By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Q&A with Matt Johanson

209 Magazine writer Matt Johanson was recently recognized by the Outdoor Writers Association of California for his Sierra Splendor columns and his new guidebook. 

Johanson’s piece “Internet Dating for Climbers” — which published in the August/September 2018 issue of 209 Magazine — received first place in the Phil Ford Humor Awards, “for work that exemplifies Phil’s style of capturing the outdoor world with a wink and a grin.” 

He also took first place in the Best Outdoor Guidebook category with “Sierra Summits,” while in the Best Outdoor Magazine Column category, he received second.

Johanson has been writing for 209 Magazine since 2014. His Sierra Splendor columns are a popular feature, as the mountain range calls to many outdoor enthusiasts who call the 209 home.

We asked Johanson to share a little bit more about his writing and experiences in The Great Outdoors. 

Q: What originally drew you to outdoor writing?

A: My first job out of college was at The Union Democrat newspaper in Sonora. While I worked as a reporter, I got involved in hiking, climbing and skiing. Years later I combined the two interests and started writing about the outdoors, starting with my first trans-Sierra ski trip. I was pleasantly surprised that anyone wanted to read it. 

Q: Are your books and columns aimed mainly at outdoor enthusiasts, those considering hiking for the first time or a combination?

A: I suppose enthusiasts are more likely to read them, but I hope they appeal to a more general audience too. Most of the outings I suggest are suitable for beginners. 

Q: What is your most memorable hiking experience?

A: Well I’ve had lots of great experiences backpacking on the John Muir Trail, with my dad, uncle, brother, cousins, goddaughter and close friends. It’s hard to pick just one because all of those were special. 

Q: What is your most terrifying climbing experience? 

A: I remember my first rappel scared me to death, and rappelling still makes me nervous. The exposure on climbs like El Capitan and Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite made my heart pound. I’m a cautious climber and, fortunately, I’ve never had a bad fall, though I’ve made mistakes that forced me to spend a few cold nights on high ledges without overnight gear or even a jacket. My favorite climbs include Cathedral Peak, Fairview Dome and Mount Shasta. 

Q: What do you think is the best thing about outdoor adventures specifically in California?

A: We’ve got amazing destinations and nearly unlimited opportunities for so many activities. There’s really something for everyone, and the people you meet out there are terrific.