From Pigs to Peaks

Getting to know Trust supporter Jeff Guddat

“We see ourselves as custodians of it until the next generation can come along and take care of it.”

– Jeff Guddat,

Jeff Guddat, pictured on his second ascent of Mt. Rainier, celebrating his 50th birthday

Growing up on a small dairy farm near the Columbia River Gorge, Jeff Guddat has always felt a strong connection to place. As a child he and his four siblings helped tend to the animals, gardens, and orchards that supplied their family with most of their own food. From a young age he came to understand everything was connected on the farm: when the pigs were turned out in the fruit orchards they were fed by the fallen fruit and in turn fed the trees in a cycle that sustained not only the land, but also him. From the family’s approach to farming and stewarding their land, Jeff learned the importance of aiding these natural cycles, not disturbing them, which would set the stage for a lifetime of loving and respecting wild places, both close to home and at the top of the world.

“It wasn’t wilderness, not pure raw wilderness, but [the farm] was a great introduction to the relationship between nature and humans, learning how to be respectful of the environment.” The view from the farm was dominated by Mount Hood, which often called the family away to explore it on weekend camping trips. These trips were the first time Jeff remembers encountering true wilderness, his earliest memory of which was marveling at how incredible it was to be there, on the mountain that he saw from home every day.

His love for mountains grew when, in 1980, Jeff was on a flight into Seattle. When they flew over Mount Rainier, he looked out the window and immediately thought “I need to go there, I need to do it.” Three years later he summited Mount Rainier, and over the course of the next several decades would follow it with summits of peaks from the Pacific Northwest to Kilimanjaro, often with his kids in tow: “There’s nothing like getting out there and breathing the fresh air and feeling the connection.”

These days Jeff is often struck by a different feeling when flying into Seattle, especially at night. “Every year you see lights from developments getting closer and closer to Rainier. It just keeps going and going and eroding at the edges. It’s an erosion of solitude really” he says. When he first heard about The Wilderness Land Trust, Jeff and his wife Sharon were drawn to the mission, “We have five kids and now they have kids, and I worry about what will be left for them. I hope through organizations like the Trust we can protect some of these incredible places. I hope when our grandkids want to be able to get away from it all they’ll be able to do that.” Inspired by this hope, Jeff and Sharon have generously supported the Trust’s annual operations and North Cascades conservation campaign.

Jeff still carries the lessons of respect for the land learned from his childhood on the farm and time in the alpine. He and Sharon have dedicated themselves to protecting and stewarding their three-acre property. “It’s our home, but it’s also the home of wetlands, and streams full of salmon, and healthy forests and wildlife. We see ourselves as custodians of it until the next generation can come along and take care of it.”