Q&A with Touray Kungkagam: Making Time and Finding Awe in Nature
Touray Kungkagam has been finding adventure outside for years. He shares those adventures in his trip reports, and they range from wintry ascents requiring technical skill, to weight training with a toddler, to family-friendly strolls in the mountains.
Touray Kungkagam has been finding adventure outside for years. He shares those adventures in his trip reports, and they range from wintry ascents requiring technical skill, to weight training with a toddler, to family-friendly outings. With such a range of outings cataloged in our site, we wondered: what brought Touray to the hiking and climbing world, and how does he incorporate his family into his outdoor adventures. So we asked him.
Who introduced you to the outdoors?
My father, who is Chinese and Thai, grew up in Thailand, and was an avid outdoorsman there. Being outside was always a part of his childhood. He was a resilient man who always told me stories of having to hold up his house in the driving monsoons of southeast Asia.
When he immigrated to the United States he took a break from getting outside to focus on starting a career at Boeing as an engineer and raising a family. But he always had time to share the outdoors with us. Every weekend during the summer, Dad would take me and my siblings on hikes in the I-90 corridor. That was what initially got me interested in hiking and eventually mountaineering, and it gave me a deep interest in nature.
My mother, who is African American, really was not into the outdoors, but encouraged me and my siblings to get outside with my dad to get our energy out. I still remember my first hike in Mount Rainier National Park, where I was immediately inspired to gain greater skills to climb bigger peaks.
So when did you start pursuing climbing? And how did you take those first steps?
I was probably about 13 or 14 when I first got inspired to climb Mount Rainier and pursue higher peaks. During my teen years, I found like-minded individuals and started scrambling smaller peaks. I also began acquiring basic knowledge of rock climbing through mentors and supplemented my knowledge with climbing guide books.
I enrolled in the BOEALPS program at the age of 20. That gave me a great foundation in technical climbing, and allowed me to gain the skills and experience to begin adventuring into the alpine world. Ever since then, I have been involved in mountaineering and rock climbing.
A lot of your trip reports look like you're training for a climb. Do you like to hike as its own form of recreation?
I did go through a period of about 7 to 10 years where I really did not enjoy hiking; I just wanted to get on some good rock climbing. But as I've gotten older, I've learned to appreciate just being outside and enjoying the trails.
These days I do a little bit of both, and I just enjoy being in beautiful places. I don't necessarily need to be reaching a technical objective. I just love being in the mountains.
I've also focused more on hiking in recent years because I'm married now, with two young children (ages 3 and 6). That can make it hard to find time to get outside. But as often as I can, I try to incorporate my love for the outdoors into the lives of my children.
It sounds like having children influenced the shift to hiking?
Yes, my outside habits have really changed. I am more cautious climbing, but more importantly, my time is precious. Whenever I get a chance to, I take my wife and kids on hikes with me.
I have an awesome Osprey pack that allows me to carry my daughters. It is a great chance for me to keep my mountaineering legs in shape and give them the experience of being outside in places they normally couldn't access on their own.
I take both my daughters regularly on smaller hikes in the Cascades, and have recently introduced them to rock climbing at the gym. I want them to see that they can be fearless and confident through their experiences outside.
I hope as they get older they will grow in appreciation for the wonders of the natural world and use it as a springboard to go on adventures of their own. And I see hiking and being outdoors enhancing the faith of my children.
Can you say more about that?
As a devout Christian I feel that to some extent my faith inspired me to get outside, so I want my daughters to make the connection between beauty and a creator who is not impersonal, but very involved in the lives of people.
I believe the beauty of nature points to the truth of God's love. Every mountain sunrise and beautiful vista reminds me of all the wonders that He created. I want my daughters, and future hikers to see the truth that can be found in nature. The more we appreciate that beauty; the better stewards we will be towards nature, and to each other, for generations to come.
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