Scott Graham Interview

Tell us about your outdoors experience.

For fun, I have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, canoed the Boundary Waters and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine, spent lots time of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, soaking in hot springs in Oregon, and rock climbing (mostly top rope) in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming.  Most recently, I completed the Long Trail here in Vermont and the GR20 (supposedly the hardest long-distance trek in Europe) in Corsica plus spent time hiking, caving and rafting in New Zealand (I got to go over the highest commercially navigable waterfall in the world -- but what else would expect in New Zealand).

For work (it was all fun, but I didn't know how to separate the two), I was employed by many Outward Bound Schools, the National Outdoor Leadership School, the Catherine Freer Survival School, and Project Adventure.  This employment meant lots of hiking, snowshoeing, canoeing rock and ice climbing and sailing (I hated the sailing BTW) all over the eastern US including Florida, Wyoming, and Oregon.  I was so lucky to do this work.  I loved the time in the outdoors.  Plus I accumulated a chunk of time off for every 21-day course I instructed so there was a lot of time to play hard when I wasn't working.  Not to mention that I had access to these intense outdoor staff trainings (the best of which was when I wiggled my way onto one of their annual school-sponsored staff expeditions and paddled and poled and portaged our way up to the headwaters of the Mistassibi River in Quebec Canada and then paddled out through remote wilderness whitewater).

By the numbers:

Two interesting tidbits that I figured out while creating an infographic to promote myself as a coach:

240.  Days spent in silent meditation since 1996.

942.  Nights slept outside under the stars since 1987.

How much do you like to outdoor recreation? Are you in love with it? If so...when did you fall in love and where? 

For as long as I can recall, I loved the outdoors.  My parents and I used to go camping when I was little, and I remember many walks in the woods with my father.  That changed once we moved to Florida when I was in high school. Those (and my early college years) were very much city- and suburban- stratified until I decided to spend a couple of weeks hiking in North Carolina which led to a decision a few years later to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, which led to working for Outward Bound and moving to New England.

Now, we are lucky to live in a place where the outdoors are integrated into our daily life.  We live in a great log home on a 107-acre farm and woodland in rural Vermont.  Alpacas, Romney sheep, Angora rabbits, Sicilian donkeys, chickens, guineas, three dogs, peacocks and a Potbellied Pig round out the menagerie.  Of course, we have a garden (or two or three).  So we are outside a lot.  And there is nothing like schlepping two 5-gallon buckets of water 1/10th of a mile every day in the winter to keep you in shape!

If you knew someone who was thinking of starting outdoor recreation, what advice would you give them?

Don't go gear crazy.  There are so many gadgets, whoseawhatsits, thingamajigs and whatchamacallits and other junk out there -- most of which you don't need.  (This is the voice of experience talking). 

What was your first GO excursion? How did it turn out?

I am not sure.  I think it was hiking up Chorcurua -- but I don't know if that was with Gay Outdoors or with has been a while.  It was a great time and I recall being very psyched about the new friendships and connections made. 

What do you like about GayOutdoors?

Sure, GayOutdoors promotes the idea of meeting other "outdoorsy guys" but I have found it to be much more than that.  Simply put, the guys I have met in GO have very little baggage other than the pack on their back and are more concerned with whether the next rock they are stepping on is slippery or rather than the brand of underwear you are wearing.

The following statement may sound a bit strange -- and is certainly not intended to be judgmental of anyone else -- but what I have found, consistently over the years, with GayOutdoors is that there is not a lot of drama other than the drama of the hike (or the run or the paddle or the climb or the camping).  Further, the people I have met in GayOutdoors tend to be the kind of people who "step it up" in their life and aren't getting in their own way.  I believe that quality is the result of the activities themselves because I have met the same quality of people in other outdoor groups, for instance, the Sierra Club (except that they are straight).

At the same time, there is a level of I guess you could call it authenticity -- there is less of the brand identification or objectification that you find in other circles in the gay community.  It's not about the latest clothes,  the brand of cologne, shoes, vodka, hair style and music.  This stuff is all absent.  After all, how can it be present when you are on a weekend hike with no shower, smell like bug spray and sunscreen and your clothing choices are dictated by function rather than fashion.  I appreciate that.

Describe Vermont to our outdoorzy members who’ve never been there? Is there a lot to do if you are an outdoor enthusiast?

The Long Trail of course!  It's claim to fame is being the first long-distance hiking trail!   272 miles of the oldest hiking trail in the US!  Now, for those of you pondering the commitment of doing such a hike,  I would suggest, if you can, that you section hike it over a couple of years and not hike the entire trail all at once.  Especially if you are a local -- especially if you are a local.  And here is why:  you will become familiar not only with the trail but the different roads and communities and restaurants and gas stations and more along the way and your memories from the trail -- I mean specific memories from this hike and that shelter and this campsite and even the weather and people you meet will somehow get cemented with the roads and communities and when you are in these communities again or driving down that road that passes by the trailhead where you parked your car it will trigger those great memories in your head, and this is awesome.

This impact of section hiking didn't occur to me until after my buddy and I completed the trail, and I was driving to other locations in Vermont for work, conferences or even other hikes.  Remember I thru-hiked the AT?  I go by parts of the AT and road crossings that I know I did and today it is all a blur -- because my primary experience was on the trail and not the areas around the trail.  This is not the case with the Long Trail. 

Of course, there is Rock River and the Ledges in southern Vermont for the more naked-inclined.  However both have become more -- I hate to say this -- it makes me sound like an old Vermonter -- "touristy" with lots of out of staters coming up to spend the weekend and houses turned into gay weekend cabins along the river.  While nice, and I suppose it is progress, I long for those good old days where you could easily find a parking spot on the weekends, and the area was more filled with more locals than out-of-state-ers.  No one knew about it -- now everyone knows about it.  (I have a friend visiting from Columbia -- the country -- not the city -- and -- although he cannot speak English fluently -- he did ask about Rock River! 

And, although this may sound creepy, and I hate to give this away because it is such an excellent place, spending the afternoon walking around Hope Cemetery is a must if you are in Vermont.  Here is why:  Hope Cemetery is in Barre Vermont, which is considered the granite capital of the world.  As such it is the home to many many sculptors and artists.  Many years ago, a loved one of someone died, and their sculptor son made this incredible headstone.  It got out of control from there with everyone trying to out-sculpt and out-tribute everyone else.  The result is this incredible place filled with amazing, intricate, beautiful and captivating monuments -- from race cars to bi-planes to soccer balls to (my favorite) a life-size reproduction of the favorite easy chair of one dearly departed.  You can see a picture of me sitting in it on my GayOutdoors profile page.

What is your favorite Adventure Travel place?

Well, if you determine favorites by frequency it would have to be paddling the Allagash in Maine (4 times), the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (8 times)  and New Smyrna Beach -- a great naked beach (30+ times).

Of course, I have hiked most of the White Mountains (mainly through leading courses with Outward Bound), and I do a Presidential Traverse now as an annual thing, so they are certainly up there regarding frequency. Plus I used to hike up Wantasiquet in New Hampshire just outside of Brattleboro, Vermont 4 times a week for fitness when we lived down there.  And now I hike up Mount Moosilauke (40+ times) for similar reasons.  But those are more a matter of convenience and location versus seeking out something that is a day or more drive away.

What is your wish list for adventure travel and why?

I am the type of person who likes to mark or bookend periods of my life with physical achievements.  Like hiking the Appalachian Trail marked the end of one part of my life and the beginning of another chapter.  I planned to do the same thing when I turned 50.  I had joked that I either needed to do something big to re-assert my studliness, or I had to buy a red sports car and cheat on my husband with some 20-something.  I decided it would be better financially as well as for my personal safety to skip the vehicle and the infidelity.

Instead, I decided to do the Long Trail, run a marathon and do the GR20.  (A much better decision).

In that same spirit, I would like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to mark my 60th year on this planet seven years from now.  That's a big commitment -- not only for me to hike it and be away, but for my husband to manage the farm by himself plus everything else in his life.

Before that, I would like for Brian and me to hike the John Muir Trail.  I think that would inspire him about this quest for the Pacific Crest.  He's not a hiker (which is why we have done multiple 7-10 day canoe treks like the Boundary Waters and the Allagash).  So it would be a push.  But he is not a runner either -- and when I started to do half-marathons and other races in preparation for my one (and only) marathon, he joined me on some 5Ks, Tough Mudders, Zombie Runs and Warrior Dashes.  This from a man who STILL says the only reason to run is if something is chasing you!  But he continues to join me on these races so who knows?

What is your favorite thing to do a perfect summer day?

A perfect summer day at our farm.  Waking up naturally to bird song and the morning sunshine.  There are no curtains on any of our windows, so this happens anywhere from 5:30 am - 7:00 am.  Have a cup of bulletproof coffee then do some Vipassana for an hour or so.  Then another cup of coffee.  Feed all the animals, then breakfast.  I would do some writing (I have written four books in the past year and am working on a bunch more) for an hour, some sessions with coaching clients and then get naked for a bit of garden and yard work.  Lunch and then some more outside chores until 3:00 pm.  Then a quick swim in one of our ponds.  Hanging out, enjoying the sun until Brian gets home. After catching up on our day I go out to the garden and get some mint to make some mojitos.  We'll cook dinner outside, do a final check on the animals and once it's dark head in to play some cribbage, do some reading, listen to some music then head off to bed.  That would be awesome.

(Hey!  I get to do this almost every day!)

If you could spend the day on the trail with one person, living or dead, it would be…

Nathaniel "Natty" Bumppo.  OK, I am taking a liberty here because he's not even a real person.   Natty, for those that are unfamiliar, is James Fenimore Cooper's protagonist in the Leather-stocking Tales, the two most popular of which are "The Deerslayer" and "Last of the Mohicans."   As one reviewer wrote, Natty combines "the soul of a poet with the nature of a redneck." 

Sounds like my analogue.

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