Guest blogger: Maggie Aceto
Last August, Vista Verde got a wonderful addition to our adventure guide crew – Ben Simms, a Georgia native who moved here with his wife Addie and his dog Chief. Addie is a special education teacher at the North Routt Community Charter School and has teamed up with Mandy Anzalone to run the kids program when she isn’t teaching. Ben spends his days bringing Vista Verde guests out to hike or mountain bike our beautiful trails in the summer months and snowshoe or ski through the fluffy snow in the winter. Their passion for the outdoors and service to others is one of the many reasons why we’ve loved the addition of the Simms family to the ranch. Earlier this month, I sat down with them for an interview and got to know a little more about their story:
- Ben, what was your childhood like?
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia in a very outdoorsy family with three older sisters. Me and my dad would do something outside like camping or fishing at least once a month in the areas around North and South Carolina.
- What brought you to move to Colorado?
When I was in college at the University of Georgia, I spent a summer as a mountain biking and hiking guide at Estes Park. After I graduated, I came out to Colorado for one more summer after college and never went back. I got a job with landscaping for the National Park Service, then moved to Boulder and did some work there, which is where I met Addie.
- How did you finally make the transition from landscape architecture to guiding?
Addie won a photography contest and a weekend trip to a ranch (not Vista Verde). While skiing at the ranch, we met Steve and Kellie (who were also there just for the weekend), and within ten minutes had shared our life goals and dreams. I saw two people who were living the life I’d dreamed of, guiding in the mountains, and they were still happy doing it all these years later. That night, Addie and I sat down and she asked me “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” and I knew the answer was to be a guide.
- What do you love most about being a guide?
The fact that I can do something meaningful with my passion for the outdoors. I think we’re all given passions for a reason, and I love seeing that appreciation for the outdoors blooming in other people when we’re out on trips. Vista Verde is such a special place where people can connect, get inspired and take that inspiration back home to their jobs and lives.
- Addie, I heard you’ve traveled a bit?
Yes! I studied abroad and spent a semester at sea.
It was on a cruise ship, and we’d have classes on the ship. We visited 12 different countries and got to explore and experience all of the cultures. It was in Africa that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I met this man and he was telling me about how, depending on what day of the week it was, that was how you would name your child. For instance, if your son was born on Saturday, you would name him Kwámè. I asked the man to write down all of the names, and he kind of hesitated before going over to his brother’s shop. When he came back, everything had been written down. I realized he didn’t know how to read or write. In that moment, it dawned on me how important it is to have an education. Giving someone an education is giving them a key to the world that will open so many different doors. So when I went back to the States, I went back to school and got my degree in education.
- So what do you both love about the Vista Verde and Clark area?
At Vista Verde, there’s amazing leadership. Clark is a unique part of the country that hasn’t lost the deep sense of community. Everyone wants to help everyone out, because we’re all friends and neighbors. Addie’s car slid in a ditch once, and a minute later someone had stopped to help her. Another person came along and towed her out, and she was back on the road within 5 or 10 minutes. You just can’t find that kind of genuine help in many places. Our time here has been an absolute blessing.