Photographer

Billy Bowling

Lebanon, Va.

Specializing in landscape photography, Billy Bowling is always outside capturing the diversity and underrated beauty of the Southeast, particularly in his home state of Virginia.

FINALISTS

Sarah Rhulen, N.C.

Sam Dean, Va.

Local/Regional Athlete

Ben King

Charlottesville, Va.

Originally heralding from central Virginia, professional cyclist Ben King now spends most of his time in Italy, where he’s training as a member of the prestigious Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. In the under-23 division, King crushed the competition at the 2010 USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships and the 2010 Pan-American Time Trial and Road Championships, which he won.

FINALISTS

Gordon Wadsworth, Va.

Travis Pietila, Va.

Raft Guide

Will Norris

Nantahala Outdoor Center, N.C.

Will Norris isn’t just a raft guide. He’s a kayaker, canoeist, standup paddleboarder and rower, too. For the past 17 years, Norris has been facilitating downriver experiences for locals and out-of-towners alike, and as a Rescue 3 International swift water instructor, he prides himself on safety first, and fun times second.

FINALISTS

Alisa Hudgel, ACE Adventure Resort

Sexy Tony, New and Gauley River Adventures

Climbing Guide

Deb Simon

Hard Rock Climbing, Fayetteville, W.Va.

Deb Simon’s passion might be rock climbing, first, but with that love comes an even deeper appreciation for wilderness medicine. Last year, both Deb and her husband Bryan, who are co-founders of Vertical Medicine Resources, became the first nurses ever to receive a Master’s degree in Mountain Medicine, and their co-written climbing and wilderness first aid guidebook Vertical Aid has quickly become a standard of excellence in the climbing industry.

FINALISTS

Grant Price, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Karsten Delap, Fox Mountain Guides

Fly Fishing Guide

Eugene Shuler

Fly Fishing the Smokies

Born and raised in the Smoky Mountains, Eugene Shuler was destined to be an angler. As a third generation guide, a love of regional rivers and tailwaters runs thick in his blood and is obvious in his many leadership roles—he’s a United States Coast Guard Captain, a certified fly fishing instructor from New York’s prestigious Wulff School of Fly Fishing, and the founder and president of the North Carolina Fly Fishing Team’s Board of Directors (which has won more tournaments than any other fly fishing team in North America).

FINALISTS

Ken Kastorff, Endless River Adventures

Patrick Sessoms, Due South Outfitters

A.T. Thru Hiker

Bekah, Derrick, and Ellie Quirin

Roanoke, Va.

Bekah and Derrick Quirin always dreamed of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, so when they were blessed with the birth of their first child, Ellie, they decided not to let that dream pass them by. In September 2017, the Quirin family, whose trail names are Kanga (Bekah), Roo (Ellie), and Sherpa (Derrick), completed a flip-flop thru-hike of the white blaze with their then-one-year-old daughter, poopy diapers and all.

FINALISTS

Jennifer Pharr Davis, N.C.

Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughey, Wash.

Inspiring Outdoor Personality

Megan Robinson

Roanoke, Va.

Megan Robinson is an equestrian first and foremost, but more than anything, she’s an advocate for moving bodies and open minds. Catch her at The Y in Roanoke, where she provides active outreach to youth and families.

FINALISTS

Thomas Mabry, Tenn.

Juliet Kastorff, N.C.

Outdoor Legend/Pioneer

Chip Chase

Canaan Valley, W.Va.

Foraging master, shot ski aficionado, dancing machine, Chip Chase brings the party wherever he goes. Ullr reincarnate, Chase is happiest when the snow is falling on his magical kingdom, aka White Grass Ski Touring Center, and the shine is flowing freely (just don’t ski through his parking lot, people).

FINALISTS

Ken Kastorff, N.C.

Mike Fischesser, N.C.

The Power of Adventuring as a Family

Appalachian Trail record holder Jennifer Pharr Davis and her husband Brew have taken backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail and hiked in all 50 states with their first-born daughter, Charley. But it wasn’t until her most recent thru-hike of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, during which she raised awareness and advocated for continued support of the trail, that she finally started to see the effect that time in the outdoors was having on her children.

“It’s hard to get Charley to do chores and pick up her room. She’s four, and turned five while we were on the trail. But one day during the hike, she was going along the beach picking up trash. I hadn’t asked her to do anything, so when I asked her why she was doing it, she said, ‘I’m saving the turtles.’ She had just visited a sea turtle rehabilitation and rescue center, and had learned the connection between pollution and human impact and the environment and was putting it into practice.”

For Bekah and Derrick Quirin, thru hiking the Appalachian Trail with their one-year-old girl Ellie presented not only the opportunity for their daughter to be steeped in the natural world that first brought the Roanoke, Va., couple together, but also the chance to witness some of her most formative months.

“When Derrick was working full-time and he would come home, he would get bummed that he didn’t get to see Ellie’s milestones firsthand,” says Bekah. “It was really awesome to have him right there when she took her first steps on the trail or started saying ‘Daddy.’ From my perspective, seeing his face light up when she would do those things was a really big deal.”

Of course, all of that is not to say that adventuring, on any scale, with a young family is easy. Jennifer Pharr Davis’ husband Brew struggled being a “stay-at-home-dad without the home,” while he and their two children (both under the age of five at the time) followed and often hiked with Pharr Davis on her Mountains-to-Sea Trail thru hike. And though Pharr Davis does not have any intentions of hiking another long-distance trail in the near future, she’s okay with it, so long as she can continue to show her children the lessons the outdoors can offer.

“We were out there for three months and three days. There were highs and lows and at the end, we came out closer as a family,” she says. “We like to paint a really rosy picture of adventure and talk about the highlights, but getting through the low points and staying committed to the team is also really important.”

For families curious about what it takes to get kids adventuring, Bekah Quirin, who regularly leads Hike It Baby hikes in Roanoke, says to start small on greenways and local parks and build up a solid set of backcountry skills before introducing a young child into the mix.

“The books will tell you to stick to a schedule, but that’s not realistic for an adventuring family,” says Bekah. “If you want a flexible baby, you have to raise a flexible baby.”

Pizza

Pies & Pints

Multiple locations in Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginia

What began in 2003 as a one-room pizza shop for Fayetteville, West Virginia’s raft guides has now grown into one of the region’s top dining destinations. The restaurant’s gourmet pizza options (think grape and gorgonzola) paired with top-notch artisanal beer from around the world makes for the perfect post-adventure meal.

FINALISTS

Blue Mountain Brewery, Va.

Hill and Hollar, W.Va.

Burger

Secret Sandwich Society

Fayetteville, W.Va., and Richmond, Va.

The Society’s burgers are of the stick-to-your-ribs variety, the perfect refuel after a hard day on the rock or trail. We like the Eagle for its savory combination of seared mortadella, roasted garlic mayo, pickles, and a pile of crispy onions, all topped off with an over-easy egg. Trust us on this one.

Secret Sandwich Society

FINALISTS

Citizen Burger Bar, Va.

Jim’s Drive In, W.Va.