Hiking with Shawn Anniversary:

5 Years of


topped with

Awesome Sauce!

A big Hiking with Shawn Anniversary is happening this month. This Hiking with Shawn anniversary celebrates 5 years of being in existence! Can you believe we’ve been doing this for 5 years? We as in me and YOU. Like I’ve said at the beginning and all the way until now, Hiking with Shawn was never possible without you. Hiking with Shawn can never continue without you. Each and every one of you who have supported me along the way has made this Hiking with Shawn Anniversary a reality. So, to help celebrate this Hiking with Shawn Anniversary, I wanted to write this article to recap the past 5 years of this awesome experience that we’ve shared with one and another.


Hiking with Shawn Anniversary: A Rough Start…

By rough start, I mean the start of what got me into the outdoors. If we rewind to 4 years before Hiking with Shawn was created, we will see a very unhealthy lifestyle of Shawn Gossman (that’s me!). Up to 2012, I smoked several packs of cigarettes a day. I was using an inhaler because I had trouble breathing. I was single, lonely, and in extreme pain because of my terrible teeth (I had the worst gum disease possible). I drank a lot to kill the pain and because I was depressed. I considered harming myself. I ate badly. I had absolutely no exercise. And most of all, I hated going out into nature.

Then in 2012, after being out of breath for the simplest thing – fear overwhelmed me. I was then in fear of my declining health. I was in my 20s then and feared that I wouldn’t see my 40s at the rate I was going. So, I got a gym membership and started working out. I quickly realized the gym was exercise and very hard and I dropped out of it. I started slipping back into my old routine and a friend at work (Thank you, Steve A.) told me to buy a bicycle. I did so, rode 20-miles after not being on a bike for over a decade and INSTANTLY fell in love with cycling. After that, I rode and rode and rode – all the time – so much that I started burning myself out of cycling and started going back to my old ways.

Then I found hiking…

One day while biking Tunnel Hill State Trail (where biking started for me), I saw a sign to Heron Pond. I figured it was something for fishing. I decided to ride to it and discovered it was a hiking trail. I chained my bike up and hiked the trail. I loved it so much that I needed more. So, I came back and hiked more trails within the Cache River Watershed. I visited Giant City State Park often as well. I bought a nice DSLR camera and started taking photos of my hikes. My friends and family enjoyed seeing them on Facebook. Then a friend said, why not make a video and upload it to YouTube.


Hiking with Shawn Anniversary: Hiking with Shawn was born – December 12, 2016.

At first, my first few videos were still images with music. I then started appearing on the video and filming my normal hike like I do now. Matt Gholson was my first channel that I collaborated with. It was the first time we met in public and we’re really good friends today.  I created Hiking with Shawn with the intent that a few friends and family members would enjoy seeing my hikes. I expected maybe 20 or so subscribers at most for the lifetime of the channel. That’s it! I had no intention on developing the brand that I have today when I first started. Then a simple email changed everything…

The email sent to me from a viewer said “Shawn, I am a senior and I can’t walk very good these days. I grew up playing in the areas you hike, and all those memories were lost until your videos started showing up. You are bringing precious memories to me that I thought I’d never get again. Thank you and please keep adding new videos.” Folks, that changed EVERYTHING. I knew at that point that I needed to brand Hiking with Shawn and make something out of it. So, I looked at it as a business (and I still do), incorporated it, trademarked the name, and launched a website and social profiles. Everything I offer for the most part is free but treating it as a business allows me to seriously invest in it and continue its growth.

My membership grew significantly after that. I even got the number of required subscribers and views to start monetizing my videos. But before I could do so, I had an encounter with Forest Service Law Enforcement. But don’t worry! It was a good encounter! I was just told to check if I need permit to film or make money. I checked and discovered I needed a permit to monetize videos filmed on National Forest land. Hiking with Shawn has never been about the money but due to the amount I’ve invested into it, it would had been nice to let it pay for itself. Sadly, the US Forest Service permits for commercial filming were made for large production companies and are not friendly for small business. I have honored the Forest Service rules on commercial filming since then.

When I first started Hiking with Shawn, I uploaded a video once a month. Then after the support emails, I wanted to add more videos. So, I needed to hike more. I started hiking more. I switched from smoking to vaping to help myself get my air back. I drank less. I biked more to have a better lower body strength and I ate better. Because of the seriousness I was putting into the brand, I started taking care of myself better. I even got my teeth fixed and smiled for the first time in 15-years. Videos went from once a month to once a week and now I serve 3 full videos a week and put Short videos in on days I don’t have a full video (when I can).


Hiking with Shawn Anniversary: The Growth of a Brand

Hiking with Shawn, LLC has significantly grown as a media and entertainment brand. Hiking with Shawn has been featured on local and regional news including WSIL TV, KFVS 12, The Southern Illinoisan (Twice), KSDK, and others. Hiking with Shawn has been presented in front of Young Business Owners, numerous libraries and even featured during the 80th Anniversary of the Shawnee National Forest. Hiking with Shawn has a present online, on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Club House and TikTok. Hiking with Shawn continues to expand its reach.

In 2021, Hiking with Shawn changed its mission. The former mission was to promote hiking and outdoor recreation in the Shawnee National Forest and throughout southern Illinois. Then the focus became local. Southern Illinois is unique because of its local businesses, organizations, and people. These local entities need the help of the community to strive and be successful, especially after the Coronavirus Pandemic. Hiking with Shawn has now changed it mission to promote Southern Illinois local businesses and communities through the focus on outdoor recreation in the Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois. The local businesses and communities of this reason depends on locals and visitors the most and our natural resources can help bring these people to them.

In 2021, Hiking with Shawn also reach two milestones. The first was a successful partnership and collaboration with the US Forest Service – Shawnee National Forest and Illinois Department of Natural Resources through the creation of the Shawnee Challenge, a free self-supported adventure challenge located in the Shawnee National Forest and Dixon Springs State Park. Hiking with Shawn has also partnered and collaborated with other organizations such as National Forest Foundation, Recreate Responsibly, Southernmost Illinois Tourism and Rails to Trails Conservancy. The second milestone was the creation of Hiking with Shawn Tours, an officially permitted hiking/cycling guide service outfitter for the Shawnee National Forest.

The future of Hiking with Shawn is beautiful and expanding. Hiking with Shawn is experimenting with a presence on the growing social platforms TikTok and Club House. Hiking with Shawn has created over 40 free online guides for outdoor recreation in the Shawnee National Forest and Illinois State Parks with even more to come. Hiking with Shawn aims to be the highest ranking and most used resources for the Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois State Parks and Shawn’s 25+ years of digital marketing experience is being used to make that a reality. As for the future… Hiking with Shawn will continue to offer its videos and content for free. Hiking with Shawn will soon launch podcasts. Hiking with Shawn is working on various projects to help promote safety, local business and communities and regional tourism. There is a lot in the works for Hiking with Shawn.


Hiking with Shawn Anniversary: A Personal Experience

We’ve looked at the 5-years of Hiking with Shawn, now let’s look into who Hiking with Shawn is…me. Shawn Gossman is my name and before this, I really wasn’t anyone of significance. You read my story above about bad health and the creation of my brand but beyond the dark days of my life, great things have happened…

I’m in the best shape now than I’ve ever been in all my adult years. My 30s are way better than my 20s and as I near my 40s, I am looking forward to it. Because of my teeth and health, I remained alone and destined myself to always remain alone. Once I fixed that and started Hiking with Shawn, I met Michelle, a fan and we became so in love with one and another that it completely changed my outlook on life. I live with her now and we just celebrated our 3-year anniversary of being with one and another. It was literally love at first site and I’ve never felt the kind of love I feel for her with any other relationship in the past. She is my world and I fear that had I not made Hiking with Shawn; I might still be alone. That alone motivates me to continue Hiking with Shawn because it creates great things for many different people.

Before Hiking with Shawn, I wasn’t into the outdoors and nature. I really didn’t care much about community issues either. In fact, I wanted out of southern Illinois. I hated living here. Then along came a Hiking with Shawn and that changed everything. Conservation and preservation of nature means a lot to me – so much that I’ve joined all sorts of boards to help conserve these special areas including Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, Friends of the Cache River Watershed, River to River Trail Society, Southernmost Illinois Tourism and I even formed my own NPO, Friends of the Tunnel Hill State Trail. And I’ll never leave southern Illinois because this is my home and the business and communities within it are my family.


I hope you have enjoyed this article debuting the 5-Year Hiking with Shawn Anniversary. I have a lot planned for the entire month. For this anniversary/birthday, all I want from you is your continued support and engagement. I’d rather be the one giving stuff away and that’s what I plan to do. But, if you do want to do more to help, you can do these things:

  1. Become a Patreon Supporter: Support Hiking with Shawn with a monthly monetary contributions and get access to special features (exclusive articles, special merch and etc.). You can cancel anytime without any catch. Donate the lowest amount or the highest amount to get the features – whatever you decide. And remember, you’re never obligated to do this!
  2. Subscribe to My YouTube Channel: Even if you join YouTube just to subscribe to my YouTube channel, that will help. It’s free and it will notify you when I upload new videos, make community posts, or go live. If you do subscribe, please invite others to subscribe as well.
  3. Follow me on Social Media: Follow me on social platforms that you’re a part of such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Club House. Please feel free to invite others to follow me as well.
  4. Share My Blog Articles: Share my article written on this blog and my trail guides. The more people who see them, the better their experience hiking our awesome Shawnee National Forest will be. I also heavily promote small businesses and communities in my articles so sharing them helps our region as well.
  5. Keep Talking: Continue to engage with me however you plan to engage. I love talking to you all, meeting you in public, getting surprised “hellos” from fans while I grocery shop and your continued use of my made-up word, BLUFFAGE!

One last thing!

Filming the videos, taking the photos, editing everything and writing this article takes time and it’s all provided for free. Consider making a small monthly contribution to Hiking with Shawn by becoming an official Patreon supporter on Hiking with Shawn! You can also support us by purchasing official merch from the Hiking with Shawn online store. Lastly, please share this article and our videos and follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumbler for more free guides, videos, photos, contests and more!

Thanks for checking out this guide and please share it with others if you’d like to see more of them made!

Shawn J. Gossman

Shawn J. Gossman


Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.

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