Congrats to Jordan Williams who joined Continental Divide Trail Coalition as a GOCO fellow in 2022! The GOCO Fellowship Program supports positions at our partner organizations to prepare young people for careers in the outdoors. GOCO fellows gain experience in the fields of conservation, outdoor recreation, and stewardship while growing a professional skill set to apply to future endeavors.
Tell us about yourself. What did you do before you began the fellowship?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, on the very southwest tip of Washington State called the Long Beach Peninsula. There is even a sign that says “Longest Beach in the World.” (I don’t think that’s true though.) From early on I played a lot of sports including basketball and cross country before heading off to Gonzaga University to become a College Athletic Director. However, after graduate school I started to change course, and before I began working for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) in July 2022, my job history included positions in Campus Recreation, Health Clubs, Regional Nonprofits, and Local Government. I like to say that I may not be an expert on any one thing, but I know a little bit about a lot of things.
What’s been one of the best experiences of your life so far?
The most significant moment in my life (beyond where I went to school and then following my now-spouse to Colorado in 2010) was hiking 400+ miles along the Colorado Trail in 2018 from Denver to Durango with my wife and our dog. While I was fortunate to be able to work along the way, that experience walking along the Continental Divide between watersheds, visiting mountain communities, and savoring nature has shaped many life decisions since then. I knew the balance of recreation and conservation would always be important to me, so that’s where I wanted to spend my personal and professional time.
What do you most hope to learn through the fellowship experience?
I continue to learn more and more about Colorado through my position with CDTC as the Colorado Conservation Fellow, but I think the best part about the larger trail community is the wide scope of opportunities. Getting to go to national conferences, regional events, and staff retreats all along the Continental Divide really puts the work in a deeper context while opening up doors to learning that are not always planned or foreseen–in a good way.
How do you think the outdoors contributes to communities or to individuals’ quality of life?
On a personal level, my quality of life standards are directly connected with access to nature and the outdoors. I am privileged to live in an area with parks and trails near my house, but I know that is not the case for many people in Colorado and beyond. While the CDT may seem remote and inaccessible to some, I hope to bring those experiences to where people are and decrease the systemic inequities inherent within the outdoor recreation world. At the same time, I will also strive to conserve open space and nature for future generations.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside?
My cross country and track roots run deep, so my activity of choice is typically trail “running”. (Our Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler also demands it.) But I try to push my comfort zone with skiing and rock climbing, and up until a few years ago we were a one car family which meant that I was biking pretty much everywhere.
Got a life dream to share?
My personal goal for a while, even before this Fellowship, was to finish hiking/running the CDT in Colorado. While I continue to work towards this effort, I also hope to complete the entire trail through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and New Mexico some day. But with 5% of the trail still incomplete, that means about 160 miles need to be added through protected public lands to make the 3,100 mile trail entirely accessible. Therefore, my professional conservation-focused goal will continue to be conjoined with my personal recreation ambitions.