Weston resident shares
tales of adventure
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – From stories of crocs and dogsledding to climbing the heights of Everest and Mt. Kilimanjaro, the good-natured Weston resident kept the audience rapt.
Explorer Richard Wiese was the highlight of the Aspetuck Land Trust’s (ALT) Annual Meeting, held Thursday evening at Southport’s Pequot Library. The event attracted a full house of Land Trust members, board members, volunteers and curious locals who came to enjoy a welcome reception, Board presentation on ALT’s activities and Wiese’s talk focused on his amazing adventures. Wiese also signed copies of his book “Born to Explore”, which provides skills, projects and information for budding explorers. Wine and lemonade was provided by Newman’s Own, courtesy of ALT board member Lissy Newman.
“We’re all about connecting people to land, which aligns well with Wiese’s book about exploring right in your own backyard,” said David Brant, ALT’s executive director, with regard to choosing the adventurer as the evening speaker.
“Richard has young children now, so his focus is changing to local pastures,” added Princie Falkenhagen, ALT board president. “I think he wants to instill the love of nature and exploration in his own family. ALT is also focusing on young children, the future stewards of our preserves, and offering programs like ‘Short Hikes for Short People.’ Parents need help counterbalancing technology overload with good, natural outdoor fun.”
Before Wiese launched into his tales, Falkenhagen thanked, in particular, fellow Board members for their various efforts, including getting the organization on Facebook and Twitter. “If you build it, they will come,” she said. “Our name is out there, our preserves are being used and our parking lots are suddenly full. Now we’re balancing the needs of the public with the mission of being stewards of the land.”
In terms of Trust business, Falkenhagen, Don Hyman, Jack Light and Ken Bernhard were all re-elected to the ALT Board for four-year terms, as Directors for Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport respectively, while Cynthia Williams was tapped as director at-large.
Wiese said he had selfish reasons for wanting ALT to do well. “As a local resident, I’m a user of the product, the product being the Land Trust,” he said. “I hike the trails with my kids, wife and friends. All winter, I skied Trout Brook Valley. I’d like people to look at the outdoors with new eyes, see that nature is nourishment and use it like they do gym time.”
Wiese stars in a new TV show, launching Sept. 3 on ABC, titled “Born to Explore”, like his book. “The goal is to awaken people’s innate curiosity about the outdoors,” he said. “There’s a cultural component to it as well, showing how people live in other parts of the world. I used to go on a lot of expeditions and what you think is going to be the most interesting moment – climbing a mountain, for instance – usually isn’t. It’s the people along the way.”
Wiese said his father was an early inspiration. “My dad was an airline pilot with Pan Am,” he said. “He introduced me to so many things. The first thing we always talked about was the weather. When I was 11, he took me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’ve since climbed it 18 times.”
When Wiese became president of the Explorers Club, he had the thrill of having a Boy Scout camp named after him. “I stayed in the camp and, in one of life’s ironies, got a case of chiggers on my rear end,” he laughed.
He noted that the North Pole was a highlight experience. “It was often 25 below and the ice was constantly shifting,” he said. “This, and the fact that the sun never set, would keep me awake at night.”
In the TV work Wiese does, he’s often asked to handle snakes. “I was raised in Long Island and we really didn’t have snakes,” he said, smiling.
“Alaska as an outdoor resource is fantastic,” Wiese said. “I had an opportunity to climb a mountain there that had never been climbed before. It’s neat to think about that.”
In terms of adventure value, he said the Everglades is best. “There are crocs and alligators living in the same place, and a wide variety of birds,” he said.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is likely Wiese’s favorite adventure. “It’s so novel and breathtaking,” he said. “It will be a tragedy when it loses its ice cap.”
As thrilling as his world adventures have been, Wiese said the Land Trust is a jewel worth noticing and preserving. “I get as excited seeing bobcat tracks in Devils Den as seeing a moose in Alaska,” he mused.
The Aspetuck Land Trust maintains 42 trails and 113 parcels of land across Weston, Easton, Fairfield and Westport, preserving open space for public benefit. For more information, visit: www.aspetucklandtrust.org