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!