Raised by the wild in Woodfords | RecordCourier.com

Raised by the wild in Woodfords

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau

She was raised by the wild in Woodfords. It surrounded her as a child and has defined who she has become as a woman. On a windswept mountainside overlooking Carson Valley, Shasta Leonard used the isolation to set down deep roots for herself. She is unshakable and grounded. This allows her to travel through life with both an intense trust and an endless thirst for adventure.

Her deep brown eyes and blond hair have made her a striking beauty on the outside, but it is the inner light she carries that you notice first. Growing up in this part of Alpine County is different from any of the other community clusters. The rich blanket of stars covering the night, glorious sunrises, and images floating by in the clouds become part and parcel of who you are. It is a solitude that can open your heart if you let it. It made Shasta empathetic, and has allowed a calm strength to be the center of her nature.

Like many families choosing a rural lifestyle, Shasta was raised without television. Instead there was a large outside garden, endless hours of hiking and wandering in the woods and along lakes and streams. Her parents built a motocross track around their land and she would dirt bike, take care of the llamas, chickens, and ride their horses.

Starting out at Diamond Valley School, she followed her older brother Drake in transferring down to Gardnerville, graduating from Douglas High in 1999. She met her now-husband Ben at church, and they dated during those years. Both she and her younger sister Denali are named after some of the most striking mountain peaks in the United States. It is a fitting name.

Shasta landed in Hawaii working on a Day Charter on the Nepali Coast. Always internally motivated, she surfed, hiked, and kayaked. The shoreline was like a wilderness cathedral to her, with albatross and other ocean birds circling above. Whales and sharks were her constant seaside companions. Her work was like play, but after four years she decided to head back to the mainland.

Her father had been a cabinet maker and she grew up helping him. She took her skills to a woodworking shop in Pennsylvania. Shasta ended up rooming with two other girls she knew from Gardnerville. She found living in the East very different and was glad to have her friends with her. She started to miss her true home though and made plans to return. She drove cross-county with a coworker, backpacking and camping the whole way. In Utah they survived in temperatures going down to negative ten, and hiked the Grand Canyon in a blizzard.

Shasta was home for just two days when she ran into her old high school flame Ben Leonard. When they met for coffee, she didn’t realize they were on a date. It soon became obvious though.

On the suggestion of a friend, she joined the Silver State Hotshots fire fighting crew. Describing her year as “being with 20 dudes out in the woods chewin’ tobacco, cuttin’ down trees, and sleepin’ under the stars.” It was a very challenging job, but she loved it. She found she loved Ben even more than her profession however, and put in her two weeks notice to be with him.

Ben’s job was in Las Vegas, so Shasta went from her wilderness oriented background to that concrete covered city in the desert.

Completing massage school, she worked as a masseuse in both the casinos and in a chiropractors office for three years. Everything about who she is makes her an incredibly talented massage therapist.

They were both happy to move back to the valley when they finally could, and were married in Ben’s parents backyard in Carson City. She has been running Massage by Shasta for the last eight years. She currently works out of Sierra Wellness and Training Center in Gardnerville.

Remarkably, both Ben and Shasta’s grandfathers were friends working for the National Guard together.

Their children Rudy Lu and Joseph are named after the two grandfathers. Shasta has a deep appreciation for growing up so close to nature, and she carries on that tradition, regularly going backpacking and hiking together as a family.

She “doesn’t need a lot of stuff” and that is also a direct result of her upbringing. She is thankful for each moment, and concentrates most on her relationships with people. She is “authentic Woodfords,” this special land giving her the solid foundation she needed to find her own unique way in this complex and challenging world.