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Explorer Spotlight: Nick Lake

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Name: Nick Lake | Age: 30 | Location: Seattle, WA

What’s your day job?
I spend half my day doing photography-related things and the other half I drive people around Seattle with Lyft.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
I love hiking, lazy-tubing down rivers and riding my road bike. Fishing gets me going too, though I'm terrible at it.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
When I was a kid growing up in the northeast, we didn't have a lot of money to do any big vacations, so my parents would borrow an RV from some friends and take us on summer camping trips in upstate New York and New Hampshire. Seeing places like Lake George and Franconia Notch showed me how big the world is. I remember waking up in northern New Hampshire and watching otters slide on a frozen lake or seeing Peregrine Falcons dive off the summit of Mt. Washington, or getting my first glimpse of the Milky Way from a deserted island in the middle of a lake. Since we didn't have much, we made the best of what we had, which it turns out was the best I could have asked for.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
Growing up, my favorite place to get out was the Franconia Ridge Loop. On summer days the views are spectacular, the trails steep and brutal on your quads. Sometimes we would hike through fog and rime ice in the fall and winter and finally break free on the ridgeline into sunlight, isolated from the rest of the world up there. The weather is often so bad you don't reach the peaks at all and have to turn back, making successful peak-bagging all the more satisfying. After a day freezing on icy slopes, getting drenched in an afternoon thunderstorm or sweating profusely in the hot summer sun, the best place to unwind is Moat Mountain Brewery in North Conway, NH. They've got amazing brisket nachos and microbrewed beer on tap.

In Seattle, my favorite place to get out and adventure is the North Cascades. It's a bit of a drive from Seattle, but the isolation and the ruggedness of the terrain is worth it. The area near Maple and Easy Pass and the Liberty Bell Group on the North Cascades Highway never ceases to amaze me and actually made me fall in love with the PNW on a backpacking trip back in 2008. After a day hitting the trails out there, we usually stop in at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop for their delicious Imperial IPA.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
The only equipment that ALWAYS makes it into my pack is my Nikon D800 and my Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Everything else is negotiable.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
I always love a good cured meat and sharp cheddar cheese for the trail. Makes me feel European.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
I am obsessive about the music I listen to when I'm out on the road. I always want to make sure the tunes I'm playing fit the mood of the place I'm in, the weather and what activity I'm up to for that day, so I've curated some playlists to keep that all in line. I write a travel blog, called "Life in Tandem," about the places my wife and I have been and each entry begins with three songs to listen to while you read along. For example, Big Sur calls for a song like Son My Son by Milo Greene, while Washington's Methow Valley in the autumn is best served by a song like, Waitin' On the Day by John Mayer. When I was cruising through Canyonlands in Utah, O'Death by Noah Gundersen was the right tune, and in Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, Burial on the Presidio Banks by This Will Destroy You couldn't have fit the bill more perfectly. Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones seriously moved me when we rolled through northern New Mexico a few years ago. I could go on and on and on...

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
My wife, Kelly, and I were backpacking in Big Bend National Park a few years ago up on the Southwest Rim. We got in early and were enjoying the afternoon reading on the clifftops overlooking the desert when a Tarantula slowly meandered towards us. It slowly made its way to my sleeping pad where I was relaxing (without shoes on) and started to crawl up on it. I shooed him away and he lunged at me, attacking my pad. We figured we were bothering him near his home, so we found a place further up the rocks to spend the rest of the day. We returned at sunset to watch the light show and sure enough, the Tarantula came sauntering out again and headed straight for us. We moved left, he turned slowly and came right at us again. We split up and he came after me. Neither of us are particularly afraid of spiders, so it wasn't scary, per se, but the slow speed at which the whole stalking experience occurred was hilarious, like a mix of something out of a horror flick and an Austin Powers movie.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
My wife, Kelly, is my main squeeze. We met in Ecuador studying abroad and trekking in the Andes, so adventuring together is a huge part of our relationship. She follows me anywhere I ask her to, is eternally patient while I try and get the perfect shot, pushes me to test my limits and always supports me in my love for adventuring and photography in spite of the costs. You'll see her in many of my photos and she's a babe, if you ask me.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
The Pacific Northwest is ridiculous. I feel like in the two years I've been here I've barely cracked the surface. Some of my family is from South America and I fell in love with my wife there so that's on top of the list for me too.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
A trip back to Ecuador is in the works right now where I hope to climb some huge mountains. I've also had my eye on the Pasayten Wilderness up in the North Cascades for this summer, planning to backpack around Jack Peak.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
I took this photo in Bryce Canyon National Park a few springs ago. My wife and I were in the middle of an epic three-month road trip across the country as we moved from Boston to Seattle and found ourselves in Bryce during a snowstorm. The rangers were advising everyone to stay off the trails, but conditions weren't that bad and (being New Englanders) a little snow and wind weren't about to deter us. We ended up having the whole park to ourselves and had gorgeous conditions as the light snow coated the bright orange clay and contrasted beautifully with the green of the pine trees. It was a perfect "welcome to the west" moment and provided us a unique view of an iconic park.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
You may regret not going, but you'll never regret going. I'm not sure that even makes sense.

Discover all of Nick's amazing adventures here.

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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