Aram Mitchell - Executive Director & Guide
Aram is a Registered Maine Guide and Wilderness First Responder with an MA in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary. Prior to moving to Maine in 2015 he worked as a minister for children (and the child-like) at a progressive faith congregation in Claremont, CA. He worked as an advocate and shelter coordinator for LGBTQ identified homeless youth in Chicago, IL. He worked as an aid to elementary school educators of students with special needs in Indianapolis, IN. He backpacked across Scotland, walked a pilgrimage in Spain, practiced yoga in Costa Rica and has guided wilderness trips and urban walks of various durations for people of many ages, genders, and dispositions in 11 different states and a couple of Canadian provinces. Now Aram spends his days as the Executive Director of Renewal in the Wilderness devising ways to bring the wisdom of wilderness and regular rhythms of renewal into the lives of care providers, justice workers, and faith leaders.
Volunteers and Guides
Anne Finkle - Beauty Walks
Anne Finkle has been hiking, walking and canicrossing (canine cross country running) her way around the woods of Maine since she was very young and is an amateur naturalist, cook and gardener with an interest in wildlife and native plants of Maine. Anne holds a B.A. in French Language and Literature from University of Southern Maine and will be using her broad knowledge of nature and ecology literature to lead Beauty Walks with Renewal in the Wilderness. She currently works in the Greater Portland area and spends her free time advocating for and volunteering with wildlife and youth education programs in Maine. She is an avid dog lover and aims to inspire others to create connections with themselves and with their dogs through nature. Anne would rarely be seen out in the woods without her adventure-loving Coonhound, Bea!
Lisa Steele-Maley - Beauty Walks & Board
In both work and personal life, Lisa seeks opportunities to help individuals and organizations cultivate healthy, responsible relationships between human and natural communities. Lisa grew up in the small towns of New England and Wisconsin. She developed a strong connection to the affirming rhythms of wilderness while doing work ranging from environmental education to trail maintenance in the mountains and coasts of Alaska and Washington to program management and organizational development in Maine. Meanwhile, her life’s journey has expanded to include parenting, caregiving, writing and participating in the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine’s Interfaith Ministry program. Lisa and her family have developed a strong commitment to Maine’s resourceful communities, wild coast, fertile farmland and rocky mountains. Lisa lives in an aging farmhouse on the coast of Maine with her husband, two teenage sons and a handful of animals.
Lizzie Grobbel - Beauty Walks
Lizzie is a yoga instructor, urban/regional planner, and a big fan of nature. She led backpacking and hiking trips for the Appalachian Mountain Club in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, has taken Wilderness First Aid, and is attempting to visit all 52 National Parks. Her favorite thus far has been Denali, where she bushwhacked and backpacked, closely followed by canoe camping in Voyageurs. Lizzie is originally from Michigan, where she developed a deep love of water - Great Lakes, Great Times! She also enjoys practicing and learning about meditation, primarily at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center in Cambridge, MA, where she lives.
John Lionberger - Guide & Founder
Back in 2001, after a life changing encounter in the wild, John launched Renewal in the Wilderness from the shores of an idea into the depths of reality. He’s been pulling hard at the paddle ever since. John guided our organization for 15 years, along the way crafting a vision of renewal and a spirit of openness that flows through every experience we offer. When he’s not sitting in the stern with bow pointed to the backcountry John serves as a chaplain in Chicago. He also wrote a powerful book that offers a glimpse into his story and the transforming nature of a well-guided trip into open space. Plus he has an awesome grandkid.
Lauren Znachko - Guide
Lauren is a Registered Maine Guide and a Certified Yoga Teacher. Whether she is guiding an outdoor adventure or teaching yoga she believes in providing safe spaces, having fun and feeling good. Her teaching and guiding methods are rooted in trauma stewardship and she teaches for Greener Postures Yoga and for the non-profit organization Sea Change Yoga. Lauren is a huge advocate for taking naps and her spiritual guides are her two dogs, Maya and Dillard and her cat Kali Ma. While travel to far out places has always been a passion, Lauren is happy to have found a home in Maine. She is working on her M.A. in Culture Studies and figuring out how to grow to an all-season garden in southern Maine. Her sun sign is Libra and her moon sign is Gemini. Her search for balance is never dull.
Andrew Fitz - Guide
Fritz has been introducing beginning backpackers to the rhythms of walking and the art of noticing in places like Dolly Sods Wilderness and southern Indiana since 2015. He was born in rural northwest Indiana to open skies and land where he traced deer trails through cornfields, black oak savanna's, and over ancient sand dunes. It is in this place that he learned the parallels between the landscape and the soul. Currently, Fritz is an urban agriculture conservationist in Indiana where he works to improve food security and soil health. He is the founding member of The Gleaning Garden, a communal garden and food forest that grows and gives away food. Formerly, Fritz was a landscape architect, a director of youth ministries, a trail crew member at Baxter State Park in Maine, and volunteer with the Green Mountain Club. He currently volunteers with Grace Unlimited at Butler University; an adventurous, all-inclusive, community of faith. Fritz is Wilderness First Aid certified and holds a B.A. in Geography and M.L.A. in Landscape Architecture focusing on landscape ecology. He runs and reads enough, believes in unity, is learning to embrace humility, loves the feeling of being socked-in above tree line, and has a cat named Texas.
Colin Simon - Guide
In River Rafting, CFS is the measurement of a rivers downstream flow in Cubic Feet per Second. Colin Frazier Simon (CFS!)...was born into a river rat family and was named by no accident. Since his youth water has always been in his blood and often between his ears. Whether surfing, free diving, rafting or fishing, his love of water has taken him to the many rivers along the Colorado Plateau, including The Old Man himself, the Colorado River. While the back country of Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico are the play ground of his youth, the Pacific Ocean of California Alta and Baja California stole his heart as a young man and he now lives in the place where the desert meets the sea. An avid fisher, rafter, packer, peak bagger, State Lifeguard, and child of nature, Colin aims to entertain and lighten his trail and river mates with a child-like glee that only the red and gold of the canyons at dusk can outshine. This guy loves the outdoors and will turn over every rock and scoop up every toad that hops across his path until you can't help but see a wild world under your every step and feel it pumping through your ever growing heart.
Mark Ustach - Beauty Walks
Mark fell in love with the majestic Maine wilderness as a boy growing up in central Maine, where he would play in the forest and read in the tall grassy meadows behind his parents' house. He continued to frequent nature as the years went by through camping, hiking and biking trips as well as self-directed beauty walks on local trails. This love of nature led him to leave corporate America behind in 2016 and pursue a Master's in Sustainability through Unity College. More recently, he has registered to complete the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs certification program to become a certified ANFT guide. He firmly believes that one of the major obstacles to enacting green practices globally is humankind's growing disconnect from nature and that there is a broad societal yearning for authenticity that is approaching epidemic levels. He hopes to help bridge this gap and heal these wounds by elucidating the fact that people who are more connected with nature are happier, feel more vital, and have more meaning in their lives. He knows from firsthand experience that, even in small doses, nature can be a potent elixir. In his spare time away from nature, Mark enjoys playing his guitar, cooking with what's on hand and engaging in convoluted conversations.