Jake Gray seems to be on a mission: to get adults and kids out into nature and feel the thrill of reaching a summit, discover a valley of wildflowers or watch the sun rise in the mountains. His photography will inspire you to go, his guided hikes might just get you there.
Currently, Jake Gray lives in Cedar Park – just outside Austin, Texas. Originally, he’s from Ruidoso in the Sierra Blanca Mountain Range of New Mexico. Maybe that’s where he picked up his passion for the outdoors, in general, and for hiking and mountain climbing, in particular. By the way, Ruidoso is mostly known for Ski Apache, a ski resort owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Austin is mostly known for being Austin.
Jake has been a ski instructor and a forest firefighter, and currently works in sales. He’s an outdoor enthusiast, who has been taking people on hikes and climbs of varying lengths – so far just as an “amateur” guide. Jake plans on becoming a Certified Alpine Guide through AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) by 2021, so he can take more people safely into the mountains. He already has his Wilderness First Aid Certification, which is a lot more than most of us who scramble around out there have.
In June, Jake will be taking a group on a week-long hike along the High Sierra Trail. The 71-mile (114-km) trail in the Sequoia National Park (California) stretches across the Sierra Nevada (west-east) and passes over the Great Western Divide. On average, it takes about 6 days to finish the entire trail. However, a few years ago Leor Pantilat set the record by running it in under 16 hours. Seems like he missed out on a lot of “Stop. Look. Appreciate.” opportunities. Another fun fact: When Jake hiked this trail by himself three years ago, it was his first hike in almost 20 years. Way to dive right in!
While Jake can no longer accept reservations for that High Sierra Trail hike, he will surely share with all of us some amazing pictures from up there. He’s only fairly recently gotten more serious about outdoor photography, which he shares via his MotherNatureChaser Instagram account. It’s how we discovered him. His photos inspire and encourage everybody, including families with children, to go outside and explore! And you know we love that!
When we discovered Jake on Instagram, we were intrigued by his outdoor adventures, his mission to get people outside, and his photography of nature (with and without people or his yellow labs, Trixie and Rex). Since all that aligned so perfectly with our own vision, he became one of our very first Happier (Brand) Ambassadors. Being a Happier Ambassador means he gets free Happier Place products and has a discount code for our store, which he can share with anyone. In return, he gets to show off and look great in our apparel and with other items that make a Happy Place better.
If you’re interested in becoming a Happier Ambassador, send us a message letting us know why you think you’d be a great ambassador for what Happier Place is all about. Please also include links to your public media profiles (Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube etc.).
Now, let’s get back to Jake Gray and see how he answered our interview questions:
Jake Gray – Why do you do what you do?
The excitement of my own personal accomplishments as well as seeing the faces of those that accomplish it by my side. That’s one of the reasons I started Austin Mountaineers – to get more people into the outdoors. We organize hikes and climbs and have grown to over 300 members.
General Happier Place category?
Definitely Mountains. I haven’t ever been a huge social butterfly and the mountains are where I feel “at place” – rather than in a bar, in the city or on a crowded beach. But they all make me happier as long as I am outdoors.
Specific Happier Place locations?
Tough question. Each place visited is unique and all of them are their own special happy place. Every place leaves am impactful memory and cannot be compared to another.
What do you always bring out into nature with you?
I don’t have any specific item yet. My phone is important for the photos but not for communication as most locations in the mountains don’t have reception. Taking a picture of that memory helps relive it at least a little.
Happier Place tips or hacks?
Know your limitations and don’t visit the outdoors just for social media. Do it for YOU and stay safe!
A dream destination?
The Seven Summits [the highest mountain on each of the seven continents]. I have visited over twelve countries while in the Navy, so I have seen a lot already. Not many get the opportunity to see the world from the top of those peaks.
Kids and nature?
As far as my boys [Connor, 16 and Hunter, 11], well… I do what I can to take them outdoors. So many kids are deprived of the outdoors nowadays and glued to their video games that they do not get to experience all of the things nature can offer. All too often I find myself allowing video games to raise my kids (sarcasm inserted, of course) and this is not the way they should be raised. Every memory I can create with them outdoors will have an everlasting impression on them – just like my memories with my dad growing up.
Soon, I will be applying to the local nonprofit Explore Austin to guide underprivileged kids in the outdoors. I think the impact is significant enough that we might just be able to change their perception of the way the world is. If it is important enough for me to take other children out, then this shows the importance of my own experience with my boys.
Words of inspiration?
Find Jake Gray and his photography online:
People Profile Pet
Yup, we just added that section to this and all upcoming people profiles (if appropriate). Please meet Trixie, a yellow lab who gets to go on hikes with Jake even when the other lab, Rex, has to stay at home. Some girls get all the hikes!
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All photos courtesy of Jake Gray aka mothernaturechaser. The main photo at the top of the post he took in Big Bend National Park.