Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Life of an Outdoorsman is the Life for Me

He stands six feet and two inches tall, has a thick white beard which obscures most of his face, and wears a lucky bear claw around his neck at all times. Tom Stienstra epitomizes the great outdoors, something he has been writing about for more than a quarter of a century. His passion and enthusiasm for wildlife has led to a career as an outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, a job as the host of a TV show, 12 books on outdoor adventuring, and almost 100 awards for his various writings.

Tom loves the outdoors. He spends more time enjoying nature and wildlife than he does actually working. He has hiked more than 25,000 miles and visited almost 100 lakes. He has boated across most of the California coastline and has caught world-record fish. Recently he has averaged 180 adventures per year and has no plans to slow down. His life is nature.

When he was nearly 20 years old, Tom tried out for the Oakland A’s. He had been playing baseball for most of his life. He was really good, but according to the A’s coach, not good enough. His dreams were crushed. Tom became a sports writer for a local newspaper at the time, but something about it wasn’t quite right. He was beginning to feel that he had more passion for baseball than the players did.

“I was covering the Oakland Raiders and, I remember that moment where there were 60,000 fans in need of a hike, and 22 guys out there in need of a rest.”

He didn’t want to be on the sidelines of his writing career anymore. He wanted to take place in the action that he was writing about. He wanted to be a wildlife adventurer, so he quit his job at the paper after the season was over. He grabbed his backpack, his guitar and his dog and hit the road. Soon, he was selling his articles to the San Francisco Examiner, and after a rough road to the top, he finally got his gig. The previous outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Ed Neal, was retiring and they offered the job to Tom.

“People say, ‘How did you ever create a life like you’ve got?’ And the answer is, I refuse to do anything else.”

He has spent almost every day of his life since then working to capture the majesty of the wildlife experience. His love and devotion to nature, especially in Northern California, shows through with every word he writes. He says that he truly feels that his life is blessed because he gets to spend so much of his time reveling in the outdoors.

“Being in the outdoors is the most humbling thing there is, and to be in the greatness of it, we’re just lucky to be surrounded by it and to take in all the five senses that are out there.”

In 2005, Tom was offered a job as a TV host for San Francisco’s CBS station for his own outdoor adventure show called, The Great Outdoors with Tom Stienstra. The show did so well that it was picked up by other CBS affiliates, including Sacramento’s CW-31, where it faired even better for ratings. In 2007, the show has over 600,00 viewers and plays every week on three different CBS-affiliated channels.

Today, Tom is doing exactly what he wants to do. He lives everyday to the fullest and never takes advantage of his time. He is always planning adventures in order to take in the wildlife, even if it’s just for a few hours.

“Always have a place to go to as a refuge where you can find what I call ‘A power of place’ and all of the other stuff that happens along the way- the fish, the wildlife, the weather-that is the unexpected and what makes it a fortune hunt.”


Michael J. Fitzgerald said...

This guy sounds like quite a character - pretty thorough look at him with only one piece missing to put him in perspective.

It has to do with this piece of info about him:

'When he was nearly 20 years old, Tom tried out for the Oakland A’s. '

How old is he? And what year did he actually start with the Examiner articles...?

Tom's one of my favorite outdoor writers, probably because his love of the outdoors comes thru in all his writing.

Didn't he face a really serious disease some years ago? Perhaps I have him confused with another columnist...

The column makes me want to get up from this computer and get outside in the fresh air...

Anonymous said...

how awesome - i can only hope that i end up writing about what i love for my profession too.