"We interrupt our regular scheduled programming to bring you a message from the trails."
As the nation tunes into polarizing political debacles and a dramatic retelling of the British royal family's story, we intrepid explorers have found something new to peruse on the web this winter.
Since the pandemic hit Gloucester in March, local real estate broker and boat captain Pete Schwan has explored local gems such as Dogtown, Long Beach, Mount Ann, Red Rocks Conservation Area, and Dykes Meadow and Reservation.
And he’s taken to YouTube to archive his findings.
Currently in its first season with more than five episodes already uploaded to YouTube, "Cape Ann Explorer" showcases this man’s journey through local trails, their history and what he has learned about himself along the way.
Like many innovative ideas that have come to fruition in 2020, Schwan’s YouTube channel was created in spite of the pandemic that kept him apart from those he loved most.
“It became clear that a lot of people were stuck inside,” the 39-year old Gloucester resident said, explaining that he began thinking about getting outside and documenting what he found for those that he couldn’t see in person.
In the pilot episode, the explorer looks longingly past the camera’s lens as he walks the trails of Dogtown Common. He pans the camera to capture the leaves and overgrowth, snaps photos of unexpected discoveries, and layers the scenic shots with music from eclectic indie artists.
With a dry sense of humor and tempered enthusiasm for the unknown, Schwan’s videos are a local take on Cape Ann's trails and shorelines.
But note, this is not a survival guide by any means. Schwan notes in his videos that he has misidentified plants and gotten lost once or twice through the filming process.
“It is just a way for me to share this beautiful part of the country with my family and friends, especially my 5-year old son,” Schwan said.
Of the trails you have ventured, what is your favorite?
"My favorite trail has been Red Rocks Conservation. As you're hiking to the overlook, you go past the dramatic sheer rock faces rock climbers are scaling. I just like the juxtaposition of the granite rock and the woods. I like the germanic expressions in nature."
What is the most surprising thing you have happened upon on your journeys?
"What I have discovered about myself: getting outside and exploring and having physical exertion is so critical to staying balanced and providing me with so much serenity.
“It is more natural for us to be in nature than for us to be indoors. I found that being out of doors and through Cape Ann I was resetting my brain and made me feel grounded. More peaceful than ever before.”
What is your advice to those who want to get outside and explore Cape Ann on their own?
"My advice is just to get out there and let go of fear and turn off the TV. Get back into the default reality and rest your mind."
Any hints to what trail your video will showcase next?
It will involve a bathing suit and it will air sometime around Thanksgiving.
As Schwan's answer to the final question was a bit vague, I tried to press him for more details — sadly, of no avail.
If you can't access Schwan's videos online, the best thing to do is to lace up your hiking boots and get outside. You too could be a Cape Ann Explorer.
Want to suggest your favorite trail for review? Or, Don’t want others flooding the woods you love? Let staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford know. While carrier pigeon is her preferred mode of communication, she can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.