The Joy Trip Project Learning Community

The Joy Trip Project Learning Community

Recently I had the pleasure of welcoming two special guests to Madison, Wisconsin. As we’re entering the last two weeks of instruction in my online course at Western Colorado University, one of my students, Melanie Hardin, reached out to let me know that she would be passing through town. Coincidentally, Brian Shellum, a renowned author of several books on the Buffalo Soldiers, happened to arrive on the same day. On a beautiful spring afternoon, I was excited to meet with them both in person for coffee and lunch respectively. Since the end of Covid 19 Pandemic, I never pass up the opportunity for a face-to-face get-together. I look at these wonderful moments of connection as a perfect expression of the dynamic learning community that the Joy Trip Project has become.

Brian Shellum in Madison on the Capitol Square
Brian Shellum in Madison on the Capitol Square

(Banner image: Attendees of the Blackwaters Film Screening event in San Antonio, Texas)

Coffee with Western Colorado University grad student Melanie Hardin
Coffee with Western Colorado University grad student Melanie Hardin

Though my course Outdoors For All is only available to students registered at Western or the University of Wisconsin, Madison, this platform aims to make available as much of the information and experiences gleaned through my research as possible. I want to invite all those wish to participate to join the Joy Trip Project Learning Community in any way you can. The discussions that students like Melanie take part in with great minds such as Dr. Carolyn Finney or National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson are available through my YouTube Channel and the Joy Trip Project Podcast.

Titles included in my series The Joy Trip Reading Project were included in a comprehensive list of The 50 Best Hiking, Trekking, and Walking Books of All Time in Backpacker Magazine compiled by Peter Moore. I am grateful for periodic opportunities to confer with noted authors and historians like Cheryl Strayed, Derick Lugo, J.R. Harris, and John Francis to add depth and nuance to my reporting.


The focus of my work continues as a search for ways in which we can inspire and encourage everyone to find a direct relationship with the natural environment through civic engagement. It is my hope that we can build a constituency of thoughtful people who will conscientiously devote their lives toward protecting our land, air, and water resources for future generations.

The most recent addition to the resources I provide is the Unhidden Minute Podcast series. In about 60 seconds this program offers a summary of historic figures and events in Black American history that have shaped our modern culture and national heritage. These stories are among the many narratives that are too often overlooked in our understanding of people on the margins of our society who have contributed so much to the fight for social justice and equality.


In the coming weeks, I have the honor of presenting my work in a variety of different speaking events, some of which are open to the public. Earlier in the month of April I was invented to speak at Boise State University as part of the Idea of Nature Public Lecture Series. And I just presented at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Partners in the Outdoors Conference in Breckenridge. This week I will be taking part in a lobbying event with the nonprofit Love Is King in Washington D.C. hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League, giving an online presentation to the employees of  Santa Clara County Parks, and receiving the H. Adams Carter Literary Award at the American Alpine Club Gala in Los Angeles.

Copy of Literary_Web

I am eternally grateful to the many people who have kindly supported my work as a writer and educator over so many years. As we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of my book The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of Outdoors as well as the documentary film An American Ascent, I need to pay special attention to the members of Expedition Denali who trusted me with their experience to share their story with a broad national audience. Many thanks to climbers Stephen Shobe, Rosemary Saal, Tyhree Moore, Scott Briscoe, Stephen DeBerry, Adina Scott, Erika Wynn, Ryan Mitchell and Billy Long, as well as organizers Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin and Jeanne O’Brien, film makers Andy Atkins and George Potter and so many others.

Expedition Denali Team
(top row front left)
Billy Long, Scott Brisco, Tyhree Moore, Stephen Shobe, Stephen DeBerry, Ryan Mitchell
(bottom row from left) Erica Wynn, Rosemary Saal, Adina Scott
Expedition Denali Team (top row front left) Billy Long, Scott Brisco, Tyhree Moore, Stephen Shobe, Stephen DeBerry, Ryan Mitchell (bottom row from left) Erica Wynn, Rosemary Saal, Adina Scott

This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the first Black American ascent of Mount McKinley, better known as Denali. In 1964 a mountaineer named Charles Madison Crenchaw made the climb to its summit. This historic event took place just seven days after the signing of the Civil Rights Act and less than a year after the March on Washington. It was then that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.spelled out his vision in the famed “I have a dream” speech, in which he expressed the metaphor of seeking personal freedom as if ascending high mountains. Crenchaw personified that dream by climbing Denali, the highest peak on the North American continent.

Charles Madison Crenchaw
Charles Madison Crenchaw
Dr. Carolyn Finney
Dr. Carolyn Finney

Later this summer, on the invitation of Camp Denali, a lodge near where the 1964 expedition began, I will present lectures in the Special Emphasis
with Dr. Carolyn Finney. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of her book as well, Black Faces/White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, Dr. Finney and I will discuss our mutual passions for telling stories that center people of color and our lived experiences in nature.

As the work of making the outdoors more diverse, equitable and inclusive continues, there is a growing number of opportunities for more adventures in the natural world. Throughout the months to come, I look forward to sharing a few of the stories that come my way. I hope that you will let me know about the events and occurrences in your life that bring you joy. Drop me a note in the comments or send me an email at

The Joy Trip Project is supported in part by the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation and the National Geographic Society

National Park Service LogoSQ
National Park Foundation