Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Hiking with Shawn! Happy birthday to you!

No, it isn’t my actual birthday. My birthday as my individual self is on August 16. But it is the birthday on this YouTube Channel, the channel I and you know as, Hiking with Shawn. It was two years ago today when I decided to create this channel and upload videos showing my hiking adventures throughout the Shawnee National Forest and our local state parks.

I started Hiking with Shawn to show videos of where I hike, as I was already taking photos and sharing them among my close friends and family members on social media. Hiking with Shawn was never imagined amounting to much. I never even suggested to myself that the channel would grow that big.

Present time, 1,150 subscribers, 350+ videos and a community that has taken my made-up word to the next level (BLUFFAGE) – I’ve grown a community that I never expected to grow in the first place. A community of locals and non-locals alike. A community of all genders, races and ages. A community of folks who want to see my hikes and cherish them as if they were there when filming took place. A community that I am honored to call my bluffage family. I love you all, truly, you mean the world to me.

Still to this day, one of the most special engagements that I hold dearly to my heart as the creator of Hiking with Shawn isn’t the fact that ‘bluffage’ is becoming a household name. It isn’t because I was on the news. It isn’t because I have met and collaborated with some awesome creators. It isn’t the fact that I have more subscribers than people who live in my town. It isn’t the fact that Hiking with Shawn has made me healthier and turned my hobby into a passion. It isn’t the fact that YouTube and YOU the community has effectively saved my life. What I hold dearest to my heart is when I receive messages, emails and texts from folks thanking me for my videos because they are no longer able to explore the forest and that my footage allows them to relive their childhood when they grew up in the Shawnee. That is what motivated me the most to keep growing this channel these two awesome years. That is something that nearly brings me to tears but because of happiness that I can make that mark on the life of another good soul. It is truly the heart that allows Hiking with Shawn to live on. Thank you for encouraging me to continue to keep your memories of the forest active. Thank you for allowing me to be the vessel that allows you to relive your childhood.

Before 2012, I made horrible health decisions and was quickly turning myself into an old man, in my 20s of all things. I realized it luckily and made changes. I got into cycling, started being healthier and eventually made my way to hiking. Still though, I wasn’t motivated to push myself effectively and be in the kind of shape and health that I should be in. Until YouTube… Once I started uploading videos and see you all desire more of them, getting those thank you messages and watching a community before me grow into something that I never imagined – it motivated me. It made want to do more and more. Present day? I feel healthier and younger now as a 34-year-old man than I did when I was 21 years old. How is that possible? You all made it possible and I will be forever in your debt for that possibility. I’ll repay the debt by ensuring that Hiking with Shawn is a main priority for the life of my character. Thank you all for this second chance you have given me. That is why you are a part of bluffage family!

So, what does the future hold for Hiking with Shawn? I do plan to branch out and explore more of the surrounding regions including Mark Twain National Forest in MO as well as Indiana and Kentucky and upstate Illinois. But my primary focus will always be the Shawnee National Forest and state parks in southern Illinois. It is my home and I always want to be able to call this place my home. But I understand that not everyone wants to see me hike at the same place repeatedly. So, I’m going to experiment with series. I’ll choose a topic of interest and devote entire seasons to those topics with each video reaching a climax of such topics. Don’t worry, regular hiking videos will still be included. I just want to organize things better and choose days when videos will air. Like for example, regular hiking videos will post Monday and Wednesday while next episodes of a video series will air on Friday – something like that. I want to make it interesting and give you all something to look forward to. I hope to really start this organizational change in 2019.

I’m also working on my main website a lot. I’m developing a database of local trails and interesting spots in the forest. Other websites lack the proper information and I am hoping my website will fill those informational gaps. I’m looking into application development for mobile devices as well. I’m looking into better merch as well as special edition merch, calendars and more.

You all have allowed me to develop this awesome life changing, life saving brand and I want to please you in the end.

Thank you all for a wonderful two years in the making of Hiking with Shawn. Happy Birthday Hiking with Shawn, I can’t wait to watch you grow even more for the many years to come!

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