Adventurer Jon Turk visits Vail Thursday

Jon Turk has tried almost every adventure available. He's at the Vail Public Library Feb. 5 for the Vail Symposium's Unlimited Adventure series.
Special to the Daily |

If You Go ...

What: Jon Turk: The Spirit of Deep Wilderness

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Vail Public Library.

Cost: $10 suggested donation.

More information: The Vail Symposium presents Jon Turk, storyteller, adventurer, author, scientist and educator. Visit

VAIL — The quickest way to get someone to say “yes,” is to ask Jon Turk if he wants to have an adventure.

For more than four decades, Turk has wandered through remote and exotic landscapes. He writes books about it, talks about it and teaches about it.

“I was trained as a scientist and worked for decades in environmental education,” Turk said. “Now, I am focused on storytelling as a way of raising awareness of cultural and environmental tipping points.”

He’s the speaker/storyteller for the Vail Symposium’s February Unlimited Adventure series, which takes place today in Vail.

He says he’s seeking some level of sanity and sustainability in our “oil soaked, Internet-crazed world.”

Support Local Journalism

Turk, 69, has been everywhere, tried everything and is still blessed with good health.

“My body and I have an agreement. I take it to places where we have fun; it takes me to places where we have fun. We’re a team, my body and I,” Turk said.

He and his body have kayaked across the north Pacific and around Cape Horn, mountain biked through the Gobi desert, made first climbing ascents on Baffin Island, and first ski descents in the Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzia.


Turk grew up on the shores of a wooded lake in Connecticut, attended Phillips Academy, Andover and then Brown University. He earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Colorado in 1971.

He says he was “hounded” by restless spirits. Academia didn’t have a chance.

In 1964 as a freshman in college, he went to the Middle East, hitchhiking across several countries. In Jordan, they discovered he was Jewish and he landed in jail.

They roughed him up a little, he said but didn’t hurt him much and soon let him go.

“Things were a lot mellower then they are now. If I tried now what I tried then, I’d end up with my head cut off,” Turk said.

He was 19 years and didn’t know much about the world. He learned all sorts of things hitchhiking, riding with the gypsies and hanging out in a gypsy village in the highlands of Turkey.

“The world is not as it was in suburban Connecticut, where I was from, I quickly learned,” Turk said.

He went back to school and during the next seven years, he finished his education.

“All this time I was locked up in those basements working, I thought about the gypsy wagons and hitchhiking around,” he said.

“Go” is an action verb, and before long he was taking action.

“The trigger was waiting to be pulled and any one of a million things could have done it,” Turk said.

In 1988, he and his then-wife, Chris Seashore, paddled from the south coast of Ellesmere Island, up the east coast and across to Greenland. You can read about it in his first book, “Cold Oceans,” one of three books he has written about his adventures, along with “The Raven’s Gift and “In the Wake of Jomon.”


When Turk was a Ph.D. candidate, his father wanted him to go into the family air pollution consulting firm, and he spent lots of time working in the business. He knew it wasn’t for him.

His father had written a successful chemistry textbook and said, “Well, let’s do something together. Let’s write an environmental science textbook. No one has done that!’”

So they did.

“We wrote the first environmental science textbook in North America and perhaps the world,” he said.

That was 1971, in honor of the first Earth Day.

With that book as a foundation, he spearheaded the development of environmental science curricula in North America.

His presentations are about life — his and others — as he weaves lyrical stories of his adventures, as well as raising awareness of cultural and environmental tipping points.

He and Chris Seashore married in 1980. They lived in a small house in the Montana forest. They shared all kinds of adventures, not the least of which was raising three children. She died in an avalanche in March, 2005.

He met Nina Maclean in September of 2006.

“I fell in love, and we decided to join our lives together. We have had a marvelous time, learning each other’s ways, wants and personalities,” Turk said.

They married in November 2011.

They spend winters in Fernie, British Columbia, near great skiing. In the summer, they live in the woods.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism