We had the pleasure of working with Bob Swanson here at Big Agnes for more than a decade. His business card included the title, ‘The Tent Guy’. And while that was fitting professionally, he meant so much more to us as a friend, role model, sage and pioneer of the outdoor industry.
Bob was truly a man of the world. He had traveled extensively and was happy to share tales of adventures to exotic locations, but only when prompted. It was Bob’s infectious spirit, rosy-cheeked smile and genuine interest in all whom he met that we will most remember.
We are honored to have known and worked with Bob for so many years. The industry, our company and anyone who camps in tents today owes him doses of gratitude for his contributions. In Bob’s memory, Big Agnes owners and staff created the Bob Swanson Memorial Exploration Grant in honor of our adventurous and world colleague Bob Swanson who passed away in 2016. Applications for this year’s grant attracted more than 80 entries for adventures across the world.
The 2022 Bob Swanson Memorial Grant Winner is…
Thru-Hiker JeanMarie Gossard
AKA Pooter Scooter, the first women attempting the nearly 7,000-mile Great Western Loop around America’s west.
Hi! I’m JeanMarie Gossard, trail name “PS” or “Pooter Scooter”. I grew up spending summers in the mountains of New Hampshire. When I was 16, I witnessed a long white-bearded, skinny older gentleman rest his head on the Katahdin sign and weep. I didn’t know what thru-hiking was at the time and when I learned he’d walked from Georgia I remember thinking “if hiking from Georgia to Maine can bring a grown man to his knees, that’s something I want to be a part of”. In 2017, after a career in LGBTQ+ campaigns, I headed southbound on the AT to re-center, recover from burnout, and pour some creativity into the world. It was then that I fell in love with thru-hiking and have been carried away ever since. 12,000 miles, 9 completed thru-hikes and 5 years later, here I am. I fight wildfires in Alaska and the west on an Alaskan hotshot crew in the summers and hike in the off season.
The trails I’ve hiked include: the Long Trail ’15, El Camino de Santiago (section) ’16, Appalachian Trail ’17, Pinhoti Trail ’17, Arizona Trail ’18, New England Trail ’18, Pacific Crest Trail ’19, Continental Divide Trail (3/4ths) ’19, Florida Trail ’20, and Hayduke Trail ’20.
This year I’m attempting the Great Western Loop a 7,000-mile loop around America’s west. If I complete it, I will become the first woman to do so. I chose this hike as an opportunity to walk, write, share stories, and inspire women and folks of all genders to discover what they’re capable of. I’m doing this hike for women, folks of all genders who have ever felt the pull to push their limits despite what others say, for Bob, and for myself.
I’m so grateful for this grant because, Bob Swanson, according to everything I’ve read about his spirit – feels like a kindred soul. He’s the kind of person so many of us aspire to be. He was someone full of stories who could command the eager ear and full respect of a crowd while also being a deep and true listener. I aspire to embody those key elements of who he was and I’m so honored to get to embark on this adventure to honor him.
For folks who’ve never heard of the Great Western Loop, it’s a 6,875-mile hike that traverse’s sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Arizona Trail and a 600-mile trail-less section through the Sonoran and Mojave Desert. It must be done extremely quickly (30-35 miles a day) to hit the safe weather windows in the Rockies and Sierra and has never been done in a high snow year. 3 people have completed the hike that I know of. Andrew Skurka (co-creator of the route), Jeff Garmire, and Niels Rabe. I hope to be the 4th.