Meet An OGExpert: Rae Bronenkant

What’s an OGExpert? They’re the folks that huff and puff alongside you in the skin track, give you a yell from the lift, move that pad for you at the climbing gym, share their granola at the summit, or help you change a flat tire at the bike trail head. They’re us. We’ve done it all, and used pretty much every kind of gear along the way. We live, breathe, and recreate with the community.

Name:

Rae Bronenkant

Age:

27

Hometown:

Andover, MA. With two artsy parents, a big backyard and a secret path to the woods made by my dad.

What brought you here to Vermont?

I have always had an attraction to Vermont, but school got me here originally. The nature, community, fresh air, and access to recreation, kept me coming back and keep me here now.

How long have you been working at Outdoor Gear Exchange?

Since this September! (2019)

What is your role at OGE?

I am the Packs Department Head but spend a lot of my time in ski department (alpine and nordic) and enjoy that too!

What would you consider your area of outdoor expertise?

Well, packs! I survived academia through outdoor exploration and spent a lot of my nights on-trail in Vermont or hiking between classes. I enjoy skinning for sunrise most of all. I love touring through the backcountry. It is the best way to travel and in my opinion, skiing is the closest we get to flying. In the warmer weather I love to snorkel all around, and BIKE, mountain and road. My area of true expertise is in the natural world, which I love taking in when I am flying or resting. I am always observing, recording, and researching about the happenings in nature and consider myself a naturalist.

Tell us about any upcoming goals or trips you have.

For upcoming trips I am hoping to hike the Long Trail this summer in 10 days. I hiked it in 2016, but I want to do it fast too, we’ll see! I am also planning to meet my partner in Hawaii to snorkel and hop from tree house to tree house!

What is one piece of advice or trip recommendation you often give to people who are experiencing the outdoors for the first time?

There are scientific studies that prove human connection to nature and being in nature is primal and good for you. The natural world is a living, engaging being, and everyone has the right to engage with the natural world and everyone should respect it. What I mean by that is go outside! Go at your own pace, just take things in. There are often ideas around how one should or shouldn’t be in the natural world but you should just be you and enjoy it! If you have questions about where to go and how to get started come into the shop and we will help you out—I'll be in the packs section! All throughout Vermont there are events from a wide variety of organizations to introduce you to new activities which is a great way to get started and meet new exploration buddies.

Favorite piece of outdoor clothing or equipment you bring on every trip?

My 10x hand lens. It is the size of a quarter and folds into itself. I often like to go really fast when moving through the outdoors. I love the thrill of the push internally, but when moving fast you miss the slugs and moss. I like keeping my hand lens with me for when I do slow down, and it gives me that excuse to slow down and peer into the world that exists in the corner of a leaf.

I also bring my ‘safety stuff’ with me just about everywhere! Maybe it is because I worked with kids for so long but, I think keeping the 10 essentials with me keeps the bad juju away—also I feel it's good to have things to keep you safe for not only you but for someone else if they needed my help, so I am always covered! I think it is important to educate yourself about backcountry first aid and safety to have a better time outdoors, so be prepared! Everyone’s 10 essentials/LNT system looks different and I am always happy to share mine.

What’s your favorite trail snack and local beverage?

Chocolate anything for a trail snack, and my favorite local beverage is a maple latte with bird-friendly syrup!

Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?

I can bugle like an elk… Sort of. I also used to show dogs and still do! And I LOVE carving spoons out of my dad's scrap wood.

How do you keep the stoke at 11?

How can you not, in a place like Vermont?! Great adventure people, great adventure spaces and people interested and invested in conserving and supporting these spaces and people. To keep stoke up I have to explore as well, which I have been working on a lot lately—it's hard to force myself to get up early, but I’ve never regretted getting up to greet the sun on a bike, ski, run or dog walk!

Instrument of choice for digging a cat hole?

We sell the Deuce, the lightest trowel out there, which is a rad thing! I find myself often using a stick because I’ve forgotten a tool (and less is more), but in soggy VT it can be hard to find a tough downed stick in a rush.

How were you introduced to the outdoors?

Growing up I spent the majority of my time outside. Partly because I had too much energy to be indoors and mostly because my parents would explore with me. We would go for hikes or bikes in the woods and we would ponder the ways of the woods. The natural ebbs and flows of the seasons of New England are ingrained in my soul. I am so lucky to have had parents who put exploring outside first. I appreciate my work at Audubon Vermont and the work OGE does to fund organizations to get kids outside. We just need to supply opportunities for people to get introduced to the outdoors and they will fall in love and care for it.

Are you involved in any local outdoor communities outside of the shop? If so, please explain.

I am on the board of Fellowship of the Wheel, it's a new role for me but I am thrilled to be a part of that organization and help work on the awesome trails in the area and focus on events that get people comfortable biking!

I am also the Youth Leadership Coordinator at Audubon Vermont. I have been with Audubon Vermont in some capacity for coming up on the past 4 years. I am in love with that organization, we pair the legs of conservation, policy, and education to preserve birds and the spaces they inhabit for now and the future. Vermont is special, and our connection across the Vermont community is powerful. I am excited to be in this new role creating the new Youth Conservation Leadership program. Creating opportunities for our next generation of conservationists! Keep an eye out for a new bird-friendly garden and a new chimney swift tower for bird habitat in Burlington!

Favorite after-work shred spot/outdoor adventure?

My friends backyard. She has horses, dogs, and the best cat. There are fields of cows, maple sugaring, trails that lead to a nordic center, a little mountain to ski up to, mountain biking and just fields to run the horses around!

Favorite part about the OGE?

The community. These people are caring, intelligent, hard-working humans who love to play outside and get others outdoors too!

Biggest outdoor pet-peeve?

When people don’t follow LNT principles… A principle is a guideline, not a law, but it is a bum bum bummer to see people disrespecting the natural world and making it a yucky place for others to enjoy, ruining natural communities that take years to establish. PLUS being a sneaky ninja in the woods and leaving no trace is way so cool!

Are you a fan of Type 2 fun?

Yes. It’s how every day off should be spent.

Any sufferfests/epics you’d like to tell us about?

I am so lucky and have been on many sufferfests and epic trips, a couple memories in particular come to mind:

Someone reminded me of this story the other day… I am a very hungry person, when I do not eat enough I get dramatic, and can’t think straight, hangry some say. It was one of the longer, hotter days on the Long Trail, and I was adjusting to the allotted food we had brought. So it was past half of yucky cliff bar but before a handful of Craisin o’clock and it was maybe time for I HATE peanut butter but give me a spoonful right now. I slowed down and my partner at the time noticed this decrease in pace. They turned around to look at me and asked “what's wrong”, in my head I said you’re just hungry, but what came out of my mouth was “I have nothing”. He said something along the lines of “What? No food? Water?” And my response was once again, but a bit more affirming, “I, have, NOTHING.” It's funny to be in those moments of just pushing your body to work harder with less comfort and how you settle in. Being out on the Long Trail walking all day, just enjoying nature, brought me the greatest frame of mind but—you have those breaking moments too.

The other story: I sailed Lake Champlain with my partner from his house in Southern Vermont, where the lake starts, to my house in Burlington. On the third day, winds were up… we set sail and only went backwards. We zigged and zagged across the lake barely moving forward from where we slept the night before, boat leaning hard. I will be honest, I was not very helpful because I thought my life was going to end right there in the middle of Lake Champlain, because of hypothermia, or just sinking. So I decided to use my time to eat the most delicious snack of beef jerky and chocolate and clung to the side of the boat. We decided we needed to dock the boat, so we found some rocks that we thought we could pull our (not so big, but not so small) sailboat on. I grabbed the rope and jumped in (with allll my clothes on because I was freezing) to pull the boat ashore. The water was much deeper than expected, so I had to swim the boat ashore; eventually pulling it up in my bare feet (because who brings shoes on a sailing trip? You should, you always should) cutting them up with the notorious zebra mussels. This all led to the greatest hammock nap of my life though.

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Published:February 26, 2020

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