GILEAD, Maine — The pandemic has re-arranged our lives in ways we could not have imagined at the outset. For some folks, having more time in their day has allowed them to pursue passions that previously sat on a back burner.
With a bit more time on her hands, Jen Clark didn’t know where the path would lead her when she began to research and locate women who guide in the Maine outdoors. But a year into the pandemic, and with a bit of ‘making it up as she goes along’ – she’s hosting conversations and sharing them in a podcast she calls “Guides Gone Wild”.
"I’m talking to people that I’m super excited to talk to from the get go, and we just have these fantastic conversations. They just energize the heck outta me," says Jen. Back in 2017, Jen and her husband bought a property in Gilead called Evans Notch Lodge. It is a great fly-fishing location – across the road from where the Wild River joins the Androscoggin River.
By her own admission, neither Jen nor her husband is terribly handy but they’ve restored the Lodge to the point where they could think about renting it out to groups. "I started looking around for people in the area to recommend to guests. We wanted to be able to recommend people who could do things that we had zero idea how to do. Hunt, fish, snowmobile, all that stuff," recalls Jen.
Jen had begun attending ‘Becoming Outdoor Women’ events that various Fish and Game departments offer in different states – she found she really loved learning new things – for example, how to shoot a gun, or how to fish out of a kayak. "I loved learning from women. Because it’s just a whole different experience."
Professionally, Jen’s work has involved recruiting and hiring – she knows how to dig for information and search for people online. "I started trying to find women guides, realizing that all of these women – most of them don’t guide for a living, because they can’t or whatever, they don’t have enough clientele, and they do other things. And most of the other things that these people do are super interesting." She is a big podcast consumer, but launching a podcast? That had never been part of her plan.
"So I just started talking to people. It took several months to actually get up the gumption to do it, and learn, and put all the pieces together. I gotta be honest with ya, it’s been a lot more work than I thought it would be!"
The conversations began last spring, and she launched the “Guides Gone Wild” podcast in the summer. To date? She’s produced about 40 episodes. Her first guest, Teens to Trails Executive Director Alicia Heyburn, opened the door to so many other conversations. "I’ve talked to people who are small business owners, just got their guide license, talked to people who’ve had their license for a long time. I had Judy Camuso, Commissioner of Fish and Game on who’s fantastic."
Jen states it this way. "I think the through line has just been – I want to talk to women, and I want to talk to women who are interested in expanding access, and expanding inclusivity and comfort level. There are a lot of people who don’t get involved in the outdoors or in new activities because they’re just …they don’t feel safe, they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t’ want to be embarrassed....and it extends beyond woman too."
"Even if it ended tomorrow, it has brought so much value to my life, and so many great new relationships and contacts – just the types of people that I’m super excited to continue relationships with."