After venturing out with Discover Outdoors two weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with the owner, Kirk Reynolds, the following week. It is clear when talking to Kirk that he is passionate about all things outdoors and bringing that love of nature and discovery to others, whether it is close to home or abroad. We had such a great conversation and I found that we had so much in common, especially the realization that you don’t have to travel far from home to really get away.
Kirk’s hope, and current goal, is to bring the outdoors to everyone, not just people who can afford it, starting with the underprivileged youth in New York City, and eventually across America.
I could have spoken to Kirk for hours, but here’s a look into what our conversation entailed. If you’re interested in more about Kirk and Discover Outdoors, be sure to check out their website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
At what age did you first fall in love with the outdoors?
One of my first memories of the outdoors was a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park at age five. My dad and uncle were going to climb Longs Peak, which is 14,259 feet, and I wanted to go with them, even though I didn’t actually understand what they would be doing. I vividly remember the smell of the pine trees and seeing a chipmunk for the first time; it was a powerful experience.
When did you know that starting an adventure company was what you wanted to do?
It kind of just happened. I moved to New York City from Missouri ten years ago to work for IBM, and on the weekends I started taking my friends outside the city to hike and climb. At first, it was really just a hobby, but it eventually turned into a business.
While I was still working, I began creating the website, finding trails, organizing trips, and running them on the side. It was a stressful and exciting time, but it was amazing to be able to share my passion for the outdoors with others. I didn’t plan for it to happen this way, it just did.
Do you get the opportunity to go on many of the Discover Outdoors tours?
Absolutely, I go on each trip that we create. First, I research the places we plan on going to, then I guide the first tour. After we go out on the tour, I tweak it and make any necessary changes. Then, I hand the tours over to my guides, but I do still try to get out there as often as possible.
What is your favorite tour that Discover Outdoors offers?
My favorite would have to be rock climbing in The “Gunks,” which is about an hour and forty-five minutes north of New York City. It’s a beautiful location, and perfect for climbing for all levels. Even a first time climber can appreciate the experience.
What’s the process for creating new tours?
The best ideas come from my guides, who have experience world-wide. Often, they come to me with ideas for places we should check out next. Then we add them to the list and begin researching each place.
What do you look for when hiring guides?
I’m looking for someone who has a desire to share their passion for the outdoors with others. If the person’s skills aren’t all there, but the passion is, I would hire them over someone who has all the skills, but not the passion; skills can always be taught.
Do you have any plans for new trips, domestic and international?
Some of the new domestic trips planned for next year include, Yosemite National Park, Arches National Park in Utah, and backpacking The Grand Canyon. Internationally, we will be offering trips to the Scottish highlands and Uganda, then in 2015, we are planning on offering a trip to Antarctica.
We are also opening an office in Philadelphia and tours will begin running in May.
What do you see for the future of Discover Outdoors?
Currently, we are really excited to have just launched the Discover Outdoors Foundation , which will service urban school districts. Right now, only people who can afford to pay for our tours have the opportunity to go on them, but we’d like to extend that chance to those who cannot afford too. I feel this huge need to serve urban schools, first in New York City, and eventually nationwide. For these students to have the ability to learn subjects like geology, biology, and geography outdoors through real life experience is important, especially because many of them have never been outside of the city before.
Kirk is an inspiration to anyone with a passion for nature and the world around us. Not only does his company offer unforgettable tours in and around New York City, but he is also working to serve those less fortunate, and give everyone the chance to get excited about the world around us.