It's like New Years around here as we prepare to kick off Season 2 events next Monday in Seattle, which means we've been feeling all nostalgic about the sights and sounds from the first season. And as our great grandmas taught us, there's no better way to stoke nostalgia than to flip through some old photos.
At Boldly Went events, we ask that participants share their stories without audio/video accompaniment, because the world doesn't need more Powerpoint slides, we like the creative challenge, and it assures that stories will be just as powerful on our podcast as they are in person. But after each event we invite storytellers to send us their photos and back stories because we just can't resist. We didn't want to be greedy, so mid-season we started compiling some of the cool stuff people were sending, and putting it out weekly in our Newsletter and Field Notes page.
As we were flipping back through some of those, it was striking how many amazing storytellers we had, and how many awesome photos they sent us. So, ahead of next week's event, we compiled some of our favorite photo/storyteller combos, along with links to the episodes on which they were featured.
Note: episode links in this blog are to iTunes where we hope you will subscribe to future episodes, and if you like the podcast leave us a review! If you're not an iTunes listener, you can also find episodes in your favorite podcasting app by searching "Boldly Went" or stream directly from the Listen page on our website.
Our favorite photos from live events were taken by Monika Deviat, in Calgary, Canada. She specializes in night sky photography and her website is worth checking out!
Get Involved, and become part of the nostalgia for Season 2!
Facebook reminded me this morning that 2 years ago today, we were at the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, preparing to hike down and through the Eagle Creek alternate to the banks of the Columbia River. The section was one of the most beautiful of the entire trail, and today, like much of the lower Columbia River Gorge it's engulfed in flames.
We were also preparing today to put out a post about The Rendezvous, a music and outdoor festival that our friends at Outdoor Arts and Recreation are planning for September 22 - 24 in the Methow Valley, WA. We're holding off on that post (you'll still see it in some form or another), because multiple fire complexes are raging in that area as well, and while the festival location is currently unaffected, their sister organization, Rainshadow Running, sent out an email yesterday saying that fires might force a postponement.
The situation ranges from terrifying for the people whose houses and livelihoods sit in the path of the fires, to a huge bummer for people who love the region. Like Harvey, Irma and other natural disasters, a big part of the response is waiting and hoping for the best in a situation that we can't control.
But for people who want to do something concrete, in lieu of our post about The Rendezvous, it seems appropriate to draw your attention to some resources about the fires:
Sarah Gentzler from the Outdoor Women's Alliance posted this really helpful article in The Evergrey yesterday providing background on what's happening with the fires. The title is Seattle-centric (The Evergrey is a Seattle-focused blog) but the article has great information on the overall situation.
And Rainshadow Running emailed out this fantastic list of resources yesterday, which offers options for support specific to each fire complex in the region. The following are excerpts from their email:
Eagle Creek Fire- Columbia River Gorge
Friends of the Columbia River Gorge is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conversation of the Gorge. They are responsible for securing the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act in 1986 and now with over 6,000 members, they continue the conservation efforts year round. You can donate at any time, but currently they are accepting donations for the Hood River County Search and Rescue for their efforts in rescuing over 140 hikers when the fire broke out. 100% of the proceeds go directly to these heroes.
For more information and ways to donate/help the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, please click here.
Click here to read a great article about ways to help, but also about things not to do at this point. It also has information about local businesses helping those being evacuated.
Diamond Creek Fire - North Central WA
The Methow Conservancy has been working to help the land and the people of the Methow Valley recover from the devastating fires of 2014 and 2015 as well as prepare for current and future fires. Their mission, to inspire people to care for and conserve the land of the Methow Valley, ensuring it will remain a place where future generations can enjoy the rural character and natural beauty we cherish today, is critical year round fires or not.
Consider becoming a member to help further this important work.
Jolly Mountain Fire/Norse Peak Fire
The Jolly Mountain fire has been burning since August 11th in the Central Cascades of Washington (Cle Elum area) and has grown to over 18,000 acres. A level 3 evacuation is in place for much of the area and a Red Cross shelter has been set up in Cle Elum for nearby residents affected by the evacuation. If you donate to the Red Cross, you can choose to send your donation to where it is needed most or to your local Red Cross chapter. Or if you would like to send the donation to a specific incident, you can mail in your donation. Directions are on their website:
Click here to donate to Red Cross
The Norse Peak Fire, which also started August 11st due to lightning, is burning just north of Mt. Rainier on the east side of the Pacific Crest Trail and as of today has grown to almost 20,000 acres.
Click here to support the Pacific Crest Trail Association
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is the world's leading conservation non-profit organization and staffs 65 members in the state of Washington alone. They purchased over 47,000 acres of forest in Kittitas County (where the Jolly Mountain fire is spreading) for the purpose of safeguarding clean water, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.
Click here to read about conservation efforts in Washington
Click here to donate to The Nature Conservancy
Volunteer Your Time
Much of the fire relief efforts right now are out of our hands and we can only hope for the safety of the firefighters and those being evacuated. However, many organizations need volunteers year round to help with efforts to rebuild and prevention. Volunteer opportunities include trail work, planting trees, manning a fire lookout, help managing campgrounds, and help with events and projects to educate the community on the conservation of our lands.
Here are a few other organizations to check out:
United States Forest Service
Washington Trails Association
This week, Angel and I have the opportunity to volunteer as hosts at The Mountaineers Hut at Stevens Pass, WA, which is hosting Pacific Crest Trail hikers as they're nearing the end of their journey, just a couple hundred miles shy of the Canadian border.
By the most literal measures, PCT hikers at this stage are genuinely disgusting human beings. This far in, hikers (and the clothes they're wearing) have been walking for months, and it's easy to adopt the attitude that showers can wait for Canada. So, they can smell the hay in the barn, as the saying goes, but everyone else just smells them. (We know, we were them as we wrapped up our PCT thru-hike about this time of year in 2015).
But in more metaphorical ways, this point is when PCT hikers have been distilled to their most beautiful and compelling essence. The hikers arriving at Stevens Pass have already proved their mettle through 700 miles of desert sun in SoCal, 500 miles of treacherous snow through the Sierra, an endless 500 mile grind in NorCal, and 700 miles of encroaching forest fires and beckoning microbreweries in the Pacific Northwest. They're the hobbits at the gates of Mordor. They're fit. They're smart. They've killed a few orcs. All they have to do now is ride out the home stretch - 200-ish miles that seem like a victory march.
As a corollary, hikers setting out from here are also beginning to wax nostalgic, and to think about the significance of their hike: what role it has played in their larger life, whether it's been a positive or negative experience, and whether they'll be able to reintegrate into normal society. They're prone to reflection on the meaning of it all.
I say all of this basically by way of introduction, to explain how I ended up in a conversation in a cabin with a couple of smelly European thru-hikers that sent me into a nostalgia spiral that led me here, to a reflection on the core values of the outdoor community.
On Sunday, after sampling, and then discussing the relative lack of merits of various cheap American lagers, and the hikers' plans for what's next after the trail, a brilliant Swiss kid who goes by Stats and has the facial hair of a young lion asked a question that started me on a monologue that still hasn't fully ended: "What sticks with you after the PCT?"
Immensely grateful to be given the opportunity to share my veteran hiker learning with this skillful cadet on the cusp of graduation, my initial response was that it turns you into a committed minimalist: when you literally have to carry everything you need to live, you realize that you don't actually need much, and that you're better off getting rid of the things you don't. And that it makes it really difficult to give up small freedoms: months spent with no commitments beyond moving a few miles forward makes it hard to make decisions that tie you down - getting a real job, or signing a lease that will keep you in the same spot for a long period of time.
That conversation moved on before I could impart more invaluable wisdom about how the trail changes you forever, but the next day the topic came back up when I went out hiking with a good friend from the PCT - Rob, aka Danger Muffin - who was in town by sheer coincidence and stopped by the cabin to catch up. Since the PCT, both of us have done a lot of drifting both geographically and in our careers, and Danger summarized the impetus behind the wandering well: (and I unapologetically paraphrase...) "I've realized more and more that I want to really own my life, and live rather than just giving up and doing what somebody else tells me to."
Danger has amassed at least as much wisdom as me, and back at the cabin, in another conversation with the hikers that night, we hit them with knowledge about humility - that doing something as big as the PCT puts your life in perspective, and living in an immense wilderness helps you to get a more realistic sense of your own importance. For a lot of people, that translates into something like a good sense of humor, because you learn not to take yourself, or any individual situation, too seriously.
Bear with me now, as this post veers in an unexpected, and probably unwelcome direction, because that idea - the relationship between humility, humor, and the experience of wilderness - was on my mind when we were hiking again yesterday, and Danger Muffin's brother Tom (also randomly in town for a visit), told a story about a guy he met on a climbing trip in Kentucky who bragged about discovering, unexpectedly, "200 ticks on his testes". And who, after unsuccessful removal attempts, suffocated them in carburetor fluid.
I won't pretend that the tick anecdote is much more than a horror story that demands to be told, but the rest of the stuff here adds up to something important, at least to me. (And I hope you're paying attention here Stats): two years on I think the biggest thing that has stuck with us from the PCT is a desire to surround ourselves with the outdoor community, whose collective experiences reinforce those types of values.
The reason being that the PCT was an immersive experience in the outdoors and the community that forms there, and a crash course in the lessons that it teaches. The ongoing experience of gathering people together from across the community is continuing education that helps to define outdoor culture (if there is such a thing), and communicate to each other the lessons that "stick with us". And all together, outdoor values like minimalism, freedom, perspective, humility, and a good sense of humor, are things we want to reinforce - both in ourselves, and in the people around us.
Among other things, this week's podcast features a story from Portland crowd favorite Constance Ohlinger that reflects all of the above values in a remarkable way, and concludes with maybe the best finishing line from any of our events. It's a story with an incredible history that made it into international news, so listen and check out the back story here.
And we're excited to find out who is going to show up at our next event, which is happening in Seattle on Monday, September 18th at Naked City Brewery. It's the kickoff to "Season 2" of events, and it looks like there will be an exciting announcement and potentially fabulous gifts and prizes along with normal mix of gnar, inspiration, and good times. Tickets are $10 through next Monday (Sept. 4), and this event has sold out consistently, so we encourage you to buy early!
Today most of my family is in Ohio at the memorial service for my cousin Kyle, who was one the most important people in my life throughout my childhood, and someone who influenced my love for the outdoors as much as anyone. I'm not there in part due to reasons that are a little ironic and a little poetic, because of prior commitments to cover for a friend at work while he goes to Serbia to meet his girlfriend's family for the first time. (I think somewhere up there, Kyle is okay with this, because that's the kind of guy he was.)
Kyle was my older male cousin, so maybe naturally one of the people I looked up to most as a kid. We were in Boy Scouts together, and he was much more accomplished at it than me - going on to become an Eagle Scout while I dropped out a few merit badges beyond Tenderfoot. But it was really time with him where I learned to hike, to camp, to backpack, to build a fire (I still suck at it - should've put more time into that merit badge!), and to deal with rough weather outside. Those times shaped my life, and sent me on a trajectory that I have no plans on changing. (He also taught me to be a giant nerd, I think in the best sense, instilling a love of fantasy novels, comic books, cheesy 80's rock, and role playing games, but that's a discussion for another time.)
The times with him have been on my mind a lot in the last couple of years, as Angel and I have taken a sort of merit badge approach to our life outdoors - moving from primarily spending our time trail running to learning basic skills in skiing, orienteering, paddling, bouldering, desert scrambling, thru-hiking, and general dirt-bagging. I'm still no Eagle Scout like Kyle was, but we've gotten more well rounded, and it's not a stretch to say that we've just been continuing along the path he started me on.
Kyle's death was, unequivocally, a tragedy. At age 42, he had a massive stroke and gastric bleeding for reasons that still aren't certain, and spent a week in the ICU fighting before he passed.
I've written about death a fair amount on this blog, and while that's never been planned consciously, it's the hand that life keeps dealing.
When my Dad passed a few years ago, a lot of thoughts were triggered around the need to "go because you can", to use Monster and Sea's tagline. But this week, reflecting on my cousin's passing, I've been thinking a lot about the outdoors as a vehicle for life relationships that change you, because my relationship with him changed me.
Personally, it's the community building aspect of Angel's big vision for Boldly Went that is most compelling for me, and we spent the day after Kyle's death outside with people we've connected with through this project. We've known Seth Wolpin for a few years, but he's been one of our earliest supporters, and his business, Himalayan Adventure Labs, was our first sponsor. He's also basically a real life Indiana Jones, so he was a perfect guide to take us out on a partially off-trail peak-bagging loop in the central Cascades. We ended up there because of Ellen Bayer, who we met at our first storytelling event in Tacoma. She's from Ohio like us, and has only been trailrunning for a year, so this off-trail experience was a first for her in the area, but she's hardcore and is scouting for bigger things so brought us all together.
The following day we hiked to Lake Annette with a couple of kayaks and our new friend Sam from Taiwan, who connected with Angel through City Hostel Seattle and signed up for a trip through our Navigator Network. It was my first time going along on one of these outings, and it was such a great experience showing a like-minded guy from the other side of the world one of our favorite local places and doing something really unique, paddling a kayak around a crystal clear alpine lake on a perfect summer day.
In both cases, relationships translated into outdoor experiences that will be, in some small degree, life-changing. For Seth, guiding us on a route he'd done before was an exercise in sharing excitement and skill that we likely benefited from more than he did. For Angel and I it opened a sense of possibility in our own back yard, and gave us some experience in GPS navigation that we'll be able to use to expand our adventures in the future. For Ellen, it was a first merit badge in off trail travel in the Cascades. Our trip with Sam was similar in that, for us, it was a pretty normal summer day, but for him it was a unique experience of a place that he may never go again, doing an activity that isn't possible where he lives because the environment is so different.
Viewing these experiences through the lens of my cousin's passing, I'll remember them as small experiences that both make life meaningful in themselves and ultimately add up to bigger things - a better, more fulfilling life, and assistance earning merit badges that help us get better at doing the things we love. Death is a harsh reminder that opportunities to do so aren't unlimited, so it's a privilege to be able to use the time we have doing this work, fostering the types of relationships that drive people outside to have experiences that will be life changing.
If you want to help kids form the types of relationships that will shape their love for the outdoors, Kyle's family has suggested making a donation to the National Eagle Scout Association, and we're on board with that.
As business we also have a web of relationships that shape what we do:
Ellen Bayer is coached by the Wy'east Wolfpack, who helped us organize our Portland event and connect with Patricia Crespi, who tells a story on the 27th episode of our podcast.
Wy'east also helped us connect with Territory Run Co, a trail running gear company from Portland that shares our belief that running outside is about living more than it's about competition. They're sponsors helping us make the podcast happen, and get some merchandise for sale. They also are giving out free bandanas to listeners and are generally hugely supportive, so we encourage you to check out their stuff!
And Seth Wolpin is the owner of Himalayan Adventure Labs, and is looking for people to join him on a fastpacking trip in the Everest region this December. I can vouch that he knows his stuff, and that this trip will be life-changing.
My friend Kristin sent me a link to this video the other day, and while I'm not sure who Eustace Conway is (besides a Southern guy who looks like Daniel Stern with ponytails), I love the spirit he describes here.
I hope you'll forgive my brief foray towards the edge of sappiness when I talk about it, but "Most of the things people tell you are impossible really aren't" is exactly the idea that got us hooked into the outdoors community in the first place.
About 7 years ago, at a time when I was leaving behind a career that I'd spent my 20's pursuing, and feeling like I was potentially making a giant mess of my life, we got into running as a way to get healthy and manage stress. When our local running shop guys (Brian Morrison and Phil Kochik) pointed us towards the trail runs organized by the Seattle Running Club, we found a group of people who embodied that spirit perfectly. Seemingly normal folks, who'd at some point realized that running ultra-marathons through the mountains wasn't just possible, but was fun.
At the time, that idea seemed unbelievable to (previously sedentary) me, but also important, and the pursuit of completing a mountain ultra, and ultimately a 100 mile race, stood in as a cypher for everything else in my life that initially seemed impossible (which was a lot of things at the time). Success in running goals, like Eustace's success in, say, gathering hundreds of turtles, made me feel like, actually, a lot of those things that seem unattainable actually just take a bit of planning and a willingness to suffer.
When Angel and I finished the Cascade Crest 100, in 2013, just a few minutes apart, it felt like accomplishing something impossible and, surprisingly, having fun doing it. We finished, probably not coincidentally, just a few months after I finished nursing school and started a new career - the completion of a transition that had started at almost the exact time we started running, and initially felt as impossible as a 100 mile mountain ultra did to a noob runner, but now just feels like a thing I did.
So much of the spirit of the outdoor community is wrapped up in that idea, and it's so much at the heart of what got us going as a bootstrapping, unfunded startup within that community. It's a place where "Climbing Mt. Everest" isn't a metaphor for some unattainable goal: it's actually something people do. It's maybe something one of your friends has done, even, and they're not that much different from you. Maybe they can give you some beta, and maybe you'll do it some day.
And so, while "the outdoors" is about recreation for so many of us, we also believe that Conway is right on in pointing out that it also teaches that base value for a fulfilling life, that most things people tell you are impossible really aren't.
It's funny that Kristin posted this video to me when she did, because this week's podcast highlights something like the opposite reality: that sometimes even simple things can elude our grasp. But actually, the storytellers, Karly Wade and Angie Sowell, both embody the spirit of resilience and possibility that Southern hippie talks about above, as they've both managed to place outdoor pursuits at the center of their lives despite early and/or repeated missteps. When you have a minute, check out more about these local adventurer's on a new section of this site that Angel's developing called Field Notes.
It's also worth putting in a plug here for our sponsor and friend Seth Wolpin, who we met trail running and who has literally climbed Everest. Through Himalayan Adventure Labs, and working with Nepali locals, he is gathering 5 - 10 people for a fastpacking trip this December on and around Everest, and it sounds like a genuine life-goal epic. There are still spots available and I'm not just trying to sell you by pointing out that it's a surprisingly affordable 18 day trip. Our audience, we think, are just the type of hearty adventurers he's trying to find, so we hope you'll check it out here.
Two years ago today my dad died from an aggressive brain cancer. He died three months after he was diagnosed, out of the blue, having had no previous major medical issues, and at a relatively young age - 61. He also died with plans. The cancer struck with cruel timing - literally midway through maybe his biggest adventure: a move to Las Vegas from his lifelong home in small-town Ohio, to be closer to his grandchildren, and to prepare for a retirement in a beautiful part of the country.
It also struck a month before Angel and I started a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, and he died just days after we hit the midway point. Despite the fact that he was recovering from brain surgery, he and my mom drove us from Las Vegas to the Southern Terminus in Campo, CA, and then met us in Big Bear, several hundred miles in. Having always been strong, independent, and active, at that point my mom commented that a three block walk we made from our hotel to a pizza place was the longest he'd been on since surgery. A cruel irony, having just walked several hundred miles through desert sun to the same spot.
Dad was a country person, but not exactly an adventurous person: I have fond memories of using gasoline to blow up underground bee hives as a family, and he spent hundreds of summer days outside mowing our massive lawn, and winter days shoveling snow from our long driveway, but he wasn't a camper, hunter, or fisherman for the most part.
He also wasn't that much of a social person. His memorial was mostly populated by family, with a few close friends, and it was strange for me to see that even a lot of the old acquaintances that showed up didn't seem to know that much about him. He lived a private life, and spent most of his time and energy on us, his immediate family.
What he was, characteristically, was a good person. He was kind to people. Not particularly educated, but smart. He was faithful and unfailingly supportive to his wife and family. He was generous with money and had his priorities straight.
Maybe because Dad's death happened, for me, in the context of a life lived outdoors on the PCT, a lot of my reflection on it has focused on life's cycles. Dad didn't deserve to die in the way he did, or at the time he did, but death isn't exactly something one earns or doesn't. It's just something that is in life. It's strange, in a way, how much we ignore its inevitability, and how much it takes us by surprise when it comes.
Two years out and looking back, that perspective on death has inspired a weird sort of boldness. When death is inevitable, your time alive matters more, and because you know it is limited, it becomes urgent to try to live well.
The ripples out from Dad's death among those of us who were close to him have moved in that direction, which is a great testament to his life. In the immediate aftermath for Angel and I, it meant getting back on the PCT and pushing ourselves as hard physically as we ever have to finish in the same season following his death. For my mom, it meant months training and preparing for her first backpacking trip, hiking the 8 miles in from Manning Park to the Northern Terminus to meet us at the finish, completing the circuit, and spreading some of Dad's ashes.
Two years out, my Mom's life has - to me at least - looked like a living out the goals that she and Dad had set. She's traveled all around the West Coast from her Las Vegas base, has gone on several more camping and backpacking trips, and has spent the bulk of her time at home with their grandkids.
For Angel and I, the path that Dad's death set us on eventually led us here, to this blog, because it drove us deeper into the pursuit of what we love, life outdoors. It drove us to a trip around Latin America last year, a few months dirtbagging around the West Coast, a decision to give this business a go, a kayak trip down the Hudson, and an intentional reshaping of our lifestyle to try to minimize time spent on things that don't matter and maximize time spent on things that do.
This weekend we spent a few days camping on the Olympic Peninsula with our niece, and with the anniversary of Dad's death looming, it was impossible not to read it in this context. Lilly is 6, and is Angel's brother's daughter. She lives in Ohio and on her first trip to the West Coast it was poignant to see the life at the flip side of death, as she dove headfirst into some of her first outdoor adventures: scaling trees, paddling furiously in circles on a mountain lake, racing down rugged Pacific Coast beaches. The hope and possibility is that her life is full of this kind of thing.
Life can be beautiful, and the ripple of Dad's death is always a reminder that it's worth the risk to try to make it so.
One of our major goals as we've been developing this little project has been to find, partner with, and promote businesses and nonprofits that we like: to flex our massive international economic muscle to get money to the places we think it should go.
The primary outlet for that is through the Navigator's Network that we're building, where a main focus is helping locals with valuable knowledge monetize it in a way that will be helpful for adventure travelers. It's our little attempt to help out locals both here and abroad by providing a platform and a point of connection.
That's why this week, we were particularly stoked that this week's podcast features Neon and Fidget from Her Odyssey, who share that goal, and are walking the entire length of the Americas (with a bike ride thrown in occasionally), connecting with locals, promoting economic development, writing guides, and generally doing mindblowing things. You'll likely hear more about them here in the future, but for now check 'em out!
In a different vein, but no less cool, we're also excited to be featured in this week's blog post from Oru Kayak, who graciously allowed us to put together a write up about our recent trip down the Hudson in their folding boats.
My first "business" as a kid was selling origami balloons with my friend Michael in elementary school, so it's maybe no surprise that I was instantly drawn to Oru's business, selling what are basically full sized, fully functional, origami boats - a product that is, as far as I can tell, a complete innovation and unique in the world. I ultimately blame the collapse of my own origami empire to lack of financial backing and advertising failures (who doesn't want to buy poorly executed origami at inflated prices from a couple of cute midwestern scamps?), but Oru overcame that as a scrappy startup with a Kickstarter a few years back. Now they're in REI and we're seeing their boats everywhere, so it's exciting that we were able to put together this little project with them. We love their products, and we feel their focus on opening up new adventure possibilities is right up our alley, so we're going to keep hassling them for more collaboration in the future as well.
Speaking of Oru, it's a beautiful day in Seattle, and I'm writing this in a bit of a rush because I'm trying to get it out to you before heading out for a paddle with our OG collaborator, Seth Wolpin of Himalayan Adventure Labs. He's an old friend, but he's also been one of our first financial sponsors, so I'd be remiss if I didn't give him a shoutout in this little partnership post. He's a real, grizzled mountain man, and a few days ago Trailrunner Magazine wrote up a post about one of his recent adventures - becoming the first finisher (with Ras Vaughan) of the 18 peak, one push "Harvey Manning Challenge" in Washington. He pays us to say this, but I'd say it even if he didn't - if you're an experienced hiker or runner who wants to visit Nepal, check out his business. He's a great guy who partners with local communities to provide rich cultural experiences alongside real, challenging adventures for people who want to go beyond what typical tours would offer.
A couple of years into our trail running obsession, Angel and I started doing some bouldering on the side for fun and cross training at our local gym, the Seattle Bouldering Project. Trail running had provided us with our first deep foray into the outdoor community, but when we started going to the SBP, it triggered a small revelation about it's depth and breadth. While we'd occasionally run into people we knew from the trails, most of the hundreds of sweaty dirtbags at the gym were total strangers to us, and to trail running. They were a climbing, adventuring world unto themselves.
We'd occasionally comment during that period that we should start a pub next to the SBP and call it the John Muir, because if all of these like-minded wilderpeople weren't meeting each other outside, there should be some place in the city they could gather.
The physical pub was never anything more than a pipe dream for us, but some like minded person saw the opportunity too and opened a pub in the gym! (Rad! Safety note: climb first drink second.) Flash forward a few years, and as we finish up our first "Season", the storytelling events Angel's been organizing have been ephemeral pop-up versions of the John Muir, with people from across the spectrum of outdoor interests coming together and building community in their cities and towns.
At the start, it seemed like as much of a pipe dream as the John Muir: that Angel would quit a good job as a nurse practitioner to find the interesting people in the outdoor world in various places, get them to come together and share their best stories, record them, and use all of it to bring the outdoor community together in a meaningful, genuine way. But the weird thing has been that six months in, it's worked. As I think most people who've come to the events will attest, the experience is awesome, fun, and inspiring. Stories are bringing people together across the spectrum and helping them see their shared values and experiences. Paddlers, runners, climbers, hikers, professional athletes, record holders and novices, environmentalists, birders and paragliders: people are showing up. Heading into a summer break following our event last night in Tacoma (we love you guys!), we've had hundreds of participants across the Pacific Northwest and into Canada at a dozen events, and a lot of enthusiasm. It's been so fun, and kind of crazy to see something we just made up out of thin air happening in real life.
(In case anyone is wondering, the podcast, which has a small but growing and loyal following, will continue through the summer because we have a ton of backlogged material!)
We don't have any storytelling events scheduled until September (Seattle!), but that doesn't exactly signify a Summer break.
Angel has told the Boldly Went origin story at several events, about meeting a mountain-scaling horse guide in Ausangate, Peru, after a painful day-long tour/bus/taxi trip and wondering how we could have found him more easily, and figured out how to customize our trip more personally so we could get up higher in the mountains rather than taking a leisurely two mile stroll through one of the prettiest places we've ever been on the package tour we booked.
It's a circuitous route from that experience to storytelling events, but a much more direct one to the Navigator Network, whose development is the focus for the next few months. The end goal is an extensive network of local experts in various parts of the world that people interested in serious adventure can connect with to build custom and/or off the beaten path experiences - getting locals paid for their knowledge, and giving travelers opportunities that would be inaccessible otherwise.
The short term goal is getting some experience ourselves in what being a Navigator might actually be like. We're trying to create something that doesn't exist, so no better guinea pigs than ourselves (or, well, primarily Angel). Angel's established a partnership with the cool people at City Hostel in Seattle and is developing a side hustle organizing outings with people visiting Seattle from around the world. Last week she helped a couple of Germans get a 25 mile hike together to Spade and Waptus Lakes over the Pass from Seattle, and as I write she's out with a Swiss family paddling Oru Kayaks in Lake Washington. The goal: work out the kinks with the Navigator experience to determine what we're asking people to sign up for, and, of course, spend the summer going cool places outside with good people.
Full disclosure, that last paragraph was a not-so-subtle sales pitch: if you know anyone interested in talking to Angel about putting together a custom adventure outside around Seattle this Summer, or anywhere in the world, hit us up! We also are already partnering with our friend Guila at Say Yes to Life! Swims with hopes of connecting the world's open water swimmers, and watch closely for developing international experiences in Guatemala and Nepal. Check out the Book Now page for more information.
Now, Summer's here, the sun is out. Let's do some field research playing in the mountains. See you out there!
Excepting a brief boat ride on the Sault St. Marie and a Disney cruise to Nassau, the first time I left American soil, it was 1998, and I was an 18 year old clown evangelist. It was a church mission trip to Lima, Peru, and we were going to spend a week sharing the gospel with the Latin world through the universal language of whatever is happening here:
We'd spent months preparing, but our careers were short lived, because the first time we put on our makeup the street kids we were supposed to be entertaining cried and ran away. Some tried to hit us, some froze in terror. None were drawn up into spiritual rapture.
The choice to travel the world as a clown evangelist, it seemed, was a grave mistake.
I'm not proud of any of this, but I can say that we learned from our mistakes. We cut our losses, put away the costumes, and spent the rest of our week in inner city Lima painting a deaf school and listening to stories from families living in a leper colony. We all vowed to never speak of it again, and I'm breaking a blood oath by posting this here. (That last sentence is the only part of this story that isn't true.)
Adventure travel that's learned from its mistakes
I tell you this because 1) when you have a story about Peruvian clown evangelism, you can't let it go to waste, but more importantly 2) it's a prime example of adventure travel gone wrong.
Personally, I have to admit that the term "adventure travel" itself makes me cringe a bit because it triggers so many problematic mental images. If I'm in a historical state of mind, I see a British guy in a safari helmet forcing locals to carry his crap through the jungle while he searches for ruins to plunder and pretends to "discover" places where people have been living for thousands of years. If I'm picturing modern adventure travel, it's backpackers harassing wildlife in New Zealand or getting drunk after their kayak trip in Cabo. Whatever the merits of the happy hour at Senor Frogs, it's just not our jam.
Admittedly enough, in our years of travel, we've gone on our share of tours that were marketed as "adventures", and they haven't been all bad: we met some really hardcore people "volcano boarding" in Nicaragua, and "100% Aventura" will always be one of my favorite inside jokes because of a zipline tour we took with friends in Costa Rica, which I'm going to keep to myself in the spirit of inside jokes. But really, in those contexts, "adventure" just translated as "cheap thrill".
Like clown evangelism, compared with the adventure experiences that we know are possible, that kind of definition just seems wrong, wrong, wrong. So as we've decided to delve into the "adventure travel" business, we've had to define the concept for ourselves in a way that seems more accurate to our experience.
Boldly Went defines "Adventure"
For us, adventure has been 100 mile mountain runs, multi-day river excursions, local bus rides through places where we don't speak the language, 15,000 foot peaks, unexpectedly wandering into llama sacrifices, calving glaciers, and erupting volcanoes. It's been human connections that have changed our career paths and physical challenges that have redefined our sense of what is personally possible.
And so, as we define it, adventure is:
1: Something you work for. You really need to have trained, researched, learned a new language or skill, suffered or sacrificed, gotten deeply uncomfortable in the process, or worked hard to get there. Doesn't mean it's not fun. Just that it's not easy.
2: Transformative. It's an experience that changes you, teaches you something about the world, impacts your relationships and outlook, and that you won't forget. Bonus points if it also impacts the world in a positive way.
3: Beautiful. It happens somewhere spectacular, or connects you with other human beings in a deep way. It's an experience of overcoming a challenge or living out a dream, or it moves you. It makes you laugh, cry or hurl.
4: Responsible. It doesn't count as an adventure if it's exploitation. If other people, or the ecosystem, are harmed in the GoPro'ing of your outing, you're an ass, not an adventurer. If the locals don't benefit in some way from your having been there, it's problematic.
Putting all of those things together is a challenge, which means that a real adventure is also rare.
Our big idea: giving you an in with the locals.
At our events and on our podcast people tell adventure stories to share inspiration, but as a business and community we want to go beyond inspiration to also help people make adventures actually happen.
While there's no true shortcut to real adventure as we think of it, and you can't sell it in a canned tour, as we've traveled we've realized that there are ways to make it more accessible. And that's what our newly launched and constantly developing Navigator Network is aimed at.
All over the world, we've realized that there's nothing more valuable - and often more difficult to come by if you don't speak the language - than local connections, and local beta. So, we're working with locals to connect travelers looking for real adventure with the cool people in cool places doing cool things. They're the people in their communities that know where you should go, know who you should go with, and can help you plan your adventures or go along with you. And by connecting with them, paying a price that they set for their services, you can be sure that you're putting money directly into the economies of the places you're adventuring in and leaving communities better than when you left.
We already have navigators signed up in our hometown of Seattle, Nepal, and Guatemala, where we're particularly excited about our partnership in San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. Javier (pictured above) is our hookup, and we initially met him when he was our Spanish teacher in early 2016. We learned that he also runs a small non-profit called Trek for Kids that provides livable wage guiding jobs to locals and donates money to send local kids to high school and college. Only 20% of kids in their area graduate high school, but they're currently making education possible for 7 students from small communities around Lake Atitlan. Javier is just the kind of guy we think you'll want to meet, and we hope you'll get in contact with him through our Navigator page to start planning a trekking trip on the hills and volcanoes around Atitlan. (Pro tip: he's also super well connected, so can likely help if you're interested in trail running, kayaking or other types of adventure near Lake Atitlan as well. He can also teach you Spanish, Mayan culture, and grills a mean chicken. And you can donate directly to Trek for Kids through their page, hyperlinked above.)
We're relying largely on referrals and personal connections to build this network, so if you're interested in being a navigator in your area - or if you know someone in any part of the world that you'd trust to make real adventure possible - contact us!
Also, I'm a little rusty, but if anyone needs a clown I'm still secretly keeping the dream alive.
It's not entirely clear how or why this became a thing, but today, June 21st, is International Hike Naked Day. We became aware of this at our first Bend event in February when Amanda Timeoni, aka Not a Chance, told the winning story about her experience as a never nude hiking with a naked partner. Whether or not you decide to keep your clothes on today, it's only right to honor the day by checking out her story here.
And remember, it's only weird if you make it weird.
I'm not even going to try to make this transition elegantly
In completely unrelated business, we'd be remiss not to mention that this week's podcast features Tacoma's Ken Campbell, a guy who is interesting for reasons completely unrelated to nudity.
Ken's a serious paddler, and a real water protector: on the podcast he tells a story about the time he paddled around Newfoundland (a trip that is really crazy if you can conceive of it..), and he also founded the Ikkatsu Project as a way to research and draw attention to the impact of plastics on marine environments, particularly around Puget Sound. And he is the subject of an award winning short film about the time a few years ago that he built a boat out of discarded plastic bottles and paddled it 150 miles from the bottom to the top of the Sound. I know I'm giving you lots of entertainment assignments, but you can and should watch the whole film here: it's inspiring, thought provoking, and full of beautiful imagery of the Pacific Northwest. I love this stuff.