Backpacking and Canoeing Staff

Big Wild Adventures is owned and operated by Jesse Ford and David Ellis. Contact Us

Dave EllisDavid Ellis: Owner/Naturalist

David Ellis was born in Alabama; as a youth he backpacked and paddled extensively in the lush and steamy southern wilds. After earning a History degree from Auburn University, he soon began to train and then work for the National Park Service as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger, eventually ending up in Hawaii. This man of eclectic talents is also a certified wild-land and structural fire-fighter, a Wilderness First Responder, an American Heart Association CPR Instructor, a certified National Outdoor Leadership School Outdoor Educator and a licensed boat captain. After four years of hiking, paddling, law-enforcing and relaxing both in various Western wilds and all over the Hawaiian Islands, David tired of easy tropical living and moved to the Rocky Mountains in order to test his resistance to frostbite. This experiment was a success. David, his wife Kellie and dogs Koa, Willow and Althea are based in Livingston, MT.

Yellowstone Backpacking GuideJesse Ford: Owner/Naturalist

Jesse Ford was raised in Connecticut and now calls Missoula, Montana “home”. Usually, though, he is off exploring wild country. His passion for nature evolved during youthful explorations of woods and estuaries. At Villanova University he earned a degree in Economics and Business, while playing four years of Division 1 lacrosse.  Jesse then headed west to the Montana Rockies, which propelled him on a long series of traveling experiences around the globe. On countless road trips, river trips, and backpack trips across the United States and beyond, he followed poet Robert Frost down the path less traveled. That has made all the difference! Through his travel to wild places, Jesse developed a passion for re-connecting people to wild nature. Continuing along that less-traveled path, over the last decade Jesse has worked extensively as a sea kayak, canoe and backpacking guide from Connecticut to California.

Yellowstone GuideTaylor Pyle: Guide/Naturalist

Taylor Pyle was born and raised in southeast Wyoming, where at an early age he grew to love the mountains. He spent much of his youth scrambling around the Vedawoo Rocks and losing himself in the nearby Snowy Range, though he always ended up “found”. Taylor played college football, and then, in pursuit of an outdoor lifestyle and career, he earned a degree in Outdoor Recreation from Central Wyoming College. Then he moved to northwest Wyoming where he now calls Pinedale “home”. Taylor can often be found exploring the nearby Wind River Range and other alpine areas of the Greater Yellowstone region. During the winter, he is a ski patrol director at the local White Pine Ski Area, and in his time off he relentlessly pursues un-tracked powder. This talented man is also a certified E.M.T., and when not guiding in the northern Rockies, he guides mountaineering trips in Alaska, including to the summit of Denali.

Bob Clark: Guide/Naturalist

Bob has lived with his wife and children in Missoula, Montana since 1992. He has backpacked extensively throughout the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho including Yellowstone National Park. A love for nature and adventure was realized early, when as a teen Bob escaped his urban home for canoe trips and hikes in Northern Michigan and Minnesota. An avid reader early on, Bob was inspired by the likes of Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Edward Abbey. He may have been the only 13-year-old with subscriptions to Mother Earth News and Alaska Magazine! Bob served in the U.S. Army as an infantry Medic and later worked for nearly 20 years in wildlife and natural resource conservation, helping to protect public lands, wilderness, and wildlifeBob also spends a great deal of time in the southwest U.S., exploring and guiding in the beautiful canyon country of southern Utah – Escalante country, Canyonlands, Zion, and Capitol Reef National Parks. Bob has been leading wilderness trips for BWA since 2014.

Jonner Griffin: Guide/Naturalist

Jonner grew up in Northwest Montana, and had the great privilege of having the Rocky Mountains as his backyard.  He has guided throughout the Northwestern USA leading backpacking, climbing and rafting trips.  In 2016 Jonner became a registered nurse and has worked in a number of medical settings throughout the past several years.  However he has never been able to pull himself away from outdoor education and spending time in the back country.  He is currently based out of Missoula, MT and spends his time teaching backcountry medicine courses, guiding, and recreating on our wonderful public lands.

yellowstonehikingMary Byers: Assistant

Born in Baltimore but raised in Sheridan, Wyoming, “Cousin Mary” grew up (sort of), hiking in the Big Horn Mountains. After studying forestry in college and learning how to clear-cut forests, she decided instead to become a textile artist. Though no longer in production, her beautiful wildlife T-shirts are scattered around the West, mainly covering the torsos of aging hippies. Her artistic endeavors were supplemented by working seasonally on a fire lookout tower in southwest Montana, near where she lives in the town of Hamilton with husband Jim Olsen. Mary has worked for many years as an assistant on numerous Big Wild trips, where she enjoys meal preparation, meeting new people, carrying heavy objects, and being in beautiful wild places. She can often be spotted in camp during early mornings, contorting her body into seemingly impossible yoga positions.

Yellowstone Hiking GuideJoshua Ross: Assistant

Joshua Ross lives near Dubois, Wyoming with his beloved wife, two dogs, and a cat named Mr. Mordacious. He is an avid backcountry subsistence hunter who routinely hikes many miles in the surrounding Greater Yellowstone wild-lands. He has lived and worked in many places, including work for the Wyoming Fish and Game Department and as a ranch hand. Josh has also hitchhiked across Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. Born and raised on a marginal farm in the stony forests of the Adirondack Mountains, he learned early the grounding power of wild places. A semi-reformed nomad with a dogged conservationist streak, when not out in the mountains, floating rivers, reading books, poring over maps or cutting firewood, he works with the Natural Resources Defense Council to help prevent and resolve conflicts between humans and carnivores in the West. Long an aspiration of his, he is thrilled to be part of the team at Big Wild Adventures.

Note: Many of our clients ask us if they should tip the backpacking guide & assistant after the trip.That’s up to you; we realize that not everyone can afford the extra expense. However, if you feel that our staff has done a good job and you wish to express that sentiment with a tip, it is appreciated! As a suggestion, 10-15% would be appropriate.

It is no wonder that each year, about half of our clients are
“repeaters” from prior Big Wild trips!

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Ground SquirrelThis fellow is not a member of the Big Wild staff.

Annual Trip Calendar


Capitan Lake - photo from one of our backpacking treks

List prices include our complete gear package and there is a $300 discount if you bring your own (see our Canoeing List, Backpacking List, and/or Questionnaire for details – found here). Also, we offer a $300 discount for the second trip in a calendar year. Scheduled trips are for persons ages 14 and over. Exceptions to the age requirement will be made by us on a case-by-case basis.

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