Orange Beach, AL: Beach hikes, river kayaking, country bars, oysters

Our field scout explores Orange Beach, Alabama.

One year ago, when Backpacker first asked me to be a field scout, I didn't have to think twice about it. My passion is empowering people to pursue adventure. I had already been training new backpackers with the Sierra Club's Wilderness Basics Course, giving international travel seminars at REI, and instructing rock climbing and surfing to underserved youth with Outdoor Outreach. Another passion of mine has long been travel and adventure writing. But doing it for Backpacker...sweet!

So, I made another step down that road recently with my first press trip. What is a press trip you ask? Good question. I didn't know either until I was offered the opportunity to go Orange Beach, AL to represent Backpacker. Basically, areas with something unique to offer invite journalists down for a few days and show them all the cool things there are to do there.

Verdict? It was a blast! Here are some of the highlights:

  • I explored the beautiful Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge: on foot with a park ranger, in a kayak on my own, and serenely from a boat with a bushwhacker (a local alcoholic milkshake) firmly in hand. I was very pleased to hear the ranger tell me I was her first journalist to go for a swim at the end of our hike. Field Scouts represent!
  • I listened to some great bands at the Frank Brown International Songwriter's Festival at the famous Flora-Bama. The Nashville, TN band Reign has a female singer whose beautiful voice and 16 year age leave you feeling a little bit like a slacker.
  • I learned I do actually like oysters! I tried one back in college that grossed me out (I actually felt it slide down my throat) and never considered it again. Well, at the 8th Annual Oyster Cookoff at The Hangout, I gave them their long-deserved second go and loved them! I wasn't sure where to start so I figured first place was a safe bet. The top rated raw oyster was Blue Pool from Hama Hama, WA. I really enjoyed it and after that I was hooked. Bully Oyster's cajun and Rockefeller entries were
    also among my favorites.

And of personal interest for my own path forward in travel writing, I got to meet a collection of fascinating journalists that included an online travel writer, an expert birder, a prior CNN aviation expert, and a few regional newspaper journalists.

All in all, fantastic experience, and I look forward to my next one. But for now, back to the woods of North Carolina...