1. Where can people follow you online, and who are your followers?
You can find me on Instagram @az_chuckwalla. My followers are mostly from the hiking community all over Arizona, but I do have some followers that simply like Arizona landscapes or Arizona hiking/backpacking culture.
2. How long have you been actively using social media to share content?
I have been publicly sharing my Arizona hiking adventures on Instagram since 2015, but I have shared outdoor content with my Facebook friends since 2010.
3. What led you to begin using social media as a platform, and how do your outdoor adventures fit that platform?
I began posting my hiking adventures on Instagram after many of my Facebook friends commented on how much they enjoyed my occasional posts. Initially, using Instagram as platform came about because I didn’t want to fill my Facebook feed with all my hiking photos. A short time after I started posting my hiking photos on Instagram, I realized that a lot of additional people enjoyed my posts, not just my circle of Facebook friends. And, it wasn’t long before I began to discover that there is a larger community all over Arizona with the same passion for capturing their adventures in the outdoors.
4. What does nature and the outdoors mean to you?
On a basic level, nature and the outdoors has always meant the freedom to explore and discover. From the time when I was young child, my single mother would take my brother and I car camping throughout the West. We spent a month every summer of my childhood visiting places like Sunset Crater, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Banff National Parks. My brother and I were let loose to explore those places for days and weeks at a time. In addition to summer adventures, I grew up in Phoenix hiking many of the mountains that I still hike today.
As part of the City of Phoenix Planning Commission back in the early 1970s, my father helped establish the Phoenix Mountain Preserve in the Central Corridor, including Camelback Mountain which was our family’s favorite place to hike. He taught us the value preserving these special places from over development for future generations so that they could experience the same places we enjoyed as a family. So, as an adult, I have a great nostalgic motivation for being outdoors – especially in the desert, but I also have created a deeper relationship with nature and the outdoors over the years.
Today, I also see nature and the outdoors as places of reconnection and renewal. For me, reconnecting with the natural world reminds me of who I am. It humbles me. It leaves me in awe and wonder. It creates a space for reflection. And, it helps me release the stresses and pressures that come from the over-stimulating, hyper-technical world we have created. After time spent walking in the outdoors, I am not only renewed to be who I was meant to be, but also to better help those around me.
5. How do you think social media and other communications can influence good stewardship of the outdoors?
Social media can influence good stewardship of the outdoors because it encourages people to get outdoors and experience it for themselves. And then, when people begin to experience more of the outdoors for themselves, they eventually begin to value and appreciate it in ways they may not have thought about previously. And, when people value and appreciate it, they will most likely want to protect it. Stewardship of the outdoors also grows exponentially on social media because of the natural ways in which people learn new things through social connections. We all learn from one another about the issues that impact the places we love. Therefore, we are able to actively respond in real ways as both individuals and as a united community of passionate stakeholders.
6. What else do you want people to know about you?
My wife and I are both native Arizonans, but we also lived in Central Mexico for over a decade. We have two college-age children, one at ASU and one at U of A (so we are truly a house divided) – and, at home, we also have an active 4-year-old daughter who keeps us busy all the time. On the occasion that we are all together, we love to hike as family.