Explorer Spotlight: Greg Owens

Name: Greg Owens | Age: 39 | Location: Glade Park, Colorado

What’s your day job?
I'm a recently "retired" college professor turned landscape photographer. Photography is something I picked up in graduate school as a creative outlet, and I now use my work to further efforts to preserve our few remaining open spaces and wild places.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hiking and backpacking are my first loves and will probably always be my favorites. I've gotten into Nordic skiing and running in the last couple years, and I'm working on my climbing skills.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
I grew up in GA, where there are lots of trees and not a lot else. I did a summer research project in Salt Lake City after my third year of college and was completely captivated by the mountains and the open views that seemed to stretch forever. I've now lived at least as far west as Colorado for nearly 18 years, and I don't see that changing any time soon. The tremendous diversity of landscapes in the west, from tall peaks to deep canyons, from verdant forests to bone-dry deserts, provides endless fascination and a desire to explore.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
Just about any time spent near Mount Sneffels (14,150') is bound to be good. Last year, I spent a wild night high on its east ridge, ran a half-marathon (my first race since 7th grade) named for it, and reached its summit for the first of what I hope will be many times. It's 2 h away, but that's close enough to home. Ouray Brewery is the place to go after an adventure in the San Juans -- great brews and an awesome roof-top deck.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
My camera. The damn thing is heavy, but it goes wherever I go in the outdoors.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
Maybe the most boring answer, but my favorite is good ol' trail mix.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
The Grateful Dead. The years and shows vary, but it's probably something from 1969, 1972, or 1977 -- relaxing and puts me in a good mood.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
On my first attempt about three years ago of the aforementioned Mount Sneffels, I was about 15 vertical feet short of the summit when I saw two lightning bolts, one vertical and one horizontal, less than a mile away. I've never retreated from a peak so quickly. It scared the hell out of me, but it also gave me an appreciation and love for Sneffels that's difficult to explain.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
My friends Mike and Greg, whom I have known for at least 20 years, have been with me (sometimes both, sometimes just one) for most of my memorable adventures. My greatest inspiration is Galen Rowell, the late, great conservationist and truly the founder of the adventure-photography genre.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
For me, nothing beats the Sierra Nevada. It's where I developed a lifelong love for the mountains and wild places. Wyoming's Wind River Range and Colorado's San Juan mountains are not far behind. The slot canyons of Utah are amazing for altogether different reasons, and Death Valley may be my favorite national park. There's just so much open, solitary space and stark beauty.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
It seems like I'm usually juggling half a dozen or so, but I'm probably most stoked to be heading to Peru in May. Never been!

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
The late Galen Rowell has been for years my most important photographic influence, and largely because of his family's history, Evolution Lake was a special place to him. I waited for years to get there, and when I finally did in 2007 with my great friend Greg, this was the sunset we got to witness. I had scouted this spot earlier in the afternoon when the light was flat and not at all interesting. When a break in the clouds low on the horizon allowed the sunlight to peek through, I knew just where to go and was able to make this image and a few others before the light faded.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.