funniest thing that happened was the mosquito hike from hell in the Tetons. We were hiking up at Signal Mountain in June and there was a huge, beautiful lily pond along the way. I was excited to photograph it until the attack! I was frantically applying the bug spray to no avail, and ended up with over 60 bites on my back alone, and around 100 bites total. I'll still go back there because it's such a beautiful hike but next time I'll be better prepared!

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
My adventure partner is my husband. I have fond memories of our long days spent hiking from sun-up to sun-down when we were first married, and we haven't stopped! He's an accomplished athlete, and always encourages me to do my best and push it just a little further. He's helped me through many situations where I wanted to give up. Everyone needs someone like that in their life! We've also included our children in our adventuring as often as we can. If you get children out into nature at an early age, they will grow to love it, and want to protect it when they get older.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
We love Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone National Park, as well as the incredible National Parks we have here in Utah.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
Hawaii is on the schedule for this summer and we can’t wait! Yosemite and Canada are places we've always wanted to visit and they are in our immediate plans. I also want to make a big push this season to explore the places in my own State that I haven't seen. This is one of the reasons why I love The Outbound. It's important to let people know that adventure doesn't always mean traveling to some exotic location. There is so much to be found in your own backyard, and I hope that some of my local adventures will encourage people to get out, no matter what their income or ability.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
This sunrise at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park is my favorite image and experience to date. It was an incredible morning filled with the sights and sounds of this beautiful place. Everything fell into place...peak color, perfect weather, killer clouds, and great company. I am such a night person, and this experience made me vow to change that. Mornings are magic!

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
That has changed over the years but currently it's "Do it Now." Maybe it's because I'm getting older or that I tend to procrastinate, but I find myself reciting this often!

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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