John & Allison Hardy
Founder and Executive Director
Together John and his wife Allison have a lifetime of experiences in the outdoors. Born and raised in Texas, John Hardy is a graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos. John has held numerous positions in the outdoor industry including whitewater rafting guide, backpacking guide, assistant camp program director, camp program director and general manager of Mountain Adventure Guides Summer Camp and USA Raft located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. He also holds Wilderness First Responder, Swiftwater Rescue, and CPR certifications and has led numerous group trips in various settings. After leaving camp for one summer to pursue a career in marketing, John realized that his heart and passion lie in the outdoors and working with teens, so he returned to Mountain Adventure Guides. Torn between Texas and camp, John and Allison decided to return to Texas and start EPIC Adventures to share their love of the great outdoors with others. Allison has also spent time with kids working as a camp counselor and lifeguard during the summers while pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. As graduate of East Tennessee State University, she currently works as an RN in a local hospital and is the consulting nurse for EPIC Adventures in the summer. They both have an incurable passion for international travel and together they have explored 21 countries on 4 continents. Many of the trips and ideas for EPIC Adventures were dreamed up during their travels. They believe strongly that students who take the opportunity to travel and expand their comfort zone, will become a better leader, become more confident and self assured, and will be able to find their true passion in life. This belief and their love of the outdoors are the driving force behind EPIC Adventures.
We are lucky to have Ben working with us again this year! Ben brings over 32 years of paddling experience and an endless enthusiasm for paddling rivers to our programs. His passion for paddling and sharing his talents with others has not only brought him great pleasure in life but also provided him with great success. He has competed in numerous international kayaking championships around the world including the Olympic Games in 1996 and was also the U.S. National Champion in men’s double canoe in 2005. He holds a business degree from Texas State University, is a USACK certified coach, and an ACA Whitewater Instructor/Trainer, and holds many other paddling certifications.
Ben’s passion for paddling led him to found a non-profit organization, which raises money for disabled military veterans, and at-risk kids through whitewater adventure programs. In addition to his non-profit, he has served on the Dallas Olympics committee working to bring the Olympics to Texas, the Texas River Protection Association’s Hidalgo Falls Board, the board of the San Marcos Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2003-2008 where he served as Treasurer, and is currently on the Board of USA Canoe/Kayak Slalom.
Russell is another one of our native North Carolinian guides who headed north to Alaska to pursue a career in the outdoors. He is a graduate of Alaska Pacific University with a degree in Environmental Sciences and holds nine different current wilderness certifications including a WEMT. With more than 10 years of climbing, paddling, and mountaineering experience, he has spent countless hours exploring the Alaskan back country including a traverse of the Arrigetch Mountains in the Brooks range. In the off season he is a Firefighter / EMT for the Sunriver Fire Department in Oregon. Russell’s unique sense of humor and his spirit of adventure are what EPIC Adventures is all about.
Sari Smart is a graduate of Texas State University with a Masters in Recreation and Leisure Services. Throughout life Sari has had a passion for the outdoors. She and her family have visited state and national parks all over the nation including Big Bend National Park. Her family has made yearly journeys out to the Chisos Mountains since before she was born. Sari has also been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since 2001 and with their organization has had many fantastic outdoor adventures. Sari has experience teaching and participating in kayaking, canoeing, caving, climbing, camping, hiking, and many other adventure activities. Sari holds Wilderness First Responder, CPR, and First Aid certifications, and she will also serve as First Aid and CPR Instructor for the camp. in addition to her personal passion for the outdoors she enjoys helping others experience the outdoors in ways that thought were not possible. When it comes to the Texas outdoors Sari is a real expert and can tell you anything you want to know!
Assistant International Program Director & Trip Leader
Julie Westerman graduated from Texas Christian University with a BA in Sociology in 2004. She has extensive travel experience; she has studied in England, visited many European countries, and has taught English in Mexico, Thailand, and Nicaragua. In addition she has worked as a guide in Alaska’s Denali National Park, volunteered on a farm in Costa Rica, and backpacked through much of Central America. Most recently she served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer with her husband in Nicaragua from 2010-2012. She has a passion for cross-cultural exchanges and exploring remote corners of the world. Sharing these life changing experiences with others could not make her any happier. Julie is currently pursuing a Masters degree in higher education with a focus on study abroad and international education at the University of Texas.
Daniel is currently studying Recreation Administration at Texas State University. In addition to his studies, Daniel has almost 20 years of outdoor experience enjoying the outdoors and exploring many national parks in both the United States and Mexico. He and his family continue to take yearly trips to Mexico to scuba dive and hike to remote Aztec Pyramids. He is an avid diver and has led numerous groups diving, canoeing, climbing, hiking, and camping. Daniel has been drawn to the outdoors since he was a child and enjoys taking every opportunity he can to share his outdoor experience with others. EPIC Adventures is excited to have such a positive and ambitious person on our staff!
Service Trips Leader
Matthew graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in 2004 with a BA in English. Matt has more than 10 years experience working with teens in various settings and locations. He has worked with teens as a field instructor in Denali National Park, Alaska for an outdoor education program, led teen adventure programs in various parts of Texas, and most recently taught English to teens in Nicaragua as a United States Peace Corp Volunteer. Having traveled through numerous countries abroad, Matt brings a lot of energy to our programs and believes strongly in the power of exposing young adults to the wonders of traveling and exploring the many corners of the world while teaching them to respect the world around them.
Greg is a Native North Carolinian and a gradate of Brevard College with a degree in Wilderness Leadership. Growing up near the Blue Ridge Mountains he knew at an early age that the outdoors was where he wanted to spend his time. His love of the outdoors combined with his experiences have allowed him to lead whitewater rafting, rock climbing, backpacking, and teen adventure programs in 7 different states, including Alaska. In fact, while working in Alaska he met his wife Becca, a Native Alaskan and an avid outdoors woman herself. Together they have a young daughter and split their time between North Carolina and Alaska depending on the season. In addition to guiding in the United States, he has also led trips in Costa Rica and British Columbia. This will be Greg’s 3rd year to work with EPIC Adventures, and we could not be more happy to have him on staff!
Randy holds a Ph.D in special education and teaches full time throughout the school year in Tennessee. He is also Allison’s Dad and enjoys spending the summer working with EPIC Adventures and spending time around the programs.Randy is an avid hiker, gardener, caver, and saltwater fisherman who enjoys spending time with his family.The 2015 season will be his fifth year working with EPIC Adventures as an Assistant Director. Originally from Caney Fork, North Carolina, he has spent a great deal of time in the Southern Appalachians and has a wealth of knowledge about the mountains and many of the areas we visit. He is credited with the first descent into Cash Hollow and Gap Creek caves in Eastern Tennessee. We are excited to have him returning for the 2015 season.
Tyler will be graduating from the University of Texas Austin in the spring of 2014 with a degree in Biology. His studies have only fueled his love and passion for the outdoors and now he enjoys sharing his knowledge of nature and all of it’s components with others. He will join the EPIC Adventures team again for the second straight year in 2014 where he plans to continue sharing his knowledge of the outdoors with us. His leadership qualities have allowed him to be elected to several student leadership positions where he was responsible for 120+ members. Tyler is also an avid rock climber, traveler, and advocate for environmental sustainability. Tyler spends most of his free time rock climbing and traveling both internationally and abroad. Tyler’s personality truly captures the spirit of EPIC Adventures.
Program Director – China
EPIC is pleased to have Wenli on our team! Prior to moving to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree in biochemistry, she was born and raised in Chengdu, China. She has worked in various positions in the biotech industry including academia. Fostering her love for encouraging growth in others, her work has allowed her to mentor many young students and scientists. Her love of travel, connections with many local organizations, and working relationships with friends abroad makes Wenli a perfect fit to the EPIC team. She has led and organized international trips for groups of all sizes and ages to various destinations including China. Her local knowledge combined with her connections inside of China provide EPIC’s students with an inside look into the Chinese culture that is incomparable. Her passion for travel and education have taken her to many European and East Asian countries. In her free time she enjoys working with youth, teaching, and Sunday school.