20 Under 40: Crisler Torrence

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Crisler Torrence

B. Crisler Torrence, 36

Director/head guide, Rock/Creek Adventures

Mantra: #natureisessential

Quarantine projects: Told myself I would study Chattanooga history - ancient history/prehistoric, early settler occupation, Civil War - as well as continue to plan perspective guided trip options. Actually slept later, studied history on my front porch, explored Chatty by ebike, worked in my yard and rode ebikes to friends' houses and drank beer in their yards.

How did the pandemic upend your routine? Well, the city shut down a few days before Rock/Creek Adventures' grand opening, so that didn't and hasn't happened. I had to cancel my birthday gathering. Also, the trail system on Lookout that I'm so fond of and worked to preserve our neighborhood access to, it was peaking with spring wildflowers but was closed, so I got some road bikes and started playing in the road way more than I ever have before or ever thought I would.

Has the pandemic changed your outlook in any way? Yeah. It has made me aware that I'm not an essential business; that while experiences in nature are essential to my sanity, it's not the base/priority in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I'm more concerned with the future of my tourism industry-based business. It has also made me more acutely aware that those marginalized and impoverished communities will always suffer more and bear an inequitable share of the burden when things don't go according to plan.

What's your goal professionally? To help locals and guests to Chattanooga experience and appreciate the trails, rivers, trees, big bluffs, unparalleled biodiversity and natural wonderment that is so close to town.

What do you credit for where you are today? When I was 18 I became a raft guide on the Ocoee River. That forced me to come out of my shell, to learn to talk and interact with people, and gave me my river friend/family group that supports me, helps me talk out ideas and [with whom] I still spend time with in Chattanooga.

What's one thing about Chattanooga you'd change? Well I have always loathed Republic Parking, but on a deeper level, I would like to see the "best town for who?" issue addressed with a concerted effort. Outside magazine has twice named Chatty "best town ever" and we have become nationally recognized as an outdoor mecca, but there are many African-American, Latino and low-income communities that are minutes from these natural places and have never experienced them. There are amazing groups making big steps toward the solution - Lookout Mountain Conservancy's internship program with Howard High, and Bridge Chattanooga. Also, with every Rock/Creek rental and adventure booking, we set aside $1 to contribute to conservation organizations or those helping to solve this issue.