Brothers Have Your Back(pack)


Two Lambda Chi Alpha Brothers from Boston University join forces to write the third adventure for a backpacking young boy and his trusty sidekick.

Thomas Lehrich, the author of The Adventures of Backpacker Billy and Shave series, published his third book in the series this summer. The latest book, The Adventures of Backpacker Billy and Shave: Topanga Canyon, is a product of teaming up with Brother Chris Kelly at his bicycle shop in Topanga Canyon, California.

Lehrich got his start in storytelling when his children were young. He would tell elaborate bedtime stories about his experiences backpacking and the characters he met along the way.

At a young age, Lehrich started backpacking with his cousin, heir first trip alone was when they were just 13 years old. The two would outfit all their own gear and Lehrich’s parents would take them to their designated location on the Appalachian Trail. These trips created passion for Lehrich as a young explorer.  

Lehrich would use these and many other experiences to build his stories; forming his characters around people and animals he encountered. The Adventures of Backpacker Billy and Shave series, like others Lehrich told, are based on trips he completed, and the newest book isn’t any different.

Lehrich and Kelly started as Brothers at Boston University and eventually became lifelong friends. Naturally, Lehrich knew exactly who to call when looking at locations for Backpacker Billy’s next adventure.

“Chris has a special place just steps from the trail [in Topanga Canyon] and creates an environment that maximizes your spirit and potential,” Lehrich said.

Kelly created Topanga Creek Outpost in 2008. The store was originally founded in Hollywood in 1999.  After the move, the focus switched from road and city bikes to adventure cycling and mountain bikes, with a goal to get people out on adventures. Mechanics at the shop created Rogue Journeymen in 2015, tying the new location back to the old one with the motto – “The Spirit of Finding You Own Way”, something Kelly did when relocating. Both Kelly and Lehrich believe in the importance of independence, trickling all the way down to Backpacker Billy.

“Being in college and in a fraternity builds confidence, I learned that independence and freedom brought responsibility,” Lehrich continued, “One of the special things about Backpacker Billy is his independence and sense of adventure.”

In each story a part of the Adventures of Backpacker Billy and Shave series, Backpacker Billy finds himself in a new location on an adventure, meeting local people and animals along the way. Billy has found an elusive mountain lion, baby orca and even witnessed a volcano erupt on his journeys. He helps readers learn new things and connect with the story.

Backpacker Billy has been to Topanga Canyon, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawai’i so far.

What’s next for Backpacker Billy and Shave? Lehrich has written nearly 10 stories in the series, so readers will be seeing the adventuring pair for quite some time. Billy and Shave may end up in Washington DC or the Negev Desert next.

Lehrich’s goal is to continue to bring the series to readers, spreading the journey with Backpacker Billy and Shave to everyone.