by Liza Roberts
photographs by Keith Isaacs
Award-winning outdoors writer Eddie Nickens filled the house at Walter’s latest book club gathering. On the beautiful evening of Oct. 13, 160 Nickens fans gathered at 214 Martin Street in downtown’s historic City Market to hear the author’s tales from the wild.
The room at Cobblestone Hall was full of outdoors lovers, many of whom drove some distance to be there. After a meal that included oysters, bourbon, and braised elk, the group heard Nickens tell of his adventures near and far, from the Arctic Circle and Central America to his beloved South. In fact, it’s right here, Nickens said, that his favorite outdoor experiences can be had. North Carolina in November, he said: “There’s nothing like it.” Nickens shared stories of hunting, fishing, and kayaking with his son Jack, daughter Markie, and wife Julie Nickens, a senior account executive at The News & Observer.
His audience was rapt as he showed photographs taken from dozens of expeditions over nearly 30 years: fishing, hunting, wildlife conservation, hiking, flying, climbing, dogs. He made all of it real, and poked fun at his own good fortune to have a job that looks, well, so much like anybody else’s excellent vacation.
Nickens writes about his adventures for magazines like Garden & Gun; National Geographic Adventure; Audubon, where he is a contributing editor; Our State, where he is a monthly columnist; and Field & Stream, where he is an editor at large and also writes a monthly column. Nickens also shares his love of the outdoors, conservation, and the cultural heritage of the South in his role as on-camera host of shows that air on the Outdoor Channel and online, including Total Outdoorsman Challenge, Total Outdoorsman 50 Skills, and The Gun Nuts. His books, The Total Outdoorsman Manual and Total Outdoorsman’s Skills & Tools, have sold more than 250,000 copies.
By turns humorous and profound, Nickens’s love of the outdoors animated his entire presentation. From the unlikely bond he found with an Ozarks family who fish at a “troutpark” with bait made from Velveeta cheese and white bread – to the extraordinary lengths he’s gone to to help tag and preserve Alaska’s cliff-dwelling gyrfalcons – to the poignant first time he took his son deer hunting, Nickens struck a chord.
The evening was made possible by the presenting sponsorship of Great Outdoor Provision Company, a longtime fan of Nickens’s; as well as the sponsorships of Peter Millar, which displayed some of its fall line; and Taggart Autosport, which brought along some much-admired performance vehicles. 214 Martin Street provided a gourmet dinner; Trophy Brewing Co. and Raleigh Brewing Company tapped the beer; Wine Authorities poured the pairings; and TOPO Distillery mixed up plenty of bourbon, gin, and vodka cocktails.