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”
“Michigan’s Endangered & Threatened Trails”
“100 Miles of Rabbit Track: Hiking the Border Route & Kekekabic Trails”