We have another new hire announcement to make, and while we are all very happy to have Rayna Steffen on board, perhaps no one is more thrilled than Crystal Nordstrand.
Rayna will be filling the role of Logistics Assistant, where she’ll be assisting Crystal, to help take care of the essential “behind-the-scenes” details that make our photography tours, workshops & safaris work well.
Kenton: Welcome to Backcountry Journeys, Rayna! Thank you for taking some time so that we all have a chance to get to know a little bit about you. We enjoy these Q&A style introductions so that our guests can get to know the folks who work for Backcountry Journeys more than as just a voice on the phone, or a name and photo on a computer screen. Why don’t we just get to it? Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I’m originally from Gilbert, Arizona, but I’m up at school here in Flagstaff!
Kenton: Northern Arizona is a great school. So, college life brought you to Flagstaff. What keeps you here?
I chose NAU for the colder weather and pine trees. I’m staying a couple more years for grad school because I wasn’t ready to leave yet! My boyfriend and friends are all up here so I guess that’s what keeps me sane during these crazy classes.
Kenton: Can you talk to us a bit about what you’ve done in school?
I graduated on a fast track gaining a Bachelor’s in journalism in two-and-a-half years because of dual enrollment credits in high school, so I felt like I definitely wanted to stay and get a Masters. I worked my way up with the local news station from being a reporter to student news director.
Kenton: Was there a favorite story that you covered during your time as an undergrad?
I love covering animal rights topics, science and indigenous culture and the most rewarding story I’ve done was a long-form project on human trafficking in northern Arizona. The project focused on local instances of trafficking as well as the ongoing problems that indigenous women face as many of them face epidemics of abuse, kidnappings, and murder. On the lighter side, one of my favorite stories I’ve done was on Bearizona, a wildlife park outside of the Grand Canyon. That story was about the positive reinforcement training that they use to work with the animals and keep them safe.
Kenton: Why did this work leave such an impression?
This left such an impression for me because I was able to get out in my community and work with awesome people. I’ve worked personally with the mayor of Flagstaff and city council, scientists at Lowell Observatory, the humane societies in the town, and many other amazing places and people. I love being a journalist and being able to share people’s stories with the community!
Kenton: How did you come to Backcountry Journeys? Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be doing for BCJ?
I applied to work with BCJ because I’m interested in photography and the outdoors and thought it would be a fun way to meet amazing photographers and people who are interested in some of the same things I am! I work remotely part-time as a reservations assistant, so I’m basically helping Crystal Nordstrand with booking hotels, meeting rooms, car rentals, excursions, that kind of thing. I hope I can alleviate some of her stress and make it so she isn’t so busy all the time!
Kenton: I’m sure that Crystal is extremely happy to have you on board. Has she expressed this to you at all so far?
Yes, actually! I think once I’m officially done with training I’ll be able to take some of her stress away so she doesn’t have to do so much.
Kenton: Crystal definitely deserves some help, her workload is immense. She does a fantastic job, so the standard is super high for you! Do you have any hobbies or activities that make you happy?
I love rock climbing and wake surfing! If you don’t know what wake surfing is, it’s different from wakeboarding. It involves surfing on a surfboard behind a boat that creates a permanent wave for you to ride on. I can do a 360! When I’m not outdoors I love doing DIY projects, baking and cuddling with my two kitties! I make the BEST brown sugar coconut oatmeal cookies.
Kenton: What specifically is it about these things that makes them perfect for you?
I think I just love gaining new experiences, whether it’s learning a trick on a surfboard, a new recipe, or figuring out the best way to decorate a space. That’s what makes them perfect for me!
Kenton: Lastly, you can tell a lot about a person based on things like their favorite books, songs, and films. What would you say is your favorite movie of all-time?
Being a communication and documentary film major, I’ve watched a lot of movies! I’m not sure what my all-time favorite movie is but as of right now my obsession is actually with Frozen 2 haha! I love Disney movies and musicals, so that’s right up my alley.
Kenton: Thank you, again, Rayna, for taking the time. It is great to have you with Backcountry Journeys. We all are very thankful for the hard work that you’re doing “behind-the-scenes” to make our photography tours successful.
Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying aviation at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald where for 3+ years he wrote and photographed news articles on a variety of topics such as community events, travel and even mixed martial arts for the sports department. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wildlands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart as nothing else could. This realization led to relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, and he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer, and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.