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All Trails Lead Somewhere

Faculty and Staff are at the heart of a student's experience at Prep. You cannot be in the midst of Prep alumni for more than 10 minutes before conversations about their favorite teachers and most memorable classroom moments arise. Whether they are in their early teaching years or on the other end of being a seasoned educator, there is a deep commitment to their students and their educational journey.

Here are a few faculty and staff to know better.

All Trails Lead Somewhere

If you went to summer camp as a kid, you can probably still remember your favorite counselor and a cheeky campfire song or two. Anne Kramer remembers the call of the mountains. 

“My love for the outdoors really started when I worked at Camp Carson, twenty years ago,” says Prep teacher Anne Kramer. “The camp sits at the foot of the Olympic Mountains on the edge of the Hood Canal. Everything there is named after places in the Olympics. I thought to myself, ‘one day I am going to go to every single one of these places and hike every major trail in the Olympics.’”  

A mother of three, Kramer has been slowly making headway on her goal. But hiking 600 trails is ambitious. “I have made good progress,” she says. “I have hiked over 350 but I still have a ways to go. Like many people I did a lot of hiking in my 20s and then took a hiatus to raise a family but COVID has given me the time and space to revisit some of those goals. Hitting the woods was a perfect antidote to the pandemic. With no other competing activities COVID made more room for hiking.”  

Backpacking the Olympics is not for novices. It has a vast terrain and varied ecosystems. “You really need to be prepared,” says Kramer. “Unlike many of the popular Cascades trails that you can drive into, the Olympic trails start at sea level. I hiked the Bogachiel last summer and it was 21 miles just to get to the next trail turnoff and you are not even in the high country yet.” 

This type of wilderness rigor requires year-round training. “I train all over Seattle,” she says. “I run stairs, hills, lift weights, cross country ski—anything to build cardio and leg strength. You are hiking uphill sometimes for hours and hours with this weight on your back. It’s not something where you do a few day hikes in June and are ready to attempt it.” 

Over the years she has become adept at hiking with a 40lb backpack. But even experience can’t trump mother nature. “My colleague, Kelly Young, and I, attempted a 40-mile trek last summer and we got rained on so hard the first night that my gear failed. My tent and sleeping bag were completely soaked and there was no chance they were going to dry out. We decided to head back. It was really disappointing because we had permits and had been planning the trip for a long time.” 

Not easily dissuaded the two women are planning a 4-day trek this summer in the Gray Wolf Pass / Cedar Lake area of the Olympics. It is in the sunnier Sequim side so Kramer is optimistic about the weather. The trip will include a partial off trail traverse over a ridge. “It’s not normally how I roll,” she says. “I don’t climb. I’m not a mountaineer like you see people in the movies climbing the Himalayas. But occasionally I enjoy pushing myself a little bit and saying I think we can go over the ridge and hit the lake and then connect with a trail. We are going to do that with route finding.” 

Kramer relies on maps for navigation. “I am old school in the sense that I use paper. I think more people now load their apps unto GPS. But even if I had that I would still bring a paper map. That’s not going to fail you.” 

“The wilderness is no joke,” says Kramer. Preparation can be the difference between life and death. “The Olympics have a substantial glacial system relative to other mountains of its size and range,” says Kramer. “Recently a woman died when she fell into a crevasse hiking The Brothers Mountain. You need to be very careful. Weather changes. There are animals out there. You need to make good decisions.”  

Last summer, on a 25-mile hike, Kramer and her daughter, Monica '21, overshot their campsite by a few miles. They were exhausted and out of water. There were no other camping options around, so they decided to stop and build a campsite. “The number rule is you need to have access to water,” says Kramer. “You need to figure that out quickly. “The number two rule it to clear a space for your tent.” Things worked out but it’s not something she wants to repeat. “There is no cell service or 911 out there,” says Kramer. “You need to think carefully. You don’t want to be the one that calls in the park service.” 

A well-worn map hangs on Kramer’s wall at home. Here is where she tracks her progress, every completed trail highlighted in red. She sees where she has been and where she needs to go. There are trails that were not on her original list, but she has now decided she wants to hike them. “You could go forever before you repeat any,” she says, “I would say I have 7-10 trips left to complete my list.” 

For Kramer hiking is not about prestige. “I have zero interest in hiking the Appalachian trail or Colorado or doing the Seven Summits or any of those typical travel things,” she says. “I love the act of backpacking but I’m not that motivated to backpack other places. For me it’s really about the beauty and love of the Pacific Northwest/Puget Sound area. It’s about being out in the forests and mountains that we have right here.” 

Kramer finds it hard to choose her favorite hike. She says, “Every trail I have done has its own sense of beauty. The first extended trek I took two of my children on was up and over Anderson Pass and down into the Enchanted Valley. It surpasses its name. It’s absolutely spectacular and you envision fairies dancing. The water sparkles and the cliffs come down to meet the water. It was amazing to have that time with them and share that amazing place.” 

Named Prep educator of the year, Anne is always thinking about teaching moments. “I really see a connection between my passion for the outdoors and the backpacking I do and my vocation as a theology teacher at a Jesuit school. The wilderness is one of the few places you can experience creation, untouched by humans, just as God created it. You are 20 miles from any road, and you can only get there with your own two feet. It’s a really powerful spiritual experience to be completely immersed in the wilderness. It feeds me spiritually and helps me be a better leader for our students.” 

But, backpacking the Olympics is no cakewalk as Kramer reminds me. “Hiking out there is not for the faint of heart. There is no hot tub at the end or ice cream store. There isn’t even a shower. You are beyond roughing it. But it you persevere the rewards are spectacular.” 

 

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