Nelson Holland has become the hype man of nature, putting alpine lakes and wildlife on the center stage of TikTok, with a mission of giving back and leading by example. He trained all summer with a group of high schoolers to hike Mt Bierstadt, making videos to raise money for gear. In Leadville, he went fat biking for the first time with Get Outdoors Leadville. His dreams are in the shape of mountains, and he wants to climb every fourteener. Hiking is his passion, and it’s taken him all over Colorado. He loves the state for its biodiversity, from the plains to the deserts to the dunes to the peaks. He’s from New York, and currently lives in Aurora. Nelson used to work at Fed Ex, and the store was near a bison refuge. He watched the herd, learning their schedule and movements. This close, Thoreau-era observation awakened a longing to be in the wild.
The soundtrack for Nelson’s long drives through the mountain is Wu Tang, Lauryn Hill, and
Biggie. It gets him in the right head space to receive the beauty of the landscape. He mentioned a book that has meant a lot to him, The Adventure Gap: The Changing Face of the Outdoors by James Mills, which follows the first all-African American ascent of Denali. It also looks at why minorities are less likely to seek recreation and encounter the wilderness. He read it with the students hiking Mt Biertstadt. The book suggests that mentoring and role models can be a way to break barriers to the outdoors.
Nelson uses his voice and platform to lift up others. His goal is to get more people into the
outdoors, encouraging inclusivity for people of color and plus size individuals. In his videos, he highlights accessible places to explore, for every ability level. His advice for going outside is starting with small goals and contemplative walks. His favorite person to seek adventure with is his parents, and they recently saw a herd of big horn sheep drinking from a river, a few feet from them. The more time you spend in nature, the more it gives back, Nelson says.
People are always asking if they can hike with him, and so he has plans to start his own guiding service. He wants to be the opposite of a gatekeeper, he wants to swing the wilderness wide open, because it’s had such a positive impact on his physical and mental health. He gained his knowledge of the outdoors from mentors and friends, like Moose Master the Naturalist Santa Claus, a wildlife biologist who appears in his videos. He compares his life to being a kid watching Animal Planet, he carries that excitement with him every step he takes.