Backpacker magazine responds

  As longtime fans of HCN, we were deeply disappointed by the unprofessional reporting and inflammatory tone of Sean Neilson’s "Writers on the Range" column in the Aug. 2 issue. Neilson grossly mischaracterizes a recent Backpacker article on Yellowstone, accusing the magazine of three things: 1) Sending readers on illegal routes; 2) Failing to mention backcountry hazards; and 3) Recklessly encouraging readers to explore remote parts of the park.

If Neilson had bothered to call Backpacker to fact-check his charges, he would have learned a different set of facts. First, our author had cleared the routes and campsites during several conversations with park officials, including two with Anita Varley, the only source Neilson cites in his column. (We later learned that one of the areas was closed to camping but not hiking, and we immediately informed readers.) Second, our story contains specific warnings about bears and thermal areas and more than a dozen references to "difficult route finding," "miles of bushwhacking," "thick grizzly habitat," and other hazards. Third, the very essence of backpacking is exploring remote places, and no other magazine does more to help readers do that safely than Backpacker.

We stand behind the service we provide to readers and behind our author, Steve Howe, a 20-year veteran of Western outdoor reporting. We’re saddened that HCN allowed this one-sided attack to sully his reputation and ours.

Jonathan Dorn
Emmaus, Pennsylvania

The author is executive editor of Backpacker magazine.