Click and paddle

Kent McCracken

Photo By David Robert

In early 2004, Fayetteville, W.V., resident and outdoor enthusiast Kent McCracken needed a change. Reno, he decided, was just the place he was looking for. He closed down his outdoor adventure sports store, threw his mountain bike and camera into his car and trekked cross-country to “America’s Adventure Place.” Within a year, McCracken had launched his business, Sierra Nevada Outdoors LLC., which does everything from event and personal photography to kayak lessons and guided whitewater rafting trips. I recently spoke with McCracken at Walden’s Coffeehouse about making a living out of other people’s vacations, three years living in a teepee and starting a business based on a state advertising scheme.

Tell us about Sierra Nevada Outdoors, your new business.

It’s all split up into two entities, photography and whitewater. Since kayak instruction and whitewater trips only happen in the spring when the water is up, photography is the bulk of my business. One thing I do is called event photography that is based on special events around the area. And since outdoor adventure sports are my personal interest, I tend to concentrate more on them. I photograph local kayak events, mountain bike races, and events like that, but I also do personal photography. I work at ski resorts, weddings and family reunions, and all the images get to my Web site where they can be purchased for a fair price.

How did you end up picking Reno?

Two things brought me here. First, my parents moved here about 20 years ago, and I want to be around them before they kick it. My mom is a teacher in the biology department at UNR. The second reason has a lot to do with Nevada marketing itself as America’s Adventure Place. There are so many opportunities here for photography and whitewater, and the slogan is just promoting the work I’m in. The downtown whitewater park also had a lot to do with my move. I can work all day and head down to the river and paddle all afternoon. The business opportunity in Reno is also just huge right now. I have been living in rural America for a while, so this is a huge culture shock for me, but I have to say it’s been well received.

Tell me about living in a teepee.

Yeah, I spent three years in West Virginia living in a teepee. It was a means to an end for me. It was purely a financial move to get out of debt and to save money to start my new business. It was in a remote part of this campground with nobody around. I lived in it year-round, even when there was three feet of snow outside. There was a wood stove that heated the place, so it was completely toasty, even with the door wide open. It was the place I took my past mate for our first date. In the summer, when the campground was open, I was able to use the campground bathroom and facilities to bathe, and the campground store for supplies like ice and beer. In the winter, I had a membership to a close-by Holiday Inn gym where I could bathe. It was a great experience; I guess you could call it rustically romantic.