Brazen Backpacker – Moth StorySlam

One project I gave myself this year was to get better at public speaking. It’s a skill that I find so important, and yet I never took the time to practice. So, I obsessively went to The Moth for a few months and tried to hone my stories as much as possible. It was humbling and terrifying and overall, a great learning experience.

Here’s my first ever performance at The Moth’s StorySlam in Los Angeles, on a night themed “Surrender.”

Autumn Update!

Hello friends and co-conspirators!

I figured it was about due time I wrote you all a letter to tell you why I’ve been so sparse this spring and summer. Well, dear ones, the world of Brazen Backpacker is expanding to bigger things than I could have imagined even a year ago, and I’ve been hard at work on a series of essays and articles for places you know and love like Outside, Backpacker, Modern Hiker, Adventure Journal, and Territory Supply. Continue reading

In Defense of the Void

“Fuck you. You’re a wimp. You’re a hack alpinist.”

I feel like a sadistic acupuncturist is driving 10-inch needles into my thighs with a wooden mallet as I ascend the steep, north slope of Mt. Dana, ragged breaths punctuating my movements like a death cough. I take a gulp of the crystalline air, and suddenly my organs rebel; I am lost in spasm, propped up on hands and knees and retching the last of my peanut butter along with a teaspoon of phlegm onto the carpet of white snow.

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The Annapurna Circuit – Part 1 – Kathmandu to Chame

Day 1 – Kathmandu to Ghermu

I woke to the scattered music of street dogs barking and motorbikes jetting off on dirt roads. Kathmandu has a way of clogging your every sense until you teeter on insanity, then it throws you some more. I nuzzled my face against the deep brown musk of Brian’s armpit hair, praying for another 15 minutes of sleep before I vaulted into the morning, thankful to have my boyfriend by my side in this chaos. The day had come to start hiking.

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Trekking Vinicunca – Peru’s Rainbow Mountain

The walls were moving, and I didn’t know where my guide was.

I was squatting, pants-down, over a pit toilet within a crudely constructed turquoise shed somewhere around 15,700 feet in the Andean foothills of Peru, trying desperately not to puke. The walls appeared to be having a rave of their own, swaying rhythmically to and fro like one of those inflatable arm waving men you see outside of used car dealerships. Mind you, the walls were not actually alive. They were static, as ordinary outhouse walls tend to be. I was the one collapsing. I was trapped in the psychedelic hellscape that only severe altitude sickness can bring, and I was terrified.

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My First Time

My first backpacking trip was a burly 12 miler that left me gasping for air as I crested the last few boulders on the summit block of Alta Peak. I was 28, hopelessly in love, and had a gorgeous assortment of all the wrong gear. Among the sundries inside my pack were: a bohemian leather jacket, a full-sized towel, and a child’s size sleeping bag from the sale bin at a suburban H&M. I was a mess.

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Motivational Posters for Manic Pixie Dream Hikers

Let’s face it, you’re on the trail so many weekends out of the year that you have a pet honeybee named Myrtle who lives behind your right ear and a heart with John Muir’s name on it tattooed across your left tricep. You knit sweaters from the leg hair you shave once a year before your family’s Christmas party, and you know how to create a fierce smoky eye out of nothing but a spoonful of mushroom spores you found in the forest. You are ethereal. You are muddy. Your favorite Beatle is George’s sitar, and you legally changed your middle name to Moab when you were 17. This one’s for you, sugarplum.

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The End of an Adventure

It is Sunday night, and you have left me sore.

After the laughter and the naked shock of lake thaw turning my skin to goosepimples, after you have left my hair a bedded mess of red, and after three moonless nights with trees tall as cathedral spires, I have spun my key and dropped my pack, a sagging slump at the foot of the bed in a dingy apartment behind a cheap sushi joint and a 7-Eleven in west Los Angeles.

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The 21-Day No Complaint Experiment

“Look! My hip has a weird, reptilian scab from this backpack’s belt.”
“Pumping water from these plastic bags takes SO LONG.”
“Dude. I hate marmots.”

We’ve all been that person – the one with the sweat dripping into our eye sockets or the wrong shoes on when it starts to rain. It’s inevitable, it’s annoying, and, usually, it really fucking sucks. The more I go outdoors, the more I become aware of the myriad of weird discomforts and things that can go wrong while tramping through the woods with your house on your back. I’ve also noticed that some people seem to be significantly better at keeping their troubled assertions to themselves and making light of the situation instead, laughing off blisters like some sort of high-octane mutants. I call them Bodacious Backpackers, and they are the superhero mind-ninjas that everyone wants on their thru-hike or climbing expedition. I wanted to become one of them.

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The Girl Who Murdered Small Things

On a cool Thursday night in suburban Texas, I smothered my first soul. I remember the florescent glow from the garage as my mother approached me holding a clear glass jar, beaming. Inside it, a large moth with a wingspan of over three inches and a lunar imprint along the fuzzy husk of her abdomen fluttered wildly, incandescent eyes darting along the seams and praying for an escape.

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