About Robert Birkby
I was raised near Sidney, a small farming community in southwest Iowa. The local Boy Scout troop was a big part of my life as we explored nearby woodlands and mastered the skills of camping, hiking, and using a compass to navigate cornfields and pastures. My brothers and I worked on farms, mowed lawns, kept honey bees, and dreamed of the bigger world we were sure lay beyond the horizon.
During college summers I built hiking trails in the backcountry of Philmont, a national high adventure base of the Boy Scouts in the mountains of northern New Mexico. I taught writing and literature at Southwest Missouri State University for several years, solo-hiked the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, then launched my career as a Seattle-based author, outdoor educator, and adventure travel guide.
Mountaineering journeys have taken me to the Cascades, Alaska, Russia, East Africa, and Nepal. For the Student Conservation Association I’ve led many trail crews of high school students completing month-long projects in remote regions of national parks and forests. I’ve been deeply involved with adventure travel companies Mountain Madness and Berg Adventures International. I also continue to teach trail maintenance and construction for conservation organizations and land-management agencies in the United States, Siberia, and the Russian Far East.
Among my many passions is a lifelong quest to learn more piano works of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and George Gershwin. Now and then I’ve mastered a concert-worth of music to share with my friends.
And each summer I join around 15,000 fellow bicyclists to pedal from one side of my home state to the other as part of RAGBRAI – the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It’s a weeklong journey fueled by fun, friendships, and as much small town, church lady pie as we can possibly enjoy.
Honoring a lifetime of achievement in any field, built on the values and experiences of serving on the staff at Philmont, the BSA’s national high adventure base in northern New Mexico. Former awardees are explorer Steve Fossett, astronaut Rick Searfoss, and Himalayan mountaineer Wally Berg.
Philmont Distinguished Staff Alumni Award - 2014
Given for a lifetime of achievement that reflects the values and experiences of service on the staff of Philmont, the BSA’s national high adventure base in northern New Mexico. The three previous awardees are adventurer Steve Fossett, Space Shuttle commander Rick Searfoss, and Himalayan mountaineer Wally Berg.
William T. Hornaday Gold Medal - 2010
The medal is awarded for twenty or more years of unusual and distinguished service in natural resource conservation and environmental improvement regionally, nationally, and internationally.
U.S. Forest Service Primitive Skills Award – 1987
For construction of the 70-foot Denny Creek Bridge in Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker National Forest (Washington state) using only hand tools and traditional backcountry construction methods.