Interview with Andy Coone

Tell us about your outdoors experience. How much do you like participating in outdoor activities?

I grew up car camping some w/family and staying in cabins in SC's state parks where I was able to hike,  but my first real outdoor experience was at college, Clemson University, where I joined the outing club and as a first trip backpacked NC's Linville Gorge, beautiful, beautiful place,  and later during spring break paddled for a week in Okefenokee swamp in south Georgia following a marked trail through the swamp and camping on raised platforms, called dickees, built above the water and above the alligators, one of which one day whacked my paddle w/its tail, knocking my glasses off into the water. I did not go in after them. But I was hooked and later after a year of graduate school in Oregon changed the direction of my life to one centered on spending time in the outdoors in remote and wilderness areas, leaving academia and career to my past. For many practical and philosophical reasons, I hiked the AT, leaving Katahdin Sept 1, 1975, heading south to Georgia through the fall and winter. No turning back...the more hiking I did the more I wanted, so eventually hiked the AT 5 times, as well as the PCT, northern 1/3-1/2 of the CDT, other trails in this country, Canada, England and Scotland, covering about 17,000 miles....who would have thought these little legs capable..... biked Xcountry into and through Mexico, worked at NC Outward Bound for years,  nursed at summer camp for physically and intellectually handicapped children and adults, for the GMC as ranger/naturalist on Stratton Mt, Vt, bought land in Maine, worked many years as a whitewater raft guide, and now here I sit, a homosexual homesteader on 28 off grid acres in Maine posting trips for GO encouraging other gay men to hike in Maine. Now if that's not inspiring! (I like humor and absurdity, ok?). 

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

Just do it, do it, do it, do it. Trust yourself, trust your knowledge of your abilities and capabilities, don't be afraid, don't overdo it, train, work up to more challenging efforts, join groups, go solo, meet the amazing rollmodels who are older, even weaker than yourself, who are out there doing amazing things, like the 87 year old AT thru hiker many met this summer. Good inspiration for your challenging days. 

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

My first GO trip was this summer, a trip co-lead by Phoenix (Jim) and Mo (Mo). I wasn't a member, thought I'd take a look at the site as I had so many times in the past, saw a trip up Carter/Mariah which was the closest trip to me I'd ever seen posted, starting just over the Maine/NH line off rt2, joined immediately. The Sat of the trip proved to be rainy. I would have gone no matter what. Jim proposed Sunday, which worked for me and was a beautiful day, though Mo had a prior commitment. A great first GO hike. Jim was very experienced, very solid, long time GO member.  I've done other hikes w/them. If you want a successful trip, get them to sign on. Mo is very friendly, inclusive, people gravitate to him, and Jim is this calm, knowledgeable, observant force. They certainly helped me feel this was an organization I wanted to be a part of.

What do you like about GayOutdoors?

The great thing about Gay Outdoors is the hard work of organizing is already done. It is an already established network of outdoor loving gay guys. It's simple to be a member, simple to post, and quite effortless to go on a hike and make or renew friendships.

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

Of course, my goal has been to encourage more Maine activities. I'm closer to Baxter State Park than the Whites so having trips in Maine is totally selfish and I'm all for it. It is the rare AT thru hiker who doesn't say Maine is their favorite state. The Maine woods are iconic anywhere you go in this country, from Thoreau (probably before) onward. Remarkable and breathtaking (and challenging) mts, wild and remote, ponds, ponds, ponds, whitewater, calm water, mt biking, Maine Huts and Trails, the 100 mile wilderness. Don't make me twist your arm. 

What changes have you made to better our environment?

There is nothing environmentally  conscious about driving 4 hours for a day hike in the Whites, but other espects of my life are more environmentally attuned. I grow much of my own food, it's organic, I hand cut my firewood, no chainsaw. I'm a vegan for my own ethical reasons, but a homegrown plant based diet does reduce water, energy, etc resources. I try to buy in bulk, reducing plastic packaging use. Minimize my trips out, easy since I no longer must get out to work.

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Hiking, backpacking, camping or vacation adventures, GayOutdoors [GO] has been the LGBTQ outdoorzy community leader for the last 22 years. We are an informal group of diverse hiking enthusiasts in the United States with a shared love of the mountains who prefer hiking with friends. We invite you to join us on our hikes, to post hikes for other members to join you and to share your hiking photos, stories and advice.

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