blueFire Wilderness Team
As long as I can remember the outdoors has been a place that fills my soul with happiness, clarity, peace, inspiration, and connections. Connecting with Mother Nature is powerful and never disappoints, even when hardships are a part of that process. Sitting peacefully in any outdoor setting witnessing even the slightest hint of survival (think of that lone flower that grows out of a rock in the middle of a desert) is my life source and reminds me how precious and our lives are, and how resilient we can be. Having shared experiences with others in the outdoors brings me such joy!
My introduction to Wilderness Therapy came at a time when I, myself, was at a crossroads in life. Being witness to the reunification of children with their parents after being apart for several weeks was hands down the most miraculous thing I had ever witnessed. Weeks later, after packing my car with all my belongings, and my then 2 year old son, we ventured out to the deserts of southcentral Idaho to embark on a journey that I have never looked back from. The power and value of that parent-child connection has always been at the core of what has driven me in my home and in my work. My children and grandchildren are pretty remarkable too.
What I learned early on, and continue to learn, is that change is hard…..and necessary. We have to be able to be honest with ourselves, listen to others, communicate effectively, and continually make decisions which are based on the best information available to us at the time. One cannot hide from themselves for long when they learn to sit still, observe, and then take action. Trust, Reliance, Vulnerability, Humility, Sacrifice, Acceptance, Confidence, Honesty, etc. The list goes on and on as far as what one is capable of experiencing in a wilderness setting.
Since 1989 I have had many wonderful opportunities to be able to guide young people on their own journeys while enjoying the outdoors. Seeing the joy and eye-popping realization of one’s own value and capabilities is what drives me to stay involved in the work I do on a daily basis. Families embarking on this journey together is miraculous and inspiring. SouthCentral Idaho provides the perfect landscape for this amazing opportunity. Wilderness Therapy is my calling.
I have spent much of the last 20 years melding adventure and personal development into the lives of individuals. Fresh out of college and working in a group home for at-risk teens, I began to see the radical effect that adventure therapy programs could have on the lives of young people. Already a mountain and rafting guide, I began taking clients on excursions into the mountains of Colorado.
From that point on, I have always had my hand in both mental health and adventure therapy programs. I was the program director and executive director for a non-profit organization working with inner-city youth, the clinical program manager for a wilderness program, the founder and clinical director of a wilderness therapy program for adjudicated youth and the clinical director at a therapeutic boarding school. I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). I received my masters from Prescott College in clinical psychology with an emphasis in wilderness therapy. I am also trained in brainspotting.
I have extensive experience and training in working with clients struggling with depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance issues, trauma, addiction, family systems issues, and grief. I believe that it is essential to work with the individual, family members, and support systems to help create the optimal results.
I enjoy spending time with my wife and two children seeking out adventure in the big city of Boise, or out on the rivers and mountains of Idaho.
I grew up in South Carolina and earned a degree from Clemson University. After graduation, I had a deep urge to venture to the west. I moved to UT to ski and that is where I met my wife. From there, we were looking for a place that had skiing and water. After a long search, we ended up in northern Idaho. I have been working with at-risk youth and their families for over 17 years in a variety of settings. I started my career in a therapeutic boarding school in Idaho but quickly found my passion was in adventure therapy programs. I worked as a wilderness staff and, after a few years, became interested in working more with families. I became an admissions counselor and loved connecting with parents and helping to guide them to find treatment for their children.
Family took me back east, where I helped open the admissions office for a new wilderness therapy program in North Carolina. The program was a great success, but the call from the west would not go away. My wife and I, along with my two boys, moved back to Idaho where I became the regional director of admissions for five programs in Northern Idaho.
Later, I became an admissions specialist, concentrating on internet marketing, for a group of all-female residential treatment centers across the United States and, most recently, as the admissions director for a small co-ed therapeutic boarding school in North Idaho.
My wife and I are raising three growing boys. I am an avid skier, gardener, hunter, and fisherman. I love to backpack and camp in the local public lands. I spend most of my winter at Schweitzer Mountain, the local ski area. In the summer, I can be found boating, camping, and fishing on beautiful Lake Pend Oreille, Priest Lake, and many local streams and rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Lindsay grew up in Texas and attended Texas A&M for her undergraduate. Lindsay earned her BS in Economics and her BA in International Studies while at Texas A&M. During her undergrad Lindsay began pursuing her passion for supporting individual and group growth through wilderness and adventure activities. For the past 8 years, she has been working with a variety of populations in this capacity. Lindsay eventually decided to pursue a Masters in Counseling at Prescott College to continue to develop her skill set. There she focused her studies on Adventure Based Psychotherapy and completed a thesis project exploring secondary and vicarious trauma in wilderness therapy frontline staff.
I grew up visiting the NC mountains at my family’s cabin in Linville, NC. The beauty and tranquility of those experiences shaped my love for the outdoors and adventure. I was on the ski patrol at Sugar Mountain from the age of 15 and continued on the pro patrol throughout my undergrad at Appalachian State University.
I spent an inordinate amount of time rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, exploring, and skiing during those years in Boone, Blowing Rock, and Linville, NC. I continued my quest for more adventure in the outdoors by moving to Mammoth Lakes, California where I began backcountry skiing and continued rock climbing, biking, and backpacking. I gained such a positive perspective on life from being in Nature.
I had a drive to serve others and particularly in the mental health field. I began my career in the mental health field at a therapeutic boarding school in Utah. I loved it and was driven by learning in the field and seemed to have found a niche working with children with emotional issues.
After getting my Masters in Counseling in California, I went on to become licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in California. I worked in a residential treatment facility in San Diego for seven years gaining incredible experiences in the field working through the therapeutic relationship to increase personal awareness and growth in the clients I served.
I moved back to NC and I became licensed as a NCLPC. I began to specialize in cognitive techniques and analysis creating a focus on clients with depression, ADHD, anxiety, negative self-beliefs, and anger issues for the next six years.
I wanted to take the knowledge and experiences I had gained from working with clients and their families in the residential and academic settings and apply them to a wilderness program that valued clinical and family components. I was lucky enough to find Blue Fire Wilderness Therapy and I truly enjoy working here.
Mark Ellis is the Embers Therapist and specializes in working with boys aged 11-15. The focus of his career has been to improve family systems and parent/child relationships. Mark is trained in brainspotting and his client expertise is in pre-teen and early teen boy challenges such as oppositional behavior at home, low social functioning, rigid thinking, depression, anxiety, spectrum, and attachment issues. Mark joined blueFire Wilderness bringing with him a passion and level of experience perfectly aligned with the growing need for therapies focused on our Embers population.
“I love to help families learn skills and build a toolbox full of options to manage their emotions in the most stressful situations. Healing is done within the entire family unit and blueFire Wilderness gives families a unique and effective platform to ignite this change. We help your child better understand where they are, learn conflict resolution, and become more accepting and communicative moving forward.”
Mark is a husband, and father to six darling children. In between family time and work he still manages to stay physically active and has most recently taken up swimming in preparation for future triathlons.
I grew up here in Idaho and developed a love of the outdoors from the time I could carry my own backpack. From trips to my family’s cabin in Donnely, Idaho to yearly backpacking treks in the Sawtooth Mountains, I’ve always found the outdoors to be the most healing and peaceful place for me.
I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a masters in Marriage and Family Counseling. I have worked with children, adolescents, adults young, and their families in some capacity for the last 15 years. I have worked in a variety of settings including schools, outpatient addiction clinics, private practice, and therapeutic boarding schools. I am a registered supervisor with the state of Idaho and enjoys providing supervision for master’s level clinicians seeking clinical licensure as well as interns working on their LPC or LCPC degrees. I am also trained in brainspotting.
My first degree was in secondary education, and I taught U.S. history and psychology in high school. During this time, I also worked at summer camps as a counselor and as a Resident Director for college students. After a few years of teaching, I went back to school for a Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling, with an emphasis in trauma and complicated bereavement. In addition to time in private practice, and as a clinical supervisor at an addiction’s clinic, I’ve spent the bulk of my clinical career as a primary therapist at a therapeutic boarding school for adolescent boys. One of the highlights of this work was leading backpacking trips through the Idaho wilderness and therapeutic trips overseas with students and their parents. These trips, through the jungles of Peru and Patagonia, and the streets of Nepal and Israel showed me the true healing power of the wilderness. These adventures and my experiences in therapeutic boarding showed me that things happen in the wilderness that are nearly impossible to mimic anywhere else.
I’m highly interested in personal growth and development both on the individual and family level, and I’m passionate about creatively finding ways to foster the insight required for change to happen. Building quality relationships is important to me and the work I do with clients. For this reason, I approach everything from a deeply relational person-centered perspective, with an emphasis on emotional awareness and connection. I practice EMDR and emphasize mindfulness for clients who have experienced trauma or related issues. I’ve also pursued advanced training in attachment issues, Emotion-Focused Therapy for couples and families, the Community Resiliency Model from the Trauma Resource Institute, and The Anatomy of Peace with the Arbinger Institute.
When I’m not working with students and families in the wilderness, you’ll find me hiking and running in the foothills of Boise, camping and climbing in the backcountry of Idaho, or mountain biking and snowboarding at the various Idaho ski resorts.
Liz was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she earned her B.A. in Psychology from Duquesne University. After completing her undergraduate degree, Liz went on to get her Master’s degree in Counselor Education from the Pennsylvania State University. Currently a Ph.D. candidate with Duquesne University, Liz is writing her dissertation on Social Information Processing of Aggressive Youth and has published work on this subject for academic journals.
Liz has worked as a mental health therapist since graduating from Penn State University in 2015 and has loved each professional endeavor more than the last. She has worked with populations in school and community settings, including wrap-around services, psychiatric inpatient hospital, outpatient counseling centers, and classrooms from Pre-K to High School. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Liz’s enthusiasm for her work comes from the immense gratitude she has for a career that allows her to make meaningful connections with others, instill hope in the lives of children and families, and the constant learning opportunities presented to her through this special work.
Ever since she was a young girl, Liz has felt most herself in the outdoors. It has been a long-held dream to work in wilderness therapy, as it joins her career and academic interests with the healing power of nature. Liz’s free time is spent exploring the beauty of Idaho with her favorite hiking pal and dog, Fezzik.
I am a native of southern Idaho and am a mother to two wonderful sons, Liam and Aiden. I have been involved with wilderness therapy my whole life. My family has founded three renowned wilderness therapy programs which were some of the first in this field. When I was a teen my father was the Director of Anasazi, and I was able to join the program as a student for six weeks. It was then that I truly fell in love with wilderness therapy. I grew up camping with my family in the desert, cooking over a bowdrill lit fire.
While attending college for music theory, I began working for a long standing wilderness therapy program as a field instructor. This reignited my passion, and I took shifts on all my holiday breaks, eventually taking a full-time position after I graduated. As I started my own family, I realized I had to make a professional change. I taught private music lessons but missed the fulfillment of guiding young people. I later took a job as a behavioral interventionist and spent several years in the school system, working with teens in the public school setting. This led to the opportunity to become an elementary teacher.
As my boys started school, I decided it was time to continue my education; I began my MSW studies. Gaining the knowledge I needed to become a therapist solidified that my childhood dream could become a reality. Working at blueFire has been like coming home. I have enjoyed inspiring our clients to try new and challenging experiences and find great satisfaction in watching them blossom in a new environment.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I grew up playing sports, going to sporting events with my dad, surfing at the shore, and exploring the city. Even though my idea of wilderness at that time was Fairmount Park, I always loved being outside. As a kid, I would join my neighbors every day and play basketball, wiffleball or football for hours on end no matter the season. Anything to be outside and active.
I received my B.S. in Secondary Education from Penn State University. After completing stints teaching social studies in Jönköping, Sweden, and the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, I started feeling the draw of the outdoors again. For the next year or so I traveled to national parks all over the country and then all through Australia and Asia. It was during this time that I learned how to pitch a tent, start a fire, and several other skills that had never seemed pertinent living in the city. It became clear to me that my career path should combine my two passions of being outdoors and helping youth grow and develop.
In 2019 I started my career in wilderness therapy as a field staff for blueFire and immediately started to recognize how special our field area in Idaho is. Witnessing how clients grow in ways that seemed impossible to me while teaching in a classroom was amazing. After working for a year in the field, I received a Master’s in Social Work from Boise State University. Coming right back to blueFire to join the clinical team has been a dream come true.
As a therapist, I believe that a combination of cognitive and somatic-based interventions used in conjunction with an outdoor setting can lead to transformative results for clients. I am passionate about empowering clients to leave blueFire with the knowledge that they can overcome challenges and master new skills. By overcoming the challenges inherent in a wilderness setting our clients learn, self-efficacy, executive functioning skills, confidence, interpersonal ability, and a sense of achievement.
When I’m not at work you can find me climbing at City of Rocks, anxiously pacing around my house during Philadelphia sporting events, playing fetch with my three huskies, or playing any sport I possibly can, and of course spending time with my beautiful and smart life partner.
Dr. Jeremy Chiles is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in the area of psychological testing since 2002. His training in personality, cognitive, achievement, and psychosexual testing helps specify problems and concerns that will allow for identification of the most appropriate level of care or most suitable academic environment. In helping individuals and families work toward psychological health and balance in their lives, Dr. Chiles employs strategies including psychological testing/assessment, comprehensive interviews with students and parents, consultation with clinicians, close interaction with educational consultants, and “on-site” testing to gather the most accurate and useful information in a timely manner. In addition to a standard test battery consisting of cognitive, achievement, personality, mental health, and behavioral measures, Dr. Chiles has training in assessing autism spectrum disorders, learning disorders, neuropsychological screening issues, and psychosexual issues.
Dr. Chiles attended the University of Utah where he received his bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology and a minor in history. He attended Brigham Young University where he received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology. While providing a strong psychotherapy training program, the training at Brigham Young University also offered an assessment curriculum that addressed intellectual/cognitive and mental health/personality aspects in children, adolescents, and adults. Additional training during graduate school involved assessments of adolescents and adults at the Utah State Hospital, Utah State Prison, residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment settings, acute care facilities.
Dr. Chiles is a member of the Utah Psychological Association and American Psychological Association. Dr. Chiles is known among wilderness and therapeutic programs as a thorough, empathic, energetic, and personable clinician. His passion is working with adolescents and their families, and he finds it rewarding to work with programs and personnel that are equally skilled and passionate about their work.
Jeff Johnson, PharmD, PA-C graduated from Idaho State University in 2000 and worked as a community pharmacist for two years before becoming a Physician Assistant. He has worked in emergency medicine, family practice, and mental health. He has been an assistant professor at Idaho State University since 2011 and teaches numerous medical topics. He is passionate about mental health issues and enjoys helping patients improve their lives. He is a member of IAPA, AAPA, ASAM and PAEA.
Dave grew up locally in the Magic Valley and was raised in and around the Snake River Canyon. Much of Dave’s youth was spent learning wilderness skills alongside the children of Larry Dean Olsen in the canyons, flatlands, and waterways of Southern Idaho. In their teens and twenties, Dave, his brother, his sister, and most of his friends all worked as instructors for a variety of wilderness programs in Southern Idaho and Utah. In their teens, Dave and his sister were called on by several youth camps to teach survival skills during the summer months.
Dave has multiple degrees related to education and educational leadership. In addition to teaching in schools in California, Oregon, and Idaho, he has worked in wilderness programs for the last twenty-five years. Dave’s experience in wilderness includes time spent as an instructor, a therapist, logistics, safety team, independent contractor, field director, and program manager. Dave works both at blueFire Wilderness Therapy as the Director of Client Services and as the Principal of a local school.
Dave was originally asked to contribute blueFire Wilderness Therapy as a contractor and was present for many of the early meetings with local Planning and Zoning officials and concerned citizens. After working for a time as a contractor he was asked to join the team as a year-round employee. During his time at blueFire Wilderness, Dave has covered and helped oversee numerous departments and programs as they grew and developed in their effectiveness.
Dave and his wife reside locally and have two grown children. When not working, you will find Dave and his wife headed to the coast, in the backcountry camping, or hitting a jeep trail somewhere.
Morri has worked for therapeutic outdoor programs for over 8 years and has a passion for working with families and teenagers. Of all the positions that Morri has filled, her favorite is helping families through the admissions process. Morri is passionate about the program and believes it’s a full family experience that helps families start down the path to healing and success.
Morri was born and raised on a ranch near where the program operates and has dedicated her life to family, the outdoors, and at-risk families. She has always been drawn to helping others and volunteers to manage and operate the local Toys for Tots program for Gooding County.
When Morri is not working or volunteering she enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 kids. Her family enjoys spending time in the outdoors, camping, fishing, riding, and working. The four cornerstones of Morri’s life are honesty, hard work, loyalty, and family.
I was fortunate at a young age that my family found a school that valued outdoor and experiential education and that is where my love for the outdoors began. Throughout my life, I have found joy, excitement, refuge, challenge, and growth in the outdoors.
I grew up in Michigan where I started my undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University. At the age of 21, I moved out west to experience a new and exciting outdoor environment. During this time, I completed my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Utah State University, adopted two Siberian huskies, and have traveled the west hiking, climbing, and camping.
I joined the blueFire Team in 2018. I saw the job posting for Field Staff to which I promptly applied. The job as a Field staff fit all of my passions in life: exercise, outdoors, physical wellbeing, mental health, teaching, and working with youth.
During my time as a Field Guide, I fell in love with blueFire Wilderness Therapy, and the unique experience that it offers to its employees and clients, and I am grateful to continue to share that joy and learning with the Field Team as a Field Director.
I am so excited to continue supporting blueFire by working directly with the field staff. I am passionate about teaching and development. It is my intent to mentor and train the field staff to feel empowered in their role. It is my goal to act as an empathetic and supportive guide for staff in their journey with blueFire, so that our clients can continue their own journey of self-discovery. Watching staff learn new skills, practice patience, try new things, and challenge themselves renews my passion for this work. Watching clients learn from staff and their ability to model blueFire’s mission and vision also empowers me.
I am Tim Weaver the Logistics Director at blueFire Wilderness Therapy. I was born and raised in Gooding Idaho and really like the small-town life. While growing up I enjoyed all kinds of sports. My favorites were basketball and baseball. As I got older I played league softball many weeknights and most weekends all summer. I spent countless hours coaching my own kids in the sports they participated in. My four children have now given me seven grandkids.
In my previous career, I worked 38 years for the City of Gooding public works department and was a superintendent. Managing a team, making plans, and solving problems were some of my strengths. What I bring to the table as a Logistics Director is organization and leadership. One of the reasons I took this job after retiring from the city is to work with the exceptional people here and help the kids in any way I can. I’ve worked with blueFire for two years now and I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met and the work that has been accomplished here. Taking care of others is what I do.
I grew up in small-town Utah. I fell in love with the outdoors at an early age, growing up at the base of the Wasatch Mountain Range. My dad would always take my brother and I camping. Then through the Scouting program I really excelled and developed a passion for being out in nature. Spending my free time biking, backpacking, and going on long 500+ mile walks. I feel blessed to be connected to such a beautiful state.
blueFire is the second Wilderness Therapy program I’ve worked for, where I have a combined 3 years as a Field instructor. I have spent 16+ years working with teenagers in a therapeutic setting, the majority of that being in Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers. Collectively I have spent 20+ years working in Mental Health and Health Care settings.
In my role as Field Supervisor, I am the director of education for our field teams. I develop trainings so that our instructors may have the confidence and tools to help the clients we work with. I am very passionate about training our instructor teams because the job they do can be both difficult and equally rewarding.
At blueFire our mission is; “Inspiring and guiding others to a place of self-discovery and personal resolve to achieve great success.” When I break that down the way I understand it, it states “Others” and so in that it is our job to Inspire and Guide everyone we interact with and that is the culture of which I cultivate in my daily interactions and trainings with our field instructors.
I grew up in Boise, Idaho. I spent my summers hiking around the Frank Church Wilderness and Sawtooth National Forest. My parents instilled a deep reverence for the power of the outdoors in my four brothers and I from a young age. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to share that with our clients at blueFire.
I attended school at Brigham Young University before getting my Master’s in Business Administration at Boise State University. After teaching school for several years I stumbled onto blueFire while looking for summer work. After catching the “blueFire bug” I couldn’t stay away and joined the company full-time in 2019. I spent 2 years in the field, working to guide our clients through the wilderness, helping them meet their physical and emotional needs. It was fun to combine my experience working with young people with my love for the outdoors. Now I’m lucky to work as the Field Director, helping to recruit and train our staff to be expert wilderness instructors.
Misti was raised in Gooding, Idaho, and loved growing up in a small community. She moved to Boise after graduation to attend college. Misti worked for 7 years running a luxury theater with a full-service restaurant and managed over 100 employees. She genuinely loves working with people and creating an experience for others. Shortly after having their second child Misti had the opportunity to accept a job near San Francisco. Misti and her family packed up and spent a couple years experiencing city living and spent their time at the beach. Misti and her family missed the feeling of a small community and moved back to Gooding in February of 2020.
Misti married her high school sweetheart and have been together for 13 years. They have a 5-year-old and a 3 year old. Misti and her family spend their summers boating on the SnakeRiver, hiking, kayaking, camping, and at the ball field. Their winters are spent in the mountains skiing and snowboarding. Everything they do includes family.
Misti chose blueFire because she loves what the program provides to their clients such as the adventures, curriculum, staff, and the overall experience that is given. Misti also loves to witness the growth and change in our blueFire clients and said it is an extremely rewarding position to be able to witness a client’s journey through blueFire.
One of Misti’s favorite quotes is “The biggest communication problem is, we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” -Umesh Dhande
Kaitlin Crawford is originally from Los Angeles but spent the majority of her childhood in Asia. She moved around a lot with her family and is grateful that she was able to see so many cultures at a young age.
Kaitlin completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame in Neuroscience and Behavior. After college, she received her WEMT certification and learned about wilderness therapy. Kaitlin loves hiking and working with children so she started at BlueFire as a field instructor. She has loved watching our clients grow and watching them start to believe in themselves again. In her time at BlueFire, she has also made a lot of personal growth.
Kaitlin chose BlueFire because she believes in our mission and found an incredible group of people who are empathetic, compassionate, and truly want the best for our clients. She was also drawn to BlueFire because she felt like this company covered all aspects of therapy—therapists meeting with clients several times a week, two different equine therapists, therapy through backpacking and challenging yourself, adventure therapy, and therapy for the parents. BlueFire recognizes the importance of the wilderness and helps create individualized care plans for each of our clients.
In her role as a Field Supervisor, Kaitlin develops and trains staff, so they are set up for success while they are out in the field. She works directly with our staff while they are in the field and helps to teach how to have intention behind all of their actions while in the field.
Outside of BlueFire, Kaitlin enjoys hiking, camping, climbing, and running. She spends a lot of time with her coworkers on various adventures and traveling around the world.
Odessa comes to us from right here in Gooding. Having worked previously with Kathy, Kathy couldn’t think of a better addition to our team as Office Manager than Odessa. Odessa has several years of office management experience. She was in charge of helping clients set up their accounts, and assist with financial counseling at her previous position.
In Odessa’s spare time she enjoys the outdoors with her family. They enjoy going camping, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. She has been married to her husband Jeff for 16 years, and together they have a 10 year old son.
When Odessa was asked to provide a quote for us that inspires her and brings her into this line of work, she gave us “The hardest moments are a calling to something Greater.”
I’m a native Idahoan, born and raised in the Nampa/Caldwell/Middleton area. I grew up playing volleyball, basketball, track, softball, camping, hiking, fishing and hunting on weekends and summers. My parents were wonderful guides for my two younger sisters and I. After graduating college with a business degree from Eastern Oregon State College, I worked numerous business/administrative positions in the Boise area. For the last 15 years, I have been a full time K-12 substitute teacher.
My husband of 20 years, Ron, and I live in Gooding and have our own livestock hauling business, Dog Creek Trucking. We have three amazing children: Caleb, Mallory, and Braden. I enjoy being outdoors with family and friends, and my pride and joy are my kids. I love having the opportunity to attend and watch my two oldest participate in their respective college sports of golf and softball, and my youngest high school junior, participate in basketball and golf. If I’m not watching one of my kids’ sports on the weekends, then I’m usually outdoors camping, hunting, golfing, or kayaking. I do have a passion for landscaping, and enjoy working in my yard as well.
I started at blueFire in the Spring of 2020 just as the pandemic hit, and the schools went to an online curriculum. I came to blueFire after a conversation with my long time friend, Kathy Rex. As the Parent Liaison, I enjoy meeting and visiting with parents and reassuring them they’ve found the right place for their child. The transformation that happens during the wilderness therapy process and positive change between each family member is such a great discovery. I’m thankful to be part of such a life-changing opportunity for these children that come to blueFire, and grateful that it has such a lasting impact on their lives.
I am a certified Level II equine specialist through EAGALA, a model of equine-assisted psychotherapy services which focuses on growth and learning. Throughout my years, as both my spirit and ego have evolved, the only constant in my life has been horses.
My love of horses helped me connect with my father, which led me to become a professional rodeo cowboy. I learned horsemanship, integrity and the value of a hard day’s work from my father. We became best friends, confiding in one another, never judging and always understanding.
After high school in the southern Idaho area, I attended Idaho State University on a track scholarship. Following graduation, I became a high school math teacher. But it wasn’t the algebra or geometry that motivated me. My favorite part of teaching was the counseling.
Some kids have come back and said, “You saved my life because you let me spend time to visit with you.” That is the best thing.
During my years of teaching, I competed in local rodeos and eventually hit the professional rodeo circuit. In the fall of 1983, I launched a successful music career. For 15 years “Johnny U and the Dodge Country Band” toured the nation 300 days out of the year. As country music evolved, I always stayed true to my roots.
Working in the equine therapy field at an adventure therapy program has provided a great opportunity for me to combine my love of horses, desire to help youth, and even bridging in things learned along the way through my music career. For me, it is the most wonderful, powerful thing I’ve ever seen.
Since childhood, Ally Marter has always loved spending time outside. Growing up in Michigan, she spent her summers fishing and camping and her winters cross-country skiing. As she grew older, she realized that the outdoor adventures she was having were not only filling her with joy and connecting her to the present moment but building her into a better person. Ally is here at blueFire today because she’s passionate about self-development through adventure and mindfulness. In 2020, she completed her B.S. in Environmental Science at The University of Tampa in Florida. It was during these college years that she started to understand more of the connection between mental health and physical health. She started practicing yoga as a way to cope with the stress of high- achieving academic life and it helped her so much that she completed a 200hr yoga teacher training in 2019. She has hiked 1,500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and backpacked 2,700 miles across the Continental Divide.
She worked at blueFire as a field instructor from Nov. 2020 to May 2022, and it was her dream job, combining her passions for mindfulness and the outdoors. In that time, she witnessed many clients benefiting from blueFire and it was so rewarding to support them along the way. She has now joined the Adventure team and is excited to continue sharing her passion and facilitating clients’ learning.
Ally continues to practice yoga and mindfulness everyday and is always excited to share these life- changing practices with others. In her time outside of blueFire, she enjoys spending time cooking, playing ukulele, riding her bike, and crafting leather pouches or earrings.
While growing up in Minnesota I discovered my love for being outside, and the healing power of nature. I discovered this natural meditation through fishing, backpacking and swimming, in and around the many lakes and rivers Minnesota has to offer. While in Minnesota I attended Bemidji State University to become a history teacher. After graduation I decided the confines of a school setting were not for me, but still had a calling to work with youth. I found Wilderness Therapy and it was a perfect fit as it allowed me to teach on a deeper level by sharing the natural meditation that had guided me through my youthful journey. It also has taught me more about myself than I could ever hope to teach and continues to push me in every aspect of my life.
Before blueFire I worked as a Sailing and as a Wilderness Therapy Guide for various companies spanning 5 years. I decided to join blueFire due to their therapeutics first approach and being able to explore all of the cool adventures Idaho has to offer. As Adventure Director I push to create new and exciting itineraries that both challenge and inspire our clients. I also support staff and coach the essential skills in facilitating each activity safely and in a professional manner. I am a Wilderness First Responder, and have received my Avalanche Level 1 Certification.
In my free time I enjoy skiing, climbing, and disc golf. Most weekends you will find me lost in the Mountains or finishing the “final” touches on my tiny home. My future goals include learning more about hunting, gardening and foraging in order to be more self-sustaining. I would like to end this with my favorite quote: “Six days shalt thou paddle and pack, but on the seventh thou shall wash thy socks.” Aldo Leopold.
Originally from Nashville, TN, Ericka grew up taking long bike rides through the city and going on camping trips in the Great Smoky Mountains. She moved to Michigan for her undergraduate in English, Philosophy, and Writing with a passion for sharing the human experience through storytelling, essays, and poetry.
After graduating, Ericka found both solace and inspiration in recreating outdoors and moved out west. Over the next five years, hospitality management placements took her to beautiful locations such as Glacier National Park, Park City, and the Colorado Rocky Mountain range.
Ericka’s passion for backpacking, trail running, mountaineering, rock climbing, and canyoneering blossomed into a new career path. She saw the value these activities play in building self-confidence, communication, accomplishing goals, and working through grief. As an adventure coordinator, Ericka applies her outdoor skillsets and certifications to guide youth through the process of healing and growth through adventure.
Bluefire offers a wide array of outdoor activities for clients to challenge themselves, strengthen resilience, fortify self-efficacy, and work through past traumas. Ericka chose this program for its well-balanced curriculum and incredible community of staff who strive to grow alongside their students. “It is a joy to watch kids move through the program, creating foundations for a more positive and connected future.”