I'm Jessica, the creator of BackCountry Chronic. I'm a thirty-something year old outdoor enthusiast, writer, and artist currently living in the American Southwest. For the past several years, my wife Stacia and I, along with our dogs Texie and Aspen, have enjoyed traveling in New Mexico, Colorado, and throughout the Southwestern states. There's so much to see in this part of the country, with such diverse ecosystems ranging from the high elevation montane forests of Flagstaff, Arizona and Red River, New Mexico, to the Pinon-Juniper Woodlands that covers 15% of the land area in the Southwest, to the dream-like alpine lakes and raging rivers of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
I'm originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts--the whaling city. I have adventured all across New England and can say there are few more scenic landscapes than the fall foliage of New England! From camping at Crawford Notch in New Hampshire, to hiking trails once visited by Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires, New England certainly has lots to offer.
While I try to get outdoors often, my activities are now relatively limited. Several years back I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). AS is an immune-mediated inflammatory rheumatic disease that causes inflammation, pain, fatigue, stiffness and lack of mobility, among other things. While AS primarily affects the spine, it is a systemic disease which has the potential to affect the entire body, and almost always does affect many areas other than the spine. My journey with AS has just begun, but it has already changed my definition of 'outdoor enthusiast,' among other things.
Life with a chronic disease affects every facet of a person's existence. At this point, my AS is moderate, but it still presents with daily pain and other general limitations. There are many people with more severe AS or other chronic diseases than what I'm now experiencing, but for those of us with mild to moderate limitations it's important to remember that outdoor adventures are still possible. In fact, a certain amount of physical activity helps relieve pain and stiffness with AS, but as with anything, it's important to know your limitations!
I am committed to continue adventuring, however limited my adventures may be. Knowing there are lots of people out there like me inspired the creation of BackCountry Chronic. I've followed and read lots of outdoor blogs, typically with a caveat in mind: most of these writers are fit, able-bodied adventures who can train to hike fourteener's and thru-hike long stretches of trails with all the gear they need strapped to their back. That's not the case for some of us!
BackCountry Chronic is different. Here, I dedicate space to those of us with limitations who still enjoy getting outdoors. Our hikes may be shorter, our camping trips may require more gear, but we still want to get out and explore!
In these pages, you'll find blog posts arranged into three main categories:
Outdoors - all things outdoor related, from thoughts to adventures on the trail
Parks - tips, tricks and reviews from our time at National Parks, State Parks, Recreation Areas and more
Chronic Illness - thoughts and experiences with a chronic illness, some specific to AS, some not
I hope you read my posts, subscribe to the site, and follow BackCountry Chronic on social media. Oh, and feel free to contact me!