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UP CLOSE: Green goddess and barefoot 46er

April 30, 2015
By SHAUN KITTLE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Completing the 46 High Peaks barefoot kept Wynde Kate Reese coming back to the Adirondacks. The unbroken forests here convinced her to stay.

Reese grew up in Tupper Lake, and like many people who grow up in small towns, she made a promise to herself at a young age: as soon as she graduated high school, she'd move away.

So the day after she graduated she spread her wings and flew to Oregon. Reese loves to hike, and she described the people and forests of Oregon as beautiful, but there was a heart-wrenching problem.

Article Photos

Wynde Kate Reese at the The Iguana Project, an Iguana Rehab center in San Ignacio Belize.
(Photo — Bladen Reese)

"The biggest shock was the clear-cutting there," Reese said. "It was the biggest impact, coming from a native Adirondacker who took for granted the policies that we have in this park that prevent something like that. I'd go on a hike, and I'd get to a vista and look out and see that everything was just destroyed. I didn't realize that National Forest meant you could do things like that."

The images of downed trees and denuded forests was more than Reese could handle. Alarmed and saddened, she moved to Colorado at 19 and became a ski bum for a couple of years.

It was there that her neighbor, Matt, caught her eye.

The book "Into the Wild," by Jon Krakauer, also caught her eye, and it inspired Reese to move to Alaska. A couple weeks before she was set to leave, the shop Matt owned was robbed. He almost lost everything.

"That kind of created a mind shift in him of whether he wanted to live in a town where people were breaking into his store and stealing from him," Reese said. "So, he asked if he could come on my journey with me."

The couple had known each other for two years, so Reese decided to say yes.

"I figure I would know if he was the one by doing something intimate like living in a tent with him for six months," Reese said with a laugh. "That's a good way to figure out if you're compatible or not."

Reese wanted to see the Alaskan wilderness, and she did. While hiking with Matt in Alaska, they encountered grizzly bears, moose and wolves. She loved the scenery, but winter began to wear on her.

"I think it was in Alaska that I decided that I was done with winter for a while," Reese said. "I've lived with it all of my life, and my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, said, 'Let's go to Belize.'"

Once again the couple moved, this time to Central America, where they lived in a 10-by-10-foot cabana on a friend's farm. It was heaven on Earth, but they ran out of money.

Determined to spend more time in Belize, Reese remembered a summer job she had when she was in high school at Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley. It was Matt's first time to the Adirondacks, but it wouldn't be his last.

"We took a job at the farm and saved up every penny so we could move back down to Belize in the winter," Reese said. "The following winter, we went down there and bought three acres of land on the Guatemalan border."

The couple, who were married at the Mountain House in Keene in October 2007, did that back-and-forth for several years. Matt even started a landscaping company in Lake Placid in 2002 called Earth Roots Landscaping to complement their lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Reese's passion for healthy food was beginning to take shape. In Central America, she started noticing that pre-packaged American food was becoming a larger part of the diet of the indigenous people there.

While standing in an open air market in San Ignacio, Belize, surrounded by produce stalls bursting with fresh produce, she saw something that made her observations click.

"Suddenly, I see this Mayan woman sitting under a shade tree, and she's dressed in her traditional clothing," Reese said. "She's got her baby swaddling in her arms, and she's nursing her baby, and then she reaches over and she picks up a bottle of Coca-Cola and takes a sip. I had this visual of the Coca-Cola going through the straw, into her mouth and down to her baby, and all of a sudden I realized, this is reality. This is cheaper than water, or fresh juice."

In 2002, Reese began pursuing her bachelor's degree for holistic nutrition from the Clayton College of Natural Health, and has been promoting healthy eating habits ever since. She became actively involved in Wellness Education in 2003 and now teaches a number of cooking and wellness classes for groups, and also does private holistic nutrition counseling.

"I look at processed foods as being tasteless, and when I say tasteless I mean it's either sweet or salty," Reese said. "My mother didn't use any salt growing up because there is heart disease in her family history, and diabetes is also in that history, so the sugar component was also eliminated. If I had a vegetable soup I could actually taste every vegetable in it. Some of those things I did not appreciate as a child, I am very grateful for as an adult."

When Reese was six months pregnant, she and Matt decided it was time to plant their roots full time in Lake Placid. When she was seven months pregnant, she bought Green Goddess Natural Market with Tammie Loewy in October 2007, a week after her wedding.

The couple still has roots in Belize, though. Their son, Bladen, is named after a river that flows through the Bladen Nature Reserve there.

That business started off in 2004 with Reese and Loewy selling prepared foods at farmers markets, and now it's a cafe and store where people can purchase natural products and groceries, including food grown by local farmers and products made by local artisans.

Reese is also active in the local farm to school initiative, which seeks to bring locally grown food schools.

"In 2014 we got a $40,000 USDA grant to improve the kitchen equipment in schools and storage space," Reese said. "They have huge freezers and small refrigerators because everything was coming in packaged and frozen. The grant also helped with the training of the staff. If they're used to taking frozen food and putting it in a fryer or putting it in an oven, so they need the training in creating the recipes and preparing the food in an efficient way."

When Reese isn't promoting healthy living, she's living healthy.

"Before I started doing the 46 barefoot, I did a lot of hiking barefoot," Reese said. "I grew up running around barefoot in the woods in Tupper Lake. When friends came over, we built treehouses. We didn't have TV."

Reese decided she could hike the Adirondacks' highest mountains barefoot, and even though she swore she'd never return to the region after high school, that goal kept the Adirondacks in her mind. She finished on the summit of Skylight Mountain a couple of years ago, and now that Bladen wants to become a 46er she's committed to doing them again.

This time, though, she's wearing boots. At least on the way down.

"I bought a pair of those toe shoes for the way down," Reese said. "Hiking up is really easy, but with hiking barefoot you have to go really slow on the way down. One, your legs are tired, two, gravity is working against you, and three, the impact is harder. I'd go very slow on the way down, and with my very active 10-year-old son, there's no way he's waiting for me to tiptoe down the mountain."



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