“Go out and play!”
I guess that’s what my wife Jody and I must have repeated to our three sons when they were small. Or maybe we just let them be themselves, and they took to the outdoors without much encouragement.
All three were born in Tulsa, where they each rode in a child seat on the back of my bike on the Riverparks path along the Arkansas River. We took them on outings to Redbud Valley, a small nature preserve northeast of Tulsa that resembles the Ozarks where Jody and I were raised. We sometimes took them to places in the Oklahoma Ozarks, such as the Barren Fork Creek between Tahlequah and Stilwell and Spring Creek near Locust Grove, where they could splash in the clear water and try to catch darters and crawdads in the smooth gravel. When we visited in Missouri, they played in Johnson Shut-Ins (regardless of season) and Shoal Creek in Newton County, where my parents had a cabin. After we moved back to Missouri in 1992 and bought some land on Bull Creek at Walnut Shade, ten miles north of Branson, they were able to spend a lot of unsupervised time in the woods and on the creek.By the time they were early teenagers, they were dauntless if not proficient swimmers, cyclists, rock climbers, and skiers. They didn’t grow out of it, but expanded their ranges to four continents. In contrast, Jody and I didn’t have passports until we were past 50.
Thomas, the youngest of the three, born in 1985, is a year-round outdoorsman, working as a rafting guide out west.
Thomas (aft) in a rapid on the Salt River
He has worked on the Arkansas in Colorado, in the Salt River Canyon
of eastern Arizona, the Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park
in West Texas, the Kern River in California, and on the Yampa and Green Rivers in Colorado and Utah. In 2012, he had his second Grand Canyon rafting experience.
Even with a lot of big whitewater experience, Thomas and his brothers still enjoy the creeks of the Ozarks.
Here’s Thomas on Swan Creek in Taney County in early November 2009.
He began hiking and camping alone in the Ozark National Forest of Arkansas when he was 15, in the heat of summer and the dead of winter. He just wanted to be outside, and if nobody wanted to go with him, that was not his problem. Our middle child, he was born in 1982.
Richard in Dominica, 4th standing from left
He became an avid mountain biker and kayaker. He worked several summers as a rafting guide on the Arkansas in Colorado. As a geology grad student at the University of Arkansas, he volunteered for field work in remote places and ended up traveling around Nicaragua with high-precision GPS equipment and working at a research station on the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica.
In the summers of 2009 and 2010, as a doctoral student in geology at the University of Kansas, Richard traveled to the Himalayan Plateau of Tibet to begin his dissertation research. In the highlands of Tibet, the valley floors are as low as the top of Pikes Peak. Richard’s photos capture the beauty and desolation of this high and lonesome land.
Richard’s blog Rocks and Water provides a window into his world.
He is engaged to Lydia Staisch, the woman with the scarf by his right hand in the photo from Dominica taken a few days after they met. They live in Ann Arbor, where Lydia is pursuing a geology doctorate and Richard has a post-doctoral fellowship.
Herd of kaing
Lungar Shan North camp
Richard in his element
Cole with pupils on Ikina
Cole, born in 1980, attended college in Colorado Springs, where he enjoyed the Rockies.
Cole started rappelling when he was about 14 and was active in many sports in high school and college, including mountain biking, skiing, diving, trap and skeet and rugby. After college, he spent two years on the tiny Japanese island of Ikina, where he taught English.
While in Japan, he hiked and camped on Shikoku. He met Zoe Wilson in Japan and decided to live with her in London, where he attended law school.
While in law school, he started working at Itchy Feet, an outdoor clothing and gear store, and from there learned about another company that has several indoor climbing walls. Cole began teaching customers the basics of climbing. Soon Cole was climbing again, on the cliffs along the English Channel, in Wales and in the Italian Alps near Lake Garda.
Having finished law school, Cole is operations manager for High Sports Group, Ltd., managing its seven climbing walls in London. Zoe is manager of marketing and communications for AlphaSights.
Cole in the Italian Alps
Cole and his wife Zoe Wilson in Wales