Whimsy & Wilderness

A Colorado Adventure Blog

Why I Wild - Vol III

Baby’s first hike.

Baby’s first hike.

If I was asked to describe Nate Luebbe it would be a wizard with a camera. He could take a photo of a sand box, and it would come out resembling the Great Sand Dunes. He makes the rest of us muggles look bad. I first discovered his sorcery a year ago on Instagram. I was drawn to his aesthetic of dramatic landscapes, clever captions, and affinity for bears (more on that later). We eventually exchanged nerdy banter, and became fast friends. Nate is currently an ambassador for Sony Alpha, and a freelance photographer. We met Irl at a Be Alpha community meetup in Boulder. It included a catered lunch, gear to try, and a hike in Nederland. I was finally able bare witness to Nate in the wild, which coincidentally is his Instagram handle.


While discussing his youth (his first bath was in a Volkswagen bus at a national park), it’s easy to see why the moniker fits him. Born in Montana, and raised in Colorado, he was exploring summits before he could walk. For which he gratefully credits his nature loving parents. An early poignant memory? Salmon fishing, and catching one, on his tenth birthday in Alaska. His childhood is sprinkled with similar tales of enviable adventures. Not much appears to have changed, as he hasn’t stopped roaming the mountains on which he was raised. We sat down to chat about his passion for landscapes, wildlife, and grizzly encounters.

Nate in the wild.

Nate in the wild.

How would you describe your personality using an outdoor element? A sunrise. Because I’m generally very optimistic and bubbly, and a huge early bird.

What thus far has been your most memorable experience? The first time I saw the Northern Lights had a massive impact on me. I also I had an incredible day shooting Grizzlies in Alaska last year, which is my favorite thing in the world. But the first time I saw the Northern Lights was an incomparable experience. I’ll never forget the first 30 seconds I saw it. It felt as close to magic as you can get.

Have you every been in a situation in which you were scared? I’ve been so close to a grizzly I could touch its face. He was sitting on the side of the trail eating berries, and I had gotten up early to catch the sunrise. I rounded the corner, and thankfully he was super content chowing down. We locked eyes and I slowly backed away. But there’s always scary stuff outdoors, it’s the assumed risk.

Why do you wild? I just like it. {laughs} It’s peaceful. The world is beautiful, and it’s crazy we got to live on this out of all the trillion planets. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Finish this sentence, The wilderness is… Freedom. To tack on to it my favorite quote by William Shakespeare, “Now my soul hath elbow-room.” That’s pretty much how I feel out there.

What is the best advice Nature has given you? It reminds me how small I am. And that’s something I think is very important for people to keep in mind.

Speaking of advice, what tip would you offer to someone interested in exploring? Don’t get sucked into what’s popular, and go to where you want to go. If that’s discovering a town in Venezuela then do that or if it’s the North Pole do that. Everyone will have an opinion, and tell it to you.

What your favorite object to photograph? Bears. Sorry, I’m so one dimensional. {Laughing} Landscapes are my passion, it’s accessible. But I get SO excited about wildlife photography, because it’s not guaranteed. There’s no promises of seeing anything even if you know where to find them. You can’t stage the shot, it’s just really fun. It’s unpredictable. It’s not always about being good, sometimes it’s about being lucky.

What do you hope to project through your images? I try to project the experience. At any moment I want people to look at it, and imagine their favorite time outdoors. Landscape photography is my public face, but it’s probably only half of the photography I do. I do a lot of food photography , portraits, and downtown scenes for tourism boards. In those I try to capture the spirit of being in that place.

Since our meeting Nate was able to photograph more bears, this time Polar, in Manitoba, Canada. He’s also heading to Norway in February to co-lead a workshop on the bewitching Northern Lights. If you’re lucky enough to run into him in the wild, you’re in for a good laugh, and plenty of adventure.

You can follow Nate’s journey here, and see more of his stunning work here.


Why I Wild - Vol II

Foxy coffee found at  Bellwether  in Denver.

Foxy coffee found at Bellwether in Denver.

When I first met fellow Coloradoan Marisa Jarae it was by happenstance at a non-profit event we were both attending. We immediately hit it off after discovering our mutual passion for photography, and the outdoors. After exchanging social media info we realized we had a few photography friends in common, it’s a small world, especially in Denver. She’s happy to be here again, after some years spent in Florida. A far cry, and less humidity, from the sand to alpine, but it seems to fit her best, after all there’s no place like home. New friends bring fresh perspectives, and if you’re lucky, the sharing of adventures. When I contacted her regarding this series she was in the middle of co-founding a non-profit, and of course exploring. Her Instagram stories often show her gleefully ascending summits. I’m glad she found time to meet and trade a trailhead for a cafe, not as scenic, but at least more caffeinated. Marisa’s demeanor is cheerful, her interest genuine, and smiles often; almost as a visual punctuation to her sentences. Our conversation ranged from mountains to the mundane, but spoken with equal zest for both. Her stories are drawn with curiosity, and highlighted with amusement. Her expressiveness may not translate into text ergo I encourage all to reach out and meet the delightful storyteller herself.

What was the catalyst for your love of adventure? Was it a trip? Or a general yearn for the outdoors?

The intensive outbound trip I took when I was 17. That was the trip I realized the shortness of life. It’s where I learned my brain was what was holding me back. This thought I had of I think I can’t therefore I didn’t, I learned to let that go. It solidified in my mind I have to keep doing this, because I realized how infinitely small yet infinitely big I am all at the same time.

What thus far has been your greatest outdoor adventure?

I think spending two years learning things from survival, to first aide, climbing techniques, etc, and having those abilities to help others.

Why do you wild?

Something about the mountains runs through me, it always has, that’s why it feels like home. I don’t know if the reason is genetics, or because my first memories were formed there. Mostly for the connection. I’ve been asking myself “why” a lot, and it changes. Ultimately, it’s a connection with this rock we are on, with the people I meet on trails. We all have this literal common ground, and common language of movement, which is hard to replicate in other places.

I loved her line “literal common ground”. This weaved into a beautiful conversation about how the one giant thing we all share is what unites us more than anything. This planet is OUR home, we share it, differences and all, and what better way to connect and learn from each other than by exploring it together.

What’s your next great adventure?

My photography and content creation. Also, a non-profit called Rising Routes, my partner Jason started it because he didn’t feel represented in the outdoors. There’s a lot of really amazing outdoor groups but a lot are homogeneous, and general, though they are needed for people to see themselves represented. The next step in the evolution of trying to close the adventure gap, and my hope is the bigger social gain in our country, is now these groups need to start talking. The goal of Rising Routes is to bring everyone together to create a neutral platform through which people can authentically engage with each other and build human relationships. Hopefully that’ll feed into areas outside of the outdoors.

Visit Rising Routes to join.

What’s the greatest advice Mother Nature has given you?

Be calm. Keep a quiet mind, because in the quietness you will discover your greatness.

Before we part we talk about the animals we see most out on the trails, she typically sees foxes, an animal with which she feels a connection. All too fitting since one found it’s way into my coffee cup (shown at the top), I’ll take it as a good sign.

You can follow Marisa’s journey here.

Into The Wilderness

I love a good hike, but when an expected 7 mile trek turns into 14 you start to regret not packing enough snacks. Luckily we had enough water, and sense of humor, to power through. This was in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, one of my favorite spots. You hit it all, snow, water, sun, and wildflowers. What more could you ask for? Oh, I know, snacks. 

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