How the Boulder adventure lure sets its hook

How Boulder caught one adventurer

By Paul Hagey Jun 4 2020

Nestled among the mountains with easy access to a world-class airport in DIA, Boulder attracts adventurers of all stripes. In the middle of the Front Range, it also serves as a gateway to the broader Rockies — a basecamp for adventure.

A story told probably 10,000 times, likely more, Nate Dodge graduated from college, packed up his gear and his diploma and decamped from Chicago, making his way to Boulder in 2018 for a life and career in adventure.

Nate on the summit of Mount Ranier

The Boulder line cast its first throw five years ago when he and his dad helped his sister move out to the Denver area. After unloading his sister’s stuff from the moving truck, Nate’s dad dropped him off on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake and Nate took off from the Tonahutu Trailhead with a flyfishing rod and a backpack.

It was his first backpacking trip and the first time flyfishing. He angled for alpine trout and camped for four days along the Tonahutu, eventually summiting flattop Mountain and then completing a loop back to Grand Lake where his father picked him up.

He caught fish and a fever Boulder seizes upon many — the mountains branded him.

Mountains calling

With the hook firmly set, when Nate finished school with a degree in computer science in 2018, he decided to move out and pursue a career in adventure media, even though he had no connections and very little portfolio.

“I moved here because I loved the mountains,” Nate says. “And for the huge opportunity to film and work for the clients I wanted to work with.”

When he moved to Boulder two years ago, Nate had no career connections. He planned to build a portfolio by getting shooting in and around Boulder and doing free or trade work for various brands. He found some work as a luxury real estate videographer, which helped stabilize his income and allowed him to continue building his adventure media bona fides.

“It really helps living in a location where everything looks good on camera,” Nate says. When speccing projects, he’ll often travel just outside of Boulder to develop and pitch a concept.

Slowly his adventure work has picked up. He has worked on campaigns for portable power company Jackery. He also has worked with iconic mountaineering brand RMI Expeditions by winning a Backpacker Magazine contest — he met some RMI Expeditions reps in the process and they ended up liking his work and hired him for a project.

Still working as a full-time adventure freelance photographer and videographer he has begun talking with several local media colleagues about developing an agency.

Paul Hagey

Paul Hagey is BLDRfly’s founder and editor. When not wrangling video, audio and words in the name of story, he’s riding his mountain bike, trail running and hanging with his awesome wife Jen and their young daughter.