Audrey “Glowstick” Payne on the Patagonia O Circuit, Tramily Breakups, and Balancing a Career with Hiking (BPR #252)

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by thru-hiker and author, Audrey “Glowstick” Payne. In addition to a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, which is the subject of her memoir, Where the Rhododendrons Bloom, Audrey has also tackled the Colorado Trail, Foothills Trail, Trans Catalina Trail, John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and the Patagonia O Circuit. Audrey gives us an overview of each of these treks, and how she might be the first person on earth to not enjoy the JMT, she details a not-so-cordial breakup with her trail family on the AT, and offers some solid tips for those who want to trek Patagonia’s O Circuit. We also get an overview of Audrey’s life prior to thru-hiking, including how her treks were inspired by a back injury and her career in PR, including some fun stories of working with celebrities. 

We wrap the show with the news of a nasty outbreak of Norovirus on the AT this year, whether you should store your food underwater in the backcountry, the triple crown of movies we’ve cried to, and some one-star trail reviews.

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Interview with Audrey “Glowstick” Payne

Time stamps & Questions

00:05:14 – Reminders: Come say hi to us at both AT and PCT Trail Days, support us on Patreon to get bonus exclusive episodes, and check out our new hats!

00:06:47 – Introducing Audrey

00:09:20 – What were you doing in DC?

00:15:53 – How did you go from burnt out PR person to thru-hiking? 

00:18:34 – How has your back held up?

00:20:15 – How old were you when you started on the AT?

00:22:45 – Walk us through how you rationalized leaving your career to hike the AT

00:26:57 – Are you grateful for your back issues getting you onto the trail?

00:29:28 – Did you have any midlife crises turning 40?

00:30:40 – How do you feel about your future hikes?

00:31:45 – What advice would you give to others approaching or in their 30s?

00:36:22 – Tell us about getting woken up by some ponies and bears

00:44:00 – Is there a story that resonates with readers from the book?

00:47:00 – Tell us about camping at the drive in

00:53:43 – Tell us about foraging on the AT

00:58:40 – What was your best trail magic experience?

01:03:14 – What are your thoughts about tramilies?

01:07:10 – How did the trail family breakup go?

01:09:54 – Can you give tips to people from a PR perspective on how to break up with your trail family?

01:15:52 – What happens if you encounter your broken up trail family again?

01:16:48 – What was it like post-breakup?

01:18:35 – Discussion about deciding to leave a job to hike the AT

01:20:18 – How can someone weigh the pros and cons of making a change to their life?

01:25:00 – Did you put the AT on your resume or discuss it during your interviews?

01:27:45 – What accounted for the four year gap between the AT and your next hike?

01:29:39 – Do your coworkers know you for your hiking?

01:33:02 – How did you decide to do the Colorado Trail?

01:34:17 – Did you start in the same place each time you’ve done the Four Pass Loop?

01:36:00 – Discussion about the logistics of the Four Pass Loop

01:41:55 – Tell us about your mountain lion encounter on the CT

01:50:00 – Discussion about off-roading

01:51:40 – How was your Foothills Trail hike?

01:57:10 – What insects did you see?

02:00:00 – How was your Trans Catalina Trail experience?

02:04:29 – How was the John Muir Trail?

02:07:50 – Discussion about the PCT southbound

02:12:20 – Tell us about the Patagonia O Circuit

02:14:23 – Is the O Circuit accessible for someone who isn’t an experienced backpacker?

02:15:58 – What kind of mileage and elevation gain does the trail entail?

02:17:30 – Discussion about costs, food, and gear

02:19:37 – Where do you fly into and how do you get to trail?

02:21:24 – How did you feel safety-wise?

02:22:55 – Did the structure of the hike take away from the wildness of the area?

02:25:00 – Did you feel fine traveling in that area without speaking Spanish?

02:26:50 – Discussion about the weather and clothing

02:30:29 – Kumo Question: What would your walkup song be if you were entering the Olympics for a random sport?

02:33:50 – Where can people follow you and get your book?


Trek Propaganda: Norovirus Alert: Appalachian Trail Hikers Urged to Stay Vigilant Amid Outbreak by Ariella Nardizzi

QOTD: Have you ever heard of storing food underwater in the backcountry?

Triple Crown of movies you’ve cried to

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