Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Dre Cameron and I’m 35.
I was born in Ohio, but my parents moved to Montana when I was still in diapers, so I consider myself a Montana girl through and through. I grew up outside of Bozeman, and back then, Bozeman wasn’t nearly as trendy as it is now.
In the summers, I live in Glacier National Park and work as a backpacking and hiking guide. In the winter, Helena is home base and I travel whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself. The world is just too fantastic and wonderful to hold still anywhere for too long.
You love nature and spend a lot of time in the backcountry. Tell us about what draws you, again and again, to spending time in the great outdoors.
Nature, for me, is the perfect place to check in with my spirit. Ever since I was little, nowhere felt more like home than the mountains. I am the truest, best version of myself when I’m in the middle of some rugged, remote space, with a backpack on my back. I’m definitely drawn to new places and new adventures, but also love returning, year after year, to the same wild spaces. There is something peaceful and powerful about returning to an unchanging place. I think places like that highlight the ways I’ve grown and changed, and maybe the ways I still need to. It’s like the doorframe where my parents drew lines to measure my growth as a kid, except for my soul.
What are some of your other favorite “Montana” activities?
Backpacking, trail running with my dog Stella, skiing to forest service cabins for the weekend with good friends and ridiculous amounts of food, and fishing with my dad.
What was the last movie, TV show or book that really impacted you and why?
“Two in the Far North” by Mardie Murie. Mardie is considered to be the grandmother of the conservation movement, and her and her husband dedicated their lives to protecting wild places and the resources found in those places. “Two in the Far North” is the story of her life in Alaska, where she worked alongside her husband researching wildlife in the early 1900s. Mardie is a hero of mine because of her brave, adventurous spirit, and her dedication to fighting for the wilderness. I also really identify with her because as much as she embraced toughness and embodied many characteristics that are considered tom boyish, or even manly, she also embraced her femininity and the strengths that come with being a woman.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Pretty much every poem ever written by Mary Oliver, but if I have to narrow it down more than that, one of my very favorite quotes of hers is: “I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
What about author? Do you have a favorite author or book that you come back to?
I have been an avid reader since I was little, to the point that I assigned myself book reports during summer vacation, so I have a lot of favorite authors. One of those favorites that I always come back to is Jules Verne. I love the whimsical, adventurous feel of his work, I love his commitment to the idea that there is so much more to the world around us than we can see and that common sense is willing to admit, and I love that he takes his time and really paints pictures with his words, instead of just efficiently sharing the story he’s trying to tell.
Describe one of your happiest memories.
Summer solstice, 2014. I was staying at Cosley Lake, in Glacier, with a group I was guiding and everyone was worn out from the day and went to bed early. It had been a hot day, so the air was still warm long after sunset. I walked down to the lake and everything was perfectly still. The moon was just a sliver, so the night sky was the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. I jumped into the lake and swam out a ways and just floated there, unable to see where the lake ended and the sky began. I floated there on my back, watching shooting stars streak all around me, and felt like I was swimming in the stars. Every time I moved, the water around me would ripple and make the reflected stars twinkle and dance. I’ve never felt more connected, alive, and at peace than at that moment.
Tell us about a woman who you admire.
That’s an awfully long list. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a tribe of incredible women who inspire and challenge me on a regular basis. One that really stands out though, is my mom. She is one of the most compassionate, selfless people I know. She knows exactly who she is and isn’t afraid to stay true to her convictions. She also instilled in me a love of solo travel. Sure, it’s great to explore the world with good friends, or a significant other, but it’s empowering and liberating on a whole different level to travel alone. Every woman should take a trip alone, preferably to somewhere outside her comfort zone, at least once in her life.
What are some words your friends would use to describe you?
Ridiculously passionate, tenaciously optimistic, and almost always up for anything. I’ve also been accused of being a hopeless romantic a time or two in my day.
What do you value most in a friendship?
A stocked wine cellar (kidding). The things I value most in friendship are loyalty, honesty (especially about the tough stuff), adventure, and laughter.
Coffee or tea?
Tea, except when I’m hiking with my friend Zoe. She makes the most incredible afternoon coffee with her backcountry espresso machine and tiny camp stove.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate, but only if it’s extra dark.
The huckleberry pancakes that my boyfriend, Caleb, makes. Seriously, he’s some sort of pancake magician.
Introvert or extrovert?
I’d have to say a little of both. I love meeting new people and learning about their passions and hearing their stories, but I definitely need solo time to recharge, and the older I get, the more alone time I need.
Rural or urban?
I grew up in a very rural environment, and would be perfectly content to live out my days in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, but I’m a sucker for old architecture, museums, and hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants that can only be found in big cities. I guess that makes my answer to this one “a little of both” too.
Dress up or dress down?
Even though I spend all summer in the woods and am lucky to get a shower a week, I have a really girly side to me and am always up for an excuse to dress up, curl my hair, and put on some mascara and lip gloss.
Cats or dogs?
Definitely dogs. I’m pretty sure that only reason cats don’t eat us is because they are too small to take us down.
Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. I don’t think there’s anything as satisfying as watching the sun set over the mountains after an exhausting, exhilarating day of playing outside.
Call or text?
Actually, my favorite forms of communication are postcards and good old fashioned letters.
Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction. I think the really great stories from authors like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien have more truth in them than most true stories anyway.
Salty or Sweet?
Salty. When I’m guiding, usually the first thing I eat when I get out of the woods is the better part of a jar of pickles.
What do you love most about Montana?
I love Montana because it’s unyieldingly and wholly itself. Montana isn’t interested in making you comfortable, and you have to work a little harder for things here, but the reward, if you’re up for the challenge, is unmatched beauty and the sense of deep satisfaction that comes from living in a beautiful, untamed place.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to women out there who may be reading and are drawn to your adventurous spirit?
Build your own courageous life and don’t wait for someone else to take you on an adventure. Embrace your strength. I’ve encountered so many strong, powerful women, who feel like they have to choose between strength and femininity. They’ve been conditioned to ask for help with things they can do themselves, and to keep their independence in check because society is afraid of strong women. Don’t listen to people who want you to be small so they feel more comfortable. Beauty and badassery are not mutually exclusive.