Beavers and coyotes and deer, oh my!
Lynnfield isn’t widely known for its abundance of wildlife, but if you ask Steve Fantone, who runs the YouTube channel Hike Walk Paddle, there’s lots to discover in the area.
As the channel’s name might suggest, Fantone is an avid outdoorsman and has recorded himself hiking, walking, and paddling across the region, including along the Independence Greenway in neighboring Peabody, the Ipswich River, and Lynnfield’s own Partridge Island. He posts videos of his adventures to the YouTube channel and to a website of the same name.
Fantone explains that Hike, Walk, Paddle was born out of a love for outdoor recreation, and remains a hobby for the time being. The YouTube channel began when Fantone obtained a license allowing him to fly a drone in 2018, which he has subsequently renewed twice. He posted his first YouTube video in February of 2019.
One of the very first things Fantone did with the drone, he says, was fly above the site of the Lynnfield/Wakefield rail trail, which at the time had not been approved by Town Meeting, to give residents a sense of the entire site.
“With a drone, I can get up over the grass and take a picture of the whole thing and show people how nice it’s going to be once we finally get that finished,” he says. “That was one of the first things I used the drone for.”
The majority of the videos Fantone posts are those that show the viewer what they might encounter while walking along a trail in the area. He explains that he sets out with a camera and records himself as he walks along the trail, before speeding the video up and posting it to YouTube.
“I like to go walk where people can walk and video what it is like to walk there,” he says. “I try to document the walk and that includes video and pictures of each location. The video is not the most cinematic video, usually it’s me just walking down the trail but I wanted to capture what it’s like to actually walk down the trail. That was the best way to illustrate that.”
The videos have evolved as Fantone has fine-tuned his style. Each trail video now features music underneath the footage of the walk, as well as still photos interspersed to point out interesting or notable landmarks, and captions pop up every so often to tell the viewer something he hopes will be “informative.”
Fantone’s fascination with the outdoors dates back as far as his childhood, where school teachers would often find that he had wandered off into the woods.
“I’ve always liked to be outdoors. I’ve always liked to get out on the water or go for a walk,” he says. “This really helped me capture my hobby, and do something productive with it.”
And productive it has been.
Since the channel launched, Fantone has posted more than 70 videos, racked up more than 350 subscribers, and garnered nearly 58,000 views. He says the channel doesn’t make him any money, and is simply a labor of love.
Some of Fantone’s most popular recent videos are those documenting the wildlife in the area. He explains that he does so by setting up trail cameras in a particular area — be it Reedy Meadow, the Lynnfield Woodlot, or the Ipswich River — and then simply waiting for wildlife to pass by. Fantone himself doesn’t stake out the wildlife, which often appears in the early hours of the morning, instead employing motion-detecting cameras attached to trees to snapshots of all sorts of animals, primarily beavers, coyotes, and deer.
He said he scopes out trees that have noticeable beaver activity, like those that have been gnawed on.
“I set them up in various locations in the woods and I leave them out for four to seven days and then I go back and I collect them and I see what they’ve got on them,” Fantone explains.
Fantone says he has no plans to slow down Hike Walk Paddle.
“I plan to visit more locations, I plan to make better videos of older videos, new versions, and I plan to try new formats like the 360 virtual reality videos,” he says. “That’s what’s on the horizon for me. I really like the wildlife trail camera videos. But I’m trying to keep a healthy mix of all the different videos.
I enjoy making all of them.”