Student Spotlight: Robin Walter

Robin Walter with horse and mountains in background

Robin Walter is a first year MFA student in the poetry program. Robin has a deep connection to horses, adventure, art, and conservation. In an effort to combine these interests, she founded Cloud Peak Expeditions, an education-centered organization that offers backcountry horse trips into the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Cloud Peak Expeditions aims to deepen our connection to self, each other, and the natural world through meaningful backcountry travel. They connect emerging and established writers and artists to wild settings. “You bring the ideas and notebook; we’ll provide the horses and opinionated mules.”

Was your undergraduate degree in English? If so, what made you choose English?

I studied poetry in undergrad and was lucky to meet mentors who encouraged me to continue to engage with the craft after graduating. I chose to study poetry because it helps me to pay attention to the world around me.

What inspired you to start this organization?

I grew up around horses, and have long been interested in the confluence of writing, riding, and creativity. Both writing and riding invite us to pay attention to the world. Both ask us to tend to the nature and quality of our touch. As we turn to the world through writing and riding, we might come closer to experiencing the roots of the word ‘tend’—to care for, to promise, to give into safekeeping. During our expeditions, we will foster a curiosity about how writing and riding allow us to become better attuned to the ways in which we imprint ourselves upon the world, and in turn, how it imprints itself upon us.

Pearl the mule

How does being a student in our MFA program inform the work you are doing through Cloud Peak Expeditions? What questions will you engage throughout the courses?

I feel grateful to have the opportunity to attend classes that continually challenge and inspire me. The opportunity to be part of a community that values, supports, and encourages the heart and labor that writing asks of us has been instrumental to my own craft. I think it would be a wonderful thing to extend the boundaries of that community beyond the academic institution and to foster creative spaces in other contexts and environments. What better environment to engage the natural world in our writing than in the natural world itself?

When we walk into wilderness, we’re invited to walk into the wilderness of our own selves—those untrammeled places home to complex ecosystems. During our writing seminar, we will document what we discover while traveling through these internal and external landscapes. We will cultivate what poet C.D. Wright describes as “a sense of wakefulness, of being present for what you’re looking at to reveal itself in more absolute terms.” We will use our words and our minds to reach towards this wild earth, in the hopes that through this reaching we might discover something essential about our own being—about what it means to inhabit a body in this world, and how that places us in relation to other bodies within a shared home.

Horse and tent at sunset

What advice do you have for students who might be interested in doing similar sorts of work? Who might have an idea but don’t know how to get started?

The best advice I could give is to be a little bit mulish about pursuing those ideas and to remain open to their continued evolution. Beyond that, I have found it enormously helpful to keep company with friends who remind you of the merits of pursuing your ideas and dreams when you lose sight of them.

What advice do you have for students working on an MFA or hoping to?

Invest in the community that will carry you through your MFA.

What summer courses do you offer, and where can we learn more?

What: Cloud Peak Expeditions aims to deepen our sense of belonging to wild places. With horses as our companions, and mountains our guides we will foster a sense of belonging to and responsibility towards this wild earth we call home.

Course Offerings:

All Womxn Expedition Course Info

Writing and Riding Course Info

Advanced Horsepacking course info

To learn more please visit: www.cloudpeakexpeditions.com

Questions?  Please contact cloudpeakexpeditions@gmail.com