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Heroes

What the tales of the 'Mountain Mama' can teach us about ignoring hesitation.

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Nature Valley

Today, Amelia Mayer is known by many as the "Mountain Mama," but when it came to adventures with her own mama growing up, she wasn't into it.

When she was just 1 year old, Amelia's parents took her hiking up the glaciers and mountains surrounding her home in Alaska.

She may have been in the great outdoors often, but young Amelia had to be bribed with strawberries and pieces of chocolate.


All images via Amelia Mayer, used with permission.

Everything changed when she was around 7 years old — the same age her eldest son is now. For the first time, Amelia realized what made the outdoors so magical. She was hiking up "Lazy Pete" — a mountain you have to be anything but lazy to conquer.

"I clearly remember running to the end of it," she says, "and feeling that sense of accomplishment."

That sense of accomplishment went from being afraid and hesitant to a woman who discovered her calling.

As she got older, Amelia's love for the great outdoors only grew stronger — she even hiked and camped after her high school prom.

She'd take any excuse to be outdoors. In college, it became an even bigger part of her life. "I had a quarter where I had classes only two days a week, so I would literally go up to Mount Baker and go snow-shooting three days a week."

Once she started a family with her husband Bill, her passion for the outdoors went to a level she never thought possible.

Bill is a wildland firefighter and, believe it or not, was much more skilled than Amelia when it came to conquering the outdoors. "My husband really challenged me," she says. "To go beyond what I had known before and to get my past my mental limitations."

It's the same mentality they knew they wanted to instill in their kids — Jack (8), Peter (6), Liza (3), and Mara (1). "I want them to be able to feel comfortable enough to surpass even our knowledge," says Amelia. "Seek out something and be able to pass it on to the next generation."

Not many mothers would take on the task of looking after four kids while also keeping an eye out for elk, moose, and bears.

For Amelia, though, it's more like a typical Tuesday afternoon. The full-time mom, who lives in Yellowstone National Park, runs the popular "Tales of a Mountain Mama" blog and spends her days taking her children on epic adventures and offering practical advice for other parents on how to keep family adventures exciting and safe through her online program, "Outdoor Mom Academy."

The coolest part? Amelia's kids are learning the kind of skills that would intimidate most adults.

Whether that's rafting down a river, going cross-country skiing, or in some cases, dealing with wild animals.

In fact, those skills were put to the test when a bear unknowingly entered their campsite on one particular hike. "I turned around and I looked at the tent and literally right by the tent," Amelia explains, "the bear was standing there and my daughter was in the tent."

Immediately, Amelia grabbed her daughter while the family cleared the campsite of any food that might attract more bears and slowly made their way to safety inside their car.

It was an eye-opening moment, but one that Amelia knew her family had the strength and resolve to deal with.

Why? Whether it's a full-day river float or a 12-hour hike, these adventures serve as both confidence boosters and unparalleled family bonding experiences.

There's just something special about the bond created when you take your family off the grid and out of the comfort zone.

"Obviously, the outdoors provides a lot of unexpected challenges," says Amelia. "That's the beauty of it. We're learning those challenges as a family."

The great outdoors will always hit you with challenge after challenge. But when you push past your hesitation, more often than not, you'll surprise yourself.

Tackling tremendous feats in nature has helped her children build confidence at an early age, she says. "Pushing them just enough that they can see their strengths and the things that they can do."

The family continues to grow — it was on a backpacking trip along the Indian Creek Trail that Amelia announced she was pregnant with her fourth child.

Now, she has a fifth on the way, and it hasn't slowed her down.

"With getting outside, a lot of the limitations people put on themselves is the fear of the unknown," she says. "And I think once you get past that … we can really find great freedom in what we can do."

"There's a great strength in saying yes to adventures."

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