When you think of the word “adventure,” what comes to mind?

About five years ago, my perception of what entailed “adventure” was skewed, at best. I thought of Ernest Shackleton trekking across the frozen plains of Antarctica, of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquering Everest, of Colonel Percy Fawcett disappearing into the dark folds of the Amazon rainforest, never to be seen again. I thought of grizzled old men (and the few bold ladies) delving into uncharted territory, the blank spots on the map, often sacrificing their lives so that a faint line could be scribbled where a river flowed.

But then I learned to kayak.

I didn’t go to any of the numerous kayaking schools that exist in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. I never met a professional kayaker, never aspired to be one. I took a kayaking course in my early college years, bought a boat, drove to Indiana in the middle of the night to pick it up, and largely learned by trial and error (aka swimming).

And the people that I paddled with? They were office supply managers and land surveyors. English teachers and math gurus. They held 9-5s, maybe had a family, a dog, a couple cats, a house with a mortgage, a car with a payment, garbage that needed taking out. They had responsibilities, other worlds, even.

But they were and are my heroes.

To balance the demands of everyday life and still make time to paddle class IV on the weekends or check off another 5.10 route or even crank out a 50K takes an incredible amount of dedication, commitment, and most importantly, passion.

We often call these people “weekend warriors,” and while I essentially dedicated my entire college honors thesis to the weekend warrior, I will forego naming these heroes as such and will, instead, deem them our “backyard badasses.”

In celebration of the magazine’s 20th anniversary, we are giving special attention to our dedicated fans and readers who have been with us every step of the way. While our magazine will always provide exclusive interviews that showcase the region’s top-end athletes, we all agree that it’s due time we paid homage to the everyday heroes, the gals and guys out there who don’t huck waterfalls or shred singletrack for a living, but still set aside time and energy to go outside and play.

Each month, we will highlight a different reader from each of the 10 states we cover — Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. We ask our readers to help us find their home state’s “backyard badass” by submitting the nominee’s name, hometown, age, contact information, and a short 3-5 sentence blurb on what makes them a hero.

They can be waitress by day, environmental activist by night. They can be kayaking lawyers and ultrarunning single parents. Whoever inspires you, in whatever discipline, and at whatever level, let us know! We want to share their inspirational stories with our readers and pay tribute to the people that are making a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others right here in our backyard.

Drop us a line at submit@blueridgeoutdoors.com. Let’s talk. We’re here to listen.

You can also submit suggestions through our various social media handles by using the hashtag #backyardbadass. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date!