Explorer Spotlight: Michael Gabbert

Name: Michael Gabbert | Age: 33 | Location: Seattle, WA.

What’s your day job?
Product Development Manager @ Amazon. In other words, I design and develop camera and computer products for them.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hike, kayak, golf, or just sitting on a chair and gazing out at the world.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
My dad’s appreciation for it and the amount of evenings he spent enjoying sunsets from our porch.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
In Seattle it’s going off the back deck and kayaking in South Lake Union. Especially during the winter, when it’s far less busy on the lake, it can feel like a tiny oasis within all of the craziness. Favorite spot to get a beer after would either be the Eastlake Zoo or Mammoth.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
Swiss Army Knife.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
KIND Bars and Beer (a can of Fremont or Surly if possible).

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
At the present time The Oh Hellos “Through the Deep, Dark Valley”, Head and the Heart “Head and the Heart”, Seu Jorge “The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions” and Radiohead “OK Computer” are some favorites.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/ or funniest?
Scariest was a Minke Whale breaching a couple feet in front of me while kayaking in the San Juan Islands this past summer. In hindsight it was one of the coolest things ever (and I wish I had it on video so I could go back and truly appreciate it) but at the time it nearly gave me a heart attack.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
Currently it’s my dog Otis. He’s 15 pounds of pure mountain hiking tenacity. Any hikes which allow dogs he’ll surely be at my side (or likely 10 feet in front of me wondering why I’m going so slow). Within Minnesota or trips to National Parks, it’s my Dad.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Norway and New Zealand are spectacular. I’ve been there a couple times and could go back another dozen. The sheer beauty of those entire countries is surreal.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
Beyond the entire world? Palau, Iceland and Everest Base Camp have been adventure goals for a while now. Fascinated with Antarctica as well to complete my goal of visiting every continent before the age of 40.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
The photo is from Xingping China on the Li River. I had dreamed of getting to and viewing the cormorant fishermen in China ever since I saw an episode of Sunrise Earth on the Discovery Channel (around 2005). At the time I wasn’t much of an adventurer and was content with camping in and around Minnesota. Viewing this piece of the world made me realize how much was out there and essentially kick started my passion for traveling to as many places as possible.

Prior to this photo I had spent the afternoon in the fisherman’s house watching how he lived and prepping his raft for the evening’s trip. The entire afternoon/evening was an out of body experience and a culmination of everything that had come prior the past decade. The layered karsts in the background, the setting sun amongst the haze, the complacent cormorants on the raft and the pure joy on the face of the fishermen was a little moment of perfection for me.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
“The grass is green. The sky is blue. It’s a great day to be alive.” To me the motto has always reflected how simple life is and how little you truly need in life to be grateful and happy. I took the saying from a tennis instructor whom I had as a teenager. That instructor passed away at age 20. In that vein it also represents how short this whole ride can be and to make sure you enjoy every day you’ve got.