The man behind the mustache

by Katy Kappele

Horizon Reporter

It was chilly in the high mountain passes of Peru, and there was no wood to be found so Eli Loomis, gathered several mostly dry cow dung patties and tried to build a camp fire.

“It was no problem,” he says, and laughs. “I’ve seen tons of National Geographic movies!”

As it turns out, cow patties have to be really, really dry to actually burn, and Loomis’s weren’t. “I got them smoldering!” Loomis says, defending his efforts, but then he says his girlfriend teased him forever about it.

So just who exactly is Loomis? It’s a big question, with a big answer.

Loomis is not your average Whatcom Community College teacher. He was born in Seattle in 1980, the year Mount Saint Helens covered the Northwest in ash. Loomis is only 32, but he has traveled much of the world, including three trips to Antarctica.

Loomis began his college career at Western Washington University, majoring in sociology, but Loomis’s life led him to biology and his life work, including two field work trips to Antarctica.

And how did he end up in a mountain pass trying to light cow patties on fire?

“I got off of Antarctica and was in Chile already, and could postpone my ticket for three months,” Loomis says. “It was like a free ticket to South America.” Who could refuse? Loomis says, laughing. From there, he traveled through Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru, backpacking around to save money.

At the University of Montana, Loomis studied creative non-fiction writing, and population genetics in invasive species of plants. Loomis says he led groups of volunteers through the wilderness of Montana, doing human and weed impact surveys, teaching people about the wilderness and their impacts on the wild.

“The warm canyon walls is where I learned to climb. What a beautiful place, Montana,” Loomis reminisces.

After trying to make a living as a writer, Loomis flew back to Antarctica, this time to the South Pole, to grow food in a greenhouse. During this time Loomis played in a Violent Fems cover band.

Loomis describes the music as “angsty grunge, punk. Total nostalgic music.” He says the Violent Fems were, for his generation, as iconic as Nirvana.

After the cold of Antarctica, Loomis traveled through New Zealand and Japan, trying to find himself. Of this time, Loomis remembers what he calls one of his best experiences: A solo bike ride through the north island of Japan, culminating in a solo backpacking trip for five days. “Just me and my bivysack out in the most remote mountain wilderness with the grizzly bears,” he says, a huge smile crossing his lips, turning up the corners of his handlebar moustache.

A permaculture apprenticeship on Orcas Island brought Loomis back to rain-swept Washington State. He lived there growing local food and building a community in a system he describes as “a total functioning system for eating well and being happy,” before being offered a job at Whatcom.

“It’s really important to stay unbiased to effectively teach anything,” Loomis says. “To be useful to anybody you have to present all sides of an argument, although I certainly have strong views.”

When Loomis is not teaching his two biology classes or his environmental science class, he is busy with his personal life.

“I like to get out climbing as much as I can,” he says. “I keep a garden, like to ride bikes, play music, and make good food. And go out to see shows.”

Of bicycling, Loomis says that “people have actually thrown bottles at me. Glass bottles,” he says, “And cigarette butts!”

Loomis laughs, and remarks that his life story sounds pretty intense. “I’m not a really extreme person,” he says. “I’m just curious. I always felt that fear was just something to investigate.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *