The internet so full of bits and bytes of information, but it’s still hard to find a good paper guidebook for hiking. Harder still is it to find a good guidebook on backpacking in BC.
When I stumbled on the new guidebook Backpacking in Southwestern BC, I had to to investigate more.
I reached out to the Squamish, BC-based author Taryn Eyton, who also runs the website Happiest Outdoors, for a quick interview to pick her brain about the new guidebook and what it was like to write.
Ross: You are a full-time writer, correct? What does a normal day or week look like for you? Are you hiking all day every day?
Taryn: I’ve been self-employed as a writer full-time for about three years now. I do spend a lot of time hiking, but I spend far more time writing or working on other administrative tasks. July, August, and early September are mostly devoted to hiking and researching. I also do a few other trips throughout the year.
But most of the time you’ll find me in my home office. I work Monday to Friday, 9 am to 3:30 pm (ish). I try to keep to roughly the same schedule each week: three days a week working on my website, one day doing work for freelance clients, and one day working on my next book. At the end of each workday, I go for a short hike on the trails near my house in Squamish, BC. (If the weather is really nice I often take the afternoon off to go for a longer hike.)
R: You run a website called Happiest Outdoors. What is the focus of the stories there?
T: I started Happiest Outdoors in 2014 as a way to share reports from my hiking trips with friends. Over the years it has grown into more of a resource for hikers to find info and inspiration about hiking destinations close to home in BC, and around the world. I also share info about hiking gear, backcountry skills, and outdoor travel destinations.
R: You’re also a Leave No Trace Master Educator. Why did you join that organization and how can hikers learn more about Leave No Trace?
T: Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics principles that help us have minimal impact when we spend time in the wilderness. I’ve been involved with Leave No Trace Canada since 2006. I was working part-time at an outdoors store while going to university and was able to take part in a Leave No Trace Trainer course. I’ve been teaching Leave No Trace awareness workshops since then. In 2019, I got certified as a Leave No Trace Master Educator and in 2020 I joined the Board of Directors of Leave No Trace Canada. You can find more info about Leave No Trace at leavenotrace.ca.
R: What got you into backpacking?
T: Growing up in the Vancouver area, my family went hiking a few times a year, but it wasn’t a major focus. I got really into hiking in university because it was a cheap activity. At the end of my undergrad, my boyfriend wanted to hike the West Coast Trail and invited me to come along. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I went anyway. It was really challenging and I cried a few times the first few days. But by the end, I loved it and planned another backpacking trip (to Manning Park) as soon as we got back. (That boyfriend has been my husband for over a decade now, so that worked out well too.)
R: What’s been your favourite trip ever?
T: This is a bit like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. I’ve had lots of trips that are memorable because we had incredibly good weather or I got to spend time with good friends. But as far as my favourite destination goes, the Nootka Trail on Vancouver Island and the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park both rank very highly.
R: Your book, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia, came out in 2021. What made you want to write a book?
T: I’ve always loved guidebooks and maps. I have a huge collection of several hundred BC guidebooks dating back to the 1960s. I started thinking about what was missing from that collection and I realized it was a backpacking guidebook. There are so many good day hiking guidebooks for BC, but they don’t have a lot of information for backpackers. They don’t point out which campsites are best and tell you what facilities you can find there. And they don’t tell you about hikes you can do from a backcountry campsite. I knew I could fill that niche.
R: What was the hardest part about putting the book together?
T: I had never written a book before, so all of it was pretty intimidating. Thankfully, I signed with my publisher, Greystone Books, about halfway through the process and the team there helped a lot, especially my editor Lucy Kenward. My first draft was really dry and clinical, and I had to work hard to paint a visual picture of the landscape with my words. I also had to learn a lot about plant identification, which is something I love doing now.
R: What was the scariest thing that happened while researching the book?
T: Two things come to mind: I tripped over my own feet and almost fell off a cliff on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. And on the Hanging Lake Trail to Rainbow Pass, we had a nerve-wracking encounter with a mother bear and cub that was briefly so scary that I took the safety off my bear spray. Thankfully, the bears went one way and we went the other. I think they were just as frightened as we were.
R: What has been the most embarrassing thing that happened while researching the book?
T: I was using a throne-style pit toilet (the kind without an enclosure) at Greendrop Lake when a group of six hikers started walking towards me through the forest, not on the trail. It took them a long time to realize they had disturbed a person going to the bathroom!
R: What has your favourite piece of backpacking gear been so far?
T: I love my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad. The extra thickness was a game-changer when I switched from a self-inflating pad since it adds so much comfort for side-sleeping. I also sleep very cold, so the high R-value helps me stay warm. Getting good sleep in the backcountry is so important.
R: If you were to give 2 tips to a new backpacker, what would they be?
T: Two things:
- Don’t do what I did and jump into the deep end right away with a challenging hike like the West Coast Trail. Start with backpacking trips that are easier than the day hikes you do, then work up to longer and harder trips.
- Bring the essentials, but don’t overpack. On my first backpacking trip, I brought a lot of clothes. I soon discovered that no one else had multiple outfit changes and it was perfectly normal to wear the same dirty and smelly shirt for days.
R: What’s your next big adventure?
T: This summer I’m finishing up the hiking research for my next guidebook, (tentatively titled Backpacking on Vancouver Island, scheduled to publish in spring 2024), so I have a lot of trips planned. But I’m most looking forward to visiting the remote Tatchu Peninsula on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Sounds like there have been many awesome adventure and more to come for Taryn!
You can find more info about Backpacking in Southwestern BC on HappiestOutdoors.ca.