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Our Favorite Culture Stories of 2019

Featuring fat bears, Pattie Gonia, a very good boy, and more

Here are all the best culture stories from 2019. (Photo: Chris Bennett; AP; Beyoncé/YouTube; N8tureGrl/iStock; Jared Zissou)
Here are all the best culture stories from 2019.

Outdoor culture can be hard to define, and we wouldn’t have it any other way: it’s as diverse as those who work, play, and fight for justice outside. This year, Outside’s culture writers delved into countless subjects, including fat bears, the Camber Outdoors equity fiasco, Pattie Gonia, and more. The common thread? People connecting deeply with the outdoors—and each other—in both new and old ways.

Here are all of our favorite stories from 2019: personal essays, profiles, plus explorations of the events and discussions that shaped the outdoor world.

“Pattie Gonia Is Shaking Up the Adventure World”

Few people have seen anyone quite like Pattie on the trail before, and that’s the point
(Photo: Hannah Shea Photo)

Wyn Wiley, creator of the drag-queen Instagram star, explains that it all started when he grabbed some six-inch heels buried in his closet and decided to take a risk. 

“Life Lessons from a 97-Year-Old Lobsterman”

John Olson on his boat
(Photo: Chris Bennett)

Lobsterman John Olson has been on the water for nine decades, and he’s still working. This story explores Maine’s iconic industry through Olson’s eyes.

“How Shelton Johnson Became a Yosemite Legend”

Shelton Johnson is one of the park service’s most popular rangers.
(Photo: Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee/AP )

The longtime ranger has spent decades sharing stories of buffalo soldiers and advocating for diversity in the national parks. But his journey started on the edge of a cliff in Germany.

“It’s Fat Bear Week, Motherf*ckers”

There is subcutaneous fat enough to go around; may all this year’s competing bears proudly heft it for the camera.
(Photo: Katmai National Park and Preserve/Creative Commons)

Revisit the best week of the year.

“Meet the Volunteers Behind Our Favorite Fat Bears”

It’s the actors who are running the show: six rotund, gleaming brown bears.
(Photo: N8tureGrl/iStock)

Every year, Explore calls on its A-team to capture the rotund glory of the brown bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.

“A New Adventure Guide for People with Disabilities”

Disabled Hikers
(Photo: Courtesy Disabled Hikers)

The founder of the organization Disabled Hikers is making the outdoor industry more accessible, one trail guide at a time.

“Heather Anderson Found Healing on Her Historic PCT Hike”

Anderson is fully in control of her own narrative with the release of her new memoir, Thirst
(Photo: Heather Anderson)

In her new memoir Thirst, the celebrated thru-hiker delves into the physical and mental struggles and the triumphs she experienced on the trail.

“A Muralist Paints the Camp Fire’s Wreckage”

Shane Grammer in front of a mural on the baptismal font of a destroyed church in Paradise
(Photo: Courtesy of Shane Grammer)

Shane Grammer’s images brought hope to his friends and family in the wake of California’s most destructive fire. Now he’s returning to the region to reveal new work, including a major art installation.

“How Instagram Became Divisive for Female Fly-Fishers”

For many female fly-fishers, Instagram is a double-edged sword.
(Photo: Jared Zissou)

Some believe the platform has made the sport more accessible and lucrative for female anglers. But not everyone sees it that way.

“What We Can Learn from the Camber Outdoors Fiasco”

Teresa Baker.
(Photo: Tim Davis)

The organization’s equity pledge ignored the work of Teresa Baker and many others already striving to make the outdoor industry more inclusive. So we asked a dozen leaders in industry equity how to move forward.

“What Happened at the SHIFT Festival?”

(Photo: SHIFT/Won’t Take SHIFT Anymore)

A public condemnation of the 2019 SHIFT Festival’s attempts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion revealed broader issues in the outdoor industry.

“Where Were the Women in Matchstick’s New Ski Film?”

It didn’t take long for critics to pepper MSP’s Instagram with sentiments like “Where are the ladies?!?!”
(Photo: Courtesy Matchstick Productions)

After making some headway on gender inclusion, the on-screen slopes went back to a bro fest with Return to Send’er. The internet was furious.

“The Instagram Account Calling Out Harassers in Climbing”

A collection of direct messages on the @chossydms account
(Photo: Courtesy Instagram)

New accounts sharing bad behavior, plus public stands from notable climbers, are bringing gross online interactions into the spotlight.

“Beyoncé Films at Havasu Falls. The Internet Reacts.”

Beyoncé at Havasu Falls in the “Spirit” music video.
(Photo: Beyoncé/SME/Walt Disney Music Company/YouTube)

The famous waterfalls appeared in about ten seconds’ worth of Lady Bey’s new music video, and some people were angry about it.

“‘Any One of Us’ Is More than an Inspirational Film”

The narrative of Any One of Us follows the fallout of Paul Basagoitia’s injury over two years.
(Photo: Courtesy Any One of Us)

Last spring, Outside features editor Gloria Liu watched professional mountain biker Paul Basagoitia’s documentary about the spinal-cord injury he sustained at Red Bull Rampage. Ahead of its HBO release in October, she and her partner viewed it again after their own life-altering experience.

“Adventures of an Openly Gay Outdoorsman”

In places like this, you can’t afford to be on your own.
(Photo: Courtesy of Lance Garland)

The wilderness firefighter and author reflects on the risks and rewards of being out in the wilderness, literally and figuratively.

“Miscarriage on a Mountain”

Approximately one in five pregnancies end in loss.
(Photo: Samual Ferrara/Unsplash)

Sometimes the path to parenthood is an uncertain trek.

“Inside the Mind of a Very Good Boy”

Dog in national park
(Photo: Megan Kelly)

What is a good boy anyway? How do you become one? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Filed To: BearsYosemiteCaliforniaEventsFirst Person
Lead Photo: Chris Bennett; AP; Beyoncé/YouTube; N8tureGrl/iStock; Jared Zissou