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Explorer Spotlight: Ryan McKinney

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Name: Ryan McKinney | Age: 33 | Location: Aurora, Colorado

What’s your day job?
I am the assistant manager for 644 apartments. Yep, that guy who collects the rent and lets you know when your music is too loud (sorry).

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Photography is my number one. I love that my friends and family think that I live in the middle of nowhere. I also enjoy hiking, backpacking, fishing, and camping.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
I was in the Boy Scouts when I was a child. There is one camping trip that was particularly influential where we had to build our own shelter and stay the night in it. It was a lot of fun!

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
Hiking to Sandbeach Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s an amazing hike! On my way home I like to stop at Falling Rock Tap House in downtown Denver. They have a great selection of beers.

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?

What’s your favorite trail snack?
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bar. A mix of almonds, walnuts, and cashews are also at the top of the list.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
Most of my destinations are 1-2 hours away from home so I usually put the iPod on shuffle and drive. My music ranges from Sublime to Florida Georgia Line. For some reason, whenever I am in the middle of nowhere on a winding mountain road, Van Morrison’s “Cleaning Windows” comes on. It’s a great driving song!

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
The scariest thing that has happened to me is getting lost. On one of my first hikes I wasn’t very well prepared. I read about the hike and knew how to get to the location. I thought that an out and back hike would be no bid deal. I was hiking through a canyon and the trail had 5 river crossings and weaved up and down the canyon wall. On the way back everything looked so different. I was pretty sure that I missed my turn to head back to my truck. I had a GPS but it wouldn’t connect with the satellites. I was exhausted from the hike and at this point I started to panic. At one of the river crossings I sat down on a small island to collect my thoughts and look for anything familiar. After resting for 30 minutes I continued for another two miles when I saw two hikers coming down a side trail. That ended up being the trail that I needed to get back to my truck. What a relief! I may not have been “really” lost, but I wasn’t prepared and put myself in what could have been a bad situation. That helpless and deflated feeling of being lost is something that I will never forget. Now in my pack I always have a map and compass just in case.

The funniest thing that has happened to me... Naturally hiking increases your chances of seeing wildlife. When I first moved to Colorado I ran into an Aberts Squirrel. These are not your average squirrels! They can grow up to 22 inches long and in the wintertime have long tufts of hair on their ears. This particular one was jet black, the largest one in existence, and about 50 feet away from me. I didn’t see a squirrel; I saw the silhouette of a large cat-sized animal with horns. Now every time I see them I remember the ridiculous thoughts that were running through my head.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
Adam Winter aka @djbeefytits. When I lived in California we would regularly go on impromptu adventures. Now there is just a little more planning involved.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
I would like to explore Alaska and Canada. One of my favorite places to visit are the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
The Black Canyon of Gunnison, Maroon Bells, Hanging Lake, and Blue Lake.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
Every time I see this photo (see above) it takes me back to that night. It was one of the best camping trips. The Milky Way was so bright! I will definitely go back to Crystal Lake this year!!

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
Nature…It’s cheaper than therapy!

Check out more of Ryan's adventures on his profile.

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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