Wild Jobs: Hiking Guide

Get Outside Adventures

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

                                                                                                                                                  ~John Muir

Hiking is passionate work. One must have a certain degree of acceptance towards hard work and discomfort to truly enjoy themselves on the trail. For those of us that gain satisfaction from hiking we have, no doubt, defended our craft from those that view it as merely off-road walking and are quick to ask, ‘what’s the point?’ The answer to that question is what keeps bringing us back. It is different for everyone and not easy to explain to the folks doing the asking. We do it for the exercise, the unparalleled views, the intrigue of what lies around the next corner or over that next ridge. We do it to escape the city, the monotonous everyday grind that is as dreary as it is mundane. We do it to reconnect with nature, to become grounded and find peace within the chaos. The connectedness one feels while immersed in the wilderness becomes a calling. A calling that gets more substantial the longer you’re away from it. The only fix is lacing up your boots and tackling that next trail.

Jenna Nodding in her element! Photo Credit: Lee Nordbye

Jenna Nodding answered that call in a big way. Originally from rural Nova Scotia, Jenna moved west for school. The mountains and a sense of possibility kept her in Alberta and now she proudly calls Canmore home. Jenna harnessed her passion for movement and the outdoors into a company called Get Outside. She offers guided day-hikes, multi-day trips, and private tours throughout the Canadian Rockies. Recently I had an opportunity to chat with Jenna about her work as a hiking guide. From her responses her devotion to her craft is obvious. She has an infectious personality that is perfectly suited for life on the trail. Continue reading for more about Jenna, what drives her, and a glimpse into the life of a hiking guide.

A group of hikers out on the trail. Photo Credit: Sarah Fuller

Calgary Guardian: “What prompted you to be a hiking guide?”

Jenna Nodding: “Who doesn’t want to be outside all day exploring the mountains and get paid for it? Outside is where I have always felt the most content. I wanted to help others experience some of that contentment.”

CG: “What type of training/certification is required for your job?”

JN: “I am an ACMG-certified hiking guide.”

A pretty magical spot for a break. Photo Credit: Sarah Fuller

CG: “What is the best thing about your job?”

JN: “In addition to what I said previously, just being able to see the mountains again through new eyes. We literally live in paradise and sadly over time we can start to take it for granted. By introducing this beautiful place to new eyes my appreciation is restored.”

CG: “What is one of the most challenging aspects of your job?”

JN: “By its nature, you need to have a certain amount of disposable income to hire a guide. Sometimes this results in guests who hold a higher degree of entitlement and expectations. When my resilience is running low it can be hard guiding these guests.”

Jenna doing some interpretive work while guiding. Photo Credit: Lee Nordbye

CG: “Let’s take a virtual look into your pack. What are your must-haves when it comes to guiding hikers in the Canadian Rockies?”

JN: “Great question. The key things I always pack are a tarp, first aid kit, emergency communication devices, such as SPOT and a radio, and bear spray. Then on top of the must haves I always have a rain jacket. Let’s face it we live in the Canadian Rockies, the most unpredictable weather around!”

CG: “I’m not asking you to give away any of your hidden gems, but do you have some favourite places to hike? What makes those spots so special?”

JN: “Oh!!! There are too many to resist! Personally, I love an evening hike up Ha Ling. I’m a bit of an odd ball in that I love hiking up high where you can see infrastructure below. It helps put things into perspective and remind me how small we really are!”

The golden hour. Photo Credit: Lee Nordbye

CG: “Nice to have that Ha Ling Trail open again too. What are some essential skills that make you great at what you do?”

JN: “Being me! It’s always great when you can help another person connect with the world around them. My playfulness and high energy help people let down their guard and experience the outdoors in a new way. I’m also trained as a physiotherapist so I can always help those with niggling knee pain with tips and tricks on the trail!”

CG: “I am sure there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ day at the office for you, but could you walk me through what a typical day might look like?”

JN: “Alarm goes off at 6:30am, hit snooze about five times and then finally start the day! Really, with my job there is no pattern. Some days I spend all day in front of a computer catching up on admin work. Other days I may hike with one group during the day and then another for a full moon hike that evening. You really need to be accepting of all aspects.”

Living skies above this group of hikers. Photo Credit: Lee Nordbye

CG: “Do you have any memorable stories from a day on the job? Could you share one with us?”

JN: “Oh!!! Let’s see, I had one where a Grizzly bluff charged us! That was certainly interesting. The guests were super stoked to get their up close and personal photo while I was trying to look big and herd the guests to a safe location. I was thankful for taking the time to hone my skill-set as we stayed safe and avoided a potentially dangerous situation!”

CG: “That’s a crazy story! Glad everyone, including the bear, made it out safely. On that note, what advice would you give for anyone looking to turn their passion for hiking into a job?”

JN: “I would ask them if they are okay with all aspects of the job; organizing, bookings, taking payments, basically all the admin work. If not, that’s okay. Maybe they need to be a contracting guide that works for a company. Put effort forth in finding a guiding company that let’s their guides have fun and create new experiences that excite you! If they are okay with the admin work then charge off and see what you can create! The options are endless!”

Crossing a small creek with giants in the background. Photo Credit: Guide Me Banff Inc.

CG: “Any closing words you’d like to end on?”

JN: “The Rockies are beautiful and it’s awesome that I get to show them off to others!”

CG: “Thanks Jenna, I really appreciate your honesty and spirit when it comes to connecting people with the outdoors.”

Leading another group out on the trail. Photo Credit: Jenna Nodding

If you’re looking at hiring a guide for an upcoming adventure, consider Jenna Nodding and her company Get Outside Adventures. From the above photographs, and through her words, it is easy to see you’ll be visiting some incredible locations and will be in excellent hands for the duration. Please visit the website for additional information about the types of trips being offered. You can also connect with Jenna on Facebook and Instagram. See you on the trail!


About this column:

Wild Jobs is a running series that focuses on people in outdoor-related professions. It provides a brief snapshot of their career and the duties that it entails. Please see my previous post, Wild Jobs Part Twenty: Park Warden to learn more.

About Tyler Dixon 217 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.