Instructor Spotlight: Spencer DrakeUnderkoffler and Lauren Richert

AT Staff06 Feb, 2023

Our students will agree that Adventure Treks instructors are pretty incredible people. From planning 30-person meals for 30 days to fixing broken tent zippers to tending wounds to making sure we’re in the right place at the right time, AT instructors are constantly working to make sure our students are having the best and most fun summer program possible. This passion for empowering teenagers’ personal growth, fostering a fun and cohesive community, and exploring beautiful places with new friends is what makes our instructor team so strong and impactful.

Because our instructors are at the heart and soul of the Adventure Treks experience, we’d love for you to get to know them a little better. How did they end up at AT? What do they do in their free time? What are some fun facts people don’t know about them? We interviewed two of our summer 2022 instructors and are happy to share more about their lives below!

man in a canoe on a lake in canada

Spencer DrakeUnderkoffler

What initially made you pursue outdoor education, and what keeps you coming back to this type of work? I started out leading overnight trips for my college’s outing club. I also went to school to be a therapist. I decided to combine the two and work in wilderness therapy. However, I underestimated the amount the job would drain me. To recoup, I decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. While on trail, I came to the conclusion that time is a precious thing that should never be wasted, so I decided to go headfirst into guiding and outdoor ed.

What do you do when not working at Adventure Treks? I’m either ski patrolling or instructing, and this winter I’m working at a backcountry-specific ski mountain doing both. There are no ski lifts, and everyone has to walk up the mountain themselves. I fell in love with this sport because it is a way to travel in the mountains that feels so seamless. I also enjoy hiking and rock climbing whenever I get the chance. I recently started trail running and have been loving that! I look for any excuse to be outside!

Do you have any big and exciting life plans for the near future? I really want to get more experience mountaineering. The little bit of alpine climbing and mountaineering I’ve done has been some of my most exciting adventures to date. Also, moving to Colorado for my new job is gonna be rad!

What is a hobby or passion that you pursue in your daily life that not everyone knows? Cooking. I went to culinary school in Italy for a semester and loved the knowledge I gained from integrating one’s garden knowledge with their kitchen knowledge.

What is a book or article you read recently that really stuck with you? I’m currently reading Braiding Sweetgrass. It gives me hope for the future and grounds me in whatever version of nature I find myself.

Fun fact about Spencer: The most exciting experience for him is getting to see a bison out in the wild!

woman rock climbing above a river wearing a helmet

Lauren Richert

What is your favorite memory from Adventure Treks last summer? Performing a choreographed parody version of “I want it that way” by the Backstreet Boys for a hat ceremony with my backpack group. Watch out America’s Got Talent, we’re coming for ya!

What do you do when not working at Adventure Treks? I teach rescue classes to fire departments in southern Colorado and New Mexico and to college students in the International Rescue and Relief Program at Union College. I recently led a disaster response with our program’s team to Florida after Hurricane Ian. It was really impactful work not only for those affected, but possibly more so for me. I always learn so much from the resilience of the deeply affected residents.

I’m also taking a few classes in international development and am thinking about starting a graduate program in that area next year… we’ll see. I’m helping plan an international expedition with my coworker (and fellow AT instructor) Ian Johnson. It’s a blast doing all parts of my job—teaching, planning, and figuring everything out—with the incredible workplace community I have.

When I’m not working, I’m usually doing acro-gymnastics, climbing at the bouldering gym, or reading. And when I should be doing other things, I can usually be found at a local coffee shop conversing with an old friend or new acquaintance. I’m currently stationed in Lincoln, NE, which means it’s tougher to get outside and climb mountains, but it’s definitely challenged my creative capacity for outdoor recreation activities and makes those trips that much more special when I get the chance to take them. Plus, friendly Midwest people and sunsets are top-notch, bar none.

Do you have any big and exciting life plans for the near future? I’m thinking about moving to Durango, CO, to teach rescue full-time and to do some raft guiding! I miss living in the mountains after moving out of my home state WA in 2019, and I want to get back to a place that has more outdoor options for mountain biking, climbing, water sports… the whole shebang.

What is a book or article you read recently that really stuck with you? I never read Harry Potter or watched the movies growing up. I’m on the last book in the series right now, and I love it. I legitimately don’t know what happens at the end, so its quite exciting, and reading it makes me step into a fun, creative, and imaginative world.

Fun fact about Lauren: I think the French horn is the coolest instrument ever. It’s like audio butter. Smooth, gorgeous sound, and super hard to play, so I have mad respect, and you can do so much with it musically. Also, fun fact about my fun fact: the French horn is one of the longest band instruments; all stretched out, it’s over 30 feet long. It’s also not originally French!


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