Back in 2018, we ranked our top ten hiking and outdoors podcasts of 2018. In 2019, we changed the format, listing our five favorite hiking and outdoors individual podcast episodes of 2019. We consume a lot of podcasts, and those focused on being outdoors seem to have proliferated exponentially since we started listening. That’s why, in 2020, we are trying something new. This year, we will attempt to pick out the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes each month (or at least our favorites).
January is a month when we reflect upon the past year, and look forward to the new one. It is a time tailor-made for introspection, and we listened to a variety of great podcasts focused on new beginnings, winter reflections, and renewal through the outdoors. Below are the five best hiking and outdoors podcast episodes we listened to in January 2020, with a brief description of each podcast.
A warning – playing podcasts or music on external speakers while hiking is basically a capital offense. Playing podcasts or music through headphones/earbuds while hiking is somewhere in the spectrum of inadvisable to mortally dangerous. Just from a common sense standpoint, why would you want to have your hearing and attention somewhere else if you want to maximize the benefits of being immersed in the outdoors (or, more basically, fail to hear the bear you just startled)? All that being said, hike your own hike.
Can a schoolteacher have a generational impact? Fitz Cahall and Cordelia Zars start by reminiscing about their favorite teachers, and memories of being trapped in school, when so much occurs outside the classroom. Thus begins a fantastic oral history, recounting an epic summer break bike trip from the Alaska line down to southern California led by a unique teacher with 22 students in 1975. The account, told by the nostalgic participants (including the surprisingly lively Mr. Hodges), is full of laughs, lessons, and misadventures, and reveals the lasting impact one unconventional role model can have for the rest of students’ lives (37 minutes).
Apple Podcast link: Mr. Hodges
This podcast by BBC Radio, hosted by Mark Stephen and Euan McIlwraith, was new to us, and we were hooked from the very beginning. From a roaring fire beside a Scottish river, Stephen and McIlwraith (“portly woodland elf”) oversee a variety of discussions and topics, focused on appreciating nature in the New Year, getting outside and active after “two weeks of waddlesome sloth.” They introduce segments from contributors about medicinal and edible plants, planting and understanding trees, nature as a tool for PTSD, music inspired by the outdoors, and unlikely explorations. The sounds of the crackling fire and the rolling burr of their voices create an intimate environment for storytelling (1 hr, 25 min).
Apple Podcast link: Nature is Good For You
Get Outside’s Jason Milligan hosts a wide-ranging roundtable discussion by team Chick-a-Boom – Cyndi Wyatt, Marilee Valkass, and Saveria Tilden to discuss fears and misconceptions about the outdoors, and the benefits of working through these issues through education and perseverance. This is a compelling and empowering examination of escaping the stresses and limitations of society through building a relationship with nature. Throughout the podcast, the group provides tools and advice for all levels of outdoors exploration by using personal examples. My favorite portion was a light-hearted discussion of risk management around dangerous animals, with the conclusion, “animals don’t have hospitals,” explaining the intrinsic decision-making conducted by predators (i.e. – it’s usually not worth attacking a human), and the importance of education. The roundtable’s advice and common sense conclusions are the perfect way to begin the year with inspiration (1 hr, 6 min).
Apple Podcast link: G.O. 092 – Roundtable: Embrace Your Discomfort Zone
Dr. Ann Jones presents a timely story inspired by a social media post by Adrian Murgo, who noticed that the leaves of the gum trees on his property turned red and fell to the ground prior to the incursion of Australian wildfires. This podcast takes the observations of a layperson, and attempts to explain it through the expertise of Professor Peter Vesk, a University of Melbourne ecologist, Professor Adrian Franklin, a University of South Australia sociologist and Oliver Costello, of Firesticks Alliance, an indigenous corporation, punctuated by the sounds of the Australian outback. Do gum trees have awareness of fire, and are they built to burn? How have indigenous peoples lived with gum trees, and acted as stewards of these “ancestor trees?” Dr. Jones avoids easy conclusions or soundbites, and tells a powerful and insightful story about the Australian landscape (25 minutes).
Apple Podcast link: The burning bush is talking
We heard about this podcast directly from the presenters, and were instantly hooked. Matt Baer, Tyler Socash, Wade Bastian, and Jeremy Utz host an “Outdoor Recreation Comedy” which irreverently meanders through outdoor topics, stories, interviews, headlines, and advice from the Adirondacks. In January 2019 on this blog, we reviewed Where You’ll Find Me, a book by Ty Gagne about a deadly trip to the White Mountains. So we were thrilled to find this shorter “Blue Blaze” episode (a nod to the Appalachian Trail’s side trails), in which the Foot Stuff crew reviews the book, providing insight and humor. They discuss everything from the actual tactile feeling of the physical book itself to the historical context of the Whites, to the decisions made by Kate Matrosova in her ill-fated traverse. The in-depth discussion is appropriately respectful of the mortal nature of this tale, but punctuated by the jokes and anecdotes that make this podcast great (47 minutes).
Apple Podcast link: FSP 091 – Where You’ll Find Me
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