We know that planning an outdoor adventure can be time-consuming and challenging. Adventure East makes it easy to have fun, outdoor experiences where you can focus on enjoying the natural beauty of Western Massachusetts without the hassle of planning and figuring out logistics.
We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to safely and easily enjoy the outdoors regardless of skill level or the ability to access the gear and material necessary for an outdoor experience.
We aim to provide the resources that will help anyone and everyone be able to experience the outdoors in Western Massachusetts.
Developed in collaboration with the Nolumbeka Project
We must acknowledge that we are occupying and benefiting from this Indigenous land upon which we stand, upon which our personal homes and businesses are located.
In addition to the land, we also acknowledge the beautiful rivers that are part of Indigenous homelands: the Pocumpetuck (Deerfield), the Pocomegon (Green) the Paguag (Millers), the Chicopee, and of course the long river, the Quonektacut.
For thousands of years this has been the traditional territory of the Pocumtuck people and their Indigenous kin and neighbors: the Nonotuck/Norwottock, the Agawam, the Woronoco, the Tunxis and the Podunk among many others.
This is still the homelands of the Pocumtuck and neighbors, they are not gone, they are in the air that we breathe, their voices linger in the landscape and riverscape.
We acknowledge the continued presence, resilience, and sovereignty of their descendants the Nipmuc/k and the Abenaki. We will continue to acknowledge and support all Indigenous communities in our activities upon this land and upon these waters.
About Our Team
We like to think of our amazing team of instructors and guides as a herd of unicorns!
With their expansive knowledge of both the region and their specific areas of expertise, they are all incredibly passionate about sharing their love for Western Mass, the outdoors, and connecting people with nature. Our team firmly believes that everyone should have equal access to the beauty and benefits of spending time outdoors regardless of skill level or access to gear necessary for an outdoor adventure and go out of their way to ensure that every trip with us is safe, educational, and - of course - fun.
We hope you have the opportunity to meet with members of our team, soon!
Brian Pearson (he/him)
My life has been an adventure, starting from my first home on a lake next to a small ski hill, 600 vert! We moved to Colorado when I was 8 and I launched my first “start-up” when I was 12, raising quarter horses. We moved to Vermont when I was 15 where I learned to mountain bike before there were shocks on bikes! I did experiment with a real career in health finance. After completely burning out, my wife and I went on an adventure backpacking through South America for seven months. Settling in Santiago, Chile, I built a travel company opening up some of South America’s first cat skiing, wine lodges and pop up glamping. It’s nice to be settled now in a peaceful and beautiful valley where so many adventures are less than an hour away. I love campfires and cooking on a fire.
Shannon Timothy (she/her)
Director, Sales & Marketing
I am a Brooklyn-born, Western Massachusetts raised, extroverted introvert with a passion for writing. I'm the ‘meander through the woods, picnic next to chipmunks’ kind of outdoorsy but am game for a good hike. Just tell me first because I am never wearing the right shoes for a spontaneous adventure. I have 20+ years of experience in the service industry with 15 years spent managing a well-loved and much missed café in Northampton, MA. Though I genuinely enjoy working in a food service environment, I joined the Adventure East Team with an eagerness to combine my loves for connecting with community and bringing joy to as many people as I can, and then – of course – writing about it. When I’m not busy scribbling away in one of my many notebooks I am likely to be found making extensive (and awesome) playlists, obsessively reading product reviews, and seeking out dogs to pet.
Ami Jean Aubin (she/her)
Director, Education & Wellness
I was raised free range, allowed to explore and connect with the natural world. Memories of balancing on logs perched over the river behind my childhood home and running through the corn fields fill me with a sense of belonging to nature. After a long career in the restaurant industry as the owner of a popular French bistro, I’m now returning to those childhood roots and regaining that sense of being connected to nature's web. As a trained Forest Bathing and Mindful Outdoor Guide my mission is to help people find that deeper connection within the forest. My most enjoyable hobbies include gazing into the sky while searching for migrating birds and examining the ground for animal toes. I’ve recently completed a wildlife tracking apprenticeship with my tracking mentor George Leoniak and have become a certified naturalist through Mass Audubon. I’ve discovered that the more I learn about our mother earth, the more mysterious she becomes. Creating a sense of eternal curiosity. There is nothing I love more than being with a group of people in the forest while attempting to unravel these great mysteries of the natural world.
Ben Drake (they/them)
Operations & Safety Manager, WFR/WFA, Wilderness Survival and Team Building Instructor, Camping, Hiking, & Paddling Guide
Bill Randolph (He/Him)
Hiking & Paddling Guide
I have been an educator my whole life while pursuing my life-long interest in understanding the natural world. As a California native, I once led natural history trips from the tundra in Alaska to the grey whale breeding grounds in Baja, Mexico, and throughout California's diverse environments. Since moving to Western Massachusetts, I have enjoyed learning about an entirely new community of flora and fauna with a particular interest in birds.
Dr. Brenna Werme (she/her)
I am a certified Embodyoga® teacher and chiropractor and I've been studying and practicing yoga, almost exclusively with Patty Townsend at what was formerly the Yoga Center in Amherst, since 2000. I have been a local chiropractor to the valley since early 2013, specializing in prenatal care, pediatrics and specific gentle techniques to help people discover their own healing potential from within. I've been privileged to teach locally for YCA, 50/50 Fitness, Amherst College, F45 and within my own practice. In 2019, I and fellow friend and teacher Lizzy Tyler, took a group of 26 women to Amorgos, Greece to lead a week-long, in-depth retreat. My classes are fluid and fun, sparking curiosity and desire into awareness of the different body systems and ease within. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, Sunday crossword puzzles, football season, and cooking while my pup waits patiently for food to fall.
Cara Backman (she/her)
Archery, Paddling, & Hiking Guide
I grew up in a small town just outside of Boston. I was the wild child in my family who enjoyed finding bugs, catching little critters, and playing in the nearby town forest. Growing up, my family always had a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee where I was set free to explore, so Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains have been my lifelong backyard and outdoor teachers. I first visited Western MA in 2005 while working at MA Junior Conservation Camp (for 10 years) as an archery instructor; through working at MJCC I was able to indulge my passion for both archery and outdoor teaching. After MJCC I wasn’t ready to commit to a career-type job so I spent a good chunk of time traveling domestically as well as internationally and could write a book on all the amazing sights, experiences, and adventures I was lucky to have before adult life caught up to me. Recently, I spent 5 years living in southern Maine at a manufacturing job that just wasn’t what my heart needed, so I worked hard to change my career path. Returning to the outdoor industry and western MA has given me the mental and emotional peace that I was longing for. Presently, I’m a full-time student earning my degree in Adventure Education as well as my Outdoor Leadership certificate. In my free time you can find me on the archery range, doing some multi-pitch rock climbing with my partner, or backpacking with my dog Kenai.
Dan Finn (he/him)
Caving and Paddling Guide
For nearly a quarter century I have had the great joy of paddling solo and with many great people in amazing places like Georgian Bay, the Thimble Islands of CT, the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, the coast of Maine, the San Juan Islands of Washington, Vancouver Island, and many beautiful canyons in Lake Powell. Whether I'm paddling locally or far away, I love the feel of the paddle and kayak as it moves through the water. In my concern that many of us have a one-sided relationship with the planet - where many of us get a lot more from nature than a lot of us give back - I love taking people into beautiful places to help deepen their connection with the world around them. As a friend who I took paddling once said, "I can see why you like kayaking so much, cause I've never seen you smile more."
Darya Zelentsova (she/her)
Originally, I'm from Kyiv, Ukraine, where I graduated from the Kyiv National Linguistic University. I used to be a Turkologist for a while, then I turned to Journalism. I worked as an author, editor, and editor-in-chief at various fashion and travel magazines (Cosmopolitan (Ukraine and Russia), Only You, Mini, Auto Lady, etc.). Before moving to the US, I graduated from Kyiv Photography School. Later, I earned a certificate from the Digital Photography School at the Cornell University. I've been doing photography for about 10 years, and my photographs have been published in different magazines and newspapers, on websites, and on posters all over the world (National Geographic, Audubon, L'Officiel, Cosmopolitan, Canon USA, Gastronome, etc).
I do portrait, pet, wildlife, landscape, and commercial food photography.
Mass Audubon 2019 contest winner, Nature Photographer of the Year finalist (2021), Mass Audubon Statewide Photo Contest winner (2022), NWF Photo Contest (2023) prize winner
You can view my gallery here: https://darzel.pixels.com/
Dave Dersham (he/him)
Birding & Hiking Guide
I moved to Amherst from Eugene Oregon when I was still small. When I was 9, I discovered that our live-in sitter was enchanted by birds, and I immediately caught the bug. I’ve continued to bird throughout my life, punctuated by excursions to Kenya, Belize, and various sectors of the United States. For the last 12 years, I’ve contributed to the Christmas Bird Count, a volunteer group that provides population data for the benefit of conservation biologists. The CBC is considered the longest running “citizen science” survey in the world.
Birding blends the physical to the psychological in dazzling ways. It forces you to slow down, to become more mindful, to listen, to observe, to remain both patient and persistent. As a hiking guide, my pace is perhaps steadier, but no less appreciative of the unfolding landscapes, hues of shifting light, tributaries of air, meandering scents, both sharp and sweet. While at times physically challenging, Adventure East's overall ethos leans toward a more contemplative and inclusive approach to outdoor recreation — an endeavor open to anyone aligned with their own curiosity.
Garth Shaneyfelt (he/him)
Biking & Hiking Guide
I have been hiking, biking, skiing, and adventuring for over 35 years. From multiweek bike-packing trips on both coasts to hillwalking & mountaineering in New England, Pacific NW, Europe and South America, and organizing group outings here in Massachusetts there is always something to explore. My family moved to the CT River Valley 17 years ago and we continue to find great places to get outside right in our backyard.
Joe Jewett (he/him)
Cross-Country & Backcountry Skiing Guide
My ski journey began at age 3 when my parents started teaching me to climb up and slide down the hills on the Saxon Woods golf course near our house. My parents were sailboat racers-that was how they met-but they also loved winter sports. When my brother was born, our family bought a piece of land in Fayston, VT where we would, over time, spend weekends building a cabin as a family. What a joy it was to be able to choose between Glen Ellen, Sugarbush or Mad River Glen. As soon as we knew better it was always MRG so that is where my brother and I learned to be good skiers. Skiing there prepares you for almost any sort of backcountry conditions. Later in my 20s I moved to Montana for my musical work and got some more education. When I returned east in 2000, I began the typical spring pilgrimage to Mt. Washington where I’ve skied most of the routes - but there are still several I’d like to ski. One doesn’t always get to choose at that mountain! I even got in on a group trip with David Goodman who has written many excellent guidebooks about backcountry skiing in the Northeast that are published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. In September of 2020, I went back to school to get myself qualified to be an Outdoor Leader; first, Wilderness First Responder, and then a class fall semester at Greenfield Community College in their Outdoor Leadership Program. Next two courses with AIARE in Avalanche safety and rescue, PSIA Nordic Level 1 and ACA (American Canoe Association) Level 2. I have taught Alpine skiing for two seasons in Montana and coached Alpine Ski racing at the Academy at Charlemont for two years.
John Burns, aka "Burnsie" (he/him)
Botanist, Hiking Guide
I am a botanist specializing in rare and endangered plants, edible plants and mushroom identification. With my extensive knowledge of New England forests, I enjoy leading folks on nature walks and hikes and helping them gain a new appreciation for the environment as well as the plant-life unique to Western Massachusetts.
Laure Van den Broeck Raffensperger (she/her)
Hiking Guide, Trail Running Coach
I grew up in suburban Belgium and lived in a big city in England for 8 years, but the first time I visited Western Massachusetts, it felt like coming home. I had never seen a bear, a hummingbird or a porcupine before, and I'm still very excited that we share our world with these creatures. When you pay attention to nature, there is something special about every season. Few things make me happier than listening to a concert of frantic spring peepers! Hiking, running and snowshoeing are my preferred modes to enjoy the woods. Among the many highlights of my life here I'd include hiking the MA miles of the AT, running and snowshoeing up Mount Washington and being co-race director of the New England Green River Marathon. I'm a RRCA Level 1 running coach, and I'd love to help people discover the joys of trail running!
Mike Akrep (he/him)
I grew up in Massachusetts, and have had a normal arc of going to school, earning an engineering degree from UMass Amherst, getting married, etc. But in the background at all times is a love of bicycle exploration on back roads and abandoned railroad grades. From leading small groups of friends as a kid, up to leading multi-state, high end gravel tours, I love sharing the beauty of quiet trails and roads with old and new friends. A particular interest is 19th stone railroad and hydro power infrastructure that can still be found deep in New England's forests. As I often say on many of my ride postings, "Hope to see you out there!"
Mindy Dow (she/her)
Paddling, Hiking, & Forest Bathing Guide
My earliest memory of connecting with nature was around two years old when I watched a school of minnows swim by my feet in a sunny lake; I followed them into deeper water, dunked under, and felt that serene environment. I was never frightened. Water is my element. I was born and raised in the Berkshires and grew up swimming in rivers and lakes. I learned how to canoe in the Northwoods of Maine. I'm a published poet and enjoy leading nature writing workshops. I spent my summers working as a white water raft guide for Zoar Outdoors, developing lessons as a Park Interpreter for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and building fires in Bascom Lodge on Mt. Greylock as a crew member for the Appalachian Mountain Club. I've backpacked around Ireland, Scotland, and England. I surf longboard, have a SUP, and love riding my bicycle on quiet back roads. As a graduate of the Mindfulness Coaching School, I am trained in mindfulness, wellness, and somatic approaches to Coaching. I am an Eco Life Coach and an Outdoor Faculty for Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. I feel most alive outdoors, creating meaningful connections with people and taking in the reverent spirit of this natural world.
Monica Aguilar (she/her)
Trail Art & Hiking Guide
I started my Thru Hike of the Appalachian Trail - a trail that spans 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine - back in 2018. My interest in creating art was sparked again while I was on the trail; I would see so many beautiful views and learned to appreciate the minutiae around me.
Now, combining my love for the outdoors and art has been a great sense of joy for me. Since then, I have taken my watercolor sets with me on many human powered adventures including my backpacking trip along the continental divide and half of the Pacific Crest Trail.
I grew up in Eastern Massachusetts only experiencing day hikes. Once I moved to Western Mass it felt like the ultimate freedom to explore and recreate. It has become a new home for me. Now, I am a professional artist, and I am always looking for the next big adventure to calm my mind and serve as inspiration for my paintings.
Sean Condon (he/him)
When not riding or racing any of my ten bikes (like handbags and shoes - a different one for different occasions - and no, I don't play favorites with them), I have been professionally working as a mechanic on bikes of all kinds for almost thirty years and own the mobile bike shop, Speed and Sprocket Cycle Works. Road, mountain, cyclocross, tandem...you name it and I’ve ridden and/or worked on it.
In addition, I’ve also ridden or volunteered my mechanical services at numerous charity rides around New England, such as the Pan-Mass Challenge, Katelynn's Ride, Will Bike 4 Food, the Rodman Ride for Kids, the Connecticut Challenge, and others. For a spell I ran an Earn-A-Bike program for urban youth in Holyoke where I taught kids the intricacies and joys of being a mechanic, sat on the Board of Directors for MassBike and the Pioneer Valley chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), and served as a community member and co-chair on the Holyoke Bicycling and Pedestrian Committee.
You can find me pedaling twelve months of the year, whether it’s the paved and dirt roads of the Connecticut River Valley or the digital routes of Zwift!
Trevor Brightman (he/him)
Hiking & Paddling Guide
I'm a native of suburban Boston, whose love of the outdoors started with backyard games and sledding as a kid with friends and family. Over the years, this passion has advanced and evolved to include hiking, camping, paddleboarding, kayaking, snowboarding, and more. My love of new experiences, and desire to give back, led me to an AmeriCorps Service year after college. This included Hurricane Katrina relief in New Orleans and Wildland Firefighting in Arizona. I always loved making home movies as a kid, so after studying communications in Charleston, SC I worked in TV production for 10 years at ESPN. TV took me to Los Angeles for a while, where I worked as a Visual Effects producer and manager. I'm also a National Park junkie; some of my favorites include Yosemite, Glacier, Channel Islands, Zion, and Arches. These days my home base is in the Pioneer Valley, a short walk away from the beautiful Deerfield River.
Jacob Lindeman (he/him)
My earliest childhood memories are escaping into the woods behind our house and getting lost in adventures. That is still one of my favorite things to do, and I wish that everyone should (repeatedly) have that kind of experience. I went to a Maine "back-woods" summer camp with no electricity and no electronic "transistors" allowed. I learned to cook and bake on a campfire. Food shared on the trail is a highlight for me.
I have been a cook in a pizza shop and a grease wrench in bike shops. I love mountain and road bike rides, hiking and snowshoeing on (and off) trails, and whitewater canoeing. Making things is what I love to do the most. When I grow up, I want to build a canoe. My children call me "the fix-it-up chappie." It is always time to make the world a better place and revitalize our ecosystems.
We are very proud to be working with local organizations in support of their focus on sustainability, access, equity, and inclusion, which have also been very important considerations in the creation of Adventure East and will remain core components of our mission. Our experiences take place on beautiful and unique conservation lands preserved and cared for by our partners who are committed to making sure that our most cherished spaces remain healthy, accessible, and well-loved.
Calling All Guides!
We are looking to grow our team of guides, instructors, and educators. If you have experience in road/gravel biking, touring kayak paddling, or are knowledgeable about trails and conservation areas in Western Mass, then we'd love to talk to you!
If you are interested, we invite you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide us with information about your areas of experience and interest. A recording of one of our guide information sessions is also available upon request.