Top Backcountry Journal stories of 2020!


Backcountry Journal receives hundreds of submissions every year; only the cream of the crop make it to print. Each published story has something unique that makes it special, which makes choosing a top few even more difficult. Every story has merit for including here, but these six (in no particular order) are worthy of the extra props and epitomize what Backcountry Journal and BHA are all about:


A Giant's Shoes to Fill by Hal Herring

There was so much I’d never thought of, so much, too, that only a biologist could teach about wildlife and fisheries, so much only a person who had worked within government could know, so much that only a father of a rowdy band of sons, a family man steeped in river water and wilderness rain, could ever understand.





Ethics Class in the Canadian Rockies by Justin Hanlon

The trips shared a few common themes. Namely, they were challenging: physically, mentally, emotionally. Dad espoused a tradition of hunting that could only be described as “the high road.” Often referred to as equal parts philosopher and wild man, each hunt for him was – and continues to be – a deliberate challenge, incrementally contributing to the establishment of a steady moral character.






North America's Most Extreme Big Game Hunt by Janet George

A hunter must earn the privilege of experiencing the rugged grandeur of mountain goat country. Each rocky step makes you more appreciative of the mountain goat’s perseverance in a world of extremes. Extreme terrain, extreme wind and extreme cold all combine to make goat country one of the most spectacular and severe environments in North America.

Such extremes have molded the mountain goat, as author/biologist Douglas Chadwick dubbed “a beast the color of winter.” And there is no more appropriate name for an animal that lives in a niche where winter is eight months long and blizzards can hit anytime during the other four. Everything about this beast, from its snow-white coat and wide, sharp-edged hooves that cling equally well to sheer rock or slick ice to their cool demeanor, are products of a mountain niche.



Bring My Ashes Here by David Sumner

“David,” he reminded me, “I came here with my father, and I brought you here. Mt. Aggazis, Spread Eagle Peak, Jordan, Everyman, the other lakes. This is the most beautiful place in the world.” A pause, another embarrassed laugh, emotion in his throat. “When it’s time,” he said, “bring my ashes here. Bring my ashes here.”

We ate fish that night—the ancestors of the ancestors of the fish I ate in 1980, the fish he ate in 1948. I burned my fingers as I pulled the packet from the fire. I slit the foil, the steam rose; I lifted the tail and with a fork separated the delicate flesh from the fine, translucent bones. I could taste the lakes; I could taste the glaciers.



Always Show Up, Never Give Up by Dan Crockett

The last time I talked with him, I asked what advice he had for those of us working to make sure the things he loved go on. His reply could well be his epitaph: “Always show up. Never give up. If you’re determined, you can do it. Don’t ever stop fighting.”





Resort Town Blues by Christine Peterson

Biologists, wildlife managers and conservationists are taking note: Non-consumptive recreational activities are impacting our wildlife. Trueblood award winner Christine Peterson explores those impacts in detail and identifies ways in which we can modify our behaviors to address this growing challenge.

"Ski areas once provided lush green forage for elk and other wildlife in the summer. The grasses and forbs are still there, but now they’re laced with streams of trail runners, mountain bikers and hikers."




*Resort Town Blues is featured in the latest Winter 2021 Issue of Backcountry Journal. Join BHA to read the story and not miss out on all the amazing stories to come in future issues of Backcountry Journal.

About Zack Williams

Backcountry Journal editor