My name is William Scott Brown. I have spent most of my life residing in the Midwestern suburbs. My passion for the outdoors did not come early in my life; in fact, my first hiking trip was spent in utter misery on the Appalachian Trail. I spent a week in the Shenandoah’s with my two older siblings, both of whom have a love for the outdoors. I was 17, had a metal plate in my leg from a previous athletic injury, and my only form of exercise up until that point had been daily drills on my district 5A Texas, high school football stadium. Let me clarify--marching band drills. I was a proud McKinney High School drummer. Oh, and that injury (the athletic one I just referred to) was from attempting to stand up while sliding down a playground slide. The old, rolling peaks the AT had to offer did not bode well for me and my leg.
After my first experience on the AT, I did not hike, camp, glamp, skip, or stroll in the woods for several years. It was not until my 3rdyear of college (and my 4th higher learning institution) that I stumbled upon a group of collegiates who had an interest in the outdoors. Together, we began to gain less from the weekend, college party scene and more from our outdoor adventures. Over years of trial and much error, we developed new skill sets for hiking, climbing, camping, and kayaking. We had been “those guys” on several occasions, preparing for long distance backpacking trips by stuffing our packs with heavy, canned goods and glass bottles of booze, but forgetting rain gear and matches for the cold. Or attempting to cold water kayak without a dry suit. While my love of the outdoors blossomed, I lacked the necessary maturity to enjoy the nature safely and respectfully. This soon changed and I developed an obsession with learning everything I could about gear and safety. My apartment soon became a small outdoor shop, replica.
After 5 years of undergrad, and my newfound passion for anything nature, I graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management. I was a fresh, young graduate with the world at my fingertips. I’d relish in all that was fine dining and drinking and would surely adventure into the great outdoors every chance I could get. But, alas, student loans and credit cards beckoned and for the next 6 years, I found myself working 70 hour weeks, managing various restaurants geared toward anyone from the Applebee’s type to Dallas’ and Greenville, South Carolina’s most exclusive. Like the drama and melancholy of a slow, bleeding heart and the dim of a crackling light, so was the disappearance of my woods and my rocks and my water. I was suffocating. In the midst of this, personal tragedy struck. My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer—a diagnosis in which average survival is 20 months and 95% do not survive 5 years. Up until this point, mom had been an exuberant, pillar of light. I watched in awe as her light got even brighter. She chose to spend whatever time she had left living. One morning I walked into mom’s bathroom and found a bucket list taped to her mirror: 1) See Bill (my dad) retire; 2)Hike at Mt. Raineir (clearly, the love for nature runs in my blood), etc, etc. Over the next few years mom accomplished everything on her bucket list. So she made another. While mom’s light continued to cast brighter and further, mine continued to dim. When I was 29, I took some time off my restaurant managerial job in Greenville, SC and made the trip home to Texas to see my mom. I walked into her bathroom to see the latest (and what would be the last) rendition of her bucket list. It read, “To see Scott happy.” My heart stopped. And the melancholic, personal theme music that had become my own, came to a screeching, violin induced halt.
And so I decided to GET BACK OUTSIDE. I left a good paying career in the hospitality industry and moved to Charlotte, NC and began working for minimum wage at a small outdoor shop. In a few short years (with a lot of training from experts to whom I will forever be grateful), I was leading hiking, climbing, and kayaking classes, speaking at local meetings, and writing gear reviews. And I was getting paid for it! I was happy and I had my mom to thank for that.