Erin Faehling, BA
Family Services Guide
Erin grew up as a creative and independent kid in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where her love of the wilderness took an early root. In between studying English, Creative Writing, and Music at a small liberal arts college in Iowa, she took her first job leading summer canoe trips at a camp in Northern Wisconsin for four years where she worked directly with youth, families, and supporting staff. After graduation, Erin followed a call to simplicity and service and worked teaching at-risk youth in an alternative high school for a year through AmeriCorps as well as another year working as a volunteer grant writer for a large homeless organization on the east coast. During her second year as a volunteer, living in a tough inner-city environment, Erin felt the pangs of longing for wilderness and green, open spaces as well as the need for adventure and began to make plans to make it back to outdoor work in the future. Following another year working with at-risk youth coordinating curriculum and leading programs for the Boys and Girls Club, Erin took a chance on a wilderness therapy training offer, packed her bags and headed west to the mountains.
Erin has been working in wilderness therapy since 2010, moving through Intern, Field Staff, Head Instructor, and Senior Instructor roles at RedCliff Ascent, where she has worked as a guide and mentor for over three-and-a-half years. She has also spent time as an adventure and therapy guide at Aspiro Wilderness, worked over two years in the Experiential Education Department at The Oakley School, spent three summers as a Lead Instructor at the Voyageur Outward Bound School leading month-long open enrollment and at-risk Intercept canoeing programs, and is a Professional Instructor Course Graduate and new backpacking hire at NOLS. Following a return to the non-profit world as a fundraiser for Colorado trails and as a Development Director for a large mental health and homeless organization in Salt Lake, Erin has discovered the wilderness and outdoor education is truly where her heart is and is grateful to have made her way into the Open Sky community and to Durango.
With well over 1,000 nights sleeping under the stars and working in the field, Erin has seen first-hand, the magic of living and working in the wilderness on the lives of her students, the power of hard work, hard travel, living in community, and the importance of challenge. With over half of those days spent in Wilderness Therapy, Erin knows how especially meaningful and transformational this work is on the lives of students who are struggling with mental health, familial and social challenges, and believes wilderness therapy to be the single best catalyst for long-lasting, profound life change. Erin loves the joy of working with students, watching them grow and change, challenging and supporting their journey, and helping families. She plans to stick in the education and outdoor fields for the foreseeable future and hopes to someday develop scholarship funding to make such programs more available to more families.
When not in the field, you can find Erin dreaming up her next big adventure with her partner and husband Ben, longing for a canoe and some flat or whitewater to paddle, climbing some desert sandstone or Colorado granite, hiking, biking, running, playing her bluegrass fiddle, reading some great naturalist writings, or writing letters to, calling, and missing family and friends back home.