Our Community - Reflections on Adventure | Our Team

“Should we make it a walk-a-thon?”

One cold morning in Utah in 2015, a scientist and a lawyer were planning a 210-mile backpacking trip in California. Daily mileage; water sources – the details were exhilarating, and a plenty good excuse to linger in the kitchen, make more coffee, and wait for the thermometer to crest 40 degrees before setting out on the day’s hike.

At some point in the conversation, a joke was made about turning the trip into a walk-a-thon. But as it turns out, the joke disguised something real: a new idea. Yet isn’t this so often the case? And especially with things that bring up a bit of fear, because they involve putting oneself out there in a new, unknowable way?

Over the course of that day, the scientist and the lawyer – that’s us, Sarah and Alison – discovered that the idea had a life of its own. It stuck; it demanded our attention. Through the long hike and into dinner, the idea kept pushing itself to the fore of our conversation. We were totally surprised, and yet totally transfixed.

Looking back on this year, one takeaway is plain: creativity takes many forms, and for us, The Cairn Project is one of them.

By the end of that weeklong trip, we had a (very) rough concept, and a name. Three months later, the idea was still kicking. Two months after that, the idea had its own badass, female-led design firm to bring its image to life. Thirteen months after that morning in Utah, the idea – The Cairn Project – put itself out there, live website and all.

Looking back on this year, one takeaway is plain: creativity takes many forms, and for us, The Cairn Project is one of them. For each of us, it is one more piece in the puzzle of creating our own “Big Magic.” It is a way of breathing new life into each of our unique mission statements. It pays homage to a driving force behind our career trajectories in a more personal way. Most of all, it is an adventure. Without knowing exactly what it holds, we are committing to the path.

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, the key to tapping that “Big Magic” is to do what brings you to life. For so many years, the outdoors has brought each of us to life. It has bestowed gifts that enrich us in varied, surprising ways. We are determined to keep uncovering these gifts, and inspired to ensure that more young women have this same chance.

We’re STOKED for this new adventure.

Aw Cf Sup
Alison Wright
Founder - The Cairn Project

A San Francisco native, Alison grew up in a family that enjoyed the privilege of outdoor access – many memories were made in California’s iconic mountain and coastal landscapes. Alison has spent her career in the philanthropic sector, advancing initiatives for justice and empowerment internationally and closer to home. In addition to her leadership at The Cairn Project, she directs the Environmental Defenders Collaborative at Global Greengrants Fund, channeling support to frontline environmental activists around the world.

About 9
Sarah Castle
Founder - The Cairn Project

Sarah Castle grew up in a small mountain town west of Denver, Colorado, and has spent most of her adult life a stone’s throw away from the Rocky Mountains. Though she held a fascination for wild places at a young age, it wasn’t until late high school that she became captivated by the high elevations and unbeaten paths of the mountains in her backyard. Merging her love for both exploration and grit, Sarah pursued a career in soil science, studying the effects of global change and land use on natural and managed ecosystems. Currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota, you’re likely to find her either trail running or logging one of many 70mi. weekend bike rides. Sarah holds B.A. and M.S. degrees from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. from the University of Montana.