Wesley Trimble: Communications and Creative Director at American Hiking Society
By Nushin Huq
Between 2 Pines Magazine
The American Hiking Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving hiking trails. The group has two main focuses- it advocates for hiking-friendly and trail preservation legislation in Congress. It also works with other organizations to help preserve and maintain trails. Wesley Trimble is the groups communication director, and he has a fascinating story about his career path. Read our interview below and once you're done, check out his film about his through hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (link at end of story).
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your job.
I'm the communications and creative director. In addition to overall communications and graphic design, I also oversee one of our flagship programs, which is called National Trails Day. It takes place the first Saturday in June. I spend the first half of the year working to help coordinate events and promotion of events in all 50 states.
Most of my job is a desk job doing communication, website and graphic design, but I do get to out into the field because of my background in photography and videography. I take pictures and video of some of the good we do at American Hiking.
How did you get in this career path?
I went to college to study environmental design and architecture. While I was in school, I started working with a group called Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, which is an organization in Colorado that hires youth, ages 18-25, to do conservation work here in Colorado. Each summer, I worked doing trail building, maintenance and ecological work.
That was really interesting to me because it was a way to give back to these amazing places that I grew up recreating in. Those four seasons of trail work really sparked a passion for conservation.
After college, I went into different design fields. In 2014, I decided to quit my job and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada. Doing that was a life changing experience for sure.
I created a short film about my experience. I was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy. With my disability, my cerebral palsy impacted my ability to hike. Doing this long hike- it wasn't something I was sure I would be able to do. I put together a less than 4-minute film about my PCP through hike.
The film got a little bit a traction in the outdoor hiking community. That video opened some doors to do some contract work with a couple of different trail organizations. Through those connections, I ended up working with American Hiking for the last five years.
Did you always want to work outdoors?
I've been into hiking for as long as I can remember. I'm from Colorado and I was privileged to grow up in a small mountain community. My parents were very active with outside activities, so that was something I definitely grew up with.
When I was younger, I loved being outside and I loved hiking, but I never assumed there would be any career or job potential within hiking. Of course, I'm not a professional hiker.
What do you like most about your job?
I'm only outside a few weeks out of the year, but I really do enjoy those weeks that I'm outside. Doing what I love and enjoy and getting paid for it is really rewarding.
I love being able to use my skills to help protect the places that I love to hike and the places that the overall national hiking community hikes.
What are some challenges?
There's more than 44 million hikers in the country. Trying to be able to reach out and share the story of the hiking community, especially in terms of advocacy work, there's challenge. Making sure there's a diversity of representation within that is definitely a challenge.
A big thing I'm passionate about is that desire to cultivate trail stewards and advocates of among that 44 million group of hikers. Personally, I've seen how much of an impact to do service and to help has had. How do we take those people [recreational hikers] on a journey to become stewards and advocates? How to do that well is something I struggle with.
I have a background more in design than in communication. If you would have told me back in high school that I would be in communications, I would have laughed because a lot of individuals with cerebral palsy have issues with language and speech. It's something that's not in my comfort zone, so that's something I always have to work hard with. I'm more of a visual individual, but a lot of what I do is in written communication, so that can be challenging as well.
Also, we're an advocacy group in DC, we're a small staff but we're trying to represent the nation as a whole, can be a challenge as well. Figuring out the best way to maximize our impact is a challenge.
Is there any advice you have for people who want to get an outdoor job?
There's a lot of people who are passionate about the outdoors and have specific skill set. I think it's a great opportunity for people to be able to use what their gifts are or what their skilled at and look for ways to use that in areas they are passionate about.
If that's web design or in my case, communications, or if someone is really passionate about Human Resources, there are ways to connect that to the outdoors. It may not be a direct connection, like being paid to be outside, but supporting the ability to get outside is possible.
Take time to hone in your skills you have. The stronger skills you have, the more opportunities can come your way.
Also, volunteer or do contract work with organizations and companies to build those connections within the outdoor industry. That's what my story is. I made a short film. It got a little bit of traction. Some small organizations approached me to collaborate and hire me for some small scale projects. I also did some volunteering work with those organizations to build my experience and connections within the outdoor industry. That led to a full-time salaried portion in the outdoor industry.
Are you seeing more diversity in the outdoor field?
There are two pieces to this. I'd say as a whole I think the outdoors as a whole is beginning to diversify. It's becoming a little more inclusive. More people are coming to the outdoors, especially during COVID. Going outside has been a lifeline for a lot of people.
Also, there has been diverse groups of people out in the outdoors, but their stories haven't always been told. So, I think with the current state of the outdoor industry, there is a greater bend towards trying to make sure marginalized groups are beginning to have greater opportunities to tell their stories and we're seeing that as well. It goes hand in hand with getting more people outdoors. People see stories about people they can identify with and are going to get out there.
National Trails Day will be on June 5, 2021. You can watch Trimble's film here.