Rachel D’Antona thought she had it all. The founder and original artist behind Bend’s Hikerbooty, an artist duo specializing in illustrations of public lands, wasn’t always drawing maps and art of trail systems. A 2010 grad from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in interior design and construction technology, she was working her “dream job” as a drafter and project manager for a nonprofit in Louisville, Kentucky. Years into the position, she’d racked up more 16-hour work days than preferred, and was questioning her career choice. “I just knew there had to be something more for me out there,” she said.
On a whim in 2015, D’Antona decided to head west, suspend her career and hike the Pacific Crest Trail in its entirety from Mexico to Canada. From April to October, she hiked through California, Oregon and Washington and had a life changing experience.
While on the trail in Oregon, D’Antona had a medical mishap that landed her in Bend during Brewfest. “The Les Schwab Amphitheater was packed, people were floating the river, and I thought to myself, ‘what a magic little town,’” she said. Upon finishing the PCT, she would move to that magical town in 2016 and begin her own business, based on her experience on the trail.
“After completing the PCT, I wanted something to remember the experience. I thought a map would be perfect, but nothing I could find captured why the PCT was so important. No map I found mentioned all the trail angels and amazing stops that made the hike special,” said D’Antona.
As a result, D’Antona drew up her first map of the PCT, posted it to social media, and the rest is history. “That first map I posted took off more than I expected it to, I had people telling me they’d like to purchase something similar, and Hikerbooty grew from there,” she said.
Now, D’Antona works with Brian McGregor, who joined Hikerbooty in 2018 as a visual artist specializing in illustration and watercolor, and the duo collaborate on a multitude of projects that highlight the beauty of America’s public lands.
“Working with Brian makes me feel a little like I’m in college again,” D’Antona said. “It’s fun to bounce ideas around and hype each other up.”
The name, Hikerbooty, stands out for obvious reasons. “I could have picked something mundane and boring, but I wanted the name to mean something,” D’Antona said. She goes on to explain that Hikerbooty can mean a few things. To some, it can be a reminder of the treasure-memories and experiences-that are found on the trail. To others, it is a reminder of a certain tradition in the hiking community where, upon summiting a peak, hikers take a barebutt photo. “It’s a camaraderie thing, among hikers. A reminder that you just worked your butt off,” she said.
While the name is a lighthearted reminder to never take oneself too seriously, the mission behind Hikerbooty is a serious one: as the population of Central Oregon continues to grow, more and more people are in need of education on how to properly take care of and respect public lands. The mission of Hikerbooty is to draw people into these public lands so that they can enjoy them, but then also take on the responsibility of advocating for the same lands. “It’s really about doing your part! If you’re going to take the time to use and enjoy public lands, it only makes sense that you should care about their preservation,” D’Antona said. “People have life altering experiences in nature all the time, and we should all want to keep our public lands safe for future generations to enjoy as we have.”
For the future of Hikerbooty, D’Antona is optimistic. “For now we’ll have to keep things to the United States, but I’d love to offer a public lands map of each state, and I eventually want to make a book of my artwork surrounding Oregon’s public lands, full of fun facts and anecdotes. I’d like it if someone could pick up that book and realize that exploring the outdoors isn’t so intimidating.”