All in the name of work.She’s trekked in Nepal three times. She’s hiked Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro four times. She’s backpacked the Grand Canyon and Yosemite and has driven dog teams along Minnesota’s North Shore.
Since 1999, Duluth’s Anne Flueckiger has led adventure travel trips for women as a guide with Adventures in Good Company. In June, she’ll lead her first hiking and kayaking trip in Greenland.
“I’m just such a lucky woman,” said Flueckiger, 47, who recently returned from Nepal. “I love traveling, and I love being outdoors and I enjoy meeting people. I have this job that does all of those.”
Two guides lead each trip, accompanying 12 women. Trip prices range from $1,000 to $5,000 and trips are five days to two weeks long. The company will offer about 70 trips in 2017, and Flueckiger plans to lead 10 to 12 of them.
On international trips, a local guide works with the Adventures in Good Company guide, Flueckiger said.
While some of the trips are physically challenging, many are less demanding. Several of the hiking trips are lodge-to-lodge style.
Adventures in Good Company is based in Maryland but has Minnesota roots. It was founded in 1999 by Marian Marbury, who once worked for Woodswomen, a Minneapolis-based group that offered women’s trips.
Flueckiger grew up in Ohio but spent many summers at a family cabin near Grand Marais. She studied Russian history and literature in college and graduate school and lived in Russia for two years. She learned to ski in Siberia. She didn’t consider herself particularly outdoorsy. But while traveling in Eastern Europe during college, she did a day hike in the mountains of what was then Czechoslovakia.
“I remember getting up there pretty high,” she said. “I was in the snow in my tennis shoes, and there was this chain to hang onto. I ran into this middle-aged Slovak couple and walked with them over the sketchier parts of the trail and I thought, ‘I really like this.’ ”
Her outdoor appetite whetted, she returned to the U.S. and took a monthlong Outward Bound course in North Carolina. She did an internship with Woodswomen. She also worked with Minnesota-based Wilderness Inquiry, leading outdoor trips for groups that included people with disabilities.
Anyone who knows Flueckiger will tell you she’s a high-energy person, outgoing, quick with a laugh. She has coached high school cross-country running and skiing and has dabbled in long-distance events. She completed the Tuscobia Winter Ultra 75-mile race near Rice Lake, Wis., on skis in December 2010. She tackled the gruelling 135-mile Arrowhead 135 from International Falls to Tower on skis in February 2011 but dropped at 70 miles.
On to Duluth
When Marbury started Adventures in Good Company, Flueckiger began guiding for the firm. She moved to Duluth in 2001 because housing was more economical, and she quickly became involved in the outdoor community. She was a board member of the Duluth Cross-Country Ski Club and currently serves on the board of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota.
Flueckiger said guides at Adventures in Good Company don’t fit the typical image of adventure-travel guides.
“We’re not the center of attention. We’re not the ‘hero guide,’ ” Flueckiger said.
Marbury, founder and managing director of Adventures in Good Company, has known Flueckiger since Woodswomen days back in Minnesota.
“She’s really thoughtful, really intelligent, very perceptive, very articulate and fun to be with,” Marbury said. “She loves a physical challenge.”
Flueckiger is continually improving the quality of her guiding, Marbury said.
“She’s one of these people — if we have a new trip or a trip that presents challenges, I have complete confidence she’ll rise to the occasion and handle it in a way that’s professional and well done,” Marbury said.
Leah Gruhn of Duluth guided with Flueckiger years ago at the University of Minnesota and credits Flueckiger for leading her into ultra-marathon skiing and cycling events. Gruhn describes Flueckiger as an academic intellectual who is adventuresome and possesses a quirky sense of humor.
“She’s so thoughtful,” Gruhn said. “Trip participants come with a wide variety of experience and skills. She does a thoughtful job of trying to meet everyone’s expectations. She’s really aware of people’s goals and interests. She’s really patient with people who are beginners at a sport or activity.”
Flueckiger thinks there’s value in women’s-only trips.
“I think often, if a woman wants to sign up for a trip, it sounds more fun or more comfortable to be with a group of women,” she said.
Some of the company’s trip participants have come back again and again.
“That’s a really fun thing,” Flueckiger said. “I see people I’ve known for 15 years.”
Her main responsibilities as a guide are to make clients feel welcome, safe and comfortable. She teaches outdoor skills as necessary. Her strengths, she says, are being “friendly and compassionate.”
“One of the things I like about guiding is that it calls on the best parts of me,” she said.
Occasionally, she’ll find herself in a spot that requires her to use her wilderness-responder training. She once had to arrange evacuation of a client who had broken two lower leg bones while hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail.
Claudia Parliament of Minneapolis has made trips to Bosnia, the Swiss Alps and southwestern U.S. national parks that Flueckiger led.
“Everyone understands she’s a first-class outdoors person,” Parliament said. “She knows how to read the weather. I feel very safe with her. I know she won’t put us in a risky situation. I feel like she can handle any crisis that might occur on the trip.”
When she’s considering her next trip with Adventures in Good Company, Parliament looks for trips led by Flueckiger.
“I trust her judgment,” Parliament said.
Some of her clients’ most memorable experiences are glimpses into other cultures, Flueckiger said. On her Mount Kilimanjaro trips, crews of 30 to 40 Tanzanians accompany the group as guides and porters.
“Many people have never done that kind of a trip,” she said. “You see where a lot of people come from, the kind of life they live. You get a sense of what life is like there. Then, coming back down the mountain, they sing this beautiful song. It’s a brief interaction with people who are living a life probably different than your own.”
Flueckiger’s life might have gone an entirely different direction. She was on track for a doctorate degree before she began listening to an inner voice that steered her to the outdoors.
“At a different time in my life, I thought I would continue to work in international education and make a difference in the world that way,” she said. “Now, I take people on vacations, but vacations and leisure are important. Hopefully, I’m contributing to the well-being of humans.”
After her globe-trotting trips, she comes home to a city that nearly seven million people come to visit each year, a destination of its own.
“I always love coming home,” Flueckiger said. “I live in a beautiful place. It’s a wonderful community. I have many friends. And there’s lots of time to read books when I come home.”