Welcome to the Women Outdoors Spotlight Series: a space for women to share their stories, articulate what the outdoors means to them, and encourage other women to say yes to adventure.
This week’s series features Halle Homel.
Welcome, Halle! I’m so excited to get to know you more! Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you.
Hi, my name is Halle and I’m originally from Southern California but just moved to the Pacific Northwest this spring.
I was fully nomadic for nearly 4 years, starting in 2019 when I hit the road in my Kia Soul to visit all 48 connecting states in one summer. After I completed this 48-state loop, I bought a van, and hit the road again, this time without a destination or plan.
Over almost 4 years, I visited 50 states solo, 51 National Parks, and have worked seasonal jobs in amazing places like Fairbanks, Alaska, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, and Henry W. Coe State Park, California.
Now though, rather than road-tripping, my main priority is adventure sports, which is part of what brought me to Oregon.
I’m a thru-hiker, rock climber, National Park guide, and Leave No Trace advocate.
In early 2023, I completed a thru-hike of an unfinished long-distance trail in Southern California called the Backbone Trail, with the purpose of bringing awareness to the effects of irresponsible recreation in the Santa Monica Mountains and our National Parks in general.
My goal with everything that I do is to educate about how we can take care of our outdoor spaces while also loving and exploring them.
Halle, you have lived a million lives, already! Can you tell us what inspired you to start getting outside?!
My parents taught me to love the outdoors from a young age, taking me to places like Vasquez Rocks County Park to rock scramble and Malibu Creek State Park to hike and camp. I spent my whole childhood playing in the dirt and riding bikes, but lost my love for the outdoors as a teenager, only to rediscover it in college after a spring break camping trip to Yosemite.
I absolutely fell in love with hiking after hiking to Vernal Falls via a small day hike section of the John Muir Trail, and immediately bought my first pair of hiking boots, my first daypack (a $20 men’s pack from Target that I now use as my climbing bag), and planned my next trip: a long weekend in Joshua Tree, which was only an hour and a half from my college campus.
From then on, I’ve been in the mountains and on the trail nonstop, always seeking my next adventure, and always wanting to go further and go on bigger and better journeys.
Ah, I love that you can pinpoint the exact experience. What would you say is your favorite way to get outside?
I have two main outdoor hobbies: my old love of hiking, and my new love of climbing.
I’ve been a hiker since I fell in love with the outdoors, and have hiked countless trails over the past 5 years, through mountains, riverbeds, deserts, old-growth forests, glaciers, and everything in between.
I think hiking will always be my first choice in the outdoors because it was the first thing that ever sparked my love and connection to nature. Through my roots in hiking, I was able to find my deep love and passion for backpacking and thru-hiking, realizing that there is nothing more rewarding than completing a long-distance trail.
I think that my love and connection for nature was made bigger, though, when I discovered rock climbing in early 2022.
I learned to climb outdoors, rather than in a gym, which expedited how fast I learned technical skills, and while I haven’t been climbing nearly as long as I’ve been hiking, I love it just as much.
Both let me go further, both let me access wilder places, and I can’t wait to combine the two as I pursue my first class 3 and 4 mountains over the next couple of years.
Both hiking and climbing are among my top favorite ways to get outside, also! I’d love to hear about your most memorable adventure to date.
I have so many memorable adventures, from whale watching in Mexico and glacier trekking in Alaska, to white water rafting in New River Gorge National Park. However, my most memorable adventure ever has to be my completion of the Backbone Trail (BBT) in Southern California.
This long-distance trail is about 70 miles long and contains almost 13,000 feet of elevation gain over its length across the Santa Monica Mountains. I set out to complete the trail solo in February 2023 with the goal of starting a conversation surrounding the ways irresponsible recreation and the proximity of Los Angeles have negatively affected the mountains.
This trail is not only long, but it’s some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever hiked. Large sections of the trail are extremely eroded due to the recent rainfall and the trail is full of pointless ups and downs (what we in the thru-hiking community call PUDs). The sections of elevation gain and loss are steep and long, segmented by long and fun sections of flat trail.
Despite the difficulties of the BBT itself, I chose to hike it at the best time. I not only had dry weather the entire time, but I was also met with wildflowers, sunshine, and clear views of the ocean nearly the whole time as I moved west from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Point Mugu State Park.
While I did have more valuable conversations about responsible recreation while on the trail than I could count, the reason this trail is my most memorable adventure to date is because it proved to me that I was able to adventure again.
I’m a hiker with chronic pain after a series of injuries in 2020, and I truly never thought I’d be putting on a 30-pound pack again, let alone hiking 70 miles with it.
I grew up in the Santa Monica Mountains and trekking across them with the goal of helping educate about them before moving to Oregon was the best goodbye I could’ve imagined.
Ah, how empowering. Hiking the BBT will definitely be an experience you will remember forever. Would you say it is your favorite trail also?
While the Backbone Trail is always going to be one of my most memorable, my favorite trail will always, always be the Grinnell Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park.
While it’s only a day hike, it’s about 11 miles with a lot of incline up to one of the few glaciers we can still witness up close in the lower 48 (without needing gear for mountaineering). The peak of this hike is a close-up view of the glacier itself isn’t even the only amazing thing about this hike. The trek up to the glacier is equally as breathtaking.
The trail passes bright blue lakes, incredible mountain views, and a waterfall (you can get sprayed by it!). You even have the potential to see some wildlife like bears and bighorn sheep.
I’ll never not recommend this trail, but it’s also in an area that’s deteriorating fast, which is why we need to take care of it as much as we possibly can by respecting wildlife, packing out waste, and not attempting to walk on the glacier.
Oh, and carry bear spray, this is the Montana wilderness after all!
That sounds like an actual dream! I need to add that trail to my list. What is an adventure (or hobby to learn) that is still on your bucket list?
I have so many things on my adventure bucket list right now, but currently, the two that top the list are: breaking into the mountaineering world and thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
The PCT has been on my bucket list for almost a decade now, and I’m finally reaching a point in my outdoor ability where I feel confident in actually being able to complete it.
Mountaineering is a new goal of mine that spurred from my love of climbing and hiking and a desire to reach the furthest, most remote depths of the mountains I love so much.
I’m hoping to summit my first class 3 mountain in 2023, and my first class 4 in 2024.
Wow! I will definitely be cheering you on as you summit your first class 3 and class 4 mountains! What piece of advice would you give to women who are looking to break into the outdoor space?
I think there is so much focus on gear right now, especially on social media, and while having the right gear is super important —
…it’s also important to just get what you can afford that’s going to keep you safe, prioritize essentials, and basics, and instead, focus more on learning technical skills in the outdoors that are going to maximize your safety.
If you’re trying to get into hiking, start with just a pair of boots so you have sturdy footwear that’s going to keep you from slipping or twisting your ankle, and then focus your energy on learning how to read a topographical map, gauge your hiking ability based on mileage and elevation gain, and about local flora and fauna so you know how to stay safe on the trail.
Knowing these things would have helped me to actually feel safe as a solo hiker so many miles earlier.
I couldn’t agree with you more! Can you tell the readers where they can connect with you further and continue to follow along with your adventures?!
You can tag along on all of my future adventures via @sunbirdsoul on all social media and my website sunbirdsouladventures.com.
For more information on my Backbone Trail advocacy thru-hike, look up #savethesantamonicas and visit sunbirdsouladventures.com/treksavemountains for more information about how I’m planning to expand my message beyond Southern California.
There is also a documentary about my Backbone Trail thru-hike that premieres in May 2023 at Adventure Women Festival in Los Angeles. For information about the movie, check out my pinned post on Instagram and visit @adventurewomenfestival.
Keep an eye out for information about the film’s online release too!
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