Jesse is one of Outdoor Project's newest contributors and our first in the state of Arizona. He recently began sharing his adventures. Jumping in full force, six of his adventures were published by the end of January, including Ouray Ice Park, the first ice climbing entry on Outdoor Project. I had the pleasure of talking with Jesse about his outdoor adventures. Not only does he have some excellent stories to tell, he has an infectious and inspiring perspective on adventure that I can't help but admire.
KAT: Jesse, what was the adventure that got you hooked on the outdoors?
JESSE: My first ever backpacking trip in high school. Two friends of mine took me to a place near my hometown in Tennessee--Virgin Falls State Natural Area--which is my favorite place to go backpacking to this day. Anyway, we weren’t very well prepared, of course. Why would three high school guys think to pack anything other than a tent and a few cans of spam into the woods for one night? I brought one 16-oz bottle of water--during the summer of a severe drought in the Southeast. The hike was only four miles one way, but in that long four miles we managed to all run out of water, my friend sliced his hand with his own pocket knife, and we all barely escaped a rolling boulder that spontaneously dislodged from a cliff above us. I couldn’t make this up if I tried! But we pulled through, stayed the night, and made it out alive. Strange as it may seem, I couldn’t have had a better introduction to the outdoors. This trip was thrilling and eye-opening at the same time, and I couldn’t wait to be back--a little wiser next time.
KAT: Wow. Sounds like you started with a real crash course in adventure. We're happy that didn't scare you away from future tips. What are some of your favorite adventures?
JESSE: Of course I am naturally drawn to ever taller climbs and steeper rivers...but the most memorable adventures I’ve had have been overseas, and not necessarily because of the difficulty or commitment level. I think it's because, when traveling in an unfamiliar country where you don’t know the language, every minute is an adventure, and the mountain summit is just one highlight of the expanded perspective you gain on the world. Climbing in Vietnam with an American friend was a hoot because we had to scrounge around to stick with a dirtbag budget on a pricey tourist island, then overcome the language barrier to rent motorbikes for the approach. That was fun! And kind of scary…
Another experience that sticks out is an ill-equipped night on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail in Kosovo, normally a summer trek that I impulsively decided to take on in early spring. On my own, in the middle of the night on snow-covered goat trails, I discovered a lot about my personal limits. I had to recognize when and how to back out of a potentially severe hypothermic situation, in a remote and foreign place... Wow, you’ve managed to elicit my two worst horror stories in the first two questions. I promise this won’t become a theme!
KAT: Perfect! You know, even if you think you're prepared for a particular adventure, anything can happen and you just have to make do. That's why we call it an adventure, right? So, with all these unfortunate events, what is it about spending time in the outdoors that keeps you heading back out?
JESSE: I figured you'd be wondering, after hearing of all these misadventures! You know what it really is, is it’s just fun. Maybe it’s an addiction, I don’t know. But I just can’t get my fix from sitting on the couch watching videos of people doing what I want to go out and do. There’s something about the thrill of testing yourself, of pushing your limits, of trying to do better next time. But even without that, it’s just plain fun to scramble up a cliff, and then to sit on top and enjoy the view.
KAT: It is often an amazing view that fuels our way to the top isn't it? So, how much of your time do you spend adventuring?
JESSE: As much as I can afford! I am currently a graduate student, so my time and budget are fairly limited. I live in a fantastic place that makes it easy to snag a neighborhood climb in the afternoon, or take a road trip on the weekend. When I graduated high school, I set a goal for myself to make at least one ‘BIG’ trip per year, as in extended stays far from home, and so far I’ve been successful, I’m happy to say. I’ve been very privileged to be able to save enough money and budget enough time to experience new, far-off adventures.
KAT: That sounds like a good game plan. We're fortunate you decided to spend some of your limited free time sharing your adventures on Outdoor Project. What made you decide to become a contributor?
JESSE: I’ve been through a few phases of my outdoor pursuits. When I first started out, I was doing it only for personal pleasure and to have a good time on the weekends with my buddies. Then I realized that stuff like backpacking and rock climbing was cool and I started trying to build this into my social image (you know, the high-school, early-college machismo phase). In college I started working as a guide and realized a new value to outdoor recreation--getting people psyched for their own sake. I got a kick out of seeing breakthroughs when one of my peers finally climbed to the anchors or finally nailed that kayak roll. Around the same time, I took one journalism class and it instantly roped me in. I was fascinated by the art of informing people in an entertaining way. I dropped the ego factor (sort of) and am now equally as comfortable on either side of the lens or the page. So my recent endeavors in travel and adventure journalism, to which Outdoor Project is the newest, are natural extensions of my evolving passions for outdoor recreation.
KAT: We're thrilled you found us and are excited to follow your contributions to Outdoor Project. Of all the places you've been and adventures you've had, where else do you want to go?
JESSE: Too many to list, obviously! But I think top on my list right now is the Pacific Northwest, ironically enough, because that’s the epicenter of Outdoor Project. Seeing all the jaw-dropping adventures on the site has just wet my appetite even more. All of you up there have to realize just how lucky you are to live in such an incredible place. I hope to join you there soon!
KAT: We'll, get yourself a rain jacket and come on up! We'd love to show you around our neighborhood. We'll take you to Smith Rock for sure. Any final thoughts you'd like to share with the community?
JESSE: I’m a fan of personal mottos. As cheesy as it is, I think everyone should come up with one, even if it changes every day. I sum up my current passions for travel, adventure, and personal discovery with this:
If you want to read more about Jesse's travels overseas and other adventures not included on Outdoor Project, visit his personal blog Unweary Traveler.