Editor’s Note: I am the host, producer and photographer for We Are Chaffee’s Looking Upstream podcast. I also write a monthly guest column related to the podcast for two local newspapers in Chaffee County, Colo.: the Chaffee County Times (Buena Vista) and The Mountain Mail (Salida). This is my column that looks at two years’ worth of episodes and topics, and announces what’s ahead.

‘We Are Chaffee’ Podcast Is Doubling to Weekly Episodes

I’ve said before and I’ll say again what I’m saying right now: I’m blown away by the people who live, work, play and contribute in our community, and share about that with me on We Are Chaffee’s Looking Upstream podcast

That’s on intellectual, creative, entrepreneurial, spiritual, athletic and just all-round human levels. Seriously. Blown. Away. And I hope you are too. 

A community-oriented podcast like this can go forever as a patiently building audio time capsule, adding one voice and story at a time to the archive. A few dozen voices a year. A few hundred stories a decade. Never running out of voices and stories as the community continues to grow, adapt and blend. A time capsule I hope we all might eventually contribute to and can always take pride in.

In the past two years, I’ve talked with nearly 60 podcast guests ages 18 to 96 on Looking Upstream, including every decade of experience in that full-life range. 

We’ve gotten into all the human things. That includes social and political challenges, spirituality and faith and identity, death and grief and resilience, and stories of history from Chaffee County to the moon. 

We’ve talked about substance abuse and recovery, natural resources and environment, journalism and community, small business entrepreneurship, housing affordability and short-term rentals. 

We’ve also talked about mental health and, well, various aspects of health, like Lyme disease, postpartum depression, Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injuries. Among other things, as I like to say.

With Jed Selby, for example, we talked about some of the most pressing issues facing not only our valley but communities throughout the West and far beyond, including resources like water, affordable housing and short-term rentals, our small-town economics and the future of building a town we all want to share. 

That episode with Jed, by the way, stands as the most listened to by far, with nearly 15 times the average listenership of this podcast. That doesn’t even count the fact that a segment of it was syndicated on community radio stations up and down the Mountain West region, with not thousands but potentially millions of listeners.

As the saying goes, the personal is universal. Much of what we experience as individuals is relatable to others, everywhere. That’s one of the essential ingredients of Looking Upstream. Everyone has stories and insights to share, and we can relate to them, feel and connect with them, in our own ways.

Like one listener’s comments in response to my conversation with Katie Brown, who, if you listened to that episode, you know was celebrated as the best female sport climber in history when she was only a teenager. Brown talked with me about her memoir, “Unraveled,” and a listener wrote in, saying:

“I had no idea we have a world class female climber in our community. I tuned in and I was absolutely taken by Katie`s story – the raw emotion, the honesty, the openness of the interview. When she cried during the interview, I cried in my car listening. I am so impressed we have this resource in the community.”

Katie Brown, Jed Selby & Julie Speer Jackson | Photographs by Adam Williams

I couldn’t ask for more meaningful feedback. That heartfelt connection, the recognition of the humanness that’s in us all, is why this podcast exists, in my opinion. We’ve got to see each other if we’re going to connect. We’ve got to connect as humans if we’re going to sustain and strengthen a community. Especially across perceived differences.

My most recent Looking Upstream conversation was with Julie Speer Jackson, the Emmy Award-winning documentary film director and producer, who also is Chaffee County’s first film commissioner.

You might know that she directed and produced We Are Chaffee’s documentary, “A Home in Paradise,” which premiered in May at the Salida Film Festival. The film highlights the housing crisis, mental health challenges and the socioeconomic divide here in Chaffee County, which of course is something countless communities are struggling with right now. Again personal, universal.

“A Home in Paradise” has been a success and point of conversation in the community, with multiple sold out showings at the Steamplant. If you haven’t seen it yet, details for upcoming showings up and down the valley, and how you can host your own viewing, are available at wearechaffee.org.

Now, Looking Upstream has some exciting news. The audio time capsule, as it were, is doubling down. For two years, it’s been a show that comes out every other week. Now, as we enter the third year of the podcast, I’m using the summer to build the lineup with plans to start releasing episodes weekly. 

That will be every Tuesday, starting in September. As usual, on all podcast players and at wearechaffee.org. Our community radio partner, KHEN 106.9 FM in Salida, broadcasts the show weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays.

’Til the next episode, as we say at We Are Chaffee, “Share stories, make change.”

Adam Williams is host, producer and photographer for We Are Chaffee’s Looking Upstream podcast. Engage with @wearechaffeepod on Instagram.