Meet Shoestring Adventures Trip Leader Jacqueline

Some of us get introduced to the natural world during childhood while others only stumble upon a trail for the first time as an adult. While her peers were watching cartoons, this week’s Shoestring Warrior was out climbing the mulberry tree in her backyard. Meet Shoestring Adventures Trip Leader and mountain guide, writer, and yoga teacher Jacqueline Thompson! Her love for the outdoors started as a child and have led her to become a climbing, backpacking, and mountain guide.

There are many aspects to guiding that make my heart smile! My highest goal with guiding is to facilitate another’s transformational journey and their connection to nature.

When she’s not sleeping on the edge of canyons, in canyons, on glaciers, in a raft, or in foreign countries, she can be found creating art, singing, ultra running, reading, and cooking food (and adding lots of butter to that food)! Read more about Jacqueline in the interview below and then sign up for the Shoestring Adventures Grand Canyon South Rim Backpacking Adventure so you can experience the Grand Canyon with Jacqueline as your guide! Follow her adventures on Instagram.


Phoenix, Arizona

Current Location:

Carbondale, CO (soon to be Bellingham, WA!)


Mountain Guide, Writer, and Yoga Teacher

What are your passions outside of work?

I made it a point early on to only pursue work that I am passionate about. I have a deep love for the natural world, human health, environmentalism, and anything wild—but I do balance my life with many activities that I love such as writing music, singing, ultra running, creating art, cooking, traveling, learning new skills, reading (nerd alert!) and playing with herbs.

Tell us about yourself!

I am drawn to authenticity, and to the activities and practices that make me feel most alive. I do not waste my time trying to be anything but my dorky self, and that oftentimes means that I get too excited about doing too many things. I care about my health, I am an athlete, I have high expectations for myself, and I try to be mindful and reflective as best as I can. I love people, and the early morning is my favorite time of day. Oh, and I believe that extra butter should be added to everything. No exceptions.

How would you describe your level of camping experience?

“Outside” is the best place to sleep, and I have experienced it in many forms. I have camped in cars, tents, and on the ground with nothing but a sleeping bag; I have camped on glaciers, on top of sandstone spires, on the edge of canyons, in the bottoms of them, on rafts floating down the Colorado River, and in foreign countries.

From overnighters to alpine expeditions to several weeks of backpacking, I have experienced a lot of it—but there is always much more to learn!

When did you first discover your love for the outdoors?

I fell in love with the big mulberry tree in my backyard as a child. I spent most of my time climbing around in that tree—I believe this is when I discovered my love for the natural world. It was only fitting that the tree climbing days of my toddlerhood gradually progressed into a passion for moving through nature in the many forms that us humans are capable.

You’re a rock climbing, backpacking, mountaineering, and alpine guide. What do you enjoy most about guiding?

There are many aspects to guiding that make my heart smile! My highest goal with guiding is to facilitate another’s transformational journey and their connection to nature.

There is nothing more rewarding than to see that sort of progress in another human, and I love that I get to be a part of that learning process.

Plus—this job means I get paid to frolic around and play outside.

What advice do you have for someone who is about to embark on their first backpacking trip?

Mistakes are inevitable—the key is to laugh at yourself, and learn from them. No one has their systems dialed on their first go. Expect to encounter moments of discomfort, and try to view them as opportunities! Lastly, throw away any notion that humans smell lovely and never poop.

All humans are smelly, they all poop, and backpacking will inevitably force you to face that hairy reality. And that is Awesome.

How does your degree in Environmental Studies influence your work?

Guiding and environmentalism go hand in hand very nicely. My background in studying the environment—and our relationship with it—is ultimately what led me down the path of guiding. I believe that playing in the outdoors brings us closer to protecting it. Environmental philosophies and ideas always arise when you’re walking through it for three days, and that is something that you take home with you. That is powerful. I love being able to teach others about the deeper ecological processes that happen out there, how our “front-country” lives impact them, and how they impact us back. I love that the environment has so much to teach us!

You’ll be leading an upcoming Shoestring Adventures trip through the Grand Canyon. What are you most looking forward to?

I am excited to simply be in the Canyon again; that place stole my heart long ago, and I can’t wait to share it with you all!

Funniest outdoor experience/mishap?

Oh, so many! One that stands out at the moment happened while I was living in South America for a period of time, and I was doing a three-day trek over a mountain pass in Peru with my boyfriend at the time. On the last day of the trek we arrived at our final camp, which was actually on someone’s property about a mile outside of a nearby village. It was all fine and dandy until that night, when I was hit with an epic bout of some sort of ungodly food poisoning (a tent is not an ideal place for this sort of misery!). The funny part came the next morning—my partner had ran to the property owner’s house at the crack of dawn to ask for a ride into town because I was too sick to hike the last bit of dirt road myself. He recited the phrase in his head: Mi novia está inferno. My girlfriend is sick. Flustered and still figuring out how to speak Spanish, he blurted to the property owners, “mi novio está en infierno!” Which translates to… My boyfriend is in Hell. They eventually figured it out. At that point, I was not even upset about being sick. That was just so golden… I couldn’t stop laughing!

Which climbers, mountaineers, ultra runners, or adventurers inspire you the most?

I find the most inspiration from the people in my life that simply pursue what they love.

Professional athletes and sponsored climbers are great and all, but what really lights me on fire are the stories of folks who are under the radar just crushing at what they do. The local old school first ascensionist that no one has heard of but climbs harder than anyone; the girl who sprints up mountains for breakfast, but wont enter a race because she loves the solitude in it. I am most inspired by the friends that want to adventure with me, not because of speed or grade or any of that, but simply because there is something irreplaceably beautiful about time spent in doing the thing.

Where’s your next adventure?

The Northern Cascades! This summer will be spent discovering the wonders of the Pacific Northwest. I foresee loads of learning how to explore a place with so much rain…

The perfect s’more? (if you don’t like s’mores, what’s your favorite campfire dessert?)

I’m not a s’more lady, but there’s nothing like a good banana boat with loads of dark chocolate and almond butter.

Photos © 2018 Jacqueline Thompson

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