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Explorer Spotlight: Michael Wigle

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Name: Michael Wigle | Age: 30 | Location: Los Angeles, CA.

What’s your day job?
I work in production for film, commercials, and television.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Canoeing and Photography.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
We spent our childhood outdoors. We lived on the edge of the woods as kids, and my mother would send us outside during the day. Nature became a childhood friend, and we grew up together.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
I grew up in Akron, Ohio. My favorite adventure is to a hidden sandstone cascading waterfall in the now Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The deep pools are full of crawdads, which we used to catch by the dozens to cook in buckets over a campfire. Now that I'm old enough to have a beer, I get one of the hundreds available up the road in Penninsula, at the Winking Lizard.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
Photography is a deep rooted passion of mine, so my camera is always at the ready. The most important piece of gear that I never leave home without is my compass. I carry one with me daily to remind me about where I am headed next.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
I'm a sucker for dried apricots. I don't feel complete without them in my pack.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
I used to listen to a lot of my music when on the road. Lately I've been trying to stick to local radio. It really helps immerse you in a place. When you go back and revisit, the music becomes familiar as well.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
We hired a fishing boat in Cabo San Lucas to go out and shoot the rocks at dawn. There was a hurricane 200 miles south of us and the surf was pounding the rocks in near full force. This little Mexican fishing boat was being tossed with each swell. Over the roar of the waves I kept yelling that I was okay and that they could get closer. Hanging off the side of the boat, my friend held onto my waistband to keep me from going overboard with the camera. I wasn't wearing a life-preserver because of all the equipment. One wrong move, and I would have been a goner.

The funniest thing to happen was in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada. We were 3 days in on a 10 day canoe trip, making our way through a winding stream in a marsh at the mouth of a big lake. Every 500 feet, there would be a low beaver dam where the bowman would have to climb out and pull the canoe over the wet branches into the lower pool. The 4 foot tall reeds and grasses made a wall on either side of the stream, blocking most of the view. I got to one of the dams and hopped out to pull the canoe over. As I stood up I heard a loud snort behind me. Turning around, I was confronted with an enormous moose who probably gave me the same look that I had. Until you're looking straight up the snout of an adult moose, you have know idea how big, or how goofy those creatures are.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
Ansel Adams. I've even spent time living in Monterey which has helped my understanding of how landscapes can appear surreal and dreamlike while remaining faithful to the outcome of a shot.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Baja, Mexico is such a treat. It's not famous or desired by tourists and adventurists. It's not as exotic as South America, and not as accessible as the rest of Mexico. It's a western frontier that takes you through so many unique landscapes rich with a people and culture that reaches out to be a good friend. It's really close to Los Angeles, and almost completely undiscovered by the community of explorers here.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
The Annapurna Mountain range of the Himalayas in Nepal. I'm hiking the to the 17,769 ft Thorong La pass next year. It's going to take a lot more conditioning!

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
This is a shot I took late in the evening on my two week canoe excursion to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario Canada. It was 2003 and I was only 18. I have never been formally trained in photography. I never took a class or was instructed. Photography is an of escape for me. I can step away from the distractions around me, and focus solely on the world as art. I see what needs to be framed, and I snap the shutter.

This was in the middle of the expedition. We were 45 miles from the nearest road, town, or sign of civilization. I saw the northern lights for the first time while lying on a sun-warmed rock, listening to the wolves howl into the endless sky of stars. It was a life changing trip. My friend nearly died on it. We had to completely rely on our instincts, training, and strength.

This photo is the first time everything seemed to come together in my photography. I composed a shot with our three empty canoes, floating on a breeze stirred lake in the cool of a summer morning. The ships were ready. Dirty, worn, and used, they calmly bobbed on the water. It was a still moment that made me fall deeply in love with exploring the outdoors.

Our lives are like these canoes. Both are best used when they are put to use, filled with only what is most important to get us to our destination.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
"Love what you find and find what you love". It's all about accepting who you are in this exact moment and living it!

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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