Joy of Purpose: Finding meaning in the outdoors

  • Joy of Purpose: Finding meaning in the outdoors
    Joy of Purpose: Finding meaning in the outdoors

Buddha’s real name was Siddhartha, which means, “He who has found meaning in existence, and attained his goals.”

Steve Boyle of Ouray agrees being in the wilderness can teach you about life, and he enjoys introducing others to the outdoors and helping them find meaning in it. As the current president of the Ouray Trail Group board and a wildlife biologist, he’s had up-close, personal experience with this.

“It’s when people experience nature that they learn to care about it,” he said. “People may or may not experience a Buddha moment, but it opens that door.”

Since childhood, Steve has had a love affair with the outdoors. In college, he earned a degree in wildlife conservation. “Halfway through, I discovered I could earn a living doing what I truly felt passionate about. What a gift! Almost every dollar I ever earned was in this field,” he said.

Out of grad school, Steve first had a “cushy” government job, but quit to travel the world. When he returned, Steve started Bio Logic, a consulting firm focused on wildlife management, and also founded part of the Colorado West Land Trust. Steve ran Bio Logic like any business, trying to maximize net worth and profitability. His work included conducting environmental impact studies for oil exploration. What he enjoyed the most though, was studying wetlands protection and conservation planning. “It pays half as much, but I decided to be happy while working harder,” he said. “I used the profitable stuff to subsidize what was spiritually and emotionally fulfilling.”

Steve’s advice to those who want to build a professional future in wildlife conservation is to start with education. He earned the credentials to make himself employable — both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also had incredible mentors, and he advises others to seek them out. “Ask people to take you out to get handson experience,” he said. “Keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Observe and learn. You have to work hard, and you have to want it!”

In 2013, Steve sold Bio Logic, moved to Ouray County and started volunteering more. When Steve found the Ouray Trail Group, “I relived a second childhood.” Steve said, “There’s so much joy that people get out of our trail systems!"

Since moving to western Colorado, Boyle has been on the Bureau of Land Management Citizens Advisory Committee, worked with the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area among other conservation-related roles. But the trails group has provided a place for him to connect with others, make a difference locally and practice stewardship.

“If people don’t work for conservation, there won’t be anything left to conserve,” he said.

The trails group includes participants from all kinds of backgrounds, who share the work of preserving, protecting and maintaining the trails in Ouray County for a variety of users. The all-volunteer nonprofit, formed in 1986, also takes charge of coordinating trail maintenance work, keeping routes safe along the 84 mapped trails in the county.

It’s a big job — and increased demand for recreation in the region is changing the role of the trails group.

“Recreation is exploding,” he said. The sign-ins at the trailhead registers show from 2010 to now there has been a steady increase, with approximately io percent annual growth in usage.

“This forecasts looming consequences,” he said. “Blue Lakes has become wildly popular. Some areas may even be going to a permit system because we now have 600-800 people a day on those trails!

“The Ouray Trail Group hasn’t needed to think much about capacity in the past,” he said, “but this growth is forcing us to deal with popularity that is fueled by social media. We used to just find and fix abandoned trails. These days, we’re managing people too.”

It’s not just about hiking anymore, either. “There’s expanded use by equestrians, bikers, runners, and ATVs. We can’t think about hikers exclusively, and we need to partner more closely with organizations like the Forest Service. There’s a lot of work to be done!

Anyone is welcome to become involved with the Ouray Trail Group and can learn more by visiting Membership is free. Volunteers receive training and can do anything from trail building to research to office support.

It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and experience a sense of purposeful camaraderie,” Steve said. As you consider how you too can be a steward of this region, this is a great resource to which you can connect.

Joy of Purpose highlights locals who are making positive contributions to our community and beyond. Jeff Pryor and Alexandra Mitchell are teachers and nonprofit leaders, and are the authors of Compassionate Careers: Making a Living by Making a Difference (Career Press, 2015).