If there's a more interesting person than Gracetopher Kirk on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018, I don't know who it is. Gracetopher's a queer writer and photographer who you might remember from this piece we shared a few weeks back. They've been published as one of Oregon's Best Emerging Poets, and are the most inspiringly intrepid of dirtbags, tackling the PCT on an absolute shoestring after spending last year recovering from a broken back that interfered both with hiking plans and employment possibilities. This year, they scrounged gear together, made a tent from salvaged material from a dumpster, and are crowdfunding for food by writing along the way.
At last check, Gracetopher's more than 200 miles in (Cabazon, for our hiker nerd friends), and moving along well. After coming to one of our Portland events before starting the trail, they've also been sending us dispatches along the way, which we're stoked to be able to share with you all.
They've sent us a couple of pieces describing the process of finding and creating their dumpster tarp, as well as the origin of their trail name MacGyver (unsurprisingly, those events are related), and we'll share those with you eventually.
But by way of introduction, I feel like a recent personal reflection they sent us on privilege on trail is a better place to start in getting to know them, and tracking their journey.
Gracetopher sent it after seeing and participating in a thread on Facebook about the relationship between privilege and the outdoors, which goes to show that even potentially contentious Facebook conversations will sometimes produce something worthwhile. (There's a metaphor in here about how social media is like a dumpster we all keep digging through because sometimes we find a useful tarp, but I'm feeling too lazy to work it in.)
The term "privilege" has become one of those zeitgeisty buzzwords laden with baggage gathered in a thousand social media arguments, but it's also come up repeatedly as a barrier to participation in the outdoor community as we've heard stories from moms just trying to exist in the outdoors, interviewed Sophia Dannenberg, a mountaineer and the first African American to climb Everest, and spoke with a mom whose daughter is a world class skier and long distance hiker with Down Syndrome.
Gracetopher's commentary gives some helpful insight into ways that issues related to privilege impact their experience in the trail community, and it's a chance to get perspective from a type of voice that doesn't get much of a platform traditionally. Is it surprising that overall the trip's been great, but that they've already had to deal with some weird bullshit from creeps on trail? I don't know. I can say that Gracetopher's an inspiring human, and I'm happy they're out there, blazing those literal and figurative trails. And I'm happy that we have a chance to share their experiences with you all.
(A small disclaimer: Gracetopher's agreed for us to share this, but because they're a working writer, I want to be clear that this isn't intended as a representative polished piece of work. It's a conversational contribution about privilege in the outdoors from someone living directly in the middle of the challenges that come along with being queer and poor on the PCT. They recorded it by dictating into their phone along the way, so this is wild, organic fruit grown directly in fertile SoCal PCT soil.)
Our events are time-limited, and our storytellers are chosen at random from a hat, so it's always a huge bummer when we get to the end of the night and there are still names that haven't been pulled. At our most recent Portland event, this was particularly true when we realized that one of those names was Gracetopher Kirk, who has been published as one of Oregon's Best Emerging Poets, and is leaving to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail literally as we speak (their flight from Portland to San Diego is today, around the same time that this post will be published)!
We reached out to Gracetopher after the event, and they were gracious enough to send on a piece they wrote that touches on a lot of themes that resonate with us - the relationship between life, death, family and the outdoors. It was also particularly timely as the story is set in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, and recently our podcast has included various storytellers from our Laramie events.
This is the first of what we hope will be several posts from Gracetopher, who is just the type of artist/outdoorsperson we love finding and partnering with. They have a real gift for outdoor storytelling, and are going to be chronicling their PCT hike through a Patreon page that will also help support them along the way. We're following and pledging, and we'd encourage anyone interested in supporting brilliant, unexpected and emerging voices in the outdoor community to do the same. Their Adventure Patreon is linked here.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.