Meet T‍‍‍he Flock of

Black Sheep Adventures

Barn Staff‍‍‍‍‍‍

Fred Ackerman‍‍‍‍‍‍

Founder‍‍‍ & Chief Shepherding Officer, 2002‍‍‍

Born in the M‍‍‍ojave Desert, raised in Northern Minnesota and blessed to call Cape Cod “home” for most of his life, Fred began traveling from a young age. He has not only traveled six continents, he has lived in four of them. With a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in hand, Fred was a busy young professional with no time to plan vacations, but had a strong desire to get out there and explore. After traveling with a few adventure tour operators, Fred quickly realized that he wanted to be on the other side of the equation to be out seeing the world and to share his passion for being active outdoors with others.‍‍‍

Leaving a promising management consulting career, Fred joined one of the industry’s largest active tour operators, creating and leading trips throughout the US and Europe – and hasn’t looked back since! Although his waking hours are now shared with raising a family (baby number 4 was born in May 2016), Fred is focused on managing the business growth and ensuring we stay true to our values, but he loves it when he can get out to guide a trip. 

The S‍‍‍hepherds

Ashley Vi‍‍‍ncent‍‍‍

OPERATIONS NINJA, 2011

Quick to smile and laugh, serene and yet a master of productivity, Ashley grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Vassar with a degree in Economics. After college she started guiding trips for kids at Overland Travel including an epic one across the USA from Savannah, GA to Santa Monica, CA. Back in 2003, a friend invited her to join her for a through-hike of the entire 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Her friend bailed, but Ashley did it – alone. Back when Ashley started with us in 2011, she did it all: lead guide, head mechanic, IT department, and any and everything else we needed. Now mother to two children she’s working behind the scenes on many essential tasks.

Tim Mills‍‍‍‍‍‍

MULTIFACETED OPERATIONS MANAGER (A.K.A. MOM), 2014

Tim was born of an American mother and English father, Tim has explored and traveled since a young age. He has traveled to 48 of the United States, explored 5 continents, spent 7 months in New Zealand, carved marble for 3 months in Pietrasanta, Italy, and lived in Senegal, West Africa for 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Originally from Connecticut, he has a BA in Studio Art from Hobart College. For the last decade he has been working in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Tim has guided small intimate tours of two guests wine tasting all the way up to bus tours with 150 passengers. He has guided hiking trips with participants from seven to seventy years old up 10,000 foot Mount Hoffman, in the center of Yosemite National Park. Recently he managed the front desk of Westin hotels in Bellevue, WA and San Francisco before joining us to work in the office and help in the field as needed.

Nick Brodnicki

Bike ops & Marketing boss (a.k.a. da bomb), 2016

A former professional triathlete holding a masters degree in Library Science from SUNY Buffalo, Nick is a beacon of positivity and a renaissance man. As an accomplished athlete and former teacher, he’s merged those skills as a certified USA Triathlon, Cycling & Masters Swimming Coach. Nick’s a total extrovert, yet he loves to hunker down and “nerd out” on IT, organization and process efficiency.

He was attracted to Black Sheep Adventures saying our “goals and values align quite well with my own. To be unique and have fun, deliver exceptional value, and be the be‍‍‍st at what you do are important tenets to me.” Nick enjoys being part of a community supporting folks staying active, healthy, and allowing them to explore the world on two wheels. He & his wife moved to the Bay Area because of the ability to explore the world on two wheels here.‍‍‍

Ryan Fo‍‍‍wler‍‍‍

SENIOR SHEPHERD & CUSTOM TOUR SPECIALIST, 2011

Born and raised in Northern California, Ryan began cycling at age 15 and the wheels never stopped rolling from that point on. He began racing as a junior, started a collegiate cycling team while studying film production and banana slugs at UC Santa Cruz, and still competes at the semi-professional level for mountain bike events nationwide. Now living near Lake Tahoe, Ryan spends his free-time backcountry skiing, capturing photographs, writing, backpacking, and, yes, cycling. His passion for the outdoors and all things cyclical is challenged by his love for good food, great wine and even better beer. The resident quick wit, Ryan is likely to leave you on the floor laughing. Now in his 8th season guiding professionally, Ryan also researches and plans many of our custom tours.

Jen Slowey‍‍‍‍‍‍

SENIOR SHEPHERD & CUSTOM TOUR SPECIALIST, 2013

Jen grew up in Upstate New York (smack dab in the middle) and after a semester abroad in New Zealand, knew she wanted to see more of the world. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in music, then headed to Europe for some adventure and culture. She fell in love with Chamonix, France where she lived high up in the Alps, played trumpet in a band and skied powder with the locals. Now she lives in Truckee. Jen has perhaps more nicknames than anyone else here at BSA: Some favorites include: Slowdog, J.Slo, Jennifer Snowski, Flowbee and Jen. Between trips she plays French horn in the Reno Orchestra and, like Ryan, plans custom BSA tours.

Marie He‍‍‍rnandez‍‍‍

SENIOR SHEPHERD & CUSTOM TOUR SPECIALIST, 2016

Four years ago Marie found her calling leading trips. A California native, she loves to explore new areas as well as showcase the place she calls home. She holds a BFA in Photography and Digital Media from CalArts and previously was a professional photographer. In her last career, she managed a team of 50 people, hosted team building activities and coordinated events for up to 200 guests. She has lived and worked in remote parts of Australia (where her Irish-born mom is from), traveled throughout New Zealand and South East Asia independently, cycled through Taiwan, and planned a 21-day, 225-mile rafting and camping expedition on the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon. All of these past experiences have been invaluable training for her role with us as a professional guide and trip planner. Phrases like “How can I help” and “Let me get that for you” are a mainstay of Marie’s vocabulary. The reason? She genuinely enjoys people and loves to go the extra mile to help. She has a fun sense of humor and is a prankster as well (which apparently, like her triple Australian-Irish-American citizenship, she also gets from her mom).

Zack Re‍‍‍inhardt‍‍‍

SHEPHERD EXTRAORDINAIRE, 2015

This Pennsylvania native studied film at Temple University before making his way out west. The first things one notices about Zack are his impressive moustache and equally mature demeanor that belies his chronological age (many folks have been shocked to learn he’s only in his mid 20s). Zack enjoys guiding “as the opportunity to share unique experiences with people and lead them on an adventure they may have otherwise would have never experienced.” A passionate cyclist, and mechanic he’s built a few bikes from scratch and rides regularly. A few months ago we successfully lured him away from his 9-5 at a little company you may have heard of called “Facebook”.

Patrick Ma‍‍‍kiri‍‍‍

SHEPHERD EXTRAORDINAIRE, 2012

Native Californian, Pat was born and raised in Southern California, but he has lived in Northern California for much of his adult life. At UC Santa Cruz he earned a degree in American History and further developed his great appreciation for surfing and cycling. Patrick just relocated from Santa Barbara back to San Francisco where he continues to enjoy time on the water and on two wheels as well as cooking with his girlfriend using farm fresh organic ingredients as much as possible. 2016 marks his 5th season of guiding active vacations with Black Sheep Adventures. He is now one of our “go to” guides for both active and educational tours and between trips he also helps out with trip planning, bike maintenance, and warehouse organization.

Aja Co‍‍‍ok‍‍‍

SHEPHERD EXTRAORDINAIRE, 2013

Perhaps due to nostalgia for a high school experience shared with Ryan Fowler, Aja never left high school. Ok, she did actually go to college and get a Masters Degree in Education so she could return to her high school as a teacher (and high school mountain bike league coach). A former professional mountain bike racer herself, as well as an incredible chef and wine connoisseur, Aja took to the hard and soft skills of guiding like a duck Michael Phelps to water. She has guided tours with us around California and on the East Coast. Always quick to smile and make it look easy even when giving her all to create a sensational experience for our guests, Aja now calls Sausalito home.

Nicole Ma‍‍‍rcoe‍‍‍

SHEPHERD, 2015

A graduate of Binghampton and native of the Northeast. Her love of the wilderness and adventure travel led her to teach at various educational institutions. These include The Student Conservation Association, The Appalachian Mountain Club, The Outdoor Academy, The White Mountain School, Visions Service Adventures and The National Park Service.

From Alaska to Guadeloupe, and the Cascade Mountains to the Appalachians, Nicole has had the pleasure of exploring many scenic areas throughout the U.S. After honing in on her love of the bike, both mountain and road, Nicole began guiding trips to Europe. A fluent French speaker, she has spent ten summers in France guiding cyclists following Le Tour. Formerly of Sausalito, these days she’s building a successful career as a florist and setting up her new home in Silicon Valley.

Frank Ackerman‍‍‍‍‍‍

LEARNED SHEPHERD/CO-FOUNDER OF FOUNDER, 2005/1974

A retired National Park Service Ranger who in his 32-year career lived and worked in a variety of parks from Dinosaur National Monument, Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Voyageurs National Parks before retiring as Chief of Interpretation for Cape Cod National Seashore. Frank later returned to full-time work for another 5 years as Curator of Education and then Director of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Now he’s our resident educational tour expert, designing, writing educational commentary, and accompanying many of our educational tour programs. He greatly enjoys living in Northern California and exploring the region’s various hiking trails, and railroads.

Ben Sander creates and operates our Nation Parks tours

Ben Sa‍‍‍nder‍‍‍

Dynamic Operations Guru (A.K.A. DOG), 2017

A born world-traveler, Ben is passionate about combining education and travel, while also protecting the environment. He has worked in ecotourism ventures in Costa Rica, Kenya, Tanzania, Peru and Pohnpei, Micronesia. His love of ecotourism also led him to be a bike tour guide in Washington DC offering bike tours of the national memorials. Most recently, prior to joining us, he spent 7 years managing the travel program for the National Parks Conservation Association connecting members with the best in educational travel to the US National Parks (which is, ahem, how he first met us). That’s right, Ben is also a former client, turned valued employee.

He has taken part in Climate Ride five times to help raise awareness around climate change, bike advocacy, and national park protection. Ben is also an avid hiker and has thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Bay Area on foot joined by his beloved dog, Vida, as much as possible. He has visited over 140 national park units (his favorites are Glacier, American Samoa, and Mojave) and loves to connect Black Sheep travelers to amazing experiences in our national parks and public lands on foot and via bike.

Beth Bi‍‍‍ttle‍‍‍

SHEPHERD, 2017

An avid hiker, cyclist, kayaker and traveler who enjoys exploring new places and meeting new people, Beth is passionate to share her love and knowledge of the outdoors with our guests and is an encouraging, supportive leader. Beth grew up spending lots of time outdoors hiking and riding horses in Missouri. In college, she studied recreation and led backpacking trips for international students. She loves cycling and hiking in all the places she visits, especially in the U.S. National Parks and has been to 17 so far (but who's counting). Beth has also traveled extensively internationally, including to India, Nepal, Vietnam, South Korea, England, Scotland, Holland, Botswana and South Africa and is always planning her next adventure.

Beth and her wife live in the Bay Area. They have an adorable toddler and a dog that enjoys rocking a Mohawk (the dog, not their son). Beth also serves on the board of her local Sierra Club.

Peter Hansen‍‍‍‍‍‍

Study Lecturer

Peter A. Hansen is a nationally known interpreter of railroads and the American experience. He is the long-time editor of Railroad History, the scholarly journal of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, and he is also a correspondent for Trains magazine, a popular publication focused on the modern railroad industry. He has been an on-camera source for CBS News, NBC News, and PBS, and has written several documentary films for distribution on public television.

Peter is a communications consultant to major railroads, and he is also guest curator and consultant to some of the nation’s noted historical museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where his firm coordinated the restoration of a 1922 Jim Crow railroad coach.  

The late William L. Withuhn, curator emeritus at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, said of Hansen, “Pete’s grasp of history – broadscale and regional, and not confined to railroading, either – and his own grasp of audience psychology is excellent.”

© Black Sheep Adventures, INC 2018  |  Site by NRB

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TERMS‍‍‍

‍‍‍Black Sheep Adventu‍‍‍res

900 Doolittle Drive, Suit‍‍‍e 2B

San Leandro, CA 9‍‍‍4577

‍‍‍(866) 647-‍‍‍4337

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