About Joan West

In the La Sal Mountains

I grew up in Oregon and moved to the DC suburbs as a teenager. I got my love for off-trail scrambling, for ponderosa pine, for mountains, and for places where solitude can be found from my dad. My mom taught me how to sew and gave me a passion for wildflowers. To this day, I prefer hikes with few people and many flowers.

Backpacking is my favorite way to explore the outdoors. I’ve backpacked long sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and Arizona Trail and spent countless weekend trips on both the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail. I also enjoy camping, hiking, iNaturalizing, botanizing, chasing butterflies, swimming in lakes, and turning over rocks to look for salamanders.

I worked as a research scientist for many years until I decided (in my late 30s) to pursue my dream of becoming an outdoor educator. Some people ask me if I miss “using my Ph.D.” but I feel like I am constantly applying the problem-solving skills, the grit, and the ability to learn to everything I do. I believe that happiness comes from finding a way to make a difference in the world and to be of service to others. And being a park ranger allows me to do that and to live in close proximity to the public lands that I love.

You can read all my articles here.

Joan’s personal blog can be found at Rambling Hemlock and also on Instagram @ramblinghemlock.