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Explorer Spotlight: Jon King

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Name: Jon King | Age: 28 | Location: Kansas City, MO.

What’s your day job?
I'm a registered nurse in the ER.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
I love hiking and camping. My wife and I just bought kayaks this summer and have definitely enjoyed taking them out too.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
We never had a ton of money growing up but my parents always did a great job taking us on a vacation every year. Traveling with 5 kids had to be expensive so we'd do things outside and camp instead of staying in hotels. Those are some of my favorite memories for sure.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
We love heading up to Weston Bend State Park in Weston, MO. It's a short drive just north of KC. We always hit up O'malley's Pub in town afterward.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
Gotta have a good pair of hiking boots. I love my Keen Bryce mid boots. I always take my camelbak. And my camera of course.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
Do Sour Patch Kids count? I'm pretty sure they're a great source of energy and protein.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
Oh man lately I've had Field Report's album, Marigolden on repeat.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring?
A couple of years ago I was camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was probably 2 a.m. and I could hear footsteps outside of the tent. I thought somebody was snooping around my car so I unzipped the tent to see what was going on. When I poked my head out I saw a pair of hooves about 4 feet from my face. Turns out there was a herd of around 20-30 elk that were passing through my site. It ended up being a cool moment but it freaked me out nonetheless.

And, the funniest?
Several years ago a couple of friends and I decided to hike Longs Peak in Colorado. None of us had hiked a 14er before so we decided to call a park ranger to get some advice. He said that since none of us had hiked before it would take about 8hrs to summit and to be back down to the tree line by noon due to potential storms. We decided to start out trek at 2a.m. to reach the summit by 10 and be able to enjoy it for a while before heading back down. When we got to the trailhead we met a couple other hikers who were decked out in heavy winter gear. We were all wearing shorts and t-shirts and thought those other hikers must have been from Arizona or something and had never been exposed to the cold. Little did we know. Anyway our group booked it to the top in about 3 hrs. It was pitch dark and freezing cold with winds gusting 30-40 miles/hr. We still had over an hour until the sun would come up so we found a cave and cuddled up trying to stay warm and protected from the wind. We lasted about 15 minutes before we just couldn't take it any longer. We ended up taking the walk of shame back down the mountain. Each group we passed would say things like: "Giving up?" "Where are your coats?" "Too cold for you guys?" We neared the bottom before the sun finally came up. Never got to see a dang thing. We still talk to this day about heading back to Longs for redemption.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime?
My wife Steph. You may notice a beautiful blonde as the subject in most of my pictures. I lucked out big time that she is always up for an adventure and shares the same love for the outdoors.

Who inspires you?
Andy Best and Chris Burkard were probably the first "outdoors/adventure" photographers I followed on social media. They take amazing photos and definitely inspire me to get out there and take my camera with me more.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Arkansas is only a few hours from KC and has become one of our favorite places to explore. There are so many great adventures to check out without the masses of people you get at the national parks. Arkansas is truly a hidden gem.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
We wanted to honeymoon in Maine and check out Acadia National Park. The weather was going to be too cold at the time we got married so we ended up going to the Smoky Mountains. Hopefully we can get out there next year.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
For the past couple summers my wife and I have gone on a camping trip with one of our favorite couples. Our first trip was in Yellowstone. We headed into Lamar Valley to hang out and we couldn't believe how wild it was. People camp out looking for wolves. Bison overtake the roads and block traffic. If you've been to Yellowstone you know what I'm talking about. Anyway this was probably our first time being up close and personal to this type of wildlife. We had such a blast cruising through the valley and seeing it all.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
Happiness is only real when shared.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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