Team Dirk and Danielle: Backpacker National Park Scouts

Earlier this year, adventure junkie and National Geographic Germany explorer Dirk Rohrbach and I applied as a team for Backpacker magazine’s job of National Park Scouts, noted as the “Best Job Ever” in the initial job announcement. The application asked for a link to my portfolio, but to share more background on the two of us, I linked to a (now-deleted) page with the below content instead. The job went to another great team, but Dirk and I each have big plans for new adventures this year. Stay tuned :).

Oh good, you found our page full of extra information on Team Dirk and Danielle. How clever/resourceful/sneaky of us :). If you just want to review some of my published work like you probably thought you’d find when you clicked on this link, click on “Clips” at the top of this page. But if you have a few minutes, Dirk Rohrbach and I wanted to take the opportunity to further detail our qualifications for this position and explain why we would make the best team of National Park Scouts for the Best Job Ever (uh, yeah — we agree).

Dirk Rohrbach

Dirk Rohrbach

Dr. Dirk Rohrbach
Once upon a time, in a land far far away (Germany), Dirk had a life as a physician and a radio journalist (no, really). However, the deep-seated need for new adventures, specifically throughout America’s wilder landscapes, pulled him across the Atlantic more than 25 years ago. Since then, he has trekked all across his adopted country, often traveling long distances under his own power, to explore its popular natural attractions as well as its hidden corners. During his journeys, he uses his gift for connecting with the people he meets to learn their stories and truly get to the heart of the places he explores.

In 2004, Dirk rode his bike on a 180-day circumnavigational course around the lower 48 contiguous United States. Running out of water in the Mojave Desert, getting picked up by Border Patrol in western Texas, and finding work as an elementary school teacher in Indiana, he had to rely on the kindness of strangers to complete his journey, an experience that really enhanced his overall adventure. In 2010, he traveled to the headwaters of the Yukon River, handcrafted a traditional birch bark canoe, and then paddled it 2,000 miles down the Yukon all the way to the Bering Sea. Using his boat as a conversation starter with curious people he met on the river’s shores, this voyage gave him the rare opportunity to get to know people far off the beaten paths that other travelers take. Then in 2013, Dirk again saddled his bicycle and pedaled from New York to Los Angeles in an effort to explore some of the middle states he missed on his previous perimeter tour. (He’s sorry for the untranslated German in these links. We’ll work on him.)

Following each of these epic journeys, Dirk created multimedia productions with National Geographic using photos, video, and audio gathered during his travels, which he has shared with more than 100,000 people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland through live presentations. Also with National Geographic, he has published several successful books based on his travels. Americana is based on the adventures he found during his 2004 circumnavigational tour of the U.S., and Highway Junkie shares insight into his cross-country ride in 2013. Yukon, published in 2011 and the most successful of the three, is currently in its 6th edition. This fall, a five-part documentary on Dirk’s Yukon voyage will air on Franco-German TV.

Here are two other shameless plugs for videos by TATONKA Expedition Life and Canon Europe that help showcase why Dirk would be awesome as a Backpacker National Park Scout. But if you need more convincing, please know that he’s currently bombing around Colorado on a 200-mile mountain bike journey, in part so he can shoot some video but mostly just for the heck of it. I don’t think he realizes he’s 47 years old.

Danielle Taylor

Danielle Taylor

(not a Dr.) Danielle Taylor
Since I was about 16, I’ve been working on building a career that combines my writing and editing skills with my passion for travel and outdoor adventure, so clearly this National Park Scout job would be perfect for me. But I’ll tell you about me so you’ll see why I would be the perfect other half of the team you pick for this job.

My professional journey began at the University of Maryland, which I chose because of its strong programs that could equip me both with the writing skills I would need to excel as a journalist as well as the outdoor knowledge that would give me the expertise to cover my intended fields. While there, I triple majored in magazine journalism, English and human geography (no, it’s not a PC term for anatomy — it’s the study of how people interact with their environments). At the beginning of my sophomore year, I also took a job at UMD’s Outdoor Recreation Center. Over the next four years, my job there would include positions as an adventure trip leader, gear mechanic, climbing wall supervisor, desk staff member, and rental equipment manager, and I loved absolutely every minute of it.

All kidding aside, the phone call that made me write this tweet really made me feel like my skills and abilities made a difference.

All kidding aside, the phone call that led me to write this tweet really made me feel like my work makes a difference.

During the summers, I took internships to help me learn how to apply the knowledge I was absorbing to the real world of journalism. I actually applied for an internship at Backpacker in 2007. No dice. Oh well. I’m pretty much over it by now.

In spring 2008, I left the U.S. for three and a half months to study abroad with Semester at Sea, and I spent the term completely circumnavigating the globe. During my journey, I hiked for four days in a national park in Brazil’s diamond highlands, summited the third-highest mountain on the island of Mauritius, ran into a journalism school buddy on assignment in the middle of a Costa Rican cloud forest, and learned how to surf on Hawaii’s North Shore. On board between ports, I took five classes including Writing the Short Screenplay, Global Change, and American Transcendentalism and Eastern Thought. I also kept a near-daily blog of my voyage, which is no longer online, but I hope to publish it as a book one day.

When I graduated from college in 2009, I bought a cap for the back of my dad’s truck, threw a mattress and a camp stove in the bed, and headed west with my dog along for the ride. Sleeping in the back of the truck every night and blogging from the road, we visited unforgettable national parks and monuments like Yellowstone, the Tetons, Devil’s Tower and the Badlands, plus a bunch of cool out-of-the-way spots. Although my furry sidekick helped open up a lot of people to talk with me, which I loved, he limited how far out I could legally explore on a lot of public lands. Due to an emergency back home, I had to cut the trip short before I got to the Southwest, and I’ve been making plans to go back ever since.

I can work Twitter Analytics to engage followers. My best month so far on @D_R_Taylor generated more than 20,400 impressions.

I can work Twitter Analytics to engage followers. My best month so far on @D_R_Taylor generated more than 20,400 impressions, and my best month on @ParksRecMag earned more than 16,300.

Since then, I spent two and a half years working as an assistant editor and then associate editor on Log Home Living, Timber Home Living and Country’s Best Cabins magazines with AIM’s Home Buyer Publications (Sara Brown, Roland Sweet, and Mark Sorenson will probably even say nice things about me). When an associate editor position opened up at the National Recreation and Park Association’s Parks & Recreation magazine, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been there for almost three years and have since been promoted to senior editor and then executive editor. These full-time experiences have given me a lot of great skills I could use as a Backpacker National Park Scout, like professional Twitter account management, HTML know-how, the ability to constantly conceive new article ideas, and the perspective to assign things to freelancers (seeing things from both sides of the desk definitely helps me in each role). Also, covering American parks for nearly three years has obviously primed me for a job in which I’d get to explore them in person and share those adventures.

Outside of work, I’ve maintained a Twitter account of my own, and I also joined the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group to get outdoors, help find lost people in need of search and rescue, and learn or improve outdoor skills like wilderness survival, land navigation, and lots and lots of knots. I also obviously get outside on non-SAR adventures as often as possible, although I can’t claim to have biked around an entire country.

I'm sort of a groupie for the National Park Service.

I’m sort of a groupie for the National Park Service.

Team Dirk and Danielle
We met in South Dakota in fall 2014 while we were both traveling there to conduct research and gather content for separate projects. It was a fun trip — randomly, I got to be an impromptu guest on a radio show while visiting Custer State Park for the Buffalo Roundup, and he shot hundreds of photos ranging from a brilliant sunrise in the Badlands to a cigarette-smoking jackalope at Wall Drug.

Over the course of a week, we got along easily and bonded over our obvious mutual interests, and we parted not knowing if our paths would ever cross again. However, when this National Park Scouts job was initially posted, I knew our experiences, skill sets, and personalities would complement each other perfectly as a team. I’m thrilled he agreed, and we’ve spent the last few months checking on the job announcement and waiting for the application to open up.

As National Park Scouts, we would bring different qualifications to the job that would allow us to connect with a wide range of the people we’d meet as well as Backpacker’s audience. He’s a 47-year-old guy originally from Germany, and I’m a 29-year-old gal born and raised in the U.S. of A. His storytelling media are primarily photography, videography, audio, and in-person presentations, whereas my skills have always lain more with the written word through magazine articles, blog entries, and social media. He’s traveled extensively across North America, and I’ll see much of it with fresh eyes. His hair usually looks like this, while mine has been known to look like this. We have different backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets, but we’ve both dedicated our lives to sharing the glory of the natural world and telling the stories of the people who interact with it. We’re also both adventurous souls who jumped at this job prospect and have discussed it extensively since it was first announced in January. We’re friendly, funny, professional storytellers with a deep passion for the outdoors, and we excel in all of the qualifications you’re looking for in the people you’ll hire for this job. Also, he speaks German. So there’s that.

If you haven’t already seen our 15-second videos, click on our names to see Dirk’s and Danielle’s. Aside from the images showing us, we each took all of the photos showing in our respective videos.

As you consider our eligibility for this job, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by writer Edward Abbey:

“A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches — that is the right and privilege of any free American.”

We’ll try not to get ourselves into too much trouble, but we honestly wouldn’t mind getting lost or stranded or missing a shower or two in pursuit of adventure — and we actually think any of those experiences could make for a great story.

Dirk and Danielle, shooting Mount Rushmore at sunrise. Credit: Connie Reed (www.midwestwanderer.com)

Dirk and Danielle, shooting Mount Rushmore at sunrise. Credit: Connie Reed (www.midwestwanderer.com)

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Categories: Adventure, Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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