Sharie Dodge is serious about throwing herself into the great outdoors, whether it’s for her work, her weekends or her wedding.
As office manager for the nonprofit Trails & Open Space Coalition, she’s immersed in a range of environmental advocacy efforts, from trail preservation to “green” races to encouraging Coloradans to visit more parks. Outside the office, she’s devoted to backpacking, fostering dogs, gardening and hiking.
And for their wedding last July, she and husband Logan Meyer headed to Peru, climbing to 17,000 feet near Tocllaraju in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range — “the highest point we’ve ever been on the planet” — to exchange vows.
“We had planned this loop and a lot of the porters said there was no trail down the other side. But we saw a total of five cairns from the top, going down the other side — and we decided we were going to go for it rather than turn around,” Dodge recalled. “There’s a good chance there was going to be a cliff that we couldn’t make it down, but we made it to the other side safely and continued our backpacking trip. And I’m so glad that we did, because it was so different — that side of the peak was just so green and lush and very different from the side where we had entered.”
Even on firmer ground, Dodge’s life and career are dotted with paths less traveled. This week the Colorado native talked with the Business Journal about a few of those.
Where are you from?
I was born in Colorado Springs, but I grew up in Franktown, which is 30 miles away — a lovely rural area. I loved growing up in the country — actually, I hated growing up in the country, but now it’s all I want. It’s like, ‘How do I get back to that?’ Back then I was just so far away from everything. All of my friends lived in suburbia; they could walk down the street and hang out all night. I couldn’t. It’s hard growing up like that.
Did living out there lead you to the field you’re in now?
Absolutely. Because once I moved to the city I was like, ‘Oh, it’s so crowded. It’s so different.’ I was so used to the clean air and open space and that slower pace.
Talk about your path from there to here.
I went to school at the University of Northern Colorado and got a bachelor’s degree in psychology. My career has been focused in the nonprofit sector: I started in the medical field and then transitioned to human services. And my love for the outdoors led me to the Trails and Open Space Coalition and environmental advocacy.
What were you doing in the medical field and human services?
For my very first adult job, I worked at a human tissue bank. I helped to process skin and get it ready for burn victims. I also did a little bit of juvenile cartilage [preparation], working with stem cells to regrow cartilage for bones in the knee and ankle. … It was a very interesting start. It’s an aseptic environment, so you see just people’s eyes when you’re working because you’re completely decked out in clean room suits.
Then I moved into human services. I worked at Rocky Mountain Human Services [in Denver] with people with intellectual disabilities and when I moved down here to Colorado Springs I worked with Urban Peak, which is now The Place — a homeless youth shelter. It’s very impactful work. It’s always been important for me for my career to be an investment in my community. I want to help make a difference in the world. Be the change that I want to see. … I wouldn’t say that was always my goal in life, but when I graduated I started fostering dogs — and while helping to train and rehab these animals, it felt so good to help them that I knew that that’s where I wanted to head. I’ve been doing that for about nine years. I’ve lost count, but I would say it’s probably close to 100 dogs that we’ve had in our home.
What are your responsibilities here?
I do everything from admin and finance to communications and IT — and I’m really excited to be spearheading our TOSC 20|20 Challenge. We’ve preselected 20 parks that we think everybody should visit, and we’re challenging you to go and see all of them in 2020. We have some incredible resources in our community, and I just want to show them off and create a deeper appreciation for what we have in our own backyard. We already have 100 people participating, and you can look it up at trailsandopenspaces.org or use #tosc2020challenge on Instagram.
Talk about some of your travels.
Probably one of my greatest personal achievements was through-hiking the Colorado Trail. That’s roughly 500 miles from Denver to Durango, and that was life-changing for me. It really helps you to evaluate what’s important, and what you can live without. It took 39 days. I did it with my boyfriend at the time — now husband — and our dog. And we still haven’t gotten sick of each other. Since then, on my vacations I’m on foot, exploring the backcountry and nature and enjoying the natural setting.
What are your goals now?
Some of my goals for 2020 — I want to backpack the Ring the Peak Trail. I’m very excited for that to be done. When it’s finally complete I think it’ll be about 100 miles around Pikes Peak — so we’re going to try and do that in the fall.
I’m doing the TOSC 20|20 Challenge — I have two parks left — and I’m working on my side project, my other source of income. It’s an Etsy shop: MountainMudWorks. My husband and my uncle and I started it last year and we make ceramic garden planters and watering spikes, to help keep your plants well hydrated. So that’s kind of the artsy side of me, and as you can tell by my office, I’m definitely a fan of plants. I love to garden. … When we bought our house it was xeriscaped — we had AstroTurf in our backyard and rocks everywhere, so we’ve slowly been removing the rocks and adding garden beds. We actually just started planting our seeds yesterday — that’s part of why we moved to Colorado Springs is because we really wanted to be able to start making some of our own food. In Denver, there just wasn’t a whole lot of room.
What else are you working on?
One of the other things that I’m really excited and proud for TOSC to be involved in this year is we are partnering with the Pikes Peak Road Runners to try and put on the greenest race in Colorado.
I’m also trying to cut down on my carbon footprint so I want to bike into work 50 times this year, which is roughly a 20-mile commute for me. I’m trying not to buy new; I’m trying to recycle, reuse, reduce. When you have that extra element of not being able to just click a button and have it show up at your door, it helps you determine what you really need and what you can do without.