How Bear Gallagher Cole Became the Wild West Explorer
Bear Gallagher Cole the Wild West Explorer
I grew up to be an explorer
I grew up to be an explorer, but that doesn’t mean I knew it at first. I was born & raised in the Grand Canyon National Park. This wonder of the world was my backyard and I have been to the bottom over 100 times. As a matter of fact my first time to the bottom was when I was 6 weeks old. This story can be verified by my mother and father. I rode white water rivers, I hiked, I camped, and our family vacations were often adventures most people would think of as crazy! I was part of an outdoors family.
Growing up in a National Park was amazing. The outdoors was my playground, and living at the Grand Canyon introduced me to cultures and people from every corner of the world imaginable. I had the honor of getting to experience the Grand Canyon and Arizona in almost every way possible. I rode the Colorado River, I hiked nearly every trail, and I got to work for many of the businesses that helped the park operate. I even worked as a fueler and safety briefer at several of the Helicopter Tour companies and got to see the Grand Canyon from the sky often.
It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns growing up in a place like the Grand Canyon National Park though. I was often cut off from the world. We only had a few television channels, no radio stations, and no nightlife. These things matter more to you as you get older and approach your early twenties. I loved the experience, but I wanted to experience what it was like to live somewhere else.
I wanted to escape like most kids do
When I graduated from High School I left the Grand Canyon with a goal to become a writer. That goal morphed into me becoming a Songwriter and a Musician. I spent most of my 20’s working as a nightclub and event DJ, so I got to explore the nightlife I hadn’t had growing up. I went to another college and received a degree in Audio Recording & Sound. I worked in studios, I went on tours, I played my own music, and even got the honor to work with huge musical acts such as The Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban. I still wasn’t right where I wanted to be though.
Years later I went back to school and got another degree in Web Design and Development. I love the internet, and wanted something with the possibility of working from home. I worked for a large well known Tech company and began moving up the ranks eventually becoming a Supervisor. I was doing well, but something was still missing.
Things start to change as you get older, and for some their childhood beckons
I was a father now. My career in music had become more of a hobby, and my career in Technology had all but taken over my life.
I would pack up my family every chance I had and we would head out into the woods, or a National Park, or a canyon and I would be happy again. I would return to work refreshed and feeling myself again, but that feeling would eventually fade as I was surrounded by buildings and loud city streets. I just wasn’t happy. I hiked and camped as much as possible, but I just didn’t have the time I needed.
Eventually, after years of work, my wife and I had found ways to be able to work from home. My plan when I decided to return to school 7 years earlier was paying off. I was freelancing and offering my skills as a designer and developer to small businesses and musicians on the side as I still worked full time for a large company.
Eventually, a family vacation took us back to Northern Arizona where I was raised.
Northern Arizona wants me back
My family had been planning a trip to Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona Arizona for a year and a half. All of us had taken time off of work and packed up the kids to head up north. We had a cabin rental in the canyon near the creek, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I packed up tons of fun gear for the kids and prepared our vehicle. Unfortunately, right before leaving we got a call from my mother. She told us that a fire had started in Oak Creek Canyon, and it would effect our stay. That fire ended up being the Slide Fire which anyone in the Northern Arizona area knows was a large Forest Fire that for awhile threatened to destroy the majority of Oak Creek Canyon.
We were bummed. Luckily, the person who owned the cabin we had rented the cabin from had a cabin up in Flagstaff, just a ways from the canyon. Since the fire was still burning, and no one was even allowed near Oak Creek Canyon we decided Flagstaff would work.
We weren’t exactly put up in an outdoorsy retreat or hunting cabin. The “house” we got in place of the cabin was huge though, and in a nice Country Club area in Eastern Flag. It only took about 3 days for my wife and son to fall in love. We drove the roads near the peaks. We adventured around the Grand Canyon. We shot cans with BB Guns, and felt the cool breeze of Northern Arizona.
My wife always had a special place in her heart for Norther Arizona. We were married on the rim of the Grand Canyon after all, and had spent some of the best times in our life exploring around the Volcanic hills and hidden canyons. We all asked ourselves, “What the Hell are we doing with our lives”? and the answer only part way through our vacation had become, “We Are Moving to Flagstaff Arizona”!
We had prepared for years
I always had this vision of my life. I knew that I had experience in multiple fields. I didn’t just have experience in differing fields, I had degrees. I had worked in Audio, Promotions, Night Clubs, Marketing, Recording Studios, Touring Companies, Web Hosting, Domains, Web Development, Graphic Design, Web Design, and Writing and Copy Editing.
I had this vision that all of it would work together. When I first moved back up north I quite honestly thought it would be by working in Web and Music. I would meld the two into a hybrid company that would service – wait – I almost forgot – what am I even doing here – the music industry sucks – and musicians don’t have any money!
Let’s just say that wasn’t the way to go.
All the while I was spending time in the woods. Exploring the near by National Parks, and finding great camping spots way off the grid. I was taking pictures, and starting to get amazing compliments from Nature Photographers on Instagram. I was just a guy exploring around with an iPhone, but apparently people liked it.
I started getting more and more contacts and questions online. “Where is this hike”?, “Where should I stay when I visit Flagstaff”?, “What is the best campground near Zion”? I started to see that vision coming together.
Maybe, since I am already a bit of an expert, I can help others plan their trips. Maybe I can get people to go outdoors and experience some of the life changing things I have. Maybe I need to put all my skills together to share my love for EXPLORING!
I started slowly writing up hikes and trips, and building my presence online. I knew that my experience with the outdoors, especially the Grand Canyon would be helpful to people looking to Explore the American Southwest.
I created ExploringtheSouthwest.com, 21stSurvival.com, and NatParkExplorer.com all myself. I wrote, and loved it. I designed the sites and graphics and felt energized. I put together music and videos, and realized that I wasn’t only exploring, I was finally using all of my skills.
Suddenly, the Wild West Explorer was born, right back where Bear Gallagher Cole was born so many years earlier, in the wilderness and trees of the Wild Wild West.