Explorer Spotlight: Shalee Blackmer

Name: Shalee Wanders | Age: 22 | Location: Michigan

What’s your day job?
I’m a full-time student at Michigan State University, freelance writer, and work a couple jobs on campus to fund adventures.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hiking in the mountains, anything that involves water, camping on the beach, and exploring new places. But the list could go on and on.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
When I was a kid I used to “go exploring” after school in the woods behind our house. I think my parents saw it coming for a long time.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
That’s a hard one! I grew up surrounded by freshwater, so my perfect day would consist of paddleboarding, wakeboarding, diving, and an evening bon fire on the beach. Short's Brewing Company is by far my favorite place to grab a beer. Their brews are one of a kind and drink names include “ERMAGERDNESS” and “Dan’s Pink Shirt”. They sure know how to have a good time!

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
My canon 70d! Capturing moments on the road is so important to me, I love looking at the pictures and being taken back to that moment. However, I always make sure my face isn’t glued to the camera. There’s a fine line between taking pictures, and losing the moment because you’re too busy taking pictures.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
Apples are by favorite, and even though I hate bananas they work really well to keep my energy levels up. My secret weapon is a nibble chocolate to enjoy on a summit.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
No Rain by Blind Melon, Freewheel by Josh Osho, All is Well by Austin Basham, and any track by JOHNNYSWIM.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
Oh boy, there’s definitely been a fair share of mishaps. Once Josh and I crossed some ice to get to and island between the border of Canada and the United States. Although it was still U.S. property, we returned to mainland to find a dozen emergency vehicles waiting for our return, including border patrol and a rescue airboat. Apparently, the only people who attempt crossing the ice are drug smugglers. Nothing like being suspected of that after a leisurely adventure! Scary in the moment, and kind of hilarious down the line (don’t tell the fire chief I said that).

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
Most of my adventures take place with my boyfriend, Josh. He really inspires me to push my limits, especially with rock climbing and bouldering. As soon as we met we started adventuring together, and the rest has been history. I love that we are always on the same page of adventure, cheap food, and camping in some of the most absurd locations.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
Iceland is an adventurers dream, and I know it’s becoming increasingly popular for that. I also have to say my home state of Michigan is overlooked as an adventure destination. It’s a massive state that features everything from mountain biking, free diving, surfing, ice climbing, hiking, cliff jumping, and dozens of other adventure activities. I haven’t stayed home for a single weekend in over two years, because there is just too much to do around the state!

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
I’ve been itching to go to Southeast Asia and Norway for quite some time. In the states, the Pacific Northwest is the last area I have yet to explore, and I’d love to get out there ASAP.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
This photo was just recently taken in Iceland. We were in Vik, which is an extremely small town along the southern coast. We decided to camp on the black sand beach, and before heading to bed I went into town to search for an outlet to plug my camera battery in so it could charge. After searching by nearly every public building, I gave up and was disappointed my camera might die the following day. When we walked down the beach, I decided to leave my camera in the car until the last minute when I grabbed it “just in case”. Just as we were setting up camp, I looked up and noticed the sky was dancing with the northern lights. I was able to capture it, and wouldn’t have been able to if I had found an outlet in town or left my camera at the car. I don’t think anyone would have believed us otherwise! Standing under the northern lights on a black sand beach in Iceland was a dream come true. I remember I took a few pictures, then fell flat on my back in amazement.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
“I draw the line at death and jail”, I said this once while speaking to a group and it has stuck ever since. I think it’s important to constantly push our limits and test the norms. The worst regret someone can have is realizing they’ve never pushed themselves.