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Explorer Spotlight: Crystal Brindle

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Name: Crystal Brindle | Age: 23 | Current Location: Golden Bay, New Zealand

What’s your day job?
I'm a Hut Warden for the Department of Conservation working on one of New Zealand's Great Walks - the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.

What are your favorite things to do outside?
Hiking, backpacking, and landscape photography - I combine them by seeking hard to reach mountain landscapes and bringing my camera along.

What first drew you to the outdoors?
I grew up in a National Park Service family and have spent my life living and working in national parks in the U.S and now abroad. My childhood was formed around outdoor activities and thus led to an active pursuit of similar experiences later in life.

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?
That's a tough one as I have a hard time choosing a hometown! My most recent "long-term" community was Estes Park, Colorado and I have plenty of favorite adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's REALLY hard to pick just one after exploring the park for four years, but I'll have to go with the Desolation Peaks in northwestern Rocky due to their isolation and grand views. As far as after the hike, The Rock Inn on the fringes of Estes Park as it enters RMNP definitely has the best atmosphere of any place around. You'll find plenty of locals and park employees!

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?
My tripod and camera, no matter what the weather forecast or how inconvenient packing them may be. If I'm going overnight, my camera, two lenses, filters, and tripod are with me.

What’s your favorite trail snack?
I change it up quite often but I'd have to say my favorite are homemade cocoa dusted almonds from a Backpacker Magazine recipe!

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?
Absolutely! Anything inspiring or with a great guitar solo. Those are really my only requirements so I have a pretty diverse taste in music. I have to burn CDs to listen to music in my New Zealand leased car so I'm revisiting a lot of old music as I comb through my iTunes library. My current CD has a lot of Led Zeppelin, Florence and the Machine, Foo Fighters, and the Black Keys.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/or, the funniest?
Ah, what a hard question! So many near misses from descending a snow covered slope that turned to ice without crampons, an ice axe, or even poles to route finding off-trail in the dark from undoubtedly the most remote lake basin in Rocky Mountain National Park through a narrow sub-alpine stream gorge to re-gain the trail, and climbing 3,500 feet to the Mueller Hut in torrential rain, gale winds, hail, snow, and the occasional clap of thunder while struggling up loose scree! Whew! However, I think losing my phone IN a mountain top scree field wins for funniest moment after the fact. At the time I was mortified! My friend and I had to excavate huge boulders to open a shaft large enough for me to squeeze in and just barely reach my phone. Despite its long fall only the case was scratched!

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?
I have to say my great hiking partner, Will, who introduced me to the wonders of climbing peaks and taking the difficult path. We've hiked together all over Rocky Mountain National Park and are even hiking together here in New Zealand. Whenever I have an idea for a challenging, uncomfortable, long, and arduous hike in the mountains - Will is always the one to call as long as there's a summit to bag! I also have to mention my other fabulous hiking partner - Jenna, with whom I have spent many days and nights in the far reaches of RMNP. She's always up for an adventure and keeps smiling despite the tight situations we find ourselves in. Thanks, Jenna! I'm inspired by both of my hiking partners and their endless determination as well as many adventurers in the U.S and New Zealand whose detailed trip reports and enthusiasm I rely on for encouragement.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?
At the moment I'm consumed with exploring New Zealand's South Island so that will keep me busy for awhile. I'm hoping to make it to Alaska soon and Iceland, Norway, Tasmania, and Baffin Island, Canada are on my long-term radar.

What’s on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?
My list is exceptionally long currently and grows everyday but my short-term number one goal is Mount Earnslaw in Mount Aspiring National Park. It will be the tallest summit I reach in New Zealand and is located in the grandest of all New Zealand's wondrous landscapes - the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area or Te Wahipounamu.

Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!
Nightfall in Paradise...this photo depicts the remote and idyllic Paradise Park Research Natural Area in RMNP. Reaching this remote lake basin required cross country travel through forest terrain and a scramble across a mountain pass. We then stayed to photograph the night sky and ended up blundering our way down in the dark! What fun!

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?
Find the courage to do what fulfills your soul.

Check out more of Crystal's adventures here.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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