Virginia Wade is not the hero that America deserves, but she is the one that America needs.
She is one of the most remarkable outdoor adventurers you've probably never heard of. Just a sophomore in high school, she's already hiked close to 1600 miles of the Appalachian Trail, competed at an international level as a downhill skier, and is aiming at international competition as a gymnast. She's embraced the outdoors as a part of her identity to the extent that she insists her high school peers refer to her by her trail name, "Tutu", has written a book about her adventures, and is working on a musical that is receiving support from Microsoft.
And she has Down Syndrome.
Her mom, Amy Martin, is a regular favorite at Seattle Boldly Went events, and was featured in one of our first podcast episodes. Angel had coffee with her yesterday, and their conversation (at least as filtered through my own interpretation based on Angel's account) centered on ways that Boldly Went, and the outdoors community more generally, could do better, not just at incorporating a wider variety of people, but at actually humanizing them. Treating people who are frequently categorized as flawed in some way as equals, in defiance of cultural assumptions and ingrained patterns of thought and behavior.
Amy is a force of nature in her own right, and knows something about the topic: she's been instrumental in advocating for Tutu to make sure that she has opportunities to excel in a world where she's underestimated and brushed aside as a matter of course. Amy is a mom who has recognized her daughter's potential - not just as a kid with more challenges than most, but as a fierce, beautiful human being with gifts to offer the world - and has fought successfully to make sure she has the chance to realize it.
While Angel and Amy were having coffee, America was mired in a collective ALL CAPS shouting match sparked by what can only be described as the hate fueled madness of our ostensible leader. The debates were, you could roughly say, on the same issue that Amy was concerned about, approached from an entirely less-sensible angle - the dehumanization of athletes. The President of the United States had referred publicly to black football players protesting injustice against their communities as "sons of bitches". It's a phrase decent people avoid using, and it implies, literally, that these human beings, citizens of the country he leads, are dogs. Again, speaking roughly, the debate was between those who agreed that these people were SOBs, and those who didn't.
At the same time, the extent of the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria was becoming apparent, and questions were (and are) being raised about why the response, both public and official, seems so different there - in a Spanish speaking, predominantly brown, black and poor US territory - than in Texas and Florida following recent disasters of lesser scope.
While the issues involved here - race, socioeconomics, colonialism, and disability - have some dramatic differences, I've personally been processing these conversations alongside the thoughts Angel discussed with Amy, because they raise some of the same fundamental questions. Who do we think of as a human being? Who do we treat like something less? What are the consequences of those attitudes, particularly for the people being dehumanized? And conversely, what is the potential for individuals and for society if we do the opposite, and humanize those that are popularly or officially pushed aside? These issues aren't just about our president, or our leadership, they're about our broken culture and the darker impulses of humanity as a whole. They're questions whose answers are too easily assumed settled. And they're questions that Amy and Tutu's lives speak to powerfully.
I think it's natural, generally speaking, to distance yourself from problematic aspects of your own culture when you recognize them - to instinctively develop rationalizations for how those problems are someone else's, and not your own. And one of the ways people do that is to identify with subcultures, or countercultures, that they view as separate from the dominant problematic one. I personally find that the outdoors community can be used in such a way fairly easily, because although it's still developing, it has a lot of features that can seem like a direct antidote to much of what ails the larger American and Western culture:
It's true, for instance:
Shared struggle, which is what virtually every outdoor endeavor is about, has the power to produce a sense of common humanity among the people who engage in it, regardless of their background.
The dirtbag vagabond lifestyle that is often required of those who are serious about outdoor pursuits, and which the outdoors community idealizes, has the potential to produce cross-cultural relationships as efficiently as any strategy we know of.
And the grand perspective of the natural world puts our human issues in context, and levels the playing field in a way that has the potential to break down artificial human hierarchies, at least philosophically.
But while it's true that countercultures can offer correctives to their larger context, it's simply not reasonable to idealize your own chosen pocket as above reproach. Whatever it's strengths, and even if one could argue that the outdoors community is generally a bastion of sanity compared to the larger political climate, it has also developed its own peculiar problematic elements and tendencies towards dehumanization - or at least towards it's own type of caste system. Dirtbag culture has developed to varying degrees as a white thing, a thin thing, and a male thing, which is to say that it's centered the old regular power brokers, and has at times made others feel unwelcome or uninvited.
And more relevant for our current purposes, it's also developed as an able-bodied thing. In discussing her own experiences with Tutu in this world, Amy has pointed out the tendency to make her a token, or to create a "separate but equal" space for her which has had a similar effect: to gesture towards inclusion while simultaneously creating structures that lead to exclusion from the community. What's really needed is full participation in the community as an equal, or by extension, a recognition of her full humanity.
The strategy that Tutu and Amy have used in this context might not save the world, but it's instructive and applicable for those of us seeking progress in the midst of modern social madness. Simply stated, they've refused to accept Tutu's second class status, or to be defined by prevailing presumptions about what is possible. The Tao of Tutu could be expressed in a Yin and Yang of their approach towards her athletic endeavors, where Amy has said that as a parent, when Tutu has faced challenges, she "just believed in her", and Tutu has said that when she falls down, "I get back up". And together they've pushed forward. Their shared approach combines confidence, assertiveness, and perseverance, and has resulted not just in a series of remarkable achievements for Tutu herself, but a forced worldview shift for the people who doubt her, and by extension other kids with disabilities. In short, their approach works not just to help Tutu succeed, but to make the culture that they live in more humane.
It would be overly simplistic to say that progress on issues as complicated as institutionalized racism just depends on a bit of perseverance and confidence. But it's not too much to say that Amy and Tutu are a damn inspiring example of people fighting back against dehumanization at a time when it seems like culture is pushing in the opposite direction. Because of who she is, 7 months on the Appalachian Trail is more than just that. Representing the United States as a downhill skier is more than just that. And Tutu's potential to compete internationally in gymnastics is more than just that. All of those things are examples of success in a social situation where failure is a solid option, and an undeniable demand for respect in a culture that would normally ignore her.
While we're clearly not there yet, the fundamental truth that's being promoted, by Amy, by those guys taking a knee, and by the people shouting about the inadequacy of our response to the crisis in Puerto Rico, is that all humans have equal value and should be treated with dignity. However long it takes culture to catch up, Tutu is an amazing example of someone, even with differences, even in an imperfect situation, who behaves as if that's true. She's not the hero we deserve, but she is the one we need.
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.
This week's podcast - in my opinion, one of the best we've put out - features two athletes who don't need an engine to cross massive bodies of water.
1. Dean Burke
Dean, undoubtedly one of the best storytellers AND hardest-core athletes in the Pacific Northwest, recently became one of a very small number of human beings to paddleboard across the Straight of Juan de Fuca between the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island during the first stage of the ridiculous and utterly intriguing Race to Alaska. 50-ish miles of just him, a board, a paddle, a bunch of fog, and the open sea. I'm sure we'll be sharing more about that story in the future, because Dean's one of our favorites. For now, bookmark this page for a time when you have about 45 minutes to watch his presentation above about Puget Sound. Guaranteed you'll see Tacoma, WA in a whole new light, and move paddling on Puget Sound to the top of your bucket list!
2. Melissa Kegler
Our second storyteller on this week's podcast is pursuing the "Triple Crown of Swimming", which you probably haven't heard of because almost no one has done it. It involves crossing the Catalina Channel in California (20.2 miles), the English Channel (21 Miles), and swimming around Manhattan (28.5 miles). She ticked off Catalina (and tells us a story about it...) in 2016, and England is up next in August. Find out more about Melissa on her website, and toss some money her way to help her get from England to France! (I don't know how these things work but I'm guessing it pays for like 16 wetsuits and a shark cage or two? Just kidding. She tells you exactly where your money will go on the site! And it's not to wetsuits because she doesn't have time for that crap.)
Grit and Grace, a speaker series highlighting women and family adventurers, happened for the second time on Sunday, March 5th, when a couple of families - the Martin/Wades and the Fagans - shared their accounts of how they've been able to incorporate the outdoors into their lifestyle, countering the common assumption that having kids represents the end of grand adventure. (Watch it here.)
The first Grit and Grace happened a couple of years ago, in March 2015. It was the first event Angel organized in the outdoor community, and in a lot of ways was the genesis of the Boldly Went project. I (Tim) wasn't there, because I was in the hospital with my Dad, who was recovering after emergency brain surgery following a collapse and seizure at work that led to a diagnosis of glioblastoma - brain cancer, a death sentence in the long term, and the end of Dad as we knew him in the short term. (Don't let anyone convince you that removing a thumb sized hunk of your brain won't change you, but that's a side point.)
Dad's diagnosis was a complete surprise, and it came just a month before Angel and I were planning to set out on the biggest adventure of our life - a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada. HIs new illness presented us with an impossible question. We had no commitments, so should we keep our plans for the hike, or do we cancel it to spend the time with my Dad? Doctors reported a successful surgery and hopeful expectations, but glioblastoma prognosis is usually measured in months, not years. We genuinely didn't know if hiking might mean missing the last months of my father's life.
Our decision was clear for my parents before it was for us:
Go because you can.
Among other things, terminal illness is the ultimate reality check that our opportunities are limited, and that you don't know how many you will be presented with. (The first Grit and Grace event featured female pioneers of adventure - all four of the speakers were older than my father at that point.) So my parents' preference was that Angel and I take the opportunity that we had.
So in Mid-April, 2015, Dad and Mom drove us to the Southern Terminus of the PCT, and we hiked.
Go Because you Can
It was a sentiment we felt deeply, but it wasn't a phrase we thought up at the time. Rather, it was coined and promoted as a mantra by one of the sponsors of this year's Grit and Grace event: Monster and Sea.
They're a gear and fundraising organization founded by Troy Nebeker in order to support families armwrestling cancer. A paddler, and someone whose own family had been devastated by the disease, he donates 10% of proceeds directly to families hit by cancer.
One of his other major endeavors is a 24 hour paddle event that started in Seattle, but has spread nationwide, with a simple strategy: teams gather donations, the money is put in envelopes in $1000 increments, and given directly to families struggling through cancer. Hardcore, grassroots, no overhead. The outdoor community making a direct impact on peoples' lives. You can see why we love this guy and Monster and Sea.
(This year's event is on April 15 - click here and see below for more details on how to support or be directly involved.)
Sometimes you can't.
At exactly the midway point of the PCT, as we were approaching a highway near Chester, CA, we re-entered cell service and our phones started lighting up with messages from my mom. The worst case scenario had occurred, and just a few months after his initial surgery, his tumor was back, and was already larger than the original growth.
We immediately decided that our thru-hike was over. We hitched into Chester and worked our way down to my parents in Las Vegas via a series of buses and rental cars. And we made peace with our new role in providing end of life care for my father.
Because his tumor was so aggressive, hospice was the only realistic option. While we initially thought he would have several months of life, two torturous weeks was all he lasted. He died at 62, three months after his first seizure and diagnosis. He lost his planned Southwestern retirement, and his planned years spent watching his grandkids grow into adulthood. My mom lost her partner of 40 years.
Several times during our life, my dad had told a story about a road trip he took with his father during high school, from Ohio to the California coast. It was a cautionary tale, because he told us that he slept the whole trip in the back seat, pouting like the teenager he was because he didn't want to spend his summer on a trip with his dad, and missed out on enjoying the experience of huge, beautiful parts of the country. He always told it as a story of regret, and a warning to us not to miss out on opportunities in life.
During his illness, my grandfather (Papaw - we're from the northern edge of Appalachia) added a detail to the story that I hadn't heard previously, which was that my father perked up and engaged with the trip when he was allowed to drive. It wasn't a total missed opportunity, but a situation in which Dad figured out a way to make the best of the situation.
This story was at the front of my mind as Dad's rapid decline once again presented us with a difficult decision: should we stay and support my mom as she grieved for the loss of her partner, or should we attempt to get back on trail and see if we could finish. It was the end of July, and the back of the hiking pack was approaching Chester, the town where we got off trail. An average of 25 miles a day would get us to Canada before the snows hit in the Washington Cascades.
When we spoke with Mom the next morning, she was adamant: we needed to go because we can. And so, the following weekend, with my aunt and cousin who were there to support, Mom drove us back to the PCT at Chester, and we put our heads down to make up lost ground.
To summarize a grueling two months, it was the hardest, most beautiful experience, and we did it. And while we were hiking, my Mom was hiking. She trained for months in the Mojave heat and coordinated with some experienced friends to plan her first ever overnight backpacking trip (at 62 years old!) so she could meet us at the Northern Terminus to sprinkle Dad's ashes. She went, because she could.
This experience was very much on my mind at this year's Grit and Grace (which you'll be able to watch here once the video's edited and uploaded!), even before presenters Chris, Marty and Keenan Fagan revealed for the first time publicly that they too are struggling with cancer.
The Fagans were there to present because they have lived a remarkable life together as a family: Chris and Marty are long-time ultrarunners, and are in the Guinness Book of world records as the fastest couple to reach the South Pole overland unsupported, unassisted. With Keenan they've cycled around Kilimanjaro and across Tanzania, climbed it, and hiked to Everest Base Camp - all by the time he turned 15.
But when they turned to the topic of what their next adventure would be, they revealed that it involves struggling with cancer. Marty was diagnosed with Squamous Cell cancer that was discovered initially in his neck, and then spread to his lungs in the last year. He said, “The lung tumors are very small and aren't spreading, I have no symptoms, and I remain very active.” But now, rather than planning their next massive outdoor adventure, their focus has shifted to the immunotherapy treatment he recently started.
It would be hard to find a family that has maximized their time on earth more than the Fagans, and a better illustration of the fact that life can turn in unexpected ways. Marty's cancer was discovered at a time when they were training to potentially row across an ocean together. It's not clear if that trip will still happen, but when he found out his father's diagnosis, Keenan's response was to say that, no matter what happens, he's done more in his 15 years than most people do in a lifetime.
There's no one who has embodied the "Go because you can" ethos better than the Fagans, and no better illustration of its importance. (In a couple of days we'll have the video from the event up here, so you can hear their story directly.)
The impetus for Boldly Went came, in large part, from the first Grit and Grace, and the decision to do what Angel wanted came, in large part, from our experience with my Dad's passing and the PCT. It's cliché but true that life's too short not to go when you can.
And two major goals that we have for the business are to provide people with the opportunity to meet cool locals in the outdoor community, and to help get money to the right people - whether that means Mexican adventure partners like Carlos or Seattle locals doing awesome work like Troy Nebeker. So with all this stuff coming together, it's an absolute no brainer that the first non-profit/fundraiser that we're promoting is Monster and the Sea's 24: Go Because You Can.
The date this year is April 15, and there are locations all over North America. In our hometown of Seattle, Troy and crew will be paddling all day and night on Lake Union, and there's also a group doing this in Alberta, near our most recent events in Calgary and Canmore.
While this event started in the SUP community, it has already expanded to other sports, so teams are organizing around 24 hour running events, with hiking, biking, skiing and any other outdoor sports as possibilities for groups of non-paddlers.
If you're interested in joining those groups, or starting your own, or have general questions about the event, send Troy a message at:
If you're interested in giving money, visit the Seattle team's GoFundMe page to donate. Money goes into envelopes that go directly to families dealing with cancer to show them that they're not alone.
We're excited to be able to share the video from Grit and Grace: Adventure Family Edition through YouTube. Watch it now by clicking here.
It isn't too much of a stretch to say that we're starting this project, Boldly Went, because we want other people to meet Carlos, the guy in this photo. Not figuratively, but literally. We want you to get on a plane, fly to Veracruz, Mexico, hop on a bus to his house, and hang out with him.
Carlos is a former lawyer, and hosts an AirB&B in Coatepec, Mexico - a small, picturesque town in the verdant hills of Veracruz state, a few minutes from Jalapa. We met him because we needed a place to stay on our trip between Mexico City and Veracruz, and we read in a Lonely Planet guide that Coatepec has awesome coffee. (It's true - they've been growing and roasting there for centuries.) We'd planned to stay for just a day, but in large part because we met Carlos, we got sucked in for a week before a plane ticket home pried us away.
Carlos is 72, but not slowing down. When we got to his place, rather than handing over the keys the way a lot of hosts do, he insisted on making us dinner (eggs, beans, bread, un poco cafecito, pasteles for dessert). We bonded over a shared love of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, and once he figured out that we were active, and into the outdoors, he insisted we see his favorite places in Veracruz state.
The morning after we arrived at his place, he drove us to the spot in the photo above - a massive spring at the start of the Actopan river, called El Descabezadero - roughly translated, "The Head Cutter Off-er". It's a spectacular natural wonder that isn't in the guidebooks, and the picture of a tropical paradise, and I have no idea what it has to do with cutting off heads. After the photo was taken, we turned around just for a second, and Carlos had stripped to his skivvies and was swimming in one of the pools at the base of the falls.
One thing led to another, and by the time we left town, we'd met Carlos' wife Angela and son Charlie, spent a day scrambling up a canyon with his daughter Karla and her rafting guide husband Antonio in the nearby adventure town of Jalcomulco (a place with the spirit of an Ed Abbey-era Moab), gotten the full run of a local resort, had our butts kicked mountain biking with one of their friends, and (long story) appeared in a political ad for a guy running for mayor of Coatepec. When Karla dropped us at the bus station to leave, we were exhausted and seriously contemplating buying real estate.
Meeting Carlos allowed us to tackle experiences and fall in love with places we wouldn't have otherwise. And, in a nutshell, that describes the genesis of all good adventures:
Inspiration - to try something new, to go somewhere different, to do something harder - develops from direct, personal connections with good people who know something you don't.
Our goal is to facilitate the type of connection we made with Carlos - not in a figurative "hey read our blog about this guy" sense (although it is an awesome blog), but in real life, and face to face.
Getting people together to share their stories is the best way we can think of to accomplish that quickly and effectively at a local level. As outdoor athletes ourselves, we know we tend to exist in our own silos and communities. We're trailrunners, and we always get inspired by the trail community, but we rarely meet like-minded people doing different things - paddlers, paragliders, skiers, hikers, climbers, sailors, orienteers - because everyone serious is off doing their own thing. Boldly Went events bring together adventurers and outdoor athletes from across the spectrum, and help establish connections that can open up new opportunities and inspire new ideas. And after just a couple of events, we think it's working: participants have been hanging out for an hour after the events to talk, and hikers have been meeting bikers have been meeting sailors have been meeting paragliders.
Podcasting the stories from those events is the next best thing to being there, we think, and our goal is to build an audio database of adventures from around the world for people looking for inspiration or entertainment. Again, we're off to a great start, with stories ranging from hiking naked to sailing to a prison island.
And in a literal way, as founders we want to actually be like Carlos by helping people who are visiting Seattle to adventure like locals. We're busy setting up ways that people who are looking for great things to do outside in Western Washington - on the trails, in the mountains, on the water - can get in contact with us for beta or partnership. Click here for current details!
And finally, along the same lines, we're working on creating ways that people like you can connect with people like Karla and Antonio - locals doing hardcore things in non-touristy, cool places that genuinely need and deserve the money. We want to make new adventures possible. We want to give local outdoor communities a gathering place that's connected to a larger network. And we want to ultimately get money and opportunity to places like Coatepec and Jalcomulco - freaking awesome spots that might otherwise get overlooked.
So for a start, I literally want you to meet Carlos and his family. Coatepec and Jalcomulco aren't hard to get to. You should go, and if you do, we recommend looking up Carlos, Angela and Charlie on AirB&B, and Karla and Antonio at Ruta Verde. They're the real deal.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.