Unconditional love, support, determination, courage and motivation, lead to accomplishments, achievement and success. Steven Gadecki personally has been to the summit of 129 mountains to date and has hiked to the summit of each mountain with his friends and his loving family. To see the world through both his lens and his son Hunter’s eyes is a breathtaking experience. Its one we all could appreciate and treasure. For anyone that enjoys inspirational stories of love, courage and determination, having a personal experience with nature is one place to embrace. So, come see first-hand what this wonderful planet has to offer, hiking could be a wonderful and rewarding zenith to enjoy. I had a chance to meet up with Steve recently for a wonderful interview, which came as he ended his year-long participation in “The Discovery Project” with L.L. Bean. I hope you enjoy!
Josh: Steve, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview today.
Steve: Thank you.
Josh: I know you have had some “happy trails …” recently through your hiking adventures, and I’m looking forward to hearing about it ….
Steve: The timing is really, perfect because I actually just wrapped up my “Year of Discovery” which started November 11, 2012. I was part of a project with L.L. Bean called the “Discovery Project”. When I joined it, there was basically me and seventeen other individuals. We were brought on-board to test and proof gear for them, over the course of one year. When I joined and was invited in, I thought to myself, one year from now, what will I wish I had done with this experience when its all over. It was such a rare moment and I really wanted to embrace it. So, I sat and wrote down a Discover list of everything I wanted to see especially though my son Hunter’s eyes. He was going to come along with me and had just started hiking with me.
Josh: I see … how exciting!
Steve: So, we just started going out, and what I did was make a sign that says “Discover” on it. And everywhere, and every moment that we discovered, I would write the name on the sign of the place we discovered, and what I did was embrace this positive moment. I thought about all of the people in my past that have helped me get to this point and moment and helped me along my trail or path along the way. So, I decided to make a donation to the National Park Foundation to someone very positive in my past. At the end, the experience was great, and I had hiked over 150 miles and Hunter was with me for 60 of those miles. We went to 6 National Parks and experienced all these great things. I got to hike Mt. Whitney, which is the highest elevation of point in the contiguous United States and just had a lot of fun through the whole experience. I was able to get over 800.00 dollars donated to the National Park Foundation and my company matched a dollar-for-dollar in the end. All, in all, it was a great moment to experience and it had a positive ending, and I was able to get a lot of my friends and family involved.
Josh: So, you could see a lot of metaphor with your achievements in climbing mountains, as well as some personal achievements and accomplishments in yourself. When you are fusing the two together, and you are involved in the experiences, can you tell people that haven’t done mountain climbing, or looking to pursuit hiking, how that can lead to their success, and overcoming adversity and obstacles?
Steve: You know with hiking, when I first started my goal for hiking, especially with mountains, was always to summit. And I had be the first to summit. And, if I was with my friends, it was like a healthy competition right there. We would try to race each other up to the top. But, then I started realizing on the walk back down, all the things I missed on the way up. And especially if you did the loop trail. You would go quickly up to the top of the summit and you would come down the back end, but you would never go back down the same way you came. So, in a sense, I was missing out on what I had just gone through. And, it was the old adage “take time to smell the roses.” So, I started realizing what nature was doing for me with my day to day, and just going out and experiencing things; because you had a sense of okay I’m going to go to the trail-head today and summit that mountain. You didn’t know what was going to happen in between. You kind of knew your destination. Its kind of like waking up in the morning, you know it that night you’re going to go and be back in bed. So, you know the beginning and the tail end but you never know what is going to happen in the middle. So, it was that kind of excitement of okay what is going to happen when I go out here and what am I going to see or what am I going to witness. And, what kind of thoughts am I going to have. And that really inspired me to keep moving forward.
Josh: How interesting …
Steve: Its hard to inspire somebody to do something if its not internally there. But, I kind of grew up with my parents always having this thing called the “no thank you helping” I would have to try something at least once, and if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to eat it, ever again. I still had to try it once to see if I liked it or if it sparked something inside of me. So, I guess I kind of embraced that with nature and it just became an opportunity to just go out, and just witness these moments and things. And, just feel like I was just getting a sense of the world and what was around me and just experiencing it in living. If you haven’t thought about hiking or haven’t hiked you know sometimes I had people that would tell me, “I can’t believe you went out and hiked overnight by yourself or you went ahead and did 20 miles by yourself.” It was just a sense of, like, a cleansing for me. I just go out there, I comeback ready to deal with the world. I think about everything, and I organize my thoughts and now with the kids I go more than ever.
Josh: What terrific stories, Steve. So, is there anything more you would like to share about the Discovery Project, and any experiences you had with it?
Steve: I viewed it as a time in my life that I was going to be able to experience something, and experience it with my son and my wife, and my future son Ryland when he was born. When I thought about how I wanted to incorporate all my friends and family in the past; and make it this generosity towards the National Park Foundation; and thanks to L.L. Bean for Everything they had done for me; that is why I just poured myself into the whole project. And, I couldn’t have done it without my wife because she was pregnant during this time, and then she had my son Ryland. So, it was a lot of support from her to help me just do this 1 year and this one moment because I am going to get older, and then, I’m going to lose access to my sons. Because now they’re going to be doing maybe, soccer on the weekend, and there is going to be sleepovers and friends, so he’s just not going to have the availability right there where I have them in the morning, and just put them in the car and take them hiking with me. So, I realized that this was going to be a moment here and when he’s older I have everything saved. I have all of the pictures and I have our Discover sign. I can sit down and talk to him, and just tell him about this awesome thing that he and I did together; and, to know that he’s gone out and experienced it. Hiking is part of his vocabulary now. He sees the backpack in the garage and says I want to go hiking. Its great that he’s just grasping the concept of what is happening with what we are doing.
Josh: Oh, how very cute, and, that is one of the great things about the fact that you created your own blog and to capture these moments. It really engages a lot of your friends and family into the whole experience with you, too. You really can, through your lens, learn how exciting nature can be. Just taking time out of your busy day going for a long walk can be a wonderful experience.
Steve: Well, its not just friends and family, because last year I was a part of LL Bean, their whole marketing campaign. I tried to find the best way I came to say “thank you” to them for my experience and the gift they had given me. I then realized I needed a louder voice of my own to do this, and to accomplish this. So, I had reached out to the Superintendent of every national park I had ever visited and along with the Senator, Congress person, and Governor of the State that National Park lies in. And, any influential person that ran programs because I was in Life Habitat for Humanity and AmeriCorps. I reached out to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and I told them what had happened to me; and then, I told them how they were a part of my story or with me at some point along the way.
Josh: Cool! That’s awesome!
Steve: And, I told them at the end, what LL Bean had done, and that they were also doing a campaign called “The Million Moment Mission Campaign”, where they donated a million dollars to the National Park Foundation and I was really touched by that because they were a corporation that was investing their own money where their consumers interacted. So, they were not just selling products. They were also helping to safe-guard the place where their product was enjoyed and I felt like this kind of corporate responsibility needed to be acknowledged. That is why I wrote to everyone and I asked them all to please write a thank you letter to LL Bean. And, it was amazing because the Superintendent started writing and they would write me letters or they would “CC” me on the letters they wrote to them. There was the Congresswomen of Maine and the Governor of Oregon, and then, Jimmy Carter and I was blown away when I got his letter. And, I got this handwritten letter from Jimmy Carter and he said:
Steve: The letter was brief, but it was very impactful. And, I wrote Jimmy Carter a “thank you” letter back for writing and then he wrote me back a letter again. Then, when I was doing my Discovery Initiative and making donations for people, I made a donation for him, and I sent it to him and he wrote me another letter. So, I have 3 hand written letters from Jimmy Carter. He’s truly an amazing man.
Josh: Wow! Nice! How very exciting? Steve, Congratulations!
Steve: Thanks, and regardless of how you feel about the man he is a leader… for him to take the time and personally write me back it was just really … I remember just standing there holding the letter in disbelief when I first got it and, ah … it was awesome! And, the whole time when I first thought of the idea to write all these letters I said its kind of crazy, it’s a little crazy. But then, I thought I’m not going to hurt anybody, and if they don’t read my letter and respond to me then no harm done But, I had this idea and I just went for it. I just did it. I wrote something down, and I wrote them. I was sending them letters. I would send a couple of them a letter or 2, consistently. To just to try to understand the importance of what I was trying to do and accomplish. The Superintendent of Death Valley, she had written to them to tell them about a program where they take inner-city youth and bring them out to the mountains. And, the kids witnessed the Milky Way they also got to sleep in a tent all for their first time. And, they were talking about how the money donated influenced this and that, so that is why I kind of followed their lead. When I was discovering all my moments I made a donation to the National Park Foundation as well, because it was also an environment where I had just been able to grow, and see myself grow and know that I will always grow there.
Josh: Yeah … And, for those that are in need to experience the courage to enjoy all of this and get complete fulfillment out of life what can you tell them about courage? What advice do you have for someone that is exploring and discovering courage themselves?
Steve: This is a hard question because with that you have to embrace fear. And, embracing fear is where that threshold comes of living within your safety zone and, breaking out of that safety zone and it can be tough sometimes. But, what is amazing about it is that if you break out of it, then you look back upon it and you say “wow” that actually wasn’t as hard as I made it out to be.” So, sometimes you just have to take that “no thank you helping”, but go try it and you have to realize that the reason you are trying this is because somewhere in the back of your mind you know that you will experience something new and may better yourself for it. And then, sometimes to try to understand what is so scary. I remember the first time I was out in Yosemite and I was in a tent all by myself, and I was about 5 miles from the road… you definitely listen to every single sound, and you don’t know if there is a bear there. Its just you! Its hard sometimes to just rely only on yourself, because if you let yourself down or if you mess up its only you, and sometimes you could be your worst critic and tear yourself down. So, its making peace with yourself and it’s a whole process of going through that.
Josh: So how many mountains have you climbed so far? I know you have done a ton!
Steve: I have hiked 129 mountains to date. I have done a lot of them multiple times. The one you and I hiked together back in the day, that was Lyon Mountain. That is my favorite mountain. I hiked that 11 times. Its funny, too, because I hiked, around, I think, close to 40 mountains when I was living in Plattsburgh, NY and I was only there for about two years and I didn’t own a car.
Josh: Wow … 40 in two years that’s awesome!
Steve: I came in, in the end of 1997, that Fall Semester. I left the Spring of 2000. I was able to go out there and hike all of those mountains, and Lyon Mountain was just this awesome mountain. It was the first mountain I hiked when I went to Plattsburgh. And, when I went up there they had all these Birch Trees everywhere. And, in that winter was “the big ice storm” that came through and devastated the whole area. It just tore it all apart and these birch trees that used to go across the trail were all torn down. So, I got to see the beauty of that trail right before it got devastated and every time I hiked it I never lost a vision of what it looked like. And, just getting out there and looking down at Chazy Lake, I always just enjoyed it, it was just one of those mountains for me.
Josh: Yeah … Steve, I’d like to take this time to really thank you for coming to the interview with me today. I know that there are a lot of people out there that will really be able to see and read these stories through your lens, and Hunter’s lens. And, also find that courage that they are looking to really capture for themselves, and discover that motivation and inspiration to embrace new challenges! Thank you for joining me today. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Steve: No, but if you just think about something, and you want to try it go try it! And then, if its weighing heavily on you, you have to think to yourself … like when I was writing letters, “what is the real harm here?” “Am I worried about looking like a fool?” Or, “am I worried about failing?” So, “it’s like, what’s the real worry?”
Josh: That’s great! I think a lot of people will really get a good experience from reading our interview. Thank you for your time.
Steve: Yeah, thank you Josh!
For anyone who needs inspiration and is searching to be “at one” with nature, and see first-hand what this wonderful planet has to offer, hiking could be a wonderful and rewarding zenith for you to embrace, and enjoy. If you’d like to follow Steve on his trails check out his blog here or you can click on his logo below. For more inspiration please check out my posts here and here. If you would like some coaching on overcoming adversity, courage , to get yourself back-on-track please view my suite of services here.