The editor of goEast since its inception in 2016, Ryan Wichelns has played a pivotal role in building one of the Northeast’s most popular digital sites. But Ryan’s history with Eastern Mountain Sports pre-dates goEast, beginning during his college days on the sales floor in the Saratoga Springs, New York, and Warwick, Rhode Island, stores. We recently had a chance to sit down with Ryan and chat about his early days at EMS fluffing and folding outdoor clothes, his work at goEast as well as his broad portfolio of outdoor writing, and his latest venture: Trails Magazine, a print-only magazine for hikers and backpackers that is on track to hit subscribers’ mailboxes shortly.

Our entire conversation is available in the embedded video, and some key parts are excerpted below. While you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to Trails Magazine.

goEast: You got your start with EMS by working in a store. Do you ever miss it?

Ryan: I miss parts of it. I definitely miss working in an environment with other people, people who enjoy doing stuff outdoors, and being around and getting to play with gear.

goEast: Do you ever find yourself merchandising a store when you’re shopping?

Ryan: Every once in a while—particularly in the Saratoga Springs store. I try really hard not to step on the toes of the staff. You should see my closet, though. The hangers are all facing the “correct” direction and my t-shirts are nicely folded, without the need for a fancy flip and fold.

goEast: How did you transition from a store guide to the editor of goEast?

Ryan: I had a good relationship with my district manager who recommended that I contribute to an internal program—MyAdventures—focused on sourcing photos and stories from employees that could be used on EMS’s social media. It allowed me to get my foot in the door with people on the corporate side of the company. When it came time to revamp, rebrand, and re-envision that program into what would become goEast, I was well positioned to hit the ground running.

goEast: Do you remember the first article you wrote for EMS MyAdventures?

Ryan: It was an article about hiking the entire Presidential Traverse overnight during a supermoon.

goEast: What’s your favorite part of what you do at goEast?

Ryan: My role has always been expansive. I do everything from finding new contributors to editing to running the website to coordinating with the marketing team. That said, what I enjoy most is helping writers to craft a story—taking a pitch and working with writers to make it fit goEast. I really like the process of going back and forth.

goEast: Are there any subjects or activities that goEast is missing?

Ryan: Most of the stories you see come from goEast’s writers, which is really cool. The writers are out there doing it and know what people are curious about and letting them follow their interests has served goEast well.

Personally, canoeing is something that I’m passionate about and enjoy. I grew up hiking the High Peaks in the Adirondacks—I’m a 46er—but nothing compares to my memories of family canoe trips. There is something special about spending a couple of nights camping, paddling, and portaging from pond to pond. I would love more canoe stories if I could get them.

goEast: What was the impetus to start Trails Magazine?

I’ve had a long relationship with Backpacker magazine. It was the first magazine I read, the first magazine I subscribed to, and I started writing for them when I was in college. When Backpacker announced that it would no longer publish a print edition last spring, it meant that the backpacking community was no longer represented in the publishing. Unlike sports like skiing and mountain biking, which have several publications dedicated to them, no one has ever really served the hiking/backpacking audience like Backpacker.

Following Backpacker’s going out of print, I talked to a lot of hikers and backpackers and they all told me that they wanted a print publication that spoke to them specifically. The idea for Trails snowballed. I started asking what people liked and didn’t like about Backpacker, weaving their thoughts into my own opinions on how I could improve on something like Backpacker, and went from there.

Photo: Lauren Danilek

goEast: Trails is only going to be available in print?

Ryan: I’ve always been someone who appreciated print. It’s really hard to browse a magazine online, and part of the joy of publications is you don’t know what you’re going to get and often you discover something interesting you didn’t know about, never would have thought to search for, and would never have found out about unless someone had put in print for you.

For example, the first issue of Trails has an article about someone who basically invented the sport of skate packing—taking long-distance camping trips using a longboard. This isn’t the type of story you’re just going to find out about unless it shows up in your mailbox.

Trails will show up in mailboxes four times and is a premium publication—it’s printed on high-quality paper and the quarterly model allows me and my team to be really selective when choosing stories and photography, take extra time shaping writing, and be more thoughtful in its design. In the end, it will feel more timeless than other mass-produced media.

goEast: How challenging is it to start a magazine essentially from scratch?

Ryan: It’s challenging. My background is on the editorial side, but there are many aspects to publishing a magazine. I have had to work with brand partners and book advertising, drive sales, build a website, and figure out things like how to collect sales tax and the difference between 70-pound and 80-pound paper. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m lucky I find this stuff interesting. I’m also lucky I’ve had some help—I have brought on a photo editor and another managing editor.

It’s also really exciting to know that when issue one hits mailboxes, it’s 100% from me and my team. It’s all original and creative—none of it came from a template or stock.

goEast: Do you have any advice for someone thinking I’d love to do some of this—or all of this—too?

Ryan: Just do it! Get your words out there. Start a website and start publishing stuff and try to convince someone to publish your work. Just get that experience.

goEast: How does someone contribute to goEast or Trails?

Ryan: Read goEast and Trails and get a feel for what is getting published and send a pitch. Both Trails and goEast have pages on their websites detailing contributor guidelines and how to send in your idea.

goEast: Publishing a magazine sounds like a lot of work. Have you still been getting outside?

Ryan: Less than normal over the past few months. I’ve been working weekends a lot more, but I’ve been out skiing and keeping busy. I would go crazy if I didn’t.