Natasha Teasley: Curating Inclusive Outdoor Adventures
Meet the Durham native who created an inclusive outdoor adventure company for the community.
Posted By Natalie Minott
From the vibrant splashes of color found on a butterfly to the breathtaking views of a waterfall, everything in nature fascinates Natasha Teasley, owner of Two Sisters Adventure Company in Durham. As a child, she spent her days watching trails of ants march through the cracks in the sidewalk, and she regularly observed the hidden world of bugs under rocks in her yard. Instead of video games and television, she watched the water flow around different obstacles and wandered off the beaten path with her sister and animal friends. The woods have always been her happy place.
“I spent so much time in the woods as a kid,” said Natasha. “I had a kind of natural connection to nature.”
Natasha’s passion for nature took her to Western Carolina University, a college surrounded by mountains in Cullowhee, North Carolina. She furthered her knowledge of the great outdoors with a degree in Parks and Recreation Management, Outdoor Leadership and Instruction concentration. Upon graduating, there was no question about where she would go. She was born in the Bull City, and her family’s roots are here. With excitement, she headed back to the place she called home.
As she followed her passions and worked in the outdoor recreation industry, she continuously experienced a lack of diversity and inclusion.
“I didn't fit in among my outdoor leadership peers,” said Natasha. “I owned the off-brand equipment, and my family had not afforded travel. Also, my body didn't look like the other women around me.”
Turns out, the things that bothered her were industry-wide problems. Historically, outdoor recreation has been predominantly for white, wealthy, able-bodied males. A literature review by the Journal of Environmental Management found minorities are far less likely to visit U.S. public lands. From 1999-2016, about 93% of visitors to lands managed by the National Park Service and visitors to National Forests were white. The Journal suggests that part of the overwhelming whiteness of public lands is due to access and economic issues.
Since research shows that nature can be extremely healing, Natasha wanted to create a space where everyone – all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, ages and sizes – felt safe and welcome to explore the outdoors. While she never thought she would have the money or resources to actually start a business, she dreamed of opening her own adventure company, where people could go kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and connect with nature.
“I knew I wanted to open something that would do things differently — to make a space for people like me," she said. “The same things that stood in other people's way often stood in my way, too.”
She can’t put her finger on the exact turning point, but one day, after 17 years of managing someone else’s company, she decided it was time to act.
“I ask people on a regular basis to step out of their comfort zone, and this was my time to do the same,” Natasha said.
Her first step was to register her business as an LLC. She still didn’t have a solid plan or idea of how she would manage the financial challenges, but she knew she needed to keep moving forward.
In 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, everything fell into place. Two Sisters Adventure Co., a company with a mission focused on removing boundaries to those historically underrepresented in the outdoors through a holistic approach to recreation, was born.
“Fear of personal safety, fear of water or natural hazards, self doubt about our bodies or our skills, lack of free time and funds, not seeing ourselves represented in outdoor communities; these are all things that can be boundaries for so many of us," said Natasha. “Two Sisters Adventure Co. is committed to removing as many boundaries as possible.”
Despite the name Two Sisters, Natasha is the sole owner of Two Sisters Adventure Co. Her sister, Rainbow, and mom, Cathy, work with her to make many of the hard decisions — hence the name Two Sisters. The company offers numerous guided and self-guided trips, classes and camps for everyone from beginners to experts — the adventures are limitless. Soak up the sights and sounds of nature waking up with a sunrise paddle, or take in the beauty of the crisp autumn air and the fall foliage with a leaf looker paddle. Sign up for kayaking or standup paddleboarding at Falls Lake or enjoy an evening exploring the Eno River.
As soon as she started her business, she knew she was doing what she was meant to do. Her summer camps are full of trans and non-binary campers. People tell her, ‘thank you for making me feel safe,’ and she knows it's not just their physical safety that they are talking about. Mothers of adult children in the LGBTQ+ community will stop to talk about her company’s mission of inclusivity through tears. Many guests finally feel like they have a place.
“I cry good tears at least once a month because we are making a difference in people’s lives,” said Natasha.
When asked what makes Durham beautiful, Natasha replied, “Durham is amazing. It’s in my soul. The community has been so warm and receptive. What we want to do really resonates with so many people. I have been taken aback by how many people needed this space. Baba Chuck Davis used to laugh with me when we would run into each other and say, ‘we're all family here in Durham,’ and it’s so true.”
Natasha and her team are already planning for the future. Not only are they hoping to add some camping trips, but they are brainstorming some community picnics and game days where people can get together outdoors with a supportive community.
“We have been quietly watching the community and finding groups we can connect with to create meaningful partnerships and connections. The most impactful thing people can do is connect with us.”
They also offer scholarships to anyone of any age who needs them for any program or activity. You can contribute to their scholarship fund or help “share the adventure” with a donation.
The barriers to outdoor recreation can be dismantled, but it will take a village. Our community is thankful for Natasha, the nature-loving girl who took action and created a safe space for people in the community. Follow them on Instagram and help us share their story.