When growing up, family vacations to Lexi Woods and her six siblings entailed becoming better acquainted with nature of Duluth, Minnesota, during lengthy camping expeditions.
Her mom, Laurie, was a full-time mother and her father, Jim, was in the trucking business. There were no fancy flights to exotic areas, but Woods, whose last name is fitting for the lifestyle she has settled into, said her and her siblings wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Woods, 34, knew throughout her childhood she would always live an active lifestyle. She also knew her lifestyle would always be brimming with outdoor activity, as the wilderness is one thing that has always brought her happiness — a necessity she thinks of first when measuring a life well-lived.
She was an athlete both in high school and college and began dabbling in sports outside of an educational setting at a young age with hiking, rafting, climbing and more. While she was still in high school she enlisted in the military. The choice would launch what has thus far been a nearly 17-year career in military service.
“The military really taught me all of life’s core values and it was a decision that kept on giving over the years,” Woods said. “I’m not really sure what my life would look like without it.”
Aside from the service providing her a betterment in character, it would also carry her through college financially and would later be a bridge that allowed her to move to Montana in 2011 after she applied for and was accepted to be an Inspector General with the National Guard, a position she still holds.
She had fallen in love with the area and the people of the Flathead Valley during a trip to visit friends in the area, where she went on a spontaneous backwoods camping trip with Justin Woods, who would later become her husband. She said although her time in Minnesota instilled in her a passion for nature, her home state’s outdoor offerings pale in comparison to Big Sky country.
“It really was a hook, line and sinker situation. It’s so easy to fall in love with this place,” Woods said.
She has now called the West Glacier area home for a little less than a decade.
It’s the place where she fell in love with Justin, who she describes as an “avid outdoorsman” that elevates her penchant for the outdoors on a regular basis. It’s the place she met his son, David, and where she gave birth to their daughter, Bella. She describes her and Justin’s two children with admiration, saying one “can’t design better kids than these.”
And Montana is where she had the opportunity, with the help of a “career starter” package from the military, to start a second career at Wild River Adventures in 2013.
“Many gave me words of encouragement and extended their helping hands should I need advice or assistance with anything. This community is rock solid and I am both honored and grateful to be where I am today,” Woods said in regard to the community’s response to her and Justin taking over ownership of the business.
Wild River Adventures, established in 1985, aims to customize unique outdoors experiences in Glacier National Park ranging from rafting to climbing and camping. The Woodses acquired the company from Bob Jordan, who sold it to the couple because they “understood and wanted to carry on his philosophy,” Woods said.
“His philosophy can essentially be broken down to quality versus quantity,” Woods said. “We have given a facelift of sorts to the technical side of things but we focus on being able to listen to what people are looking for and saying ‘we can do that.’”
Justin, who is also a firefighter, serves as the “big idea person,” whereas Lexi is the sounding board for the more analytical side of the business and takes on most of the day-to-day operations. Combined, the couple continue to carry on Jordan’s vision for Wild River Adventures.
“A majority of our customers get off the river saying, “’that was the highlight of our entire vacation!”’ or, “’that was an experience of a lifetime!”’ Woods said. “To know that our company has been able to have such in influential impact on so many people’s lives, I am beyond inspired and want to continue to do this for as long as we possibly can.”
Woods said the business, although very hectic during the summer tourism months, also offers her the outdoor lifestyle she always imagined herself being immersed in. The facility is located just up the road from her home — a prime real estate set-up that allows her family to thrive amid the chaos of the busy season.
But more than a convenient location providing her with flexibility for raising the children, Woods said the 40 or so employees that keep Wild River Adventures’ wheels churning are an extension of her family itself.
“It sounds so obvious, but we couldn’t do any of this or have any of this without each and every one of them,” Woods said, her voice cracking slightly. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel fortunate for that.”
Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.