My ‘Wanderful’ Journey

By: Kate Breheny

Volume 19, Issue 2, February 2024
Nature brings us back to absolute truth whenever we wander. – Louis Agassiz

Each one of us is on our own journey through life, and not one path is the same. In my short 50 years, mine has led me down some pretty awesome side roads, detours, and trails. Along the way, it has been quite fulfilling, thanks to a personal motto of ‘saying yes to life.’

My own journey began as a baby in Chicago, then a childhood on Long Island and in Massachusetts. I went south to Maryland for college, and even further south to Costa Rica for one year. I spent almost a decade in San Francisco, did a brief jaunt here in the Thousand Islands, moved back to California briefly, and now once more, I’m here in the Thousand Islands.

In addition to ‘saying yes to life’ and its opportunities, I also believe wanderlust is the foundation of all great things. Nature cultivates curiosity, growth, and so many other fulfilling emotions. For me, this has helped create relationships, bind friendships together, start careers, and provide incredible experiences.

Kate with her cousin Fred and sister Tee in front of their tent.

We all know that some of our earliest childhood experiences and memories help shape who we are as adults and can define our likes and dislikes. Growing up, my family loved traveling all over the country, visiting friends and relatives, exploring our national parks, and discovering new places to camp and hike. From an early age, camping, exploring, and hiking was woven into my heart. Still to this day, they provide my mind and spirit time to rest, and fulfills my need for discovery and growth.

Whether it’s been hiking up and down Mount Monadnock in NH, along the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls, VA, through the rugged Marin County countryside in northern CA, or on the Crooked Creek Preserve's Macsherry Trail in Hammond, NY, I have always loved spending time outside and on the trail.

Brian, Kate, and Emmylou at the lookout on Macsherry Trail.

Nature’s wisdom has the power to soften our hearts naturally.

After all, when we stand in the middle of something so much bigger than ourselves, it is a lot more difficult to focus on anything else. And when we allow our senses to completely take over – whether it’s the aromatic scents that come from pine trees, the feel of warm sand beneath your toes, or the sweet taste of clover honey while lying on the grass – we tend to lose interest in the trivial elements and let our minds reset.  So for me, I love connecting with nature, and to what I connect, I care about.

The Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) has been a part of my Thousand Island life from the very beginning, first as a volunteer, and now as the Membership Coordinator.

When we lived here the first time, Brian and I were Macsherry Trail Steward volunteers. It was awesome! Our “job” was to hike the trail on a fairly regular basis, report any significant damage, and make small trail improvements along the way. Along with our young chocolate lab Emmylou, we would head to the trail on the weekends with tools in hand, and together we’d move logs, pick up garbage, and clear sticks. We loved every minute of it for many reasons. Hiking cleared our minds, and time on the trail helped us to hit reset, reconnect to nature, and bring out the best in ourselves. Although it was always the same trail, no two hikes were ever the same.

Brian and Emmylou on Macsherry Trail.

Our time living here was extremely impactful; we found a community, met wonderful friends, and fell in love with this tiny corner of New York State. After four amazing years living here, Brian’s Coast Guard career led us back to California, but all the while there, we would travel to the Thousand Islands for our vacations, to visit dear friends, and spend much needed time surrounded by the River’s reenergizing spirit. This special place had settled into our hearts and it just wouldn’t let go.

So, when the time came to make one more life-changing decision, with retirement from the Coast Guard on the horizon, it was time to pick where to live. Two roads diverged and we took the one that led us to being outside all the time. We chose the Thousand Islands. But this time, the road trip wasn’t a wandering meander, it was more like a mad sprint – to our favorite place on earth. I was so excited to move back and couldn’t wait to begin our next chapter.

Emmylou in the backseat on her way to Northern New York.

“I remember packing up my little VW Jetta with Emmylou in the backseat, smushed between houseplants and winter clothes, ready for the next adventure.”

And nearly 13 years later, our roots are now planted with a circle of extended friends and co-workers who are now family, a meaningful career that makes a positive impact on our community and the environment, and daily opportunities to embrace new adventures in this beautiful place.

I love my role at TILT as the Membership Coordinator.

I love making personal connections with our members. I love the meaningful work we do, and the best part is knowing that we are helping people connect to this great landscape around us. I am personally enriched by it. In many ways, I love the fact that TILT’s Signature Preserves and open spaces act as launch pads for many to discover nature, to create their own wanderlust, and to establish relationships with others.

Kate at the Summer Gathering 2021.

When I reflect on how my wanderful journey to the Thousand Islands came to be, it can be defined by the multitude of ‘say yes to life’ moments along the way – from incredible hikes, fun camping trips with family and friends, living abroad, new skills learned from volunteering, all the while prioritizing time outdoors, these all solidify who I am today.

We all know that spending time outside – even just 5 minutes – can yield amazing benefits such as stress reduction, mood improvement, increased concentration, and a boost in overall well-being. And you don’t have to go to any extremes to reap said benefits either – you can simply go for a walk outside, maybe spend time on the trails, or by the River. The only requirement is that you visit the peace and serenity of a natural setting. So, let’s all give ourselves the space and grace to wander, and to say yes to new opportunities. With prioritizing time outside, I hope your own path will be guided in an incredible direction. And if you need some ideas, I’m here for you.


By Kate Breheny,

Kate Breheny joined the TILT team in 2019 as the organization's Membership Coordinator. With a passion for fostering strong connections and a commitment to conservation, Kate brings a wealth of nonprofit experience to this role as the key liaison between the Land Trust and its dedicated supporters. She loves spending time outdoors gardening, hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and XC skiing and is a member of the Zenda Community Garden. Kate, her husband Brian, and young pup Wren live in the village of Clayton.

Editor's Note:  Of course many of you know that I have been on the cheerleading team for TILT since it was founded. I joined the board of trustees soon after and spent 25 great years being involved. In large part it is the staff of TILT that makes it such an amazing organization and Kate B has carried on the marvelous efforts of Susie Wood - TILT and the Thousand Islands are so lucky!

Posted in: Volume 19, Issue 2, February 2024, Essay, Nature

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