Joan Rusche backpacking with her dog

The View from Here
Story 101

By Melissa Jue and Kirsten Cutler

When Joan Rusche looks back and takes in the view of 2021, she likes what she sees. She set a new personal best by backpacking 15 miles in one day. She became a published photographer. While the world continued to navigate a pandemic, Joan navigated the trails she loves toward peace and nature’s wonders – something she hopes to share with others.

An executive assistant at Adventist Health Roseville, Joan is a lifelong backpacker turned amateur guide. “Trudging up a trail with everything I need crammed into a backpack lets me experience independence and awe,” she says. “Tension decreases, and I feel every cell in my body give a collective sigh when I step onto the trail. Backpacking also gives me opportunity to have intentional time with friends.”

Joan Rusche and friends on backpacking trip

Joan first dreamed of backpacking when she was 10 years old, and finally had her chance on a school trip when she was 15. “I borrowed an old frame backpack that had no padding, slept on a closed-cell foam pad and a cheap sleeping bag, and slept under the stars,” Joan remembers. “I had the time of my life!”

Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe
Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe, photo by Joan Rusche

Although backpacking has been a lifelong interest for her, Joan says she “got serious about it” the year she turned 50. Now, she takes or leads six to eight trips each year between June and October. Joan’s favorite hiking areas include the Grouse Ridge area of the Tahoe National Forest, Lake Tahoe, and the Marble Mountain Wilderness. To cultivate her passion with others, Joan started a community on Adventist Health’s Yammer platform called “Backpacking for Women” where she organizes and shares about trips with colleagues.

In August 2016, Joan had planned to lead a group of five women on a hike to watch the Perseids Meteor shower. Although everyone else canceled, she went alone. “That night, the meteor shower was the best I’d ever seen,” she recalls. “I realized I could backpack solo with my dog and not feel any fear. That was empowering."

Wildflowers in the Marble Mountain Wilderness
Wildflowers in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, photo by Joan Rusche