Boot Prints: Elisabeth Wheeler

Diana Smith

Elisabeth Wheeler is a “giver.” She has given love, devotion, and patience to her own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She has given her professional expertise and empathy to the countless children she has interacted with over her long career as a school counselor. She has given her support and compassion to the many families she has shepherded through the complexities of the family justice system. She has given her time and quiet faith to her church group. And she has given her unbridled enthusiasm to the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club.

Elisabeth was born in Idaho Falls, grew up in Squirrel and Ashton, Idaho, then moved to Sandy, Ore., where she attended a one-room parochial elementary school and graduated from high school in Weiser, Idaho. Elizabeth graduated from Valparaiso University with degrees in theology and psychology in 1963.

Elisabeth and her husband Rick raised three sons and now have 12 great-grandchildren in their extended family. Elisabeth completed her master’s degree in child development and family relations at the University of Arizona. She worked for Desert Survivors as an in-home counselor for families in Child Protective Services and foster families dealing with challenging placements. Elisabeth considers her work with children as a “spiritual mission.”

In 1996 Elisabeth moved to Salem, Ore., to help care for her aging mother. Working as a counselor in low-income schools with high migrant populations and children dealing with trauma/family issues, she was named Elementary School Counselor of the Year in Oregon in 2002.

Elisabeth moved to SaddleBrooke in 2002 and joined the Hiking Club in 2003. Her favorite club trips include Keet Seel/Monument Valley, Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Big Bend National Parks. Her favorite international hikes include the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, hut-to-hut hiking in Switzerland, and recent hikes to waterfalls in Iceland. Elisabeth climbed Mount Whitney for her 65th birthday and completed the entire Arizona Trail in 2007. She has logged 750 miles in the Grand Canyon and helped plan backpacking trips into the Superstition and Galiuro Mountains, Rainbow Bridge, and Grand Gulch. Among her most treasured memories are those of a four-day backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon arranged by her son to celebrate her 80th birthday.

Elisabeth has served the club as chief hiking guide, program chair, and guide for 20 years. She still enjoys wildflower hikes with Tim Butler. She was co-steward of the AZT Oracle Passage for six years and worked on the Arizona Trail in a Day fundraiser for four years. She is presently involved with Desert Wanderers, leading walks and hikes for her church group.

Having given so much to so many, Elisabeth considers herself to be the fortunate one. Working tirelessly for the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club, Elisabeth insists she has received much more than she has given, from backpacking adventures to fabulous hiking trips planned by our amazing guides. An inspiration to all, when asked where she gets her incredible strength and positive attitude, Elisabeth simply says, “I am so blessed and filled with gratitude.”