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Explorer Spotlight: Shaun O'Neill

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Name: Shaun O'Neill | Age: 30 | Location: Wappingers Falls, NY.

What’s your day job?
I run a pet shampoo company that specializes in natural products, where I do pretty much all the day to day business and work solo in my happy little warehouse. Yes, I can supply you with things to make your adventure dog smell good!

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hiking will always be at the top for me, though I do like to camp, I hope to get into backpacking come spring time.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
Going back to when I was a little kid, I always found myself outside. My grandparents have a place in the Adirondacks where I spent every summer exploring their property, swimming in the lake, building various forts and shelters, and hiking with family.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
Breakneck Ridge will always be towards the top of my list. It's an awesome mix of hiking, rock scrambling, gorgeous views, and various different trails to mix up the adventure time to time. It's gotten very popular in recent years and there are times it's so crowded that I just drive right by (some estimates had the trail seeing over a thousand people a weekend from May to October) but any time I do stop, I remember why I love it. As for the beer, the best place is always with family so whoever is throwing the barbecue is who I'll be drinking with. Usually I'm nice enough to shower first :)

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
I almost always hike with my full pack because I like to be prepared for everything, but even when it's something short and simple I never leave my Nikon behind. I originally wanted a nice camera because my adventures took me awesome places and I wanted to share what I saw with family and friends, but I never thought I'd come to love the photography aspect almost as much as the actual hike.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
I'm a sucker for granola bars. And not the super healthy, high protein, home made stuff. I'll take those store brand chocolate covered treats all day every day.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
Heading to the trail I'll usually try and keep it pretty upbeat and mix it up, but after getting back to the car and I'm looking for something to mellow out a bit, I absolutely love the Live at the House of Blues album by Thrice. They're the best rock band you're not listening to.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
I am really not a fan of snakes in general, and that goes double for the poisonous types. I'm also lucky enough to live in the Hudson Valley, which is home to not one but two of only three poisonous snakes that live in New York! That very obvious rattle coming from the angry sun bather you just happened upon might just be the most terrifying sound in the world.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration doesn't really have anything to do with outdoor adventuring specifically, but it's actually my Mom. We're very similar personality wise, she's a very easy going, caring person who never gets too high or too low. If there's a problem you fix it and move past it, if something awesome happens then you enjoy it a bit and move on to the next thing. That grounded approach to life and adventures has always gotten me by!

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
I'm a sucker for anything Alaska, and its definitely my dream destination. It seems like such a beautiful and wild place, and its always been my back up life plan to sell everything and run away to the frozen wonderland.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
This summer I hit my first Adirondack Fire Tower and I was immediately hooked. The trails are pretty hiker friendly and the payoffs at the top are incredible. The Adirondack Mountain Club sponsors a Fire Tower Challenge that covers the Adirondack and Catskill fire towers, and I'm aiming to tackle them all!

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
I am not a morning person, at all, so sunrise hikes for me are few and far between. Knowing that there was a Halloween shindig on a Saturday night, I decided that I'd take off from the party at 4am and head to the trailhead to catch my first sunrise. I went up Mt Beacon in the dark, made my way over to the fire tower, and sat in a rock crevice to hide from the bitter cold wind waiting for sunrise. After 45 minutes of sitting in quiet frozen solitude, the horizon started to lighten up and I could not be more ready for nature to put on a show. Moments before the sun peaked up, a giant group of college students made their way up the mountain jabbering and laughing away. I immediately thought "Well there goes my peace and quiet," but as soon as the sun came into view, one by one they say down and fell silent, just watching. I was so happy, and so impressed, and it ended up making for one of my favorite pictures ever.

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
What’s your personal motto? "It could always be worse" which is not nearly as depressing as it may at first sound. The fact is, whatever problem you're dealing with or whatever you're going through, it could always be worse. Clouds blocking your sunset? Unexpected rain on your camping trip? Dead batteries in your headlamp? It could be worse! You could be stuck in cubicle...

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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