Camp Staff


Carlisle Rankin, Camp Muddy Sneakers Director, WNC Field Instructor
Carlisle Rankin
Camp Muddy Sneakers Director, Camp Muddy Sneakers Instructor, WNC Field Instructor

A native of NC, Carlisle was excited to return to the Blue Ridge Mountains after three great years teaching third grade in Nashville, Tennessee. After two years working in fundraising at Asheville School, she began working with Muddy Sneakers in the spring of 2014. Carlisle received her BA in Elementary Education from Centre College and is currently a graduate student in Environmental Education at Montreat College. Her thesis work focus is on developing an integrated science curriculum for community garden programs in public schools.

Carlisle spent summers as a camper and sailing counselor at Camp Seafarer in coastal NC. She was also a farmer and cabin counselor at Gywnn Valley Camp in Brevard. As a high school student at Asheville School, Carlisle further developed her love of the outdoors through their mountaineering program. She is thrilled to be able to meld her teaching and counselor skills into her work with Muddy Sneakers. Carlisle lives in Asheville and enjoys hiking with her dog Nali, gardening, rock climbing, canoeing, and live music.

Camp Instructors

Deborah Davis
Camp Muddy Sneakers Instructor, WNC Field Instructor

Deborah has a BA in elementary education as well as a Masters in guidance counseling from Clemson University. She grew up exploring the mountains and creeks of western NC on her grandparent’s farm in Madison County, so it was a natural fit for her to make the move from classroom teacher to Muddy Sneakers field instructor. After teaching science for 21 years in the Greenville SC area, Deborah would tell you that she has found her dream job because Muddy Sneakers allows her to combine her passion for the outdoors with her expertise in teaching science. As a science teacher, she led school trips on the barrier islands of SC, the Everglades in Florida, and in the mountains of WNC. In her final years of teaching, she implemented the Trout in the Classroom program which led her to putting more emphasis on teaching environmental education in her 6th grade classes. Eventually, Deborah developed a program called Taking It Outside which provided the opportunity to take all 90 of her students on science expeditions to a local nature park. As Deborah watched her students interact with nature and the impact of using experiential education to teach science, she realized it was time to make a change. Therefore, she moved to Brevard, NC and pursued a position with Muddy Sneakers. When not teaching with Muddy Sneakers, she can be found, hiking with her golden retriever, paddling, or taking art classes.

Ben Nelson
WNC Assistant Program Director, Camp Muddy Sneakers Instructor, WNC Field Instructor

Ben is a native of the Southwest Virginia but has spent significant time in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains beginning at a young age. Many childhood summers spent at Green River Preserve (GRP) summer camp in Cedar Mountain, NC profoundly shaped his environmental awareness and firmly grounded his sense of place. After graduating from Davidson College, he spent a year travelling through Ireland and west Africa on a Watson Fellowship studying the connections between Appalachian fiddle/banjo music and the traditional music of Ireland and Senegambia. Back in the states, Ben returned to the southern Appalachians to work for Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy in Hendersonville, NC. Land conservation eventually led him back to Green River Preserve, where he discovered environmental education, what he considers his true vocation. At GRP, Ben worked as a mentor and expedition leader and through that work, became connected with Muddy Sneakers where he humbly and joyfully has continued his passion for introducing children to environmental/experiential education. Exploring and teaching about the Appalachian landscape has led him to also care deeply for the people and cultures that inhabit it, and to express that respect Ben immerses himself in playing the fiddle and the banjo; calling square dances; and collecting the stories of Appalachian elders.

Rachel Shopper
Camp Muddy Sneakers Instructor, WNC Field Instructor

Rachel grew up in coastal Massachusetts and spent her childhood exploring the local beaches and nature preserves with her dog, Rosie. After graduating from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in English Literature, she moved to Costa Rica and taught yoga at a retreat center. From there, she went on to complete her permaculture design certification at Finca Bona Fide in Nicaragua. Upon returning to the states in 2012, Rachel moved to Asheville, NC to pursue her permaculture education with a year-long apprenticeship with local designers. It was during this time she began to realize her passion was connecting people with the natural world and all its wonders, and through the outdoors, connecting people with themselves on a deeper level. She attended the Anake Outdoor School at the Wilderness Awareness School in WA in 2014, where she studied naturalist skills, mentorship, primitive skills, and community building. In addition to her work at Muddy Sneakers, she is a field instructor with Forest Floor Wilderness Programs, a local organization that teaches outdoor education using the 8 shields model of nature connection. When she isn’t working with children in nature, Rachel spends her time crafting, contra dancing, wild harvesting, and serving as the associate poetry editor for Orison Press.


Camp Muddy Sneakers Intern, Madison Barlow
Madison Barlow
Camp Muddy Sneakers Intern

Madison Barlow grew up in Asheville, NC with her parents, younger brother, and three dogs. Her childhood in Asheville largely shaped her passion for the outdoors, experiential education, and environmental preservation. She is currently in her third year at Appalachian State University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Recreation Management, and hopes to work with a nonprofit organization that uses the outdoors for youth outreach in the future. For the past two summers, Madison has worked as a residential camp counselor at Rockbrook Camp for Girls. She enjoys intentional, reflective service, and works closely with Appalachian State’s Appalachian Community Together (ACT) office. When she is not studying, Madison can be found exploring the parkway or hiking with friends and her Golden Retriever, Riley.

other ways to give »

Donate to Muddy Sneakers

Each $50 donation sponsors one student’s participation in Muddy Sneakers for a full school year! Learn more »