More about Matt

posted May 10, 2016, 12:26 PM by Matt Kearns
Few people are more passionate about West Virginia than I am. If it comes to a debate, I'll usually just pull up my sleeve and show off my "montani semper liberi" tattoo - the West Virginia state motto meaning "Mountaineers are Always Free." I love West Virginia! 

I grew up in Charleston but left the Mountain State in 2005 to join the US Coast Guard. I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2009 and then served five years on active duty. I specialized in law enforcement, first chasing drug runners and then leading a maritime security tactical team. 

My units were based in the Pacific Northwest and I spent most of my free time learning to climb big mountains. I ultimately left the Coast Guard to pursue a career in the outdoors, road tripping across the country for climbing, hiking, and paddling. My mountaineering adventures culminated in a trip deep in the Alaskan wilderness to summit a previously unclimbed mountain. Around that same time I was introduced to expedition-style paddling, canoeing north to the Arctic Ocean. 

In 2015 I took a course with the National Outdoor Leadership School, hoping to become a guide and instructor. It was there on a whitewater trip down a tributary of the Colorado River that I met Adam. We bonded over our shared love for Appalachia and started planning future trips back east. Overall, the course was fantastic but I realized that I had finally spent enough time away from home. I wanted to put down roots in West Virginia and work to create something lasting. 

Maybe it took me all 50 states to realize just how special West Virginia really is. It's the only place that has ever truly felt like home. I'm happy to be back, full of fresh perspective and open to the potential of our people and landscapes. I found that "something lasting" in the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument and am working hard to keep our state Wild and Wonderful. 

I hope the Elkspedition will help connect all West Virginians to the Birthplace of Rivers and become an exclamation point in the conversation about how to protect our headwaters for recreation, economic growth, and our drinking water.