Bryan Martin

Bryan Martin and Elizabeth Williams work at Big City Mountaineers, a Colorado-based nonprofit that transforms the lives of underserved youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions. Through partnerships with community youth programs around the United States, Big City Mountaineers exposes close to 1,000 youth per year to outdoor adventures in some of our country’s most spectacular public lands. Not only do these young people learn outdoor skills, but more importantly, they learn critical life skills while also improving their self-confidence, communication skills, and leadership abilities.

Elizabeth Williams

Prior to assuming his role as executive director at BCM, Bryan enjoyed great success with a wide variety of conservation and outdoor-related organizations including the Nature Conservancy, Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Colorado Mountain Club, and the Land Trust Alliance. Elizabeth was a teacher in India and Nepal before joining BCM as a marketing intern—10 years and a lot of hard work later, she has risen through the ranks and is now the Director of Programs. Bryan and Elizabeth share a deep enthusiasm for the outdoors and a belief that outdoor experiences can be transformative. Their passion for the work and BCM’s mission is palpable, so I know you’ll enjoy getting to know them.

I met Bryan and Elizabeth at the BCM offices in the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado, where we discussed BCM’s mission, the details of their wilderness expeditions, and why outdoor adventures can be such life-changing experiences. We chat about Bryan and Elizabeth’s professional backgrounds and learn what drew them to careers centered around the outdoors and service. They also tell a heart-warming success story in which a student overcomes her initial fears to thrive on a weeklong wilderness trip.

Thanks to Bryan and Elizabeth for taking the time to chat. Hope you enjoy!

 


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:30 – Details of Elizabeth and Bryan’s roles at BCM
5:00 – Building teamwork through outdoor experiences
7:45 – Details of the wilderness expeditions
9:10 – Areas in which BCM operates
10:00 – Teaching students with no outdoor experience about wilderness travel
14:00 – BCM’s focus on personal development and critical life skills
15:50 – Ensuring the lessons stick when the students return home
17:00 – How BCM measures success
20:00 – Evolution of BCM’s measurements of success
22:45 – How BCM selects its mentors
25:00 – Areas where the expeditions take place
26:45 – Thoughts on public lands
29:00 – Elizabeth and Bryan’s personal backgrounds
34:30 – Bryan’s biggest surprise since becoming BCM’s E.D.
36:30 – Overarching lessons learned from their careers
40:40 – “Summit for Someone” program
44:45 – A recent BCM success story
49:00 – Favorite books
52:50 – Favorite documentaries
53:50 – Craziest/most powerful outdoor experiences
59:10 – Request of the listeners
1:00:40 – Connect with BCM online

John Dunaway – The Life and Times of a Merchant Mariner

John Dunaway – Life and Times of a Merchant Mariner


John Dunaway at sea

John Dunaway is a Texas-based merchant mariner who spends six months each year traveling the world as the captain of large cargo ships. Whether cruising the calm, warm waters of Central America or avoiding Somali pirates off the coast of Africa, John’s goal is the same: deliver the cargo efficiently while ensuring the safety of his crew—quite the responsibility for a 32-year-old. When not at sea, John is an avid bird hunter, surfer, and all-around adventurer who uses his downtime to explore everywhere from Jackson Hole to Canyonlands to Antelope Island with his wife and young daughter. Thanks to a talent for photography and writing, John has gained a huge following on Instagram, where he documents his exploits on his account, AbstractConformity.

So you might be asking, what does a ship captain have to do with mountains and/or prairies? Although John may spend most of his time on the high seas, far away from the American West, you’ll notice that his optimistic perspective, focused sense of purpose, and thirst for adventure parallel the attitudes and outlooks of many of my previous podcast guests. Also like other guests, he is well read, a deep thinker, and has a genuine conservation ethic thanks to his close connection to the natural world. Although the objects of our affections may be different, our underlying values and priorities are surprisingly similar.

After almost a year of recording this podcast, I was excited to switch it up a little with this in-depth conversation with John about a subject that was fairly new to me. We start by covering the basics of his job—how one becomes a ship captain, particulars on the size of the ships, and details of day-to-day life on a 90-day ocean voyage. Then we dig deeper into some of his thoughts on leadership, his rituals and superstitions, how fatherhood has changed his outlook, and how he manages the pressure that comes along with being responsible for a massive ship, his crew, and the cargo. He also tells a few crazy stories from Africa and India, and he shares some insights from his recent trips around the American West. As usual, we discuss favorite books, films, and thoughts on conservation.

I found this to be a fascinating conversation, and I’d love to hear what you think. If you have a moment, please shoot me an email and let me know your thoughts. As always, thanks for taking the time to listen; hope you enjoy.

Photos courtesy of John Dunaway


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:00 – How John describes his work
4:20 – Details on the ships
5:40 – Length of the typical ocean voyage
8:35 – How John became a ship captain
10:25 – A typical day on an ocean voyage
12:40 – John’s morning routine
19:00 – Superstitions on the ship
21:00 – Details on the crew and boat
22:15 – How John leads his crew
25:20 – Comparing leadership methods of old-timers and younger captains
27:20 – Ernest Shackleton
28:40 – Common misconceptions
30:35 – Most dangerous areas John has visited
31:00 – Adventures with Somali pirates
33:50 – Robberies at port
36:15 – Getting a gun shoved in his chest in Mumbai
38:40 – John’s early years in Brazil and Texas
39:10 – Family ties to ships and the ocean
41:00 – John’s decision to pursue ships as a career
41:55 – John’s advice to young students at the Merchant Marine Academy
43:45 – How fatherhood has changed his perspective
49:30 – How John became a well-known photographer
54:45 – Background on John’s ability as a writer
58:00 – John’s recent adventures in the American West
1:03:30 – What was most striking about the American West
1:07:30 – Favorite books
1:10:15 – Favorite documentaries
1:11:00 – Best piece of advice he’s ever received
1:12:30 – Biggest challenge facing the oceans today
1:15:00 – John’s request to the listeners
1:15:40 – Connect with John online
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AD Maddox

AD Maddox is an accomplished artist who creates some of the most spectacular and memorable paintings of trout that I’ve ever seen. Using bright colors and unique perspectives, AD depicts trout and the fly fishing lifestyle in a way that is completely original, yet so authentic you’d be hard-pressed to find an angler who doesn’t love her work. Her art has been featured widely throughout the fishing world, including on the cover of Gray’s Sporting Journal, Patagonia apparel, and even StealthCraft drift boats.

I first encountered AD’s work when I moved to Jackson Hole in the mid-2000s. I’m not an art connoisseur, but I was instantly taken away with how she managed to capture the beauty and realistic details of trout with a contemporary and unconventional style. And just like her work, AD is a one-of-a-kind original—she spent years as a super-competitive athlete, studied exercise physiology in college, taught herself to paint without any formal art education, and rips around backroads on a Ducati motorcycle. Despite a fun-loving and easygoing exterior, she approaches her work with discipline and rigor that seem more fitting for a professional soldier than a professional artist.

Thanks to AD’s outgoing and hilarious personality, we had a very fun and wide-ranging conversation. We chatted about her many years living in Jackson Hole and how the people, landscapes, and natural beauty of that valley influenced her art. We discussed her upbringing and her parents’ role in giving her the confidence to pursue art as a full-time career. She also talks in detail about the importance of facing challenges (both in work and life) head-on and proactively, with a positive attitude and relentless work ethic. Whether you’re an artist or not, there are many wise lessons in the conversation that anyone could apply to their work and life.

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“Siberian River Bow” by AD Maddox

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“Hopper Snack” by AD Maddox

Photo and images courtesy of AD Maddox


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How AD describes her work
4:30 – Why AD focused on fly fishing as a primary subject
5:50 – Selling her first piece of art
7:20 – Using photos to learn to paint trout
8:45 – How her art has changed over the years
10:30 – Knowing when a painting is truly finished
12:15 – How AD learned the technical aspects of art
14:00 – AD’s artistic influences and mentors
16:00 – Lessons learned from painting mistakes
17:15 – Advantages of not waiting for permission
19:00 – AD’s optimistic attitude
21:00 – The constant quest to reinvent her art
24:00 – Writers/Artist’s block?
26:40 – AD’s early years in athletics
29:00 – Parent’s influence on her confidence
31:20 – Haters: the sign of success
34:00 – How living Jackson Hole shaped her art
35:50 – Importance of schedule, routine, and discipline
41:00 – Discipline versus inspiration
42:20 – Riding motorcycles
43:40 – How motorcycles helped her overcome personal challenges
46:00 – How personal challenges affected her art
50:00 – Favorite books
52:31 – Craziest outdoor experience
54:54 – Favorite place in the West
1:02:13 – Connect with AD online

JeffAnnJeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado’s most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.

The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.

For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause… I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.

If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Land Library


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Jeff describes his work
3:45 – Back story on the Land Library
4:40 – Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 – Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 – The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 – The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 – Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 – South Park, Colorado described
19:30 – Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 – Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 – Current state of the Land Library
28:10 – Cook’s House restoration – Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 – History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 – How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 – Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 – How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 – Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 – Recommended biographies
51:00 – The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 – Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!!
53:20 – Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 – Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 – Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 – Connect with the Land Library online

* Please buy these books at your local bookseller!!!

 

 

CREDIT: David J Swift

Christian Beckwith (photo credit: David J Swift)

Christian Beckwith is the director of SHIFT, a Jackson Hole-based non-profit that is building a powerful coalition to protect our nation’s public lands. By bringing together climbers, skiers, hunters, anglers, land managers, and countless other stakeholders, SHIFT is finding common ground and harnessing these groups’ collective power to ensure that public lands—our birthright as Americans—remain safe during this tenuous time in political history.

After a distinguished career in the publishing world which included editing the American Alpine Journal and co-founding Alpinist Magazine, Christian experienced a profound change in priorities when one of his close friends was killed in an avalanche in the Teton backcountry. At that point, Christian decided to focus his resources and energy exclusively on work that makes a “substantive difference in the world.” From there he founded the Center for Jackson Hole, SHIFT, and, most recently, the Emerging Leaders Program which brings together a diverse group of early career leaders in conservation.

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Christian in his element

Christian’s career is inspiring in many ways, but I especially admire his willingness to set audacious goals, put himself on the line, and not wait around for permission to make things happen. We dig into all of these topics in our hour-long conversation, and he shares some interesting insights into his career and the future of conservation. We also discuss Christian’s early childhood experiences that led him to a career focused on adventure and the outdoors, and he talks about his relationship with Yvon Chiounard and how Chiounard has influenced him both personally and professionally.  We chat about Christian’s favorite books, documentaries, and how fatherhood has focused his thinking on the importance of conservation.  There’s a full list of the topics we discuss in the episode notes.

Given the current fights surrounding our public lands, this is a timely and powerful episode. I hope this conversation spurs you to continue educating yourself on threats to our public lands and to take appropriate action to protect them.

Photos courtesy of Christian Beckwith


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Christian describes his work
5:10 – Changing demographics in conservation
8:30 – Genesis of the idea for SHIFT
13:00 – Avalanche in Apocalypse Couloir
15:20 – Christian’s decision to shift from publishing to conservation
18:00 – Evolution of SHIFT
20:30 – Importance of encouraging people to fall in love with wild places
21:40 – Overview of the current public land debate
25:40 – How becoming a father changed Christian’s mindset
28:20 – Collaborating with non-traditional partners of recreation
31:20 – Defining the word “conservation”
31:50 – Conservation heroes and Yvon Chouinard
35:50 – The importance of Chouinard’s internal compass
40:45 – Childhood experiences that led to a career centered around the outdoors
43:10 – First experiences climbing
45:40 – Advice to his younger self
49:30 – Favorite books
51:30 – Favorite documentaries
52:30 – Unexpected activities
54:00 – Christian’s most powerful outdoor experience
58:00 – Christian’s request of the listeners
59:00 – Connect with Christian and SHIFT online

Information Referenced

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Tyler Sharp

Tyler Sharp is an adventurer, sportsman, conservationist, and world traveler with a gift for telling stories through images and the written word. While he may be best known for his photography focusing on Americana and Western lifestyle, travel, and adventure, Tyler has built an impressive resume that includes filmmaking, directing, writing, and creative strategy. His work has taken him to some of the most spectacular and far-flung regions of the globe, with an emphasis on East Africa, Montana, and his home state of Texas.

As a devoted hunter and fisherman, Tyler has chased game in some of the world’s wildest regions, giving him a global perspective on the importance of natural resources, game management, and sustainable hunting practices. As you’ll hear in our conversation, Tyler has thought deeply about the practical and ethical implications of hunting and fishing both abroad and here in the American West. His sincere devotion to conservation and adventure shines through in his work and has made him the go-to photographer for iconic brands such as Filson, Cabelas, and Stetson, to name a few.

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Photo by Tyler Sharp

Tyler and I met up in Estes Park, Colorado, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, for a fun conversation that could have gone on for hours. We discussed his beginnings as a professional photographer, which started in earnest when he moved to East Africa just out of college—he’s got some intense stories from his travels that include run-ins with lions and leopards. We covered his thoughts on conservation, and how his time traveling abroad has given him a clearer understanding of conservation issues facing the American West. Then the conversation took an unexpected but interesting turn when we chatted about his commitment to Kung Fu (yes, Kung Fu!), meditation, and eastern philosophy.

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Photo by Tyler Sharp

Be sure to check out the episode notes for the full list of topics covered, because we touch on a lot.  This is a wide-ranging conversation that takes many surprising twists and turns.  Hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Tyler Sharp


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Tyler describes his work
3:40 – Tyler’s niche in the creative world
4:25 – Tyler’s background
5:35 – Heading to Los Angeles from Texas for college
7:00 – Post college adventures in Africa
8:10 – The shock of moving to Tanzania from LA
10:30 – Learning how to “grease the wheels” in Africa
11:25 – How time in Africa changed Tyler
13:20 – Threat of people versus wildlife
14:10 – Craziest experience in Africa (spoiler alert – it involves a lion!)
20:40 – Showdown with a leopard
22:20 – Transition from Africa to American West
24:15 – His choice to focus in on his passion
26:30 – Specific actions that have allowed Tyler to separate himself from the competition
31:10 – Tyler’s personal brand
32:00 – Tyler’s conservation ethic
35:00 – Discussion about conservation and hunting
39:00 – Hunters and others coming together to save public lands
40:00 – Details on The Modern Huntsman
41:55 – Blowback from posting hunting photos online
44:35 – Importance of having conversations versus fighting
46:30 – Tyler’s definition of “conservation”
50:00 – Kung Fu and other martial arts
52:50 – Physical and mental benefits of Kung Fu
56:00 – Favorite books
1:00:50 – Advice to take better landscape photos
1:03:50 – Favorite place in the West
1:05:30 – Tyler’s request of the listeners
1:09:50 – Connect with Tyler online
speaking-to-colorado-rocky-mountain-school-high-school-students-about-river-restoration

Connor Coleman

Connor Coleman is the founder of Resiliency Lands, a progressive, conservation-minded land management and advisory group committed to promoting ecological and resource resiliency. Prior to starting Resiliency Lands, he held a variety of positions closely connected to the land, jobs that would be on the wish-list of anyone who loves adventure and the American West—wildland firefighter, cowboy, bison manager, and conservationist, just to name a few.  Connor is currently based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and he resides on a spectacular ranch just outside of Carbondale.

You may be surprised to learn that Connor was not born and raised in the West or on ranches.  On the contrary, he grew up in Ohio, went to college in North Carolina, and after paying his dues in east coast conservation and earning two master’s degrees from Duke University, he headed West to focus his energy on western landscapes. Thanks to an insatiable curiosity, a rock-solid work ethic, a service mindset, and a willingness to insert himself into new and uncomfortable situations, Connor has carved out a professional niche for himself in Colorado doing rewarding, exciting, and important work.

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Connor during his firefighter days.

Connor’s education and unconventional career path can serve as a great blueprint for anyone who loves the American West and wants a life centered around land, conservation, and natural resources. When I was in my early twenties, I would’ve loved to meet a guy like Connor who could point me in the right direction. So in this episode, we talk in depth about his career and his ability to “put himself out there” to create exciting professional opportunities.  We dig deep into his thoughts on conservation in the West, as well as issues related to forest fires throughout the country.  Connor loves to read and learn, so he also has tons of great book and film recommendations.

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Connor enjoying evening fly fishing

We cover a ridiculous amount of information, so be sure to check out the episode notes below for the full list of topics we discuss. Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Connor Coleman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:32 – How Connor describes his work
3:55 – Importance of conserving working ranches
7:55 – Grazing as an vital part of conservation
13:40 – Examples of some of Resiliency Land’s projects
16:35 – Where did Connor grow up?
18:50 – Connor’s decision to make conservation a career
22:45 – Brief history of NC barbecue
25:00 – Early career in conservation
29:10 – Grad school at Duke
30:30 – Difference between conservation in NC versus CO
32:20 – How easterners misunderstand public lands in the west
33:30 – Time as a wildland firefighter
36:30 – Fire policy in the east versus west
40:00 – Longleaf pine book recommendations
41:15 – Adventures at Camp Lejeune
42:20 – Moving out west to work on ranches
45:40 – Challenges of adjusting to the demands of ranch work
48:30 – Working with bison on the Zapata Ranch
49:50 – Bison and bison book recommendations
55:20 – Transition to the Aspen Valley Land Trust
59:20 – Lesson learned working in conservation in different parts of country
1:01:20 – Thoughts on service and giving back to the community
1:06:15 – Favorite books about the American West
1:10:15 – Favorite films
1:12:50 – Surprising activities
1:14:35 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
1:18:45 – Favorite place in the West
1:20:20 – Biggest challenge facing the West
1:23:00 – Connor’s request of the listeners
1:25:15 – Connect with Connor online
1:25:55 – Bonus book recommendations!

Information Referenced

Connors Book Recommendations

Connor’s Film Recommendations

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Taylor Keen, just before an Omaha tribal war dance

Taylor Keen is a teacher, community builder, and Native American thought leader based out of Omaha, Nebraska.  His back story is as diverse as it is impressive—he’s a member of both the Omaha Tribe and the Cherokee Nation, attended Dartmouth College (BA) and Harvard University (Masters of Public Policy, MBA), and enjoyed a successful stint in corporate America before returning to Nebraska to teach entrepreneurship and management at Creighton University.  His most recent undertaking is Sacred Seed, a project with the goal of preserving Native American heritage and history through collecting, growing, and spreading the seeds of corn and other traditional Native American foods.

Just before planting…

The writer Wallace Stegner theorized that people generally fit into one of two categories—“Boomers” or “Stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run” and want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are just the opposite—they are “motivated by affection, by such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”1  Taylor is the walking embodiment of a Sticker.  Given his drive, intelligence, and education, he could’ve followed the path of the Boomer and pursued any number of careers.  But a deep love of his Native American heritage and his community called him back home to teach, lead, and live a life devoted to service of others.  It’s an inspiring story.

…and full bloom.

I could’ve talked to Taylor for hours and I only asked about a third of the questions I had prepared, but we still managed to dig into a wide variety of fascinating topics.  We discussed the history and mission of Sacred Seed and where he sees the project going in the future.  We talked about his path from the West to the Ivy League, the decisions that led him to transition from corporate America to higher education, and some very interesting Native American history.  One of my favorite parts of our conversation was Taylor’s recounting the advice he received from his grandfather soon after graduating from Harvard Business School.

This was a very enlightening conversation for me, and I greatly appreciate Taylor taking the time to chat.  I encourage you to visit the Sacred Seed website and watch the video—you can find links to everything we discuss in the episode notes on the webpage.  Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Taylor Keen

1 Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection (2012)


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:55 – How Taylor describes his work
4:00 – Sacred Seed Project
5:35 – Early beginnings of Sacred Seed
9:00 – Discovering the importance of seed banking
10:00 – Threats to native seeds from large corporations
11:45 – Difference between Omahas and Cherokees
13:50 – How Taylor found his first ancient seeds
15:55 – How the plants compliment each other, Four Sisters
20:45 – How Sacred Seed has changed Taylor
22:40 – The link between elders and the ancient ways of planting
25:30 – Fall festival
26:45 – Future plans for Sacred Seed
29:20 – Taylor’s changing approach to the project—MBA to Holistic thinking
33:45 – Similarities between Sacred Seed and the reintroduction of bison
36:45 – The fight for sustainable agriculture
37:10 – Meaning of Omaha
38:10 – Where Taylor grew up
39:00 – Taylor’s journey to the Ivy League
41:15 – Biggest surprise when moving east
43:55 – Harvard graduate school and corporate America
45:35 – Taylor’s grandfather’s wise advice
49:25 – Discussing Sebastian Junger’s Tribe
51:00 – Taylor’s thoughts on the importance of tribes
53:50 – Best books for learning about Native American culture
56:45 – Taylor’s advice to his younger self
58:00 – Other favorite books
1:02:50 – Taylor’s request of the audience
1:06:00 – Connect with Taylor online

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016


As you may know, I send out a brief bimonthly email in which I recommend some of the best books I’ve recently read. This year, I recommended 37 books, which is an admittedly ridiculous amount of reading. In an effort to distill it down to a more user-friendly level, here are my top ten favorite books that I read in 2016. The subject matters vary widely, but I wholeheartedly recommend them all.

I kept the descriptions as brief as possible, so click on the monthly list link to view the original email with my full review. To sign up for the future book recommendation emails, follow this link or just send me an email.


Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan – One of my favorite books of all time, and you don’t need to be a surfer to fully appreciate it. A true work of art. (Sep/Oct list)

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger – I think about this book on almost a daily basis, and I believe Junger’s ideas on community and purpose explain many of the societal challenges facing the U.S. today. (Jul/Aug list)

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport – This book reshaped the way I approach my professional and personal projects, and it made me even more skeptical of social media than I had been. (Mar/Apr list)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight – The best business memoir I’ve ever read. (Nov/Dec list)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – Extremely interesting theories on the evolution of humans, and it actually pairs well with Tribe mentioned above. (Jan/Feb list)

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko – Part history of the American West and part western water policy primer, all layered on top of a wild, exciting adventure narrative. (May/Jun list)

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde – I’ve read an absurd number of TR books, so my standards are high—this one not only explores a little known (but super-interesting) part of TR’s life, but it also details the rise of America’s natural history movement. (Jul/Aug list)

Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas – Richard Nixon was a strange, strange, strange man. (Jan/Feb list)

Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O’Brien – Conservation, bison, ranching, regenerative agriculture, emotional memoir, and a natural history lesson all rolled into one book. (Nov/Dec list)

End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K Bourne Jr. – A cautionary examination of what lies ahead if the we can’t figure out a solution to the coming global food crisis, followed hopeful examples of innovators who are attacking the challenge head on. (Sep/Oct list)





Camrin Dengel – Slow Living in the American West

Camrin Dengel – Slow Living in the American West


Camrin Dengel is a professional lifestyle photographer who lives and works on the quiet side of the Teton Mountain Range in Teton Valley, Idaho. Her work focuses on a broad range of subjects, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture, hunting, fishing, and life in and around her mountain community. In her work and leisure, Camrin is a devoted proponent of slow living, and she strives to approach her profession and life in a manner that is intentional, simple, meaningful, and positive.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

Growing up in Valdez, Alaska gave Camrin a unique perspective and toughness (she calls it “stubbornness”) that have allowed her to pursue her passion for art full time, while staying true to her ideals and enjoying a slow-living lifestyle. She attended college on a running scholarship with the intention of becoming an engineer, but decided midway through that art and photography were her true calling. After graduation, she moved straight to Teton Valley where she has built a life and business centered around documenting the people and places that make the American West such a special place to live.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

I’ve spent a lot of time in Teton Valley and can honestly say that Camrin’s work captures the landscapes and lifestyle more authentically than any artist I’ve ever seen. She is obviously a talented photographer, but she is also a super-interesting person who has managed to sidestep a good deal of the “busyness” and distractions that dominate many of our lives. In our conversation, we discuss her career trajectory, and also her love for the community of Teton Valley. We dig deep into the idea of slow living, and she offers some thoughts on ways for people to adopt a slower, more intentional lifestyle. As usual, we discuss favorite books, documentaries, and challenges and opportunities facing the American West.

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Photo: Camrin Dengel

This is a really fun episode full of lots of great info. Be sure to check out the episode notes for links to everything we discuss. Hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Camrin Dengel


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:30 – How Camrin describes her work
3:50 – Good example of Camrin’s work
5:30 – Teton Valley explained
7:25 – How she ended up in Teton Valley
8:30 – Transition from adventure photography to lifestyle
9:50 – Thoughts on slow living
10:45 – Ways to live slowly as effortlessly as possible
13:25 – Being intentional with social media
14:20 – Advice for adopting a slower lifestyle
15:30 – Growing up in Alaska
16:35 – Unique aspects of growing up in Alaska
18:50 – How Alaska shaped Camrin’s perspective
20:05 – College years in California
21:15 – From engineer student to artist
23:15 – Time with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council
24:35 – Similarities between fisherman, ranchers, and farmers
27:10 – Camrin’s definition of conservation
28:00 – Thoughts on fishing and hunting
31:45 – How Camrin developed the confidence to follow her passion
33:15 – Role models and mentors
35:10 – Other possible career paths
36:45 – Advice to aspiring photographers
39:00 – Photography advice
40:30 – Book recomendations
41:20 – Slow living resources
42:45 – Favorite documentaries
44:20 – Surprising activities
48:00 – Favorite place
49:20 – Ideas for off the beaten path experiences in Alaska
51:00 – The insanity of the Mt. Marathon
55:15 – Biggest challenge facing the American West
57:30 – Request of the listeners
58:50 – Connect with Camrin online