Is it possible to write a bio that's not insufferable self-parody?
I don't know! Let’s try.
I’m just gonna assume for the sake of argument that you’ve clicked on the About page because we’re not personally acquainted. In which case, hello! Nice to meet you. You’ll find a homemade glossary of thru hiking terms here, and this is where you can check out my current assortment of gear.
So who am I? Well, I go by Magpie in my favourite half of the year, and people call me Dana in the so-called “real world”. Both names suit me very well, which is lucky ,‘cause I didn’t exactly choose either one. Trail names are bestowed rather than selected, though unlike birth names, you get a free veto. Magpies are canny and clever and resourceful, and I take pride in being named for that mischievous bird. Who says that scavengers are ignoble? Not me! I spent my early twenties as a dumpster-diving anarchist punk, and remain a general-purpose dirtbag to this day. In 2016, I cycled across Canada twice in the same summer, and from there my obsession with human-powered adventure was born. I successfully completed my first thru-hike southbound on the Continental Divide Trail in 2017, followed five months later by a northbound PCT in spring 2018. After that, the lifestyle was deep in my bones. I felt I had found my calling - I live to walk like a sled dog lives to pull. I uprooted my life in Montreal, bought a 1991 Chevy van named Baleine, and moved to Whistler for that quintessential ski-bum lifestyle. In the summer of 2019, I bounced around the continent like a bipedal pinball, completing both the Pacific Northwest Trail and the Arizona Trail. In between, I took a detour to the Appalachian Trail and hiked 300 miles southbound to Gorham Notch, NH, with the intention of achieving the prestigious Triple Crown. Though my AT attempt was interrupted by a family emergency, the summer of that year was nonetheless transformative. After four years as a committed nomad, I finally began to trust my expertise enough to share my thoughts with the world. When people ask about my career, I often reply that I’m an amateur athlete.
It also doesn’t hurt that I fell in love on the PNT. My partner Constantine is an equally accomplished pedestrian, possibly even more hardcore than me. He's also funny, kind-hearted, and ridiculously cute. He makes video diaries of his hikes, and now I help him edit them. These two mediums form a natural counterpoint, as they often show the same event in very different ways. Check him out if you like, but don't feel obligated to consume our work together. Each project walks on its own two feet.
With those key bits of context established, let’s get down to business, eh? What do I write about and why should you read it? If you scan through the archives, you’ll see that my newsletter bifurcates along with my name. Shiny Objects was started to document my thru-hikes, beginning with the Arizona Trail in 2019. I’d been recording my adventures for several years before this, but my previous writing was scattered between various unsatisfying social media accounts and my own private diary. As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m naturally verbose, so Instagram isn’t the best showcase for me. I forget to take pictures, but I always have words. The email newsletter is ideal for a trail journal - my internet access is irregular on trail, and the rhythms of thru-hiking don’t lend themselves to a set schedule. If you subscribe to the newsletter, you'll get every update as soon as it’s published, so you won't miss a thing. My on-trail writing is the real meat and potatoes of this blog, and most of my best work comes from that arena. You can find those posts collected under the byline Magpie - if you’re a new reader, I’d recommend you start there.
When I'm off trail, I publish under the byline Dana to keep things organized. I used to try to post once a week on Thursdays, though that fell by the wayside during the pandemic of 2020/21. When I have more to say, I write more often, and when life gets boring, I experiment with form. I use this space as essayistic social media, as it gives me the illusion of shouting into a pleasingly attentive void. I'm not going to pretend that it's always good or interesting; I'm a novice at this kind of blogging, and occasionally it shows. But there are also a lot of pieces that I'm proud of - here are some of my favourites. At the very least, it's emotionally honest, and I'm told that my lifestyle is unusual and interesting. That's up to you to decide - it's just my life to me!
Most of my posts are free for everyone, whether you sign up for emails or not, but the Substack platform also lets me get paid. It’s extremely cool that some people think my writing is worth paying for, and I reward those supporters with paid-only posts. Sometimes those locked posts consist of work that I feel is too revealing for a wider audience, but I intend to build up a bigger body of polished essays too. I'm working on converting my diaries from older hikes into a supporter-only narrative series, but my handwriting sucks and the going is slow. Mostly, what you get is the satisfaction of knowing you've bought me breakfast on trail, and the ability to leave comments and access every post. Subscriptions are $5/month or $50 annually. Unfortunately, Substack only supports American currency at the moment, so it winds up being about $7CAD.
I think that's all there is to say for now - if you've stuck with me this long, I know you're committed. Go ahead and hit that subscribe button just below, and if you like what you're reading, tell a friend! I know, I know, that self-promotion is terribly gauche - it's a good thing I'm a leftist. Take care of yourself! You'll hear from me soon.
To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.