Backcountry Pilgrim - Hiker Spotlight
Meet the ‘Backcountry Pilgrim’ from California
By Steve Barrett
Creative Content Writer For Hilltop Packs
Doug Beaumont has been a proud member of the ever-expanding backpacking and hiking community for nearly his entire life, and he’s excited to give other enthusiasts the opportunity to join him on his ongoing visual pilgrimage.
For the past three years, Beaumont has been running his own YouTube channel, titled “Backcountry Pilgrim,” which offers hundreds of videos covering a wide array of topics as well as sharing his personal hiking and backpacking excursions.
Beaumont is originally from the California state, spent 15 years in North Carolina and returned to California six years ago, living between Yosemite National Park and the Pacific Ocean.
He is married with four children – three boys and a girl – and when he is not hiking in the wilderness, he is busy serving as the Director of Faith Formation at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. He runs all of the church’s education programs.
“I’m like the principal at a school, only there’s no school,” he said. “There is always lots of stuff going on at the church, and I basically run anything educational. I love what I do.”
Beaumont said although he does not remember his first backpacking experience – he was literally an infant at the time – he was told he was carried by his father up Mount Tallac in South Lake Tahoe.
“My father was an OG backpacker, who often hiked the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail,” he said. “I guess you can say I was pretty much born into backpacking, it has always been a big part of my life.”
After graduating from college, Beaumont and his best friend decided they were going to get more serious about backpacking.
“Backpacking was always a thing in my life, it just wasn’t an obsession until the last few years,” he said. “So, every paycheck we bought more gear and we started really hitting trails. Camping and hiking also gradually became something that my family also got involved in.”
Beaumont said his most memorable hike was when he braved the Half Dome hike, a 16-mile round trip with an average hiking time of 10 to 14 hours and an elevation of 8,846 feet (2,696 meters) and a total elevation gain of 4,800 feet (1,600 meters) from Yosemite Valley.
“In the middle of that hike, I had to climb 800 feet at a roughly 45-degree angle,” he recalled. “I’m kind of afraid of heights, so this was a huge deal to me. It was a brutal, difficult hike, terrifying for me. But I did it. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment … the experience made me confident.”
Beaumont launched the “Backcountry Pilgrim” YouTube channel in 2019, which began with preparations to walk the Camino De Santiago in Spain, which is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain.
“It is an extremely long pilgrimage route, and my cousin and I decided we were going to do it and video record our trip,” he said. “We intended to do it in 2020, but COVID changed the plans. About that time I transitioned the channel to more of a hiking and backpacking channel."
While preparing for the Camino, Doug looked at his gear and realized that what he had was rather ‘old school’ and very heavy, and that he probably didn’t need the giant 100-liter expedition backpack he was carrying.
“So, I started researching about gear and Google kept throwing me to YouTube, and it seemed that all the gear reviews and hiking information I found were being done in video form,” he continued. “I familiarized myself with certain channels and I found myself regaining even more interest in backpacking. And that’s when the ideas started cooking for video content on my channel. I dedicated myself to making more videos focusing on backpacking, hikes and gear, and I guess I haven’t stopped.”
As months went by, Beaumont found himself getting more and more into the channel, video recording various trips.
“I just love the video format,” he said. “The more I got into it, the quicker ‘Backcountry Pilgrim’ morphed into a hiking channel. The name comes from the original idea of us being committed to the pilgrimage in Spain, and that’s something we still hope to do someday.”
Beaumont, who also has an Instagram account, said gear review videos are popular, and he loves when viewers leave comments and/or ask follow-up questions.
“The channel definitely offers a lot of interaction opportunities,” he said.
Beaumont’s trail name is “Rush,” which like many other trail names, is a mixture of truth and satire. He admits that he is not “a super fast hiker.”
“My buddies are like camper backpackers, while I’m a hiker backpacker,” he explained. “When I hike, I stop and spend the night so I can get up early and move on, while my buddies stop and set up camp so they can hang out all day. One time we were overrun by mosquitos and I started packing up to hightail it out of there, and my friends said, ‘Hey, what’s the rush?’ and the name stuck.”
Beaumont said he finds backpacking and hiking a chance to recharge the batteries.
“For me, it’s about getting away from the monotony and ugliness of the world,” he said. “It reminds me that there are still places out there to go and see God’s creations and get away from it all.”
One of his favorite videos is when he hiked the Diving Board below Half Dome in Yosemite, which rises 3,500 feet from the floor of Yosemite Valley and is the prominent rock that projects out on the west side of the face of Half Dome. The Diving Board cantilevers out about 30 feet over a sheer cliff that is a 1400-foot vertical face.
“That was one of the most amazing and incredible things I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “It was an off-trail, hardcore hike, and during that adventure I found myself just 10 feet away from a bear. We just walked around him and we were safe, and I was happy that I was able to catch it on video.”
As for backpacking and hiking, Beaumont encourages other enthusiasts to explore his and other YouTube channels that focus on the topics.
“Whether it’s my channel or someone else’s, make sure you take the time to check out everything they have to offer,” he said. “There is a lot of solid information out there from many different people who have a wealth of experience.
“But above all else, just get out there, on those trails, those mountains, those great hikes,” he concluded. “Look around. It’s pretty awesome out there.”