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Doggedly Determined to Embrace Nature an early childhood teacher, musher, and mom, Melinda Hayes is passionate about the outdoors


Melinda Hayes


Husband: Robert. Son: Jordan, 17. Animals: Sled dogs June, Phoenix, and Sage; a Chihuahua named Oliver; and a dachshund mix named Haylie


Starr Avenue, Eau Claire


Melinda is a native of Bloomer, but she has called Eau Claire home for the past 15 years. Her passion for the Chippewa Valley’s beautiful environment manifests itself in both her professional and personal life. Melinda holds a two-year degree in early childhood education from Chippewa Valley Technical College and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same subject from UW-River Falls. As a teacher of 3- and 4-year-olds, Melinda tries to make the most of the 117-acre campus of UW-Eau Claire’s Children’s Nature Academy by getting outside with her class daily. A few years back, Melinda brought home an Alaskan malamute to tag along on her own winter excursions, and soon enough she grew interested in dog sledding. Now she’s just one – or maybe two – dogs short of having a sled team. 

We love the Chippewa Valley because of all of the trails, rivers, and forests, and the farmers market. There is adventure to be had just about everywhere, and countless places to get lost in nature. The seasons, especially the vibrant fall colors and the pristine winters. We love the size of the community, which is small enough to have that small-town feeling yet large enough to accommodate those big-town amenities like the theaters and music venues.

I couldn’t live without a place to escape and re-center myself. These are the moments I am really in touch with my faith and spirituality and I need them to be a better me.

I make sure to never miss the lights at Irvine Park on Christmas Eve concluded with The Night Before Christmas read aloud at the end. This has been a tradition in my family as far back as I can remember, and it will continue hopefully far beyond my years.

My favorite place to take the kids is ... When my son was little, I loved to take him to all of the places I enjoyed growing up as a kid, such as Irvine Park and Round Lake and Long Lake for swimming, kayaking, and fishing. I loved taking him to the Ice Age Center or any bike trail and spending hours on the trails.

My family has taught me that we are strongest together. There is a great importance of being there for one another and always in a positive light so we are best prepared to face whatever lies ahead in our day-to-day lives.

I never leave the house without saying I love you to everyone, even the dogs.

Our typical weekend is spent in part together in the home or traveling. Robert and Jordan will often play games at the table or run errands together while I am always on a trail less traveled, typically with all of my sled dogs.

In the winter or spring, you’ll find us ... You will find Jordan and Robert nestled down with a good board game or movie. You will always find me on a trail snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, or mushing via sled or scooter.

When my son is out and about, we love to … Jordan is almost 18 now so he is starting to separate a bit from the nest. We still on occasion enjoy a trail together, a visit with our family in various parts of the state, or even just a good walk around the neighborhood and conversation about his future plans.

My husband always laughs at me because I do some pretty random quirky expressions that will catch Robert off guard and make him laugh. I’ve only been doing the same expressions for 15 years, yet he still laughs every time.

My husband would say my super power is remembering everything  … EVERYTHING.

My son will tell you that his mom and dad are strict. We are pretty strict parents, though we are pretty fair. I find it funny that he has always thanked us for our firm consistency and clear expectations. He says it has made his life fairly easy.

If I could pass on one bit of advice it would be: Be yourself no matter what box others might try to fit you in. Be adventurous! Most importantly, always be kind!

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