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Working from the maps started by his mentor, Joe Liles has charted Native American footpaths crisscrossing the Research Triangle for more than a decade. Additionally, Joe has identified pioneer wagon trails, old homesites, and river crossings with his trail partner, Ken Hermey.

“If people could get out in nature, it would basically stabilize society,” says Joe. “It would make people healthier. It would make people even more productive.” Joe attributes this idea to environmentalists and philosophers who came before him, but it’s obvious that he lives and breathes it.


No life story fits in 60 seconds.

Joe is the textbook example that Passion + Purpose = Character. But finding great story characters isn’t the endgame for Reel Durham. We want to dive deep into their “why”: what drives them. If someone shares fifty stories with me, all that information can go from bountiful to burdensome. How can I possibly do justice to every dimension of a fascinating person? This happens a lot with enthusiastic characters.

Joe Liles is many-faceted. He is an artist, teacher, Appalachian Trail hiker, indigenous music producer, photo editor, cartographer – and this is just what I learned during one conversation.

With so many possible angles laid out, how did I decide which path to follow?

The answer is often whatever a person shares most readily or most passionately. On top of his passion for the outdoors, Joe is uniquely qualified to speak about pioneer wagon trails. That’s an item on my “Will this work?” checklist and a big green flag – the rest falls into place.



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