Howdy folks, Shawn here from Hiking with Shawn. Before I tell you more about what I do, I wanted to answer a question that is commonly asked: No I wasn’t named after the Shawnee National Forest – it’s just a coincidence! But it would have been really cool if I was!!!
About Hiking with Shawn
Hiking with Shawn is a social media group that provides videos, photography and online content that promotes the and advocates for the Shawnee National Forest and State Parks in southern Illinois. Hiking with Shawn was made in southern Illinois and has always been for southern Illinois and you all, the people of southern Illinois.
The mission of Hiking with Shawn has always been the promotion of southern Illinois public lands for tourism in an effort to increase economic stabilization for the local communities within the region. Hiking with Shawn started out as simply a way to show friends and family where to go hike and bike. Then you, the fans, turned it into something way better – a life-long passion to help make southern Illinois a better place to live in and visit through means of our awesome natural public resources. Without southern Illinois and the support of each of you, Hiking with Shawn could not exist.
Here is My Story…
Hiking with Shawn, to put it bluntly, saved my life! I’m not trying to get you to buy anything with this story. I just hope that my story can inspire you to take a step in a healthier direction while also supporting your public lands, where ever you might be…
So in 2012, in my 20’s, I bent down to tie my boot and when I rose back up, I was out of breath. It scared me! I thought to myself, how can I be out of breath and in my 20’s?! At that moment, I realized my bad ways – I was overweight, I had no fitness routine, I smoked cigarettes, I drank too much alcohol and fast food was my main type of meal. I was on my way to an expensive and potentially deadly healthcare regiment. I decided that I needed to change my life. I tried going to the gym and found it to be extremely boring. After a while at the gym, I slacked off and started going back to my old ways. I was depressed about my health.
But then a friend suggested that I get a bicycle and ride it on the weekends. So I bought a mountain bike and decided to ride it every other weekend on Tunnel Hill State Trail. The first time on the bike after not being on one for over 10 years was so amazing that I still remember the feeling. I instantly felt like a kid again and starting getting all these precious memories back of when I used to ride my bike as kid. I rode 20 miles that day and even with padded bike shorts on, my butt hurt like heck, LOL. After that, I was hooked on cycling. I rode every weekend and eventually bought a road bike and started riding every day. I’d ride anywhere from 10 to 110 miles a day, all year long. I rode and rode and rode so much that my cycling passions came to a sudden and grinding halt.
I burned out of cycling. I suddenly became bored with cycling. See I rode a lot but didn’t make good decisions that impacted my riding. I still ate badly and smoked. I still drank quite a bit of alcohol. I just wasn’t seeing any results. And that made cycling seem like a chore more than a fun adventure. But I couldn’t fall back into my old unhealthy self, I just couldn’t.
One day on Tunnel Hill State Trail, I noticed the sign ‘Heron Pond’. I always saw it before but figured it was some sort of fishing area. I decided that day to just ride to it and check it out because the trail was boring me as I saw it all the time. So I rode to Heron Pond and realized it was a hiking trail. I hiked it. Then I realized southern Illinois had swampland. I was mesmerized by it! I wanted to see more of what southern Illinois had, so I started visiting other places that I had never known about or hadn’t been to since I was a small boy. I discovered Garden of the Gods, Bell Smith Springs, Little Grand Canyon and Jackson Falls! All of the special places I had no idea existed, I was discovering them for the first time in my life and it was amazing! The forest makes me feel young (even to this day) and gives me a natural high that fills my entire body and conscious with this special happy feeling of bliss and pure joy.
So I decided to start taking photos of my hikes and that lead to video to show close friends and family members. So I started a YouTube account and called it, Hiking with Shawn. But then something spectacular happened – I got an email from someone telling me that they saw a video of mine and it brought back memories that they had long lost of growing up in the Shawnee National Forest. They told me they were too old to visit the forest and that now, they can relive the joy through my videos. I had never thought that anything I did would move someone like that. After that email, Hiking with Shawn was no longer just a thing, it became a passion and a mission to support my southern Illinois, my friends – you, everyone, all of us!
In the end – Hiking with Shawn did many things for me and continues to do many things for me… I no longer smoke at all or get drunk. I eat healthier and make wiser health decisions. I’m able to balance my cycling passion with my hiking passion and not get burned out of either of them. I’m constantly given the opportunity to support southern Illinois and help promote local tourism. I get to help make the Shawnee National Forest better through my memberships with organizations created to support the National Forest. I met the love of my life after being alone for so long that I figured I’d always be alone. Without Hiking with Shawn, I’d of never met Michelle – she has changed my life so much and filled a void that really silently hurt me. And most of all folks, Hiking with Shawn gives me a chance to help YOU, and that really means a lot to me.
So thanks for being a part of Hiking with Shawn! I have a lot of awesome stuff planned. So until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
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