Hiking with Shawn
Featured on the Local News
Mud Snake (Farancia abacura)
Photo Courtesy, Hiking with Shawn
Hiking with Shawn was featured on a local news channel, recently! SNAKES – that is what earned me a spot on the news, specifically, my journeys to LaRue Pine Hills RNA, Snake Road. I’ll link to some articles and videos down below that relate more to the local news featuring me but all of this has inspired me to really focus on an article about how Hiking with Shawn came to be and what I figured it would be but why it was went way off course of what I thought it was going to be.
Hiking with Shawn
The Early Days
Hiking with Shawn officially started in December of 2016 as a YouTube Channel. Backing up before that, in 2012, I was in bad shape. I smoked a few packs of cigarettes a day, drank too much, ate the wrong kinds of foods and did not exercise. In fact, I didn’t like to walk around for very long. I was always tired and no motivated to do a whole lot. I knew I was going down a bad road and already hitting a dead end in my 20’s. It was at work, I was in the private security contractor field, that I had to bend down to tie my boot lace and when I rose up, I was out of breath. I remember the exact details of that to this day because in reality, it scared the living crap out of me. Here I was in my 20’s, a kid if you will, out of breath for after bending down to tie my boots.
So I got a gym membership. I tried the gym thing, I really did. It was horrible. I knew I was working out and that made it worse – it made it difficult to know that I was doing fitness. I eventually dropped out of the gym thing and went back to my horrible ways. Then a friend at work suggested that I buy a bicycle. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle for years – pretty much when I turned driving age, I stuck with driving vehicles at that point. But hey, I knew I had to do something, so I bought a mountain bike. I started out riding at Tunnel Hill State Trail every other weekend. That eventually turned into an every weekend thing. I did my first Superman Bike Ride in Metropolis on my first mountain bike, aiming for the 60 mile ride. I only did 40 miles before having to give up. I was devastated and extremely disappointed with myself. I thought, here I am, a kid, can’t event finish a bike ride while much older adults finished with no problem. An injured rider who rode back in the SAG truck with me, said to me “You just did 40 miles on a heavy mountain bike. We have light road bikes designed for the road. You don’t realize how much you just actually did, be proud of that”. It made me feel better.
But then I bought a road bike. I am known to get extreme with my hobbies. Shortly after buying the road bike, I wanted to complete a century ride – 100 miles in one ride. I went for it. I failed… I did 70 out of the 100 miles that I had planned for. That too, made me feel like crap. Then a friend reminded me that I tried to ride 100 miles two weeks after getting a road bike and that 70 miles was a pretty big deal. Nowadays, the planning was all wrong, I don’t feel bad about it anymore. I started at Giant City State Park and went south – we all know what is south of Giant City – BIG FREAKING MASSIVE HILLS!!! The temperature that day was over 100 and the humidity was even worse. The winds were gusting 30-45 MPH. I didn’t hydrate enough and I rarely ate anything – didn’t even have breakfast. It really is no wonder that I didn’t hurt myself trying that foolish ride but I was younger then. Oh yeah, I also weighed 300 pounds during that time.
Eventually I did 110 miles in one ride after thoroughly planning for it. I increased my cycling and ride and it has significantly made me lighter, healthier and changed my eating and healthcare habits. As a matter of fact, this day that I am writing this blog article, I rode 10 miles at Giant City State Park – a short but hilly ride!
But on to Hiking with Shawn… As a kid, I was always in the woods. I grew up in my tiny hometown where the Big Muddy River and woodland acres was the place where kids hung out. I was always in the woods. Some of my most fondest memories of childhood was in the woods and down at the river. I grew up going to places like Garden of the Gods, Giant City State Park, Rend Lake Beach and Ferne Clyffe State Park. I’ve always been into the outdoors but we didn’t really call it hiking back then even though it more or less was. Once I got to a certain age, I quit going hiking and stayed indoors. A tavern became more comfortable to me than a woodland environment was. I went downhill, folks. I went downhill at an age that was way too young. I didn’t get to really enjoy the youth of my 20’s like I should had done. But that was totally my own fault!
So fast-forward a bit, as I biked Tunnel Hill State Trail on a weekly basis, while riding the Vienna to Karnak leg of the trail, I’d always pass that sign ‘Heron Pond’ on the trail. I honestly though it was some kind of fishing thing. I’m not really into fishing – I get bored too easily, ha-ha. But one day I thought I’d check it out and rode off trail and towards Heron Pond. Once I got there, I realized it was a hiking trail and decided to do it. Once I reached the boardwalk, a course of early childhood memories starting hammering through my brain. I was here for the first time when I was in second grade or so – I remembered this place from childhood. Heron Pond after that became an area that I always wanted to visit. It was a ritual for me to bike to the trailhead and hike to the boardwalk and back. I did it at least a few times a week. And then I started hiking from Heron Pond to Wildcat Bluff and back, passing through Little Black Slough and Boss Island and seeing the old Bost Cabin out there still existing. That place, the whole Cache River State Natural Area will always have a special place in my heart.
After hiking Cache River so much, I started hiking other places that I hadn’t been to since childhood, places like Giant City, Ferne Clyffe and Garden of the Gods. I wanted to show my friends and family where I was hiking. So I started taking a lot of photos and eventually started a YouTube channel for short videos I would take. I never imagined the YouTube channel would be anything that big at all…
Hiking with Shawn
Turning into Something I didn’t Expect
Close friend and family enjoyed my hiking videos. I never really talked in them and people were requesting that, so I started appearing in the videos and changing them to be more “vlog” like if you will. I was out of my comfort zone doing it. But I pressed on. I wanted to hike new places so I started researching more places to hike. I eventually found Jackson Falls, Bell Smith Springs, Panther Den, Lusk Creek, Burden Falls, High Knob, Old Stoneface and of course Snake Road among my journeys. It wasn’t too long before people I didn’t know started noticing my videos and watching them. I was building a small community of people that were actually “fans” of my videos. So I wanted to be more interactive about it and bought some Channel Stickers to send out and had a better logo made. I started some social media pages for the channel and eventually this blog.
Three major events happened that hooked me into this Hiking with Shawn gig. Number 1, I got recognized for the first time – by a very cool lady who works for Illinois DNR at Giant City State Park. I was there to hike and overnight camp on the Red Cedar Trail and I went to the park welcome center to gather more information for the hike. The coordinator of the park was excited that I was there to make videos and was extremely helpful. She was the first to recognize me and that really made my day. It still does! Number 2, I started getting emails from local who are older in age and unable to get outside as much. They’d tell me that the places in my videos were areas they grew up in but had forgot until my videos allowed them to relive their childhood, again. That really touched me and it still does. And Number 3, because I grew so passionate about making Hiking with Shawn better and growing the brand, I started hiking and biking more so than I had ever done before. Essentially, because of that, I am now healthier than I have ever been in my adult years. I missed out on enjoying a healthy youth in my 20’s but got a second chance to feel even younger now in my 30’s that I did back then. I feel like I’ve found my lost youth and I am getting a second chance to enjoy it. I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore. I rarely drink and never enough to get goofy. I eat better and I exercise daily. I wear clothing sizes that I’ve not worn since I was a teenager and that is pretty exciting to me.
Hiking with Shawn has essentially saved my life. And Hiking with Shawn wouldn’t be Hiking with Shawn without all of you, folks. All of you who watch me. All of you who are fans. All of you who have supported me in many ways and still support me. So effectively folks, in all honesty, you all saved my life… And I can never thank you all enough for doing that. You all motivated me to make Hiking with Shawn better and it has changed my life from a rather destructive lifestyle to a notion to live as long as I can and hike the trail as long as I can. Thank you – you’ll never know how much, each and every one of you, mean to me.
Then here recently, I’ve been featured on the Local News – KFVS Channel 12 did a story on me about my visits to Snake Road and aired it on TV. I never imagined I’d be on TV for making hiking videos, folks. It has been a few weeks since then and I am still in shock. I’ve been mentioned in articles. A lot of folks recognize me and want to meet me out in public – which I welcome because it really makes my day. I’m going to mentioned in a book. I might have contributed to science with some other folks and may be mentioned in a scientific journal. So much has happened and it all keeps happening.
It is mind blowing that all of this has occurred. And I owe it all to you who dedicate your attention into watching my videos and being fans of me. You all my part of my BIG BLUFFAGE FAMILY! Side-note, I made up the word “bluffage” to just be silly and I’ve seen people use it from several states away, LOL, that really makes my day that you all use that word so much – keep it up, ha-ha!
Hiking with Shawn
Into The Future…
Hiking with Shawn is here to stay! Hiking with Shawn is the biggest passion I’ve ever had and it will only grow at this point. So many things have happened that I never expected. I never expected to get recognized by people from different states. I never expected to get over 1,000 subscribers in less than two years. I never expected to be features on the local news. People tell me I’m a local celebrity and that I am famous – I never saw all of this in the future of starting my channel. I love it and it hasn’t made me into something negative, it has only helped me be better and make a lot of new friends in the process.
The future looks promising. I plan to continue doing my hiking videos as usual but also expand my filming into offering seasons of special interest videos, educational and history videos, contests and meetup events and more. All this will remain free as it always has. While I eventually would love for Hiking with Shawn to become a full time job and pay well – I’m not in all of this to sell out and become completely commercial. The main product, the videos, they’ll always be as they were, as they are and free like they have always been and you can quote me on that.
The future that is in store for Hiking with Shawn is a future that I feel all of you are going to love!
Thank you for making Hiking with Shawn a possibility, thank you for making me into a healthier and happier person and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
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.