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Adventures with Mike

Mike shaw, Outdoorsman


Michael Shaw joined the new Inns of Aurora Outdoor Program in 2020 as an Outdoorsman. Along with Matt Stevenson, Michael helps lead guests on guided outdoor adventures around Aurora and out on Cayuga Lake—the landscape that he grew up on. Michael spoke with us about his childhood growing up in Aurora, his love of the outdoors, and his personal connection with the land he’ll be sharing with Inns of Aurora guests.

When did you first start working at the Inns of Aurora?

I first started working at the Inns of Aurora when I was sixteen years old… then I was dishwashing at the Fargo until I was 18 years old, and then I moved up to working as a line cook. I had been working with Matt there, and when they started up the Outdoor Program, he asked me to come work with him.

And you grew up in Aurora?

Yeah, I lived in Auburn until I was 11, and then we moved to Aurora… I grew up just outside the village, near MacKenzie-Childs.

How much time did you spend outside when you were growing up here?

We were outside all the time. My grampa owned 160 acres of land on Main Street, right across from the cliffs, just north of MacKenzie-Childs. And I lived on the next street over, close to about a 300-yard walk from my house to my grampa’s, just across one open field. So if I wasn’t in those woods I was out on the lake. Camping, exploring, learning about the wildlife, just enjoyed being outdoors. I camped out probably every weekend during the summer growing up… I don’t think we ever brought a tent with us. Just bring some ramen noodles, build our own shelter, and spend the whole weekend up in the woods.

What motivated you to spend so much time learning those outdoor skills?

I always loved learning new things, and there are just so many different things you can learn out there. Always, my whole life, I’ve been interested in animals, and seeing all the wildlife at a young age just blew my mind… I just love it.

Who were your role models for outdoor adventure skills?

My older brother Brian… He’s 11 years older than me. He took me hunting and fishing, so he was a big influence on my love for the outdoors. He would always take me up to my grampa’s woods when I was younger.

Was being outdoors and outdoor adventure a big interest in your family?

I come from a big family, a big hunting family. I have nine siblings… all of my siblings have enjoyed the outdoors, they all hunt and fish, but I’d probably say that I’ve loved it the most. It’s kind of like a family sport, almost, we all kind of competed with hunting and fishing and camping, who was the most serious about it.

Did you ever think that you’d be a professional outdoorsman?

I never really thought I would, but with the way things worked out, I couldn’t be happier. It’s the perfect job for me.

What’s your most memorable outdoor adventure?

One would be when I was about 17 years old… a few cousins and I went up to my grampa’s to go camping. We wanted to do a winter camping trip, and it just so happened to be the February that it never got above zero degrees for the whole month. While we were camping, it got down to 16 below zero, and all we had was an igloo that we’d built ourselves. So there were three guys in this little tiny igloo trying to keep warm… it was fun, it was an adventure. I would do it again.

What’s something you’ve been really excited about recently? Maybe a new skill, or a new spot that you’ve found?

Recently I’ve been spending all of my time outdoors, so if I’m not working outdoors with Matt, I’m either out on the lake or out in the woods on my own. Doing the whole Outdoor program and building the new hiking trail, I’ve found a whole new respect for the outdoors… I’ve always loved being outdoors, and now that I’m out there every single day, I feel I’m more in touch with nature, seeing how things constantly change and adapt. It’s amazing.

It’s super exciting sharing that with the guests, because it’s something that I love so much. Seeing their reactions is great… one woman had never seen a field before, which just blew my mind, and she was super excited about it. It makes you feel good about yourself, because you can bring something that you enjoy so much into other people’s lives. Seeing people come up from cities where they’ve never seen nature like this before… It’s something I’ve always taken for granted because the woods is all I know, really.

Is there anything in particular that you’re excited to share with the guests?

I’m really excited about the fishing program… over the summer we were doing fishing off the dock, and seeing people’s reactions when they catch their first fish is great. Fishing is one of my biggest passions, so seeing the reaction on somebody else’s face almost brings me more joy than catching the fish myself. Something about the water, I’ve always been drawn to it. When I turned 15, my cousin Ben and I would carry his rowboat down to the lake. And if it was too wavy to be out on the lake, we’d be up in the woods. The lake’s just gorgeous. That’s why I would never leave this area, because I just love Cayuga Lake.

So you’ve got no plans to leave? Finger Lakes for life?

Oh yeah. As long as this lake’s here, I’ll be here. I’ve been on every single one of the Finger Lakes, and Cayuga Lake is by far my favorite.

And this outdoor guiding career will be part of that for you?

I think it will be. I’m really excited to grow the Outdoors program. Sharing all this with the guests brings a new perspective to this that I’ve never experienced before. Everybody’s just gotta experience the outdoors. It’s got so much to offer… especially now, with the whole pandemic going on, if people can just get outdoors there’s just endless opportunities. There’s always something new. You can always find something new. For me, it never gets boring, ever.