Funke was born in Muskegon, Michigan. Upon moving to Bangor, Michigan, at the age of eight, he began exploring the great outdoors.
“We went out after breakfast, came home for a brief lunch, and stayed out until the sun set. We had only three television channels, no video games, and 25 acres to explore.
You bet I spent a lot of time outdoors!”
Funke’s father, James, taught him the various tree species on their hobby farm along with their uses. His mother, Johnell, tended to their 4 acre garden. Of course Tom was enlisted to help maintain, harvest, and preserve the bountiful harvest.
But he’d rather go exploring for frogs, climb a tree, and take in the natural surrounding of the beech-maple forest on the property.
At Bangor High School, Funke was challenged by his his Biology Teacher, Mr. Hodgman, to become a “future biologist”. That worked, as Funke graduated from Western Michigan University with degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies.
Funke took his first job–in what became a 25 year career in conservation–at the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, MI. His crowning acheivement is the planning, design, and implementation of “Swamp Adventure”, a 4000 foot long interpretive boardwalk though some not so common wetland habitats.
After working 19 seasons at the Binder Park Zoo, Tom took the first ever Conservation Director Position with Michigan Audubon. It was at this time, in 2008, when his son, Nathaniel, was born.
“We were already live-in managers of the Michigan Audubon Otis Farm Bird Sanctuary, and, the job allowed me to work from home most of the time. I was able to spend one day a week with Nathaniel working for home up until he started Kindergarden. It is an experience I would not trade for anything, I feel very fortunate that Michigan Audubon let me work from home and watch my son grow up.”
It was also at this time that Funke published his first book, 50 Hikes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula”. Released in 2008, this book also inspired him to start his first business, the Tahqua Trekker, a hiker shuttle service in Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
“While working on the book, we had some folks bum rides off us. I contacted the park manager to inquire why there wasn’t a shuttle service. The rest is history”.
Today, Trailspotters of Michigan is the parent company for his outfitting business, which now serves the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula and Western Michigan.
Funke left his position with Michigan Audubon in 2016 to pursue his writing and outfitting business.
Funke is married to Susan Miller and still lives in Hastings, Michigan.
Tom Funke is available for speaking presentations!
“50 Hikes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” — popular Upper Peninsula Hikes from his book
“5 Popular and 5 Not-so-Popular Hikes on the North Country Trail”
“Hike the North Country Trail, Paddle Back–How to make a loop using the NCT & local river”
“A naturalist wanders Michigan” — Michigan’s lesser known natural areas
“Hiking the North Country Trail” — Follow Funke’s epic 2000+ miles on the NCT covering five states
“Peruvian Amazon” – visit the Amazon rainforest
“Wild Africa” — visit Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa
“Michigan’s Energy Future” — what you need to know as an energy consumer
Rates vary, I like to work with each organization to meet their needs and budget. Please contact me!
Fun Funke Facts
Tom saw Henry Rollins front Black Flag in 1985
Tom has deep fried over 1 million taco shells
Tom has hiked over 2000 miles of the North Country Trail
Tom has been to Peru, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar
Tom has visited 42 of the 50 states
Tom has visited every Michigan County
Tom has shook the hands of Gordie Howe, John Engler, Jim Blanchard, Alannah Currie, Jack Hanna