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Jake Gray: Outdoor Photographer and Hiking Guide (Austin, Texas)

Photographer and hiking guide Jake Gray at Big Bend National Park in Texas - Happier Place

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.

Father and son on Ski Apache in New Mexico - Jake Gray - HappierPlace
Jake and his son Connor at Ski Apache above Ruidoso, New Mexico.

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!

Glacier Lake along the High Sierra Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California
Hamilton Lake along the High Sierra Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California. Photo by Jake Gray.

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!

Valley along the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park - California - Photo by Jake Gray.
Kyrn River Valley along the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park, California. Photo by Jake Gray.

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.

Father and sons and dog - Jake Gray and family with Happier Place Burlap Trucker Hat
Jake Gray (with Happier Place burlap trucker hat) and his sons Hunter and Connor and their dog Trixie out on a hike in Texas.

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.

Jake Gray leading a group up snowy Mount Rainier above the clouds
Jake Gray hiking up snowy Mount Rainier above the clouds in Washington State.

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.

Contemplating Mount Evans Area in Colorado with Jake Gray
Contemplating the Mount Evans Area in Colorado with Jake Gray.

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.

Great American Basin and its wildflowers in Colorado. Photo by Jake Gray.
American Basin and its wildflowers in Colorado. Photo by Jake Gray.

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.

Mount Rainier seen from Camp Muir during Magic Hour
Mount Rainier (Washington State) seen from Camp Muir during sunrise!

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!

Waterfall in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Photo by Jake Gray. #HappierPlace
Waterfall in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Photo by Jake.

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.

Colorado State Flower Wild Columbine - Redcloud Peak - Colorado
Colorado State Flower Wild Columbine along the trail to Redcloud Peak – a 14er in Colorado.

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.

Father and son on the Eagle Loop Trail in Arkansas - Jake Gray - HappierPlace
Jake and his son Hunter along the 28-mile Eagle Loop Trail in Arkansas.

Words of inspiration?

The mountains are calling and I must go…

John Muir

Find Jake Gray and his photography online:

Instagram: mothernaturechaser

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!

Yellow lab on sand dune in New Mexico.
Trixie taking a break from a hike in New Mexico. Photo by Jake Gray.

Pin one of these images to Pinterest to save the post + share it with others.

All photos courtesy of Jake Gray aka mothernaturechaser. The main photo at the top of the post he took in Big Bend National Park.

9 thoughts on “Jake Gray: Outdoor Photographer and Hiking Guide (Austin, Texas)

  1. Jake was my neighbor from awhile back. Great guy. He has unfortunately passed away I just found out. 🙁

    1. I’m so sorry to read this. I had no idea he passed. What a tragedy. I only knew Jake online – as someone who inspired us greatly through his outdoor enthusiasm. He became our first Happier Ambassador. Thank you for letting us know. May he rest in peace.

  2. Ohh look at all these beautiful places. I love hiking even though I haven’t been out of the city in a while. So jealous of your wonderful experiences.

  3. Awesome post and interview with Jake. I know that this is something that we as a society do not take enough advantage of, being outdoors appreciating nature and God. My self included. Thank you for sharing and reminding us of what we are missing in today’s culture.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! We launched Happier Place to encourage people to go outdoors more and appreciate what nature provides. We learned in our own lives that when we spend time outside, having fun and acknowledging the beauty around us, we are much happier. We don’t have to be missing it in our culture – all we have to do is: take a quick break + go outside and to look + appreciate. Not everyone needs to climb big mountains to be happier, right?

  4. The photos are just awesome. Hamilton lake looks out-of-this world, something like they show in movies. Its a pity kids nowadays are so so removed from nature. Good luck with your AMGA certification.

  5. Jake’s photos are fabulous. I would definitely love to visit Sequoia National Park in California!

    1. Thank you for your kind words about Jake’s photos. We think they’re awesome, too! And actually we also would love to visit Sequoia NP. It’s near the top of the list!

  6. I enjoyed my traveling through the mountains with Jake! Thanks for sharing this very interesting article!

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