Womxn of the PNW: Cat Eckrode

Cat is an entrepreneur from Portland, Oregon, who has turned her passion for the outdoors into a business designed to get people started on their own adventures. Camera in hand and canine companion at her side, she can often be found exploring forests, mountains, and more around the Pacific Northwest.

How long have you resided in the PNW? What brought you here?

I grew up in the PNW, with most of my childhood spent in the Columbia River Gorge outside of Washougal, Washington. Although I’ve had the opportunity to travel, no where else feels like “home” and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s the perfect home base with so many incredible adventure opportunities nearby!

Has the outdoors always played a significant role in your life? How were you introduced? And what are your favorite activities?

I was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood up through my teen years in a rural area, surrounded by northwest forest; I just didn’t know I was lucky at the time and was impatient to move to a city. My family explored some of the old logging roads and mines hidden in the region not far from Washougal, and for a few summers we camped in our trailer near local rivers. Most summers saw us in Eastern Oregon for part of our vacation, and other times we would go to the coast and explore the beaches. Through my teen years and well into adulthood, I was not at all an outdoorsy person! I was out of shape and suffered from horrible allergies, telling myself I was meant to be indoors only. About seven years ago, I moved to a new home with an amazing yard that attracts all kinds of birds; I started bird watching, and started exploring nearby parks to see more. I didn’t know any other birders, so I would often go by myself. Eventually I started venturing further from home, until my hobby turned into an outright obsession with hiking and backpacking!

PC: Stacey Arnold

Where is your favorite place to adventure in the PNW?

I love exploring in the Columbia River Gorge – there is just SO much to discover, year-round. I am often found on the west end of the Oregon side. The steep elevation is such a rewarding challenge, leading past seasonally-changing waterfalls, amazing geology, both young and old growth forests, talus fields, open meadows, and often results in spectacular views. I always feel reinvigorated after an adventure in that region!

What is your favorite outdoor experience/memory of all time?

My favorite outdoor experience  -so far! – has been reaching the crater rim on Mount Saint Helens for the first time. I was just starting to think seriously about creating some sort of business on my own, and was going through a very personal journey at the time. I had set a goal for myself of reaching the top that summer and felt like I was out to prove something. I obtained the passes, coordinated for my little group of climbers, and trained for months (for this climb as well as other adventures). Our party had to deal with one member having food poisoning set in, and another overcoming a fear of heights, in addition to the expected challenges of the terrain. That last uphill slog through the ash field seemed like it would go on forever…and I will never forget the emotions that rushed through me as I took the last few steps. It was the most incredible view I’ve ever seen, seeming like the entire world had opened up before me; the feeling that I could do anything combined with the beauty and sense of personal accomplishment was overwhelming. It was such an amazing feeling that I walked a little further along the rim laughing until I had tears in my eyes. I don’t know if laughter is what others experience at the top of a mountain, but it was the happiest and most exhilarating thing!

PC: Jess Rembold

What inspired you to start The Outdoor Adventure Kind? How has your entrepreneurial journey been so far (milestones, challenges, etc.)?

As I took up hiking, often solo, I found the experience to be so much more rewarding than I’d ever imagined. Not only was I getting more physically fit, but I was feeling better emotionally while also discovering a new sense of empowerment and confidence. Along the way, I kept hearing from others that they would like to take up hiking or do more than the ‘easy’ hikes but that they couldn’t…and almost all of the reasons they gave were ones I’d at one time faced, too. I started unofficially coaching friends & family, encouraging them to get outdoors. I shared my stories, gave advice, and took people along on adventures with me. It was such an incredible thing to inspire & educate others, and to see people discover their own abilities and start their own adventures, or take them to new levels. I realized I wanted to keep doing that, so I made the leap from a 15-year-long career path to first-time entrepreneur. It’s been a whole new kind of adventure!

The last few months have been all about refining my goals as a small business owner, learning what exactly it means to own my own company, and developing both the structure for an online presence as well as the kinds of supporting services I want to offer to the community. The process has been slower than I initially envisioned, but I have learned so much along the way!  I wholeheartedly believe that anyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors; my goal is to be inclusive, supportive, and encouraging while opening up the definition of “adventure” to encompass pursuits as varied as the individuals who get outdoors. I also endeavor to educate others on good stewardship practices to protect and preserve our wild spaces.

How often does your dog, Bailey, join you on your adventures? What do you enjoy most about hiking with her? 

I adopted Bailey with the intent of her being my Outdoor Adventure Dog, and she’s with me as often as is reasonable when I am on the trail! She has her own gear for hiking and backpacking adventures, and gets super excited anytime she can come along. You wouldn’t know she’s not a PNW native (she’s from Hawaii), because she took to outdoor exploration like a natural. I love having her along for companionship always, as well as an extra sense of security when hiking solo. She takes her job very seriously, keeping eyes and ears alert to our surroundings. When we are in areas where she is allowed off leash, she sticks to the trails without needing to be told and stays close at hand. We’ve just recently adopted another dog into our pack; Ruby Mae is still a puppy, but Bailey’s job will soon include teaching her to be a good adventure companion, too. And for those who are wondering, we absolutely always pack out everything, and follow leash laws & regulations as posted. We do our best to be good stewards for adventure dogs and their owners!

What are some goals you’ve set for yourself this year?

I try to set a few goals each year to keep myself motivated and continuously growing, and I am super excited about some of this year’s plans: I’m going to run my first full marathon in August, I’m going to summit at least one more volcano (probably Mt. Adams), and I am going to hike the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier. And while I am training for all of that, I’m also going to grow The Outdoor Adventure Kind in support of others discovering their own amazing adventures.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, Cat! Is there anything else we should know about you? Fun facts, trivia, etc.?

Although a lot of my time & passion goes into my fledgling business and outdoor adventures, I am also a pretty big geek. I’m particularly a fan of fantasy & sci-fi genres; some universes/worlds include Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones (books, then show), and Kim Harrison’s The Hollows book series. I could write a much, much longer list… I also enjoy video games (mostly PC, sometimes console), comic books, graphic novels, and role playing game when I can find the time and opportunity.

I mentioned that bird watching lead to me starting to hike – it also sparked a passion for nature photography. I am still an avid birder and growing my photography skills, and dream of traveling internationally to photograph exotic new species and locations!

You can learn more about Cat and follow her adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and at https://www.theoakind.com/.

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