We give the Mountain pulpit to: Stacy Bare, director of Sierra Club Mission Outdoors.
I sat in an airport recently, duded up in the only suit I own. A kid sat down next to me and promptly asked if I was a secret agent. And if I was, he continued, when did they start allowing secret agents to grow beards? I hated to disappoint the little fellow, but I looked him square in the eye and told him, “I. Am. Not. A. Secret. Agent.” He wasn’t surprised I couldn’t tell him the truth. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I could be a secret agent for the outdoors.
In my disguise—the suit—I’d sneak into boardrooms and cubicle farms unnoticed. Once inside, I would distribute comfortable shoes, hats, and sunscreen, then lead people to the freedom of nature gone unnoticed in their cities and hometowns. As we rode cruiser bikes, I’d point out the different species of flowers and trees that populate the edges of sidewalks and parking lots. I’d explain that even a tuft of grass is wilderness reaching out to say hello.
Alas, “I. Am. Not. A. Secret. Agent.” I am just another bearded guy more comfortable in plaid than blazer blue. But I am the Director of the Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors program. We are the “explore and enjoy” arm of the Sierra Club, tasked with building stronger, healthier communities by connecting people with nature. The only bearded outdoor secret agent I know of was the Sierra Club’s founder, John Muir. His vision was, “To climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” and he used his two feet and a walking stick to do just that.
If Muir were around today, I think he’d be more of a multisport guy. Imagine his long beard flowing behind him on a mountain bike or catching chalk dust on a climb. I think he would see mountain bikers, trail runners, rock climbers, hikers, birders, and picnicking families as equals in our outdoor ecosystem. Agent Muir would advocate for outdoor recreation to be done in a way that protected trails from erosion and trees from unnecessary scarring.
Mission Outdoors does exactly that. Every day across the U.S., people get outside for the first time or the thousandth through our programs. Chances are, one of our nearly 500 outings groups meets within a few miles of your front door. Fifty-two of the groups are in cities empowering urban young people to get outside. Many of our programs support military families and veterans (like me) to show them the healing power of the physical country they fought to protect.
We offer programs dedicated to young adults, singles, couples, senior citizens, and the LGBTQ community. And just because the Sierra Club is 120 years old doesn’t mean we’re all about slow hiking with gorp. Mission Outdoors includes mountaineering, rafting, ski touring, service projects, and anything else you do under the sun, moon, clouds, rain, or snow. More than 250,000 people get outside with the Sierra Club each year. And most of those people are new to the outdoors. Which is why we need people like you to get involved and connect.
We don’t have a secret agent program to infiltrate the communities that need an outdoor intervention the most. Perhaps we’ll start one soon. But then again, I wouldn’t tell you if we did.