Turning Over A New Leaf
An explanation behind my long absence, and a look at what the future holds:
Mangrove trees are odd things. They sprout like fingers from sandy tidal beds, twisting together into gangly groves that rise from the shallows. They’re phenomenal at stopping costal erosion. And they’re one of the few plants that can live off pure salt water.
Of course, no one can soak up that much salt without getting a little salty themselves. Red mangroves solve the problem by concentrating all of their toxins into a single leaf, which turns bright yellow before falling off.
In short, they’re excellent at compartmentalization. But I don’t think it’s a behavior humans should try to emulate.
Humans Don’t Have Detachable Leaves
A few months ago, I reached my breaking point. I wasn’t fulfilled at my day job. A classic cascade failure of quitting coworkers left me juggling the work of multiple people. I started dreading going into the office each day.
But that was alright. Substack would be my escape route. I thought if I started showing promising growth, I could transition to being a full time independent writer within a couple years. To this end, my spring board was supposed to be “The Alpine Amusement Park,” a documentary about trail access and conservation in Colorado.
The goal was to use this landmark project as a huge subscription driver. Maybe push me past the 2,000 mark.
By the way, previously, I’ve been very guarded about sharing my subscriber numbers. My thinking was that by keeping it vague, I wouldn’t lose potential interviews for being “too small.” I think I’m past that.
In the interest of transparency: Cole’s Climb has 1,323 subscribers at time of writing. Is that a lot? A little? Who knows. You decide.
Anyway —I worked on the doc for more than a year, interviewing a long list of experts, and summiting multiple mountains with my camera equipment. For my troubles, I earned 8 subscribers. 13 if you include my follow-up articles.
By comparison: this reservation guide earned me 121 for a fraction of the work.
“My day job had been my yellow mangrove leaf. I didn’t care how toxic it was — I always planned to shed it in good time. Now I couldn’t.”
Go figure. I’ve given up on predicting what people actually want to read. But the documentary flop hurt. It made me question whether I’m actually providing any value to the community.
It also led to a crushing realization: this endeavor wasn’t replacing my 9-to-five anytime soon. My day job had been my yellow mangrove leaf. I didn’t care how toxic it was — I always planned to shed it in good time. Now I couldn’t, and the poison was starting to spread.
It sabotaged the other areas of my life, leaving me drained of creative energy. Trapped.
I realized I wanted to be able to really carry on this project — not just limp along like I’d been doing for months — I needed to properly balance my life. That meant directing my full attention toward finding a new job, and a new place to call home.
Looks like that place is Florida.
Obviously, this is a massive change for someone who spent most of their time scaling mountains and snowboarding down them. But making this my new base of operations feels more peaceful somehow. I missed the sunsets and the sound of the waves.
I’m excited to continue to share adventure stories with you, while continuing to cover the nation-wide news on conservation and outdoor access. For you, the reader, this (hopefully) means a return to consistent content in your inbox.
Thank you for your patience, and for sticking with this project for so long. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
P.S., — The substack app has a ton of new features now that make it worth the download. I’ve been using the new “notes” feature to keep up with fellow writers and followers between posts. Check it out!
I think no matter where you are or what you write people will find and appreciate you.
Maybe you haven't found the perfect path that lead to bushwacking into unknown territories and new creative endeavors.
You're writing. And sharing. Many of us don't have the nerve to even start writing. I've been on Substack and Medium for a hot minute and still won't create anything of my own. Like you, I question what people actually value, relative and what I can offer. Can't figure it out. I gave up. You didn't.
Enjoy exploring the mangroves, saltwater, islands, Everglades, and wildlife. Go tubing and kayaking inland. There is so much to explore and write about... you're spot on, in a quieter more relaxed area of the country.
I lived all over Florida and found my creative juices flowed at optimal. It was magical.
I live in Michigan now. The juices have completely dried up. So now I read, engage, and encourage others to march on.
Best of luck to you, stay consistent, and I'm certain you will find the success you desire and deserve from the wonderful work that you do.
Cole, bravo on your candor! I'm sorry to learn about the doc film "flop." I think you could find other outlets for it. Have you considered for example getting a bigger outlet like the Colorado Sun or Outside CO to share it and link to your newsletter?
FWIW I'm at 1449 free subscribers + 68 paid. My paid ones got to a high of 76 but then several did not renew when their annual subscription ran out. I try not to get too hung up on numbers and appreciate my newsletter for the schedule and accountability to an audience that it gives me. I hope you'll keep up with Cole's Climb! Maybe "Climb" becomes more metaphorical for you in Florida.