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On Loving the Outdoors and Writing About It (Charles Wohlforth)

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  • April 9, 2020

Have you ever loved a place enough to spend your life writing about it and the people who live there? That’s Charles Wohlforth’s relationship with Alaska and the outdoors.

His trademark, he said, was learning about the outdoors and the outdoor sports and people he was covering as he covered them. He also wrote extensively about global warming. And although he now lives in outside Alaska, his passion for the arctic remains.

Join us for this fascinating interview!

Some of the good stuff:

[1:03] Charles’ favorite outdoor space
[1:30] How Charles got to Alaska
[2:10] What drew Charles back to Alaska
[2:52] How Charles started writing about Alaska
[5:30] How Alaska is boundless and what that means
[7:45] Exploring no matter where you live
[10:00] How telling outdoor stories helped Charles
[12:47] What Charles tried because of interviews
[14:30] Why going outside is important to Charles
[16:30] Where Charles is now
[18:45] Charles’ perspective on climate change after covering it
[21:45] Is the arctic opening a good thing?
[24:00] Top tips for coming to Alaska
[28:00] Charles’ favorite parks and why he doesn’t have just one
[34:03] Charles’ advice for where to go in Alaska
[35:25] Charles’ most essential gear
[36:00] Charles’ favorite outdoor gear
[36:50] Charles’ favorite outdoor moments

Connect with this episode:

Mentioned in the show:

Favorite bicycle: 

The bike is REI’s CTY 2.2 (modified by Charles with a higher stem): https://www.rei.com/product/121599/co-op-cycles-cty-22-bike 

Chalres notes: “It has Ortlieb Classic panniers, which carry a huge load.”

Photo credit: Erik Hill 

Affiliate links included above.

Mentioned in the show:

Kachemak Bay, Alaska

Alaska

Global warming

Outdoor Explorer

The Whale and the Supercomputer

Everglades, Florida

Arctic

Alaska for Dummies

Family Vacations in the National Parks

Frommer’s Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park

Denali National Park

Kenai Peninsula

Seward, Alaska

Homer, Alaska

Whittier, Alaska

Favorite gear: 

The bike is REI’s CTY 2.2 (modified by Charles with a higher stem)

Charles notes: “It has Ortlieb Classic panniers, which carry a huge load.”

Photo credit: Erik Hill 

Affiliate links included above.

—–

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Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

AB: Charles Wholforth is a longtime Alaska journalist, columnist, outdoor expert, the author of several books on Alaska tourism, as well as the author of several books about global warming and the Arctic, specifically Alaska. Charles, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

CW: Thank you! I’m glad to be here, Amy.

AB: So the way we start all of these episodes is talking about where we are and we like to envision ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space. So where are we chatting today?

CW: Well, we would have to be sitting on the deck of my cabin in Kachemak Bay, which is above the water and the waves are coming in and there are sea otters swimming back and forth. And it would not be wintertime, it would have to be in the summer, because it’s not very nice there in the winter.

AB: So start by telling us how you ended up in Alaska, because like many of us here in the state, you weren’t born here. How did you get here?

CW: Well, I didn’t have any choice. I was brought there against my will, without my consultation. I was three years old and my family was from the east coast, and came to Alaska in the 1960s. My dad was kind of helping build the state in his own way. And I just, you know, went away to college, but pretty much spent my whole life there until just recently.

AB: So you weren’t born here. You were brought here, right? But you went away to college. And you decided to come back. What made you want to come back? What was the draw?

CW: Well, you know, I always felt a little out of place once I left Alaska. I think Alaska kind of gets into your blood, in a way that it gives you a sense of openness and possibilities and, you know, not being hemmed in. And when I went to college in New Jersey, I felt kind of claustrophobic. And as time has passed and I’ve traveled more, I’ve gotten more used to being places other than Alaska. But I remember as a young person, that, you know, Alaska was the only place I ever wanted to be because it was the only place that had that amazing sense of no boundaries. 

AB: How did you fall into covering the outdoors, Alaska tourism, and of course, global warming?

CW: Well, I was a writer and writers need something to write about. If you find yourself in Alaska, what better to write about then, you know, travel, which is such an important part of the economy and also what Alaskans do, and the outdoors, which is sort of like the main reason why most people are in Alaska. And then I also wrote a lot about climate change, because that was sort of the big scientific thing that was happening. And when I wrote my first major narrative nonfiction book, which is called The Whale, the Supercomputer, honestly, I was looking around for a topic and saw all these interesting stories about scientists in the Arctic, and realized that that was a story that was important. And then when I went up to the Arctic, I found out, you know, the scientists were really talking to the indigenous people. And so that turned into a book that was about different views of how the climate was changing from the point of view of science and of indigenous people. It kind of got me started on the national stage as an author. 

I’ve gone on to write about science and culture since then, in terms of outdoors. I guess I never really thought of myself as an outdoorsman, sort of, in quotes. I was just a guy who lives in Alaska, and loves Alaska, loves hiking, and boating, and being outside. And I was also involved in public radio. As a writer, it kind of came naturally to write about those topics. 

I’ve never really been an expert at anything, maybe more of an expert at cross country skiing and other sports. But I found out, you know, just like I wrote about science, you don’t really need to be an expert. It’s sometimes better if you’re not because you can be an interpreter for those who are not experts, and that seemed to be something that really caught on with listeners and readers. I was not coming to them as somebody who could tell them everything. I was coming to them, you know, along with them too, as a learner and that became sort of my trademark in terms of how I write about the outdoors.

AB: That’s one of the things I love about the outdoors and about Alaska specifically, is that there are always new things to learn. You know, you’re never quite, I don’t know anyone who’s seen every single square inch of this state, right? There’s just always more to explore. There’s always new things to try. There’s always more to see. Do you find that to be true as well?

CW: Absolutely. I’ve traveled Alaska all my life and there are still huge parts of it that I’ve never seen and I never really expect to. I suppose there may be pilots and stuff who’ve at least seen most of it from the air, but most Alaskans have never even seen all the major ecosystems in Alaska. You know, many people who live in urban Alaska have never been to a rural community. Because obviously, it’s expensive and you know, difficult to get out there. So yeah, the place itself is unbelievably vast. 

But then the other aspect of it is the skills. There’s so much to learn about the outdoor skills that you could have in whatever route you take, whether you’re like a mountain climber, or you’re a skier, or you’re a fisherman, or you’re a hunter, you can spend an entire lifetime learning that skill, and always have more to learn. And that’s what I think, you know, a lot of outdoor journalism is about — oh, this big, tough human who is so amazing, and he’s our hero. But what I find much more interesting, is — how do you get good at things? And what are the adventures and what are the things that go wrong? And I always remind people when they come on a boat, and they sort of crashed into the dock, you know, no one’s born knowing how to drive a boat, you know, no one’s born knowing how to ski. So it really it’s got to be all about that journey of getting better at doing these things.

AB: Absolutely. And, you know, we’re talking specifically about Alaska on this stuff, but it’s so true of anywhere you live, right? When we say a rural community here in Alaska, we’re talking about the bush, right? You can’t get there without a plane or boat, there is no road in it, that is rural with a capital R. But that’s also true in other parts of the country where their version of rural is maybe a little bit less extreme than ours. And even if it’s just your backyard, and you’re just a person who – quote, unquote, just a person, right – who lives in a place and who does a nine to five job and maybe isn’t used to getting out there and exploring all these things that we’re talking about in terms of the vastness of Alaska, are also true on a smaller level wherever somebody lives.

CW: Yeah, I think in other parts of the country, it’s always a different story. I think that it’s hard to talk about the outdoors as a nationwide sort of thing because what you say is true, there’s always exploration, but the exploration is so different in different places you go. I mean, you think about if you were doing a podcast about the outdoors in Florida, you know, would have to be about sort of the Everglades and the crazy animals you can see out there and how you get out there. Or on the east coast, you know, there’s so much private land. But there’s all these amazing trails and stuff that are woven in through, you know, people’s property and in weird little places, and there’s tons of stuff to do. But it’s just not this vast open area. And so it’s a great topic. And as you say, Alaska is maybe the Mecca or the best of the best because there’s so much big public land where you can do things, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not also kind of applicable to other places because there’s always a place to explore everywhere you go.

AB: For many years, you’ve been telling the stories of outdoor people and I want to mention to our listeners that where you did that, in my experience, or where I heard it rather the most was up here on public radio. You hosted a show called Outdoor Explorer, and it was really my first introduction to being an outdoor person here in Alaska when we moved up in 2016. Of course, I found the public radio station, and your show is what I heard and I was transfixed. I’m not gonna lie to you. I sat in my driveway and listened to the rest of the episode. I think it was about a gentleman who does off road unicycling –

CW: Oh, yeah, that guy was great.

AB: I could not stop listening to that. And I hope to reach out to him and have him on this podcast as well, so everyone can stay tuned for that. My mouth was sitting open and I was sending my cousin a text message — you have to listen to this. He lives in Maryland, right? You have to listen to this show. This is crazy. This guy is a cyclist. He’s a unicyclist and he cycles off-road. And I just loved it. So you’ve heard a lot of those sort of stories of the off the wall people who live here and the crazy things and awesome things they do. How has that made you better connected to using the outdoors for yourself?

CW: In one way, it just put me in total awe. Because, I mean, that particular guy talking about it, I remember how he would figure out how big of a river he could cross by hopping his unicycle from rock to rock. And you think that if he can do that, then like people could do almost anything.

And that was one of the things about the show that always astonished me, was that people are doing more amazing and more adventurous stuff, on a routine basis in Alaska than ever before. And sort of the old time pioneers and explorers who we revere, and rightly so, you know, because they were the first, they wouldn’t dream of doing some of the stuff that people are doing now. Hauling babies with them or doing it in all kinds of weird and difficult ways. Even to the point that people do stuff like, you know, run the Iditarod Trail to Nome in a few weeks. And when you break that down you realize — okay, these are people who are doing a double marathon every day through the snow, unsupported, in Arctic conditions, in regular shoes, for weeks, like for three weeks. I mean, it’s unbelievable that a human being can do that, then they go to do it and they don’t expect anybody to pay attention. And so it’s just something that puts you in awe of human abilities. It makes you realize how much more you could really do if you tried.

I also really enjoyed interviewing the people who were just enthusiastic, and maybe they weren’t superhuman physical specimens, but they were learning to do stuff and they will share it and just a huge amount of enthusiasm is out there. I’ve been a journalist all my life and a lot of the time as a journalist, you’re trying to get information from people who don’t want to give it to you. But this was something really fun because these were people who were doing stuff because they loved it and they really wanted to share it with others. And that was something that gave me a really positive feeling about humanity and about the people in Alaska that we were sharing the state with.

And it also made me want to do those things. I mean, going back to your earlier question, though, I mean, you also quickly realize you can’t do all these things, right? You can’t be good at everything. You can’t even try everything. But, it certainly makes you enthusiastic and want to do more of what you’d like to do.

AB: Has there been anything that you’ve done specifically because someone talked about it in an interview, maybe that river unicycling?

CW:  That, I will never do! 

Sure, there’s lots of things. I mean, there’s certainly places that I’ve gone and checked out because somebody talked about it. There’ve been things I’ve done more of, like, backcountry skating is something that I really loved and that grew as a sport during the time we were doing the show, and it’s something that I adore. You know, it’s so fun to sort of fly through the backcountry on ice skates. Gosh, I don’t know how many people in the world ever get to do that. You know, a little backcountry skiing. I’m not very good at it and haven’t done much of it, but I’ve learned a lot about that on the show and gave it a try. Boy, there’s so many, you know, I’m not thinking of great examples at the moment but there’s definitely a lot of things that I learned about and then would tell people about, places I would go, and hikes I would try and you know, biking stuff. My main sports are cross country skiing, a little downhill and backcountry skiing, cycling, hiking, boating, and backcountry camping. And I learned an awful lot about taking people in the backcountry on boats and being safe and remote situations from doing those interviews.

AB: I love that. I love that you’ve just listed this bevy of, you know, quote unquote main activities that is longer than what most people would ever consider one activity.

CW: I have always been somebody who wants to be outside every day. If I’m not outside, I start to feel blue. I’ve sort of compromised, one day a week I workout in the gym. But even if it’s just going for a walk with my fiancé or or just, you know, somehow going on a little bike ride or something. I’ve just got to get that air, that feeling of, you know, being outdoors. Even when the weather’s terrible, it’s just part of who I am. And, I think this is true, and this is something I learned from a lot of people on the show. It’s like people talk about — oh, you know, you’re so virtuous for working out all the time. And those of us who are like that, no, not really, you know, more virtuous than you are, if you like watching TV, and you watch TV all the time; just happens to be what makes me feel good. And so in that sense, I’m just really lucky.

AB: I have been doing a challenge since 2017, where I spend at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every day and I’m working on a project taking a look at how that impacts you as a person, you know, does it make you more creative? Does it make you nicer to your family? Does it help your relationships and so on and so forth? So I really resonate with what you’re saying. It has become just a part of who I am, but I can’t say that that was always the case, right? It’s been exciting to see that to see that change. 

Where are you living now? Tell us and what do you like to do there?

CW: Well, I made a total change in my life because of things that were happening in terms of a relationship. And I also just wanted to move on, you know, having lived in the same place for over 50 years. So I’m actually in New Jersey, in kind of a western part of the state, which is kind of half rural and half connected to New York City. And we’ve got incredible cycling here. We’ve got beautiful running paths. And so those are the main things I’m doing. I really, really miss the winter sports but the fact is that winter is kind of a pale shadow of what it should be around here. So I’m still figuring out what some of my other activities could be, but I get out cycling and running pretty much all the time.

AB: I want to pivot to talk about the environment a little bit. A lot of the work that you’ve done focused on global warming, and the Arctic, and Alaska. So now that you’ve been watching this as an issue, and you watched it from Alaska for such a long time, what are you seeing? What’s your perspective now?

CW: Well, it’s been a very discouraging journey really. You know, when I first started writing about it in 2001, I wouldn’t say I was a skeptic, but I was, you know, healthily skeptical. Didn’t know — is this real or not? And, you know, what can we know about it, and through that process and seeing change actually happening in the Arctic, you know, it became a very clear case, you know, sort of a beyond reasonable doubt case. And this was what, you know, 18 years ago, that it was happening in predictions were that, you know, by the time my kids were having kids, it was going to be a really serious problem and we needed to do something about it. And the biggest thing that’s happened since then is the change has accelerated much faster than anyone predicted and has become very, very damaging in ways that are really real in our lives now. A place where I like to spend time in the summer, Kachemak Bay, you know, it’s just very noticeably different because of the warming ocean temperatures and what that’s done to fish and shellfish and birds, and even to the point of having this tragic-feeling experience of these beautiful marine birds, coming up dead on the beach, or half dead and then dying on the beach. Because the ocean, because of warming, has so much less food in it for them to eat. And so it’s something that I thought — well, we’ve got to do something about this because it’s going to affect our grandchildren, and now realizing, wow, it’s affecting us right now in a very big way. And when I wrote that book, I did publicity around the country, and people would say –, well, this sounds terrible for the Arctic, but you know, why would it ever matter to us? You don’t hear that anymore because the climate has changed very dramatically here in the east coast, as well and, you know, the increased severity of storms and sort of changed winters. Where I am now has a road called Ski Hill Road, and I asked them — like, what’s that all about? Well, it used to be a ski hill there but there’s never enough snow for it, so they took away the tow.

So things are changing, really rapidly. And that’s something that is going to take a very, you know, it’s already forcing people to adapt. And then you know, they need to do something about it; it’s become more urgent. And that’s something that I’m concentrating quite a bit on now in my work, is trying to, you know, we need to, we need to get away from carbon. We need to change the way we do things. And that’s been something that I sort of saw – I could be a communicator and talk about this problem in the past, and now I feel like — boy, you really have to be in the game. You can’t really leave it to other people to deal with this.

AB: We talked about the Arctic opening up for travel as if that’s definitely a good thing. And there’s certainly pros or cons, right? Do you think it’s a good thing?

CW: The idea that there will be less sea ice and so therefore ships can go back and forth? No, I’ve always thought that was ridiculous. Because I mean, it assumes that we’ve got a problem with ships not being able to go back and forth enough, you know? It’s like, how much money will the world economy actually save, even if all the sea ice is gone, and ships can just zip back and forth around the Arctic Ocean? I don’t think enough for anybody to notice. But with no sea ice, you lose this enormous and precious ecosystem that lives on the sea ice and you lose a huge industry, which is already happening, of the fishing in the Bering Sea in northern parts of the ocean, which should then move into the Arctic Ocean. And you’d have all these incredible costs. And oils spill from ships. And this whole region of the world, which has an indigenous culture, will presumably be developed in some ways. There’s nobody clamoring and saying — Wow, we need more sea routes across the world. It says not really a need.

So I think it’s absurd and, you know, it’s becoming an area of military conflict. It’s becoming an area of, you know, competition between nations. And we’re losing this wildlife and it’s a threat to indigenous cultures and a threat to the fishing industry. I just, I’ve never really understood that whole thing. It seems like something that people say to sort of put a smiley face on a bad thing.

AB: Meanwhile, down here in the populated part of Alaska, tourism continues to be a major focus. And a lot of folks listening to this are probably interested in visiting Alaska, right, because it’s fabulous. They should be, right? Thanks to your work with these tourist-focused books, like Alaska for Dummies, which I believe you wrote an edition of, you must have an incredible understanding on the ins and outs of coming here. So what’s your top tip for someone who doesn’t want to do Alaska the usual way?

CW: Yes, well, I wrote many, many travel books from about 1995 until maybe 2010 or so, was when I stopped writing. And really the reason I stopped writing in this because the travel book industry collapsed because of the Internet. So I wrote a Frommer’s Alaska, probably 15 editions of that. Alaska for Dummies, you mentioned. A book called Family Vacations in the National Parks, another Frommer’s travel book which was a pictorial book so lots of lots of books and do lots of travel writing, but I haven’t done any in a good 10 years. 

When I talk to people about coming to Alaska, I’m outside Alaska a lot now, they always say — Well, I’d love to go to Alaska, what cruise should I take? There’s really an assumption that, probably because of cruise ship marketing, that coming on a cruise is the only way to go to Alaska. And that is certainly the way most visitors come, but I don’t think it’s the best way and it’s certainly not necessary. But what I tell them is like — well how do you normally go on vacation? Would you go to Europe on a cruise or would you, you know, fly somewhere and rent a car? And it sort of surprises people that you can do that.

But you know, for most Americans, you know, maybe have a week long vacation – probably the best way to go to Alaska is to fly to Anchorage, rent a car, drive down to Kenai Peninsula, and maybe go to Seward or go to Homer. Get out in the water and see the wildlife there and the glaciers, and then go up to Denali and see the interior and the tundra and do some good hiking. Maybe see some of the museums in Anchorage on your way. That’s a model that I think you actually maybe would see more than on a cruise where I think you see a lot of the cruise ship and then you can see some scenery out the window.

Another great way to do it is to go to Southeast Alaska. And I’ve done this with my visitors, you know, fly into a community, visit that community, get on the ferry, go to another community, plan some activities in each place. And that’s a good, fun, and easy way to spend a week.

When I travel, I’m kind of bored with going places and doing tourist activities and then going to another place and doing more tourist activities. When I travel, I like to meet people who live in the place I’m visiting and I like to do outdoor activities, just like I like to do when I’m at home. So Alaska is a fantastic place for that. And you know, if you just dropped into like Juneau or you know, Ketchikan, or Petersburg in Southeast Alaska, you can easily spend most of a week there just doing trails, going fishing, kayaking, you know, meeting people, just being in that place. You can just sort of get to know it, you know, more intimately than you would if you just sort of go from tourist spot to tourist spot.

So that’s sort of been my philosophical change that’s happened over the years is, I think there’s a lot more to travel than then sort of following the scripted way or the way you’re supposed to do it.

AB: You mentioned the national parks. I’m something of a national parks junkie. I love them. I have not done a lot of writing on the subject, but I just, I just adore traveling to them. And specifically, I’m obsessed with collecting the cancellation stamps. And not just some of them, but all of them. The secret ones, the hidden ones, the ones that only the park ranger who works there on Tuesday afternoons knows where that’s located – those ones. What’s your favorite? What’s your favorite national park and what’s maybe one that’s not visited as much as you think it should be?

CW: Wow, it’s really hard to say my favorite national park. Because it’s like, what’s your favorite band? Dude? Oh my god, I love so many bands. And I did this book, Family Vacations in the National Parks, which led – I think we did 17 parks. And this was something I did when my kids were young. And we actually spent a seven week camping vacation covering the whole country. And it was just an amazing magical time to visit these parks and see them in the eyes of kids. And, you know, write about their history in nature and everything. 

You know, I guess, let me start with parks that I think are a little bit disappointing because of the crowding. You know, like if you take the Grand Canyon or you take the Smokies, these are unbelievably gorgeous places. But if you go at high season, they’re just too crowded. And I was actually quoted years ago in the New York Times talking about the fact that — Yeah, it’s possible to spoil the national park with too many people. Yosemite can be that way, if you’re in the Yosemite Valley and the height of season.

But the other thing about these places is there’s always national forests around them. There are always backsides in national parks. And there are also the lesser known parks like instead of going to Yosemite, go to Sequoia Kings Canyon. It’s also in Southern California, and it’s also got unbelievable topography. It’s also got even more huge trees. And you know, it’s kind of deserted, you kind of got it all to yourself. So that was something that I really enjoyed. Those big western parks are really hard to beat, you know. I love Yellowstone and because of its size and its surroundings, no matter how crowded it is, you know, a mile or two walk and you can be by yourself. 

And you know, the Alaska parks are fantastic, as well. But I think one of the things that visitors think about the Alaska parks is — oh, the parks must be where all the good scenery is and the good hiking and the good activities. But the parks are maybe the absolute top 10th of a percent of what’s great about Alaska, but the next 10th of a percent is just as good and doesn’t have to be at a park. 

So, you know, there’s Denali National Park, which is fantastic. And you see people sort of trying to get permits to get into the backcountry, they’re worried about that. But like you go right outside the park just to the Denali highway, and it’s just as beautiful and you can go anywhere you want. So that’s something I’ve told people who are outdoors folks about Alaska is — look, you’ve got basically this entire state open to you. The parks are great, but the parks are just sort of like the attention grabbers. And after you look a little further you realize that pretty much all like that.

In terms of a visitor coming to Alaska, what would be the very best to visit? I just can’t think of a best park. It’s all pretty great. I think it’s all great. I mean, I love Denali. I love Kenai Fjords. I mean, you have to go on a boat to get out into the fjords but it’s really truly gorgeous. Glacier Bay National Park is fantastic. But you can also go to Tracy Arm and see a lot of the same beautiful stuff on a boat.

So anyway, I’m of the belief that any of these places are terrific, but there are many, many others you can visit as well.

AB: I myself love Kenai Fjords, probably because it’s so diverse. You can get on the boat, you can go to see the fjords themselves, but of course it also has the Harding Icefield attached to it. And that’s a gorgeous hike. Very aggressive, if you’re not used to our very uphill hiking here in Alaska where we shun the switchback.

CW: One of the things about Kenai Fjords, which would be counterintuitive to people because we always talk about how big national parks are and they’re so great because they’re big, what’s great about that one is that it’s relatively small. If you go to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, it takes basically like most of the day just to drive from one part of it to another. It’s so enormous that you really would need an airplane to get across it. But Kenai Fjords you can visit very easily in one day, and it’s sort of compact and in hand, in that sense, and makes it much easier to visit. 

I think going back to what we’re saying about traveling to Alaska, and what visitors need to know, one of the biggest mistakes I always heard for visitors was — well, you know, we want to see every part of the state. Some travel agent would put them on an itinerary where they’re just on the all these long, expensive flights and train rides and drives to get from one part of the state to another, not realizing that it’s as if they said — we’re going to go on vacation or we’re going to see California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. No, it would be crazy, nobody would do that. So you got to pick out an area that you’re going to see in a reasonable amount of time. And that goes for the parks as well.

AB: I almost lean towards advising my friends to not go up to Denali, necessarily, because so often you can’t see the mountain anyway, with the cloud cover. And I’d almost as soon send them to Southeast or to enjoy Kenai Fjords, maybe go to Homer, and then come here to the valley, go see the Matanuska glacier and get a real good view of this. You do miss that Arctic tundra you were talking about, but at the same time, you’re spending way less time in a car which to me is valuable.

CW: No, I think that’s good advice. I think the one thing that you get at Denali that you really get nowhere else on earth is, you know, a $25 Wildlife Safari. So, you know, you get on that camper bus and it’s uncomfortable and takes a long time. But boy, your chances of seeing, you know, bear and wolves and sheep and moose, caribou, all the animals that people want to see, are really very good. And for the most part, I mean, you kind of have a shot at that if you drive out the Denali Highway or somewhere in that area, but for the most part that’s hard to do in areas that have trees. And also the fact that you’re on this road that the animals are very accustomed to the buses, and then a lot of people on the buses to pick out the animals and find them. So I think for like the typical tourist coming from outside Alaska who hasn’t seen those animals, that’s kind of pretty important.

AB: Fair enough! Great advice. So one of the things we do on the Humans Outside Podcast is a lightning round. These are the things I’d love to know from my guests, but don’t necessarily fit anywhere else in the show. So are you ready?

CW: Okay, I was unprepared for this. Okay, so what?

AB: Well, saying it’s lightning might be a bit of a bit of a stretch, but what’s your most essential gear? What’s your most essential gear ever?

CW: Ooh, I don’t know. That’s tough. I mean, my, I think, I think my favorite piece of gear is a boat. This is what I learned when I first became a dad – to get into the backcountry with kids, a boat is the best possible thing. You can get to incredibly remote places. You don’t have to carry the kid. You don’t have to carry their gear. And you know that that became the heart of my outdoor stuff.

AB: So you said that your most essential and perhaps your favorite, which is a which is actually a separate question, what’s your favorite piece of gear?

CW: I do love the boat, no question about it. I mean, at the moment, I’m really into my bike, I’ve got this bike that I got just a couple of years ago and I’m not a gear guy, my previous bike I had been riding for over 30 years. But this bike is awesome because it’s kind of upright, and it’s built for distance. And so it’s as though it’s fairly lightweight and well equipped. You can just spend a day on it and you’re perfectly comfortable and I’m really into doing, you know, some long distance cycling and it really, I really enjoy that a lot.

AB: What is your favorite outdoor moment to date? You know, if you close your eyes and think of a favorite thing that’s happened outside, what would you talk about?

CW: Well, that is a very, very challenging question.

I don’t know, I have to give you a composite moment from Prince William Sound, which was really a place where my family kind of found itself on this little outdoor outboard motor boat that we ran around in. And we’d have these moments where you – this is back before the tunnel was built to Whittier. Not many people out there and you know, we go on these trips for up to three weeks. And you sort of say, like — we need a camping spot. And you turn to your eight year old and say, like — which island do you think we should camp on? And they point to one, you land and set up the tent and, you know, total wilderness spot. It’s really safe for kids to explore and be out in a place that, you know, there are no other people if you go on a small enough island. And there’s no bears and they can just run around and find things and gather their sticks and feathers. And it’s incredibly beautiful and your family gets to be a team, working in these places. And that, to me, and my kids still talk about that and sort of think about that as their sort of home base. So that that would have to be something that, you know, is the outdoors and is sort of a family place.

AB: Thank you so much for being on Humans Outside Podcast today. We appreciate it.

CW: Oh, I enjoyed it. Thank you, Amy.

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