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Meet Our Hiking Guides

Learn About Our Guides

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Jenny Gruhn, PhD Company Owner and Naturalist

Welcome to Asheville Hiking Tours! It is my passion to provide an inviting and informative experience in the great outdoors. After academic years publishing scientific articles and teaching biology courses, I’m enjoying designing and leading ecotours in my home state.

Due to my early interest in Appalachian ecology, I pursued courses at Highlands Biological Station in Western North Carolina and a biology degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. For 3 years I researched tropical plants of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru and for my Ph.D. I investigated Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada pine forests. I am a Certified Interpretive Guide and have led nature tours for Citizen Science Programs and clubs of nature enthusiasts.

Now, I enjoy every Asheville Hiking Tours adventure, which promises novel experiences and unique wildlife sightings each day. I look forward to sharing with guests an inspiring tour in these beautiful mountains.

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Randy Sarton, MA Ecotour Guide and Naturalist

I have had many professional adventures over the years which have led me to the mountains.  After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame, I have been an entrepreneur, an agronomic adviser, a classroom educator, and an ecotour guide.

My years as an educator have included lecturing as a college professor, instructing middle and high school students, and developing and presenting children’s nature-based, early learning programs for 5-star resorts. For the past ten years, I have led ecotours on the estuaries and beaches of South Florida as well as the mountains of North Carolina.

I work to engage tour participants by interpreting what we encounter with insight and fun.  By relating stories to show normally unseen connections and unique perspectives, I strive to welcome our guests to celebrate the wonders of nature in our beautiful mountain home.

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Bill Sanderson, MS Ecotour Guide and Naturalist

As a longtime resident of Asheville, I have spent years exploring the mountains of western North Carolina. Carolina. I am a lifelong outdoors enthusiast and trained zoologist, a veteran of 30 years in the high school classroom and over 15 years in the local community college.

I have led hiking groups and participated in search-and-rescue operations in Western North Carolina for over 25 years. I am a volunteer trail maintainer, responsible for a 6-mile section of the Appalachian Trail east of Hot Springs as well as a 2-mile section of the Mountains to Sea Trail near Craggy Gardens.

Identification and natural history of local animals, trees, and wildflowers is information that I enjoy sharing on my trips with Asheville Hiking Tours. While viewing beautiful waterfalls and streams, I discuss the hidden wonders beneath those waters. Brook trout, stonefly nymphs, North America’s largest salamander and endangered mollusks are a few of the inhabitants of these fragile and precious waterways, and I look forward to telling their stories.

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Mike Scow, BS Ecotour Guide and Naturalist

With education in biology and English, I find myself looking at the natural world through a lens of storytelling. In other words a bit more fitting, I’m a nature/science nerd that finds joy and purpose in sharing appreciation for all things Appalachia.

My curiosity and adventurous nature have led me on a nation-wide crisscrossing journey to western North Carolina. Childhood and college in Pennsylvania surrounded by rolling Appalachian Mountains led to tenure as a wildlife rehabilitator. Living in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains a few years later, I discovered my joy of teaching science in elementary classrooms. My life in the west culminated in certification as a master naturalist with the city of Fort Collins. I have happily and easily settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, relishing any opportunity to explore and educate.

What began as an uncontrollable urge to spout off facts I gobbled up in books sprouted into a way to connect with family, friends, and anyone else who wanted to listen. My goal as a guide is to instill awe and appreciation for the unique environment we get to live in!

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Abby Bradley, BA Ecotour Guide and Naturalist
Hello and welcome to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina! Though I originally hail from Boston, I have always been interested in what is outside of city limits. My childhood curiosity has developed into a lifelong career in the outdoor industry!

Two of my favorite hobbies are traveling and being outdoors in any capacity. I have been a Naturalist all over the country including Texas, California, Colorado, and Washington! I have also been a backpacking and adventure guide in these wondrous states. However, the natural draw of the Appalachian mountains has led me to settle and teach in North Carolina.  Currently, I am in a graduate program at Western Carolina University to further my knowledge of Outdoor Education!

I encourage others to slow down and appreciate the natural wonders of the world.  There is so much to see when we take a look at all of the diversity within the Southern Appalachians. I am excited to be on this journey with you!

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Paul Stafford, AS Ecotour Guide and Naturalist

Having been captivated by the southern Appalachian Mountains nearly thirteen years ago, I chose to stay, and dedicate my life to studying the many wonders of our incredibly diverse ecosystem and fascinating history. My education and experiences as a naturalist have unlocked many mysteries hiding in plain sight and a passion for sharing what I have learned.

My fascination with wildlife and the outdoors started as I grew up in a valley of the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, hiking and searching for hawks and snakes to identify. I have since earned my Wildlife Management Technology degree from Haywood Community College, where I began an intensive study of the local flora and fauna, volunteer experience as a wildlife educator with school groups, and as a wildlife rehabilitator with injured birds of prey. I am currently seeking my North Carolina Environmental Educators Certification to deepen my knowledge and become a better educator.

As a natural storyteller, it is important to me not to show you which bird, tree, or medicinal plant that we come across, but how they all interconnect with each other and with you. I’m excited to hike with you soon! Happy trails!

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Emily Lutken, BA Ecotour Guide and Naturalist
At age eleven, I attended my dad’s camp reunion in Weaverville, just north of Asheville. The beauty and complexity of the scenery enchanted me. From that moment on, I knew that some day I wanted to end up living here.
While at Tulane University I took classes in Geology, Botany and Natural History while completing my major in Art History with a minor in Italian. My disperate interests came together in my work as an Outdoor Educator, teaching children botany, ecology, outdoor skills, plein-air painting and contra dancing in the mountains of Alabama and North Carolina.
I have enjoyed every step of the way, learning from talented mentors who shared their knowledge of the land with me while hiking, bushwhacking, crawling up creeks and sitting around fires. I have attended Primitive Skills gatherings in Oregon, Maine, Vermont, North Carolina and South Carolina and have really gotten a kick out of bashing things with rocks, catching things on fire, playing in the mud and dancing around fires with a truly interesting bunch of of people.
The Appalachians are such an exciting area experience nature because there is no danger of becoming an expert; there is always something new to discover, which makes every hike an adventure. I am delighted to be able to share this fantastic area with you. See you on the trail!

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