Hello my name is AJ Penson and I am married to my wonderful wife Jessica Penson and we reside here in Stevens County, north of Colville. I am 40 years old and began my outdoor career in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, where I grew up. I bring a little over 20 years of outdoor experience ranging from rock/big wall climbing and skiing to being an Outdoor Wilderness Guide. I’ve also held past certifications as an EMT and Wilderness First Responder.
It all started for me at the tail end of high school where I earned my EMT certification and moved to Yosemite National Park to work. I held all kinds of different jobs and was a volunteer on the Search and Rescue team. I stayed there for about 6 years all the while rock climbing, fishing and skiing. I then moved to the Eastern Sierra near the town of Bishop and continued outdoor pursuits of all kinds. I took a Rock Climbing Guide position in Joshua Tree National Park when my son was born. After about a years time, I moved to Bellingham, WA and started work at the American Alpine Institute. I worked in the shop where I outfitted clients with the clothing and equipment needed for the many mountain adventures they embarked upon. I also helped organize and send boxes of gear and equipment to the guides who were in faraway places like Patagonia and European Alps. My spare time was spent climbing, hiking and tracking in the North Cascades and Canada.
Around this time I met my future wife Jessi. I took a job as a Wilderness Therapy Guide at Second Nature Wilderness Program in Utah. We worked with at risk youth, backpacking in the remote Utah/Nevada deserts and mountains. We learned and practiced many primitive skills like bow drill fires, tracking skills(animals and the kids when they tried to run off) and flint knapping. We learned a lot about human behavior and about ourselves. I would recommend any young adult to work there for a bit, the lessons I learned together with my fellow staff and the kids have had a lasting impact on my life. I made lifelong friends like the Saldana family with whom we share love of family and all things primitive/Native American and a nature based lifestyle. We got married in the Native Way surrounded by family and friends and the beauty of the red rock country.
A couple years later we again found ourselves drawn back to Washington state. The Colville area held our attention due to the friendly folks and the remote woods all around, not to mention Canada is so close! We decided to settle and raise a family here. I met Daniel Curry of GRIPH one day rock climbing at one of our local crags. We became friends and when he learned of my extensive outdoor background he offered me a job with GRIPH as a range rider. I readily accepted and quickly learned how sensitive the wolf issue is in our community. I firmly believe that with sufficient manpower in the cattle allotments and implementing proven range riding techniques we can save a lot of lives on both ends of this situation. The reality I see is that the wolf packs are here to stay and cattle ranching is also. I believe we have to meet somewhere in the middle so cattlemen can continue their way of life and the wolf can do its thing too. A proactive approach is crucial, a reactive approach leads to more cattle and wolf deaths. Ensuring no cattle left behind in winter, scouting allotments in winter and spring for predator sign before the cattle show up and honest/respectful dialogue with all concerned parties are just a few examples of being proactive. My plan is to do all in my power to help create an environment in which the wolf and cattlemen can thrive and continue their way of life. I respect the ranching community and have become friends with some of them and believe If we all work together respectfully and honestly, we can protect a major economic driver of our region and protect the wolf as well.