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Inspiration comes in many forms. It can come intrinsically, it can come from the world around you, and sometimes, it can come from another person.
Karen Cleveland is a person that, just by providing support and encouragement, has inspired many individuals in their health and wellness journeys along the Corridor.
Born and raised in a little town in the Poconos called Gouldsboro, Karen practically lived outside as a child. Her love for being active and spending time outdoors developed at a young age. Karen was involved with 4H which allowed her to get involved with horseback riding. Her parents were avid cyclists and hikers; it’s no surprise those hobbies were passed down to their children as well.
“I don’t remember being inside as a kid, and I guess that’s how everything got started.”
That passion for the outdoors followed her well into adulthood.
Before Karen found her true passion as a piano tuner and technician, she worked in finance as an accountant. During this time, she decided that she was going to bike cross-country (although she noted she wasn’t the first to do so in her family). But she wasn’t just going to bike cross-country, she was going to ride for a cause.
“I wanted to ride across country and a friend of mine from up here in the Scranton area wanted to ride, too…We both signed up together – it was for the American Lung Association – we had to raise, I think $7,000. I ended up raising $17,000.”
Karen and her friend joined the fundraiser as part of a tour with approximately 700 other individuals. The group averaged about 85 miles a day on the journey from Seattle to Washington DC. It took them six and a half weeks.
Karen’s cross-country journey was back in 1998; she was about 43 years old then. Now, at 68, Karen is still a cycling enthusiast with no plans of stopping.
“I’m lucky because my sister also rides and my brother rides. So, we’ll [ride together], you know. She’s 76 years old and she’s still riding, my father rode until he was 80, and my brother is 70 years old and he’s still riding quite a bit.”
Karen also enjoys walking some of the local trails with her family. There’s a particular walk she enjoys taking from the Black Diamond D&L Trailhead to Crystal Lake. She also mentioned that hiking around the Jim Thorpe area is a popular spot for her, particularly now that the pedestrian bridge has been built.
“[On the trail] I meet people from not just other states on the trail…I meet people from other countries. It’s just one of the most beautiful trails ever.”
Karen doesn’t only ride or walk with her family. She’s always on the lookout for new biking buddies. Due to her extensive experience, she’s quick to lend a helping hand to someone when they need assistance. That’s how she convinced Michele Millington (now DLNHC Board of Directors member) to start biking again.
“Karen has inspired a few biking enthusiasts to take up biking – including me,” said Michele. “She helped me equip my bike and accessories and encouraged me to ride the D&L Trail. As a retired triathlete, I thought I was getting too old to continue biking. Karen made it easy for me to start biking the trail again. She is very knowledgeable with the points of interest along the trail from Mountaintop to Jim Thorpe and beyond. She has helped others enjoy the trail by riding with them and encouraging them along the way.”
For Karen, helping others is a no-brainer. When the topic of leading bike rides came up, she was enthusiastic about the idea. She’s led rides before and has always been active in bike clubs.
Last year, DLNHC held its first pop-up Hootenanny at Moosehead Lake in September. The event was “Hike In, Hike Out” so participants had to travel about 4 miles each way to attend. There was information, refreshments, and live music courtesy of local folk singer- Don Shappelle.
Karen happened to be one of the attendees that day, and even filled out a volunteer interest form. Keep an eye open, you might see her out on the D&L Trail helping someone fix their bike or leading a group ride.
If you’re interested in learning about our many volunteer opportunities, visit this page.
This article was written as part of the DLNHC Faces of the Corridor campaign. If you know someone or group that you think should be featured, visit this page to learn how you can nominate them.