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From Indiana it was a long, soul-searching drive to Santa Fe, New Mexico, rogue home of Outside magazine—and a vast, untapped outdoor playground. Making fast friends and cultivating a bigger-than-ever appetite for the outdoors, I reported directly to top editors including John Tayman, author and founder of Byliner, and Gretchen Reynolds, now health editor at the New York Times.

I researched and copyedited articles, wrote online news briefs and biographies for The Best of Outside anthology, and learned fact-checking—and the art of playing innocent when fact-checking articles of famed national writers whose work, they insisted, “needed no fact-checking.” In one remarkable summer, I sucked up as much knowledge as possible, including some vibes from legendary outdoor writer Jon Krakauer.

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