Getting to Know our Staff: Fifteen Questions with… Lora Woodward

By: Grace Eggleston, Communications Intern

We are continuing our staff spotlight series. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes brain power that goes into planning your favorite programs, be it public, family-friendly, or custom outings. Learn about those who work inside so you can get outside.

This week we’ll be interviewing Lora Woodward, our Program Director.

1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors? 

I grew up in Harrisburg, PA on a four-acre property across from my grandparents’ farm. My mom ran a plant nursery, and my dad worked at the Navy Depot. I moved to Pittsburgh in 2001 to attend the University of Pittsburgh. While in school, I became super involved in the Pitt Outdoors Club where I organized whitewater kayaking, rafting, and canoeing trips and learned how to rock climb and cave. In previous jobs, I’ve sold sea kayaks in Maine, pulled invasive plants on an air force base in Wyoming, re-routed a section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, and was a teaching intern at an international school in Thailand. I started at Venture Outdoors in 2007 as the Public Program Coordinator and have been here ever since!

2. Describe your role at Venture Outdoors in 10 words or less.

All I do is meet meet meet no matter what!

3. What does “getting outside” mean to you? 

Having a fun, educational, and/or social experience in the out of doors. Whether it is an urban walk, a backcountry hike, a lake paddle, or going to your favorite sit spot, “getting outside” is choosing the outdoors as a place to spend time.

4. If you had to pick only one recreational activity to practice for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? 

Tandem canoeing. I had no idea what an art form it is. There is such finesse behind each stroke. I grew up whitewater canoeing and we just muscled through the rapids. Now I see it as a balance.

5. What is the craziest thing you have done? 

Traveled alone for three months in Ecuador. It was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.

6. What are your top five favorite outdoors/travel destinations? 

I’ve been to some amazing places around the world: Milford Sound, New Zealand; Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Machu Picchu, Peru; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

7. What is your favorite forest/camping snack? 

GORP (granola, oats, raisins and peanuts) along with some chocolate chips!

8. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to take on a Venture Outdoors program of your choice. 

Betty White, Rachel Carson, Jimmy Fallon

9. What is your favorite Venture Outdoors memory? 

Borrowing Venture Outdoors’ snowshoes during Snowmageddon 2010 and hiking through the Hill District and Downtown Pittsburgh with my partner Casey while all the streets were covered in two feet of snow!

10. Describe your dream Venture Outdoors program/outing. 

Having a group of participants walk separate directions into the woods, find a spot that calls to them and sit watching, listening, and feeling nature’s concentric rings, and then being called back together for a campfire circle where we can share stories of our experiences.

11. What is the earliest memory you have of being outside?  

I’ll say hiking the Knife’s Edge on Mt. Katahdin in Maine when I was 12.

12. What would the title of your autobiography be? 

Just Do It!

13. Any hidden talents? 

I used to play roller derby for Steel City Roller Derby. YINZ! YINZ! YINZ!

14. What is your favorite song (or album) right now? 

Smoky Mountain Memories, Dolly Parton

15. What is your biggest challenge nowadays? 

Seeing all of my ideas through to fruition—it takes a lot of work to enact a vision!

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  • The Nature Treasure Hunt is Here – Join Now!

    March 20, 2018

    By: Josh Doty of Foto-Foraging

    Spring is here. If you have been hiding from the snow and cold temperatures, it is now time to venture outdoors again. There is so much to see, even if you only have a chance to go to your local park or even your own backyard.

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     » Read more about: The Nature Treasure Hunt is Here – Join Now!  »

  • Winter Tree ID

    March 13, 2018

    By: Iris Marzolf

    My favorite Venture Outdoors program I’ve attended thus far is the Winter Tree ID hike in January at Frick Park.

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  • Youth Mental Health First Aid

    March 6, 2018

    By: Maggie Zangara

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     » Read more about: Youth Mental Health First Aid  »

  • Rachel Carson Trails

    February 27, 2018

    By: Amy Nelson, Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, Member and Volunteer 

    In 2015, three friends and I did the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge  for the first time. We were avid road runners, bored with the monotony of pavement.  A 34-mile trek through the woods seemed like a great way to mix things up. Cut to the day of the event. Twenty miles into it, we experienced a torrential downpour which caused mud slides on some of the steepest hills. Mother Nature can be cruel.  By the time the last five miles rolled around our spirits were broken and we prayed for it to be over.

     » Read more about: Rachel Carson Trails  »

  • Leaving No Trace

    February 20, 2018

    By: Sara Cardamone

    At the Annual Volunteer Meeting, I had the opportunity to attend the Leave No Trace breakout session. Led by Joel Johnston, the interactive gathering was focused on educating participants on what Leave No Trace is truly about. Here are some of the things that I learned!

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Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing


About Boating Safely
Saturday, March 24
9 AM – 5 PM

Join Venture Outdoors and members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for About Boating Safely. This course gives participants the knowledge needed to obtain a boat license or safety certification in Pennsylvania.