He loves the outdoors. But he’s not outgoing.

He’s reserved and quiet. But the camera allows him to connect with people.

He enjoys exploring. But he’s not looking to become the next influencer.

He’s the Wandering Woodsman. Just in case you were wondering.

For the purposes of this writing, the true identity of the Wandering Woodsman will not be revealed. He knows who he is, and everyone else is on a need-to-know basis.

Suffice to say that the Woodsman is a 44-year-old resident of Womelsdorf, who makes YouTube videos about his explorations of Penn’s Woods.

“I don’t think so,” said the Woodsman, when asked about being his alter-ego. “In the videos, I act myself. It describes who I am and what I’m doing. I’ve just always loved nature. It can be a brand too. A lot of people know who I am, but the less the better.

“There’s a lot of good stuff that comes from YouTube,” he continued. “But you get some negative stuff as well, even some hate and threats. At first, it wasn’t an issue. But as the channel grows, you get more stuff like that. You can block them, but it (ticks) them off.”

The Wandering Woodsman, who has more than 35,000 followers on YouTube, explores nature in Lebanon and surrounding counties and tries to locate out-of-the-way places and things, all the while filming his adventures with a camcorder. It’s a one-man operation that also includes his own narration and personal take on the places he’s exploring.

“One of my viewers described me as some dude out enjoying nature,” said the Woodsman. “I’m a teacher too. YouTube is an opportunity to share things with other people. I’m just a middle-aged dude out wandering around and sharing my experiences. I didn’t necessarily plan for my channel to grow. I really didn’t know where it was going. I enjoy doing it, hiking and sharing it with people.

“I was trying to find something to describe myself,” he added. “There were other names I chose before, but they were being used by other people or groups. I like the woods, that’s the woodsman part. I do wander sometimes, just to see where I’ll end up. The ‘W’, ‘W’ works too.”

The Wandering Woodsman was born about five years ago, and since, he has created and posted about 800 videos to YouTube. His day job is a home-school teacher.

“I was living on a farm and there were some family issues,” he said. “I always liked the woods and I started going out in the woods again. It was a place where I could reflect. I overheard one of my students say how you could make money on YouTube, and it started me thinking. If a seventh-grader can make money off YouTube, why not me? It took a while for me to convince myself to start filming. It was kind of awkward walking around and talking to a camera.

“I’m a shy person. I’m an introvert,” the Wandering Woodsman continued. “Putting myself out there was a big deal. At the beginning, I didn’t show myself. Then I turned the camera on me, but I didn’t know a lot about filming either. The first year was a learning experience. Some of it has helped me figure out who I am.”

YouTube embeds advertisements in the Wandering Woodsman’s videos, and he makes money from his solitary pursuit based on his subscribers and his videos’ views. His current level of income can be related to that of a good part-time job, but financially it has allowed him to cut back on his home-school teaching hours.

“This past summer, I earned more money than you could working as a janitor in a local school system,” said the Woodsman. “It can earn just as much as a part-time job. It goes up and down, and it’s tied to the economy, but it’s worth it. If I could get to 100,000 subscribers, it could be a full-time job. But you have to upload consistently to get that money to come in. It’s like a regular job in that you have to work for it.

“Why do I do it? Well, it started out as something to do,” he added. “Something to get my mind off of things. I always loved nature. It was a way to make money doing what I enjoy doing. I enjoy the outdoors and I enjoy teaching. It’s a way to do both.”

The Wandering Woodsman’s YouTube audience is surprisingly diverse. The sites he visits – places like Gettysburg, Centralia, the town of Austin in Potter County and Middle Creek Wildlife Area – and his relatable, down-home personality appeal to everyone, from elementary-aged kids to senior citizens.

“Actually, most of them are older or middle-aged,” he said. “But I do have younger people watching as well. I’m not an exciting person doing dangerous stuff. It is people who enjoy nature and history. Some people find my videos relaxing.

“I’m not seeking fame,” continued the Woodsman. “It just feels good. You try to share the history of things too. My videos aren’t about me, they’re about the places I go. I get a lot of older people watching, people who can’t go out. They hike through me.”

From modest beginnings of about 200 subscribers, the Wandering Woodsman’s viewership grew to about 2,000 watchers in his second year of posting videos. Since then, his audience has pretty much doubled every year.

“I just kind of film as I go,” he said. “I don’t script anything. I’m not putting on a production where everything is planned out. It’s all spontaneous.

“One viewer described it as sometimes I don’t know where I’m going,” the Woodsman continued. “It’s part of the adventure, whether or not I’m going to find what I’m looking for. There’s a lot of neat stuff out there, and it fuels my passion and my sense of adventure. A lot of it is right in your own backyard.”

If merely through repetition and his own creativity, the Wandering Woodsman has honed his video-making skills over the past five years. But there is also something to be said for him knowing his audience and the universal appeal of both nature and history.

“I guess so. Yeah,” said the Wandering Woodsman, when asked if he would ever consider making his film-making a full-time pursuit. “If my channel grows, I can get to that point. My plan for now is to just keep doing what I’ve been doing. There’s no reason not to.

“I’m just a normal guy who loves the outdoors,” concluded the Woodsman. “I like to encourage my viewers to do what I’m doing if they can. If there’s something in life that they like doing, they should just do it. When I first started, I didn’t know where it was going to go. It’s great to get paid for doing something you enjoy. Sometimes a good thing can come out of a bad situation.”

Not all who wander, or wonder, are lost.

Want to support The Wandering Woodsman? Support him on Patreon here.

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Jeff Falk is a seasoned journalist based in Lebanon, PA. He's a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, Penn State University, and a lifelong resident of Lebanon, born and raised. Currently, he is a feature writer for Engle Publishing in Lancaster, the editor of LebCoSports.com, sports director at WLBR...


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