Areas of Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Taking too many photos, Geocaching, Bird watching
Hobbies/Interests: Off-roading in the decked-out family Prius. Befriending strangers on Instagram. Exploring abandoned buildings.
Ben was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri deep in the Midwest where he learned to believe that cargo pants are indeed hip. Despite the common misconception that the entire state is entirely flat cornfields like Iowa, Ben found adventure in Missouri while exploring the Ozark Mountains by foot, mountain bike and kayak. Some memorable trips involved taking a wrong turn down a dirt road and being accused of stealing maple syrup by an angry farmer blocking the road with his ATV and a .22 rifle and finding the best ice cream and homemade peach cobbler on two-lane backroads.
Fifth grade was a pivotal time in young Ben’s outdoor career. Ben joined Boy Scouts and along his way to achieving the Eagle Scout rank, he learned important lessons like what happens if you throw batteries in a campfire (explosions and angry Scoutmasters) and how to poop in the woods (dig a hole 6 in x 6 in x 6 in with your trusty sanitary trowel and fire away). While visiting Oregon later that summer, Ben’s parents made the bold choice of allowing him to plan the return route to Missouri. Though only a wee boy scout, they tossed Ben a credit card and an atlas and hopped on I-84E telling him to figure out five nights of camping and hiking on the way home to Missouri. He planned a surprisingly successful trip, hitting three national parks and got himself hooked on both long road trips and trip planning.
Years later, Ben found himself planning another cross country trip, but to Los Angeles this time. Since arriving at USC, he has busied himself by exploring mountains no less than 7 times higher than Missouri’s high point, the rugged 1,772 ft peak of Taum Sauk Mountain, and deserts larger and flatter than the biggest cornfield in his home state. He splits his free time between planning the next trip and his next Instagram post (@ben_banet, yes this was shameless self-promotion).