Mark spent his formative years growing up on Little Lee Creek, a remote and scenic area of the Ozark Mountains in eastern Oklahoma. His closest neighbor was an elder who lived half a mile away. She was a storyteller. One day she commented that she, and others before her, would live a long time through her stories…if people cared to listen and stand up for important things.
At the age of 12, Mark witnessed the destruction of the creek’s 25-mile long watershed from an industrial landfill. The polluted water negatively affected the rural population’s health. He participated in a state hearing to help raise awareness, but a solution was slow. The polluted creek was a defining moment in his life; he felt if more people could have quality outdoor experiences – become part of a place’s story – they might make better decisions when it came to protecting the land, air, and water.
In high school, he assisted with spelunking research that ultimately led to a cave being protected by The Nature Conservancy. As a young adult, he moved to California, where he managed an international youth hostel and organized natural history trips for visitors. Here he met his future wife who was traveling from overseas. During college, he focused on international and environmental studies where he completed preliminary research on Bair Island, which eventually led to some of these last remaining wetlands in the San Francisco Bay estuary being protected. After college, he worked in the technology sector as a project manager, event planner, and marketing consultant. While this work paid the bills, and he learned a great deal, he fed his love for the outdoors by leading hiking, kayaking, and backpacking trips so fellow tech employees could reconnect with their families while outside.
As a father, Mark championed kids being in nature. He founded GlyphGuy Backpacks and for ten years ran a garage-based business that provisioned outdoor youth programs with solidly made child-sized packs that were free of lead, mercury, and phthalates. This included providing 2,450 packs to National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program.
He also established relationships with 17 friend-of-the-park groups to develop outreach and fundraising strategies so funds could be generated for interpretive and visitor education services.
This energy for helping people to get outside was expressed with the moniker – let’s go exploring! – and he still celebrates that energy by including it in his website’s name.
Currently, Mark advances fundraising and program management for the Red Panda Network, a wildlife conservation non-profit committed to protecting red pandas through eco-tourism and the empowerment of local communities in Nepal. He also works as an interpretive guide and tour director for Road Scholar and other education-based groups that value inter-generational travel (grandparents and grandkids) experiences.
Mark lives in Eugene, Oregon, a quirky town that is somewhat northwest of normal. He is an avid hiker and enjoys backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail. He also loves to eat whole food plant-based meals. He is an advocate for slow tourism and walking-based explorations.
Mark holds a BA in International Relations. He is a Graduate of the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), a Wilderness First Responder (NOLS), and a Certified Interpretive Guide from the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). Mark is completing his Oregon Master Naturalist certificate from Oregon State University. He is a member of the Environmental Education Association of Oregon, Association for Experiential Education, and the North American Association for Environmental Education.
Mark encourages others to listen to stories, travel, and create their own understanding of a place.