Julie Stonefelt and Kevin Mack have a collective 42 years of experience speaking to a wide variety of groups on many topics. Their specialties are natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest through their adventures finding lost places. They are available for interviews, educational seminars, school visits, conferences, meetings, and special events.
In Kevin's professional capacity as a wildlife biologist, he frequently led birding field trips and gave multi-media presentations on wildlife. Kevin has also appeared in newspapers, and on multiple TV and radio networks. In Julie's professional capacity as park ranger, she regularly gives tours and presentations on watersheds, nature, and history of the region. She has worked with groups ranging from Seattle fourth graders to government delegates from South Korea.
Kevin Mack is an internationally respected naturalist, photographer, and wildlife expert.
Kevin has put transmitters on seabirds off the coast of Chile and raised orphaned black bears in Washington state. Kevin walks up the peaks in the Cascade Mountains and explores the dark tunnels of lost mines for Exploring History in your Hiking Boots.
During family trips to National Parks from their home in the Midwest, Kevin developed a sense of wonder for the diversity of the natural world at a young age. After earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University, he headed west. Kevin spent 20 years working professionally with injured and orphaned wild animals in Western Washington. Now as a humane law enforcement officer he spends his days protecting the people and animals of Seattle.
Julie Stonefelt is respected naturalist, speaker, and historian.
Julie has led inner-city kids on their first trip into the mountains and nursed Turkey Vultures back to health. Julie wanders archives in search of forgotten history and then sets out to find them for Exploring History in your Hiking Boots.
Developing a love of nature as a young child along the shores of Puget Sound, Julie went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree at the Evergreen State College. She has spent 20 years working as a wildlife rehabiltator, humane education, and park ranger. She is the Senior Public Education Specialist at the Cedar River Municipal Watershed, the primary source of Seattle's drinking water since 1901.
Exploring History in your Hiking Boots is a blend of historical research and good old fashioned exploring. Founded in 2014, project co-creators Julie Stonefelt and Kevin Mack apply their years of professional work in natural and cultural history to this project. Since they both have jobs in high-traffic natural environments, they were looking for more solitude on their days off. So they started looking in the nooks and crannies of local human history for stories hidden in the landscape. Much to their dismay they found most human history had been lost to time. Yet a few place-names tantalized them to look deeper.
After a several months of scraping together fragments of information, they set out on their first adventures. They made many mistakes and learned a lot from their early explorations. They also lamented the lack of a well-organized resource that balanced history with practical needs such as trail maps. That's when Julie and Kevin realized it was up to them to create the resource they wished existed. Exploring History in your Hiking Boots was born.
Julie and Kevin have developed a model that provides the practical elements of a hiking guide with the depth of a historical museum and the real-world experience of a blog. They are quickly becoming recognized for their growing expertise and inclusiveness of all individuals and fitness levels.
As much as their busy professional schedules allow, Julie and Kevin continue to follow the path in search of lost history, bringing the best finds to their readership.
Sample Q & A
Kevin is From Des Moines, Iowa. Julie’s childhood was divided between Kirkland and Whidbey Island, Washington. We now live in West Seattle, Washington.
Where you from? Where do you live now?
We first met during a seabird crisis in 1998. We fell in love while returning a once-injured Bald Eagle back to the wild. We became a couple in 2002, and were married in 2006. Since we both have established careers and respect our heritage, we kept our last names.
How did you meet?
At one point our schedules were such that we only had 1 day off each week together. We decided to make the most of that time and find some fun new places to hike. We wanted quiet places away from the crowds, since our jobs frequently put us in those environments. We love ghost towns and abandoned places, so we started looking for places like that. We had a tough time finding solid information, which led to a couple of “bad trips” and a lot of complaining. Then we realized instead of just complaining, we could do something about it. So we started Exploring History in your Hiking Boots.
Where did you get the idea for this project?
Our first inspiration was to be the resource we wished already existed – a well organized place where the best elements of a hiking book, historical museum, and blog meet.
As we’ve learned more, we are also inspired by the people who lived and worked in rugged places. We want to keep alive the stories of these places, and the people who made.
Fellow adventurers, such as Ghost Towns of Washington and Northwest Underground Explorers, also inspire us. It’s really cool to find others who have the same dedication and respect for this thing we do, and have become experts one aspect or another.
What is your inspiration for the project?
If you are a curious explorer, then there is no doubt this website is for you! We’ve put together everything you need to get out there and find these places.
What has surprised us is how many people have told us they just like reading our Field notes (those are on the website) and our Trip Reports (posted to Facebook). Many people don’t have the time or ability to get out on their own, but they like following our adventures and knowing these places still exist.
Why should someone check out this project?
Our audience is so much wider than we expected. We’ve got teenagers getting their parents to take them to these places. We’ve also got seniors telling us about visiting these places 30 years ago. It’s totally awesome to see that just about anybody who likes history, nature, and exploration feels connected to our project.
Who will like this project?
This is the best part! When researching sites, we come across the mention of others. They are like little threads. We follow one, and then another appears. We always have a big wish list of places to visit
How do you find the places you visit?
Our process starts with lots of research before we even leave the house. We find as much documentation on a location as possible. This often involves looking at BLM maps that are 100+ years old and asking around to see if anyone else we know has visited the site.
Armed with as much info as possible, we grab our gear and head into the field. Along the way we document our trip, which never goes exactly as planned! Sometimes we have to visit an area more than once to find our goal.
Then back at we divvy up the post-adventure tasks: processing photos, contacting local historical societies, organizing our research, drawing maps, writing text, etc…
Once all that is done, which usually takes 1 – 3 weeks, we post updates to our Facebook page, and eventually to our website.
What is your process for publishing a location to your website?
We never set out to be mine explorers. But when we began this project we discovered that mining was an important part of this regions’ history. It was a shocking discovery that has been nearly overlooked. Unfortunately in Western Washington, nearly all the structures have been destroyed by time, moisture and logging. We feel it's important to tell the story of early miners. Plus, they are just really cool.
Why do you visit so many mines?
No we don’t. We just don’t have the time, and in some areas it is not allowed. However, Julie guides tours of Seattle's Watersheds, including the ghost town of Taylor. Learn more at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center >
Do you do guided tours or group hikes?
Exploring History in your Hiking Boots takes up nearly every free minute we have! When we are not working on the project, or at work, we can usually be found on the couch with our cats watching movies or playing video games.
What do you do for fun?
Yes! Safety always comes first. Always. So make sure you’ve read every word under “Adventuring 101” at Exploring History in your Hiking Boots. When you get back, tell us all about it on our Facebook page or send us an email!
Do you have any advice for people setting out on their own adventures?