Our story

Cabin 9 was Sarah’s home at Frost Valley.

side of the story


side of the story

They called him corn boy. At a place where the ratio of women to men is 10:1 and I fall for corn boy. I, being from Connecticut, assumed that Iowa was all corn. I was wrong.

I’d only been at Frost Valley for a few days when Jeff and I first met. The new educators were having an orientation session in the admin building, when Jeff stopped in for a moment. The education director, Kris Henker, introduced Jeff Hankens to the group as Camp Medic, and to me, Sarah Hankinson. He had his orange messenger bag over his shoulder, and I think his bike helmet in his hand. I don’t know if we ever really had a first date, the first time we went out together could qualify as a marathon date. Breakfast at Sweet Sue’s, a hike at Sleepy Hollow – with conversation about insect movies and his participation in the SUB films, dinner at Taco Juan’s and a movie in Woodstock.

Stories about visiting China, his dirty Carhartts, that picture of him on his bike in Iowa towing twenty eighteen gallon Rubbermaid bins of recycling and endless Iowa trivia – I was hooked. Jeff is kind, mischievious, passionate and intelligent. He may say he’s not a people person, but I had an opportunity to see him in medic mode, administering oxygen to a student, and his calmness, confidence and professionalism was phenomonal. I’m not sure where to go with this story from here. In early fall Jeff’s plan was to leave FV in February and go out west. I distinctly remember him helping me collect marshmallow sticks, probably sometime in November, for one of my classes, when he told me he had met “some crazy girl” and thought that he’d stick around for awhile. I guess that was the beginning.

We’d been together less than a year when we embarked on our first big adventure together – co-leading two Student Conservation Association crews. Living, working, eating and leading together for three monthes. It’s amazing to get to lead with someone you love. We were together twenty-four seven for just over three monthes. Come September, we parted ways for a month. Jeff to Iowa and to visit Kevin in Flagstaff and me to Connecticut. While home, I temped in a medical office, the women there were all mid-fifties and were entirely amused by me. My tales of our summer with SCA were met with gasps and chuckles. Most of the women could not imagine working with their husbands, let alone live in a tent with them for three months, to me, this seemed odd at the time. It still does.

It was mid-April, 2000, and the folks in Frost Valley’s Adventure Program asked me to lead a few Elderhostel bike trips before the start of the Summer season. I moved into Ricciardi cabin, which would become home for the next year, and jumped back into a hectic trip schedule. August came quickly, and thinking I would be leaving the Valley soon, began making plans for the Fall. We had barely returned from our last trip of the Summer when I was offered the camp medic position, which I jumped at.

My first official duty as camp medic was to help train the incoming environmental education staff by leading a ‘safety hike.’ The morning of the hike I was given a mass introduction to the staff by the program director, who added that my last name was eerily similar to someone in the group–Sarah Hankinson.

Later in the week I tagged along on a forestry hike for the new staff around Frost Valley’s grounds, and spent most of the time goofing off with my friend Brad and paying a lot of attention to this Sarah Hankinson. Her personality was striking, and I would come to realize in the weeks that followed just what it was that made her stand out so much that day, in addition to her last name, that is. As we spent more time together her straightforward approach to life, her honesty, wit, strength, patience, and her playful spirit, combined with her unique combination of life experiences all led me to one undeniable conclusion: I had met the person I wanted to share my life with.

Our relationship has been tested extensively in the years years since our introduction, maybe the most intensely while leading two trail crews for the Student Conservation Association together, during which time we were collectively responsible for every aspect of backcountry life and work for a 6-8 person crew comprised of 16 to 18 year-old volunteers. We didn’t fight once, nor have we before or since.