This is adventure. Climbing. Skiing. Hiking. Biking. Travel. Whatever your passion, we are all dirtbags. Outdoor writer Fitz Cahall and his team presents stories about the dreamers, athletes and wanderers.
"A lot of folks like a loop trail or a point-to-point run, but I find something really magical about a good out-and-back. On the way out, I feel one way. Then I turn around and run the same steps back, but I feel different,” writes Anya Miller. When Anya learned that her stepdad had passed away, she immediately headed to her favorite Colorado trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness to start moving through the overwhelming grief that she felt.
Say the word bike, and words like, fun, freedom, fast, come to mind. But does a tandem bike double the fun or divide the freedom? One thing seems certain, whether you’re headed to collaboration or catastrophe, you’ll get there quicker on a tandem. From adventures with loved ones to cycling with strangers, we bring you five stories of the mythical unicorns of the bicycle community and fates linked by a bike frame and chain. Tandemonium!
Leah Breen had always been taught to embrace failure. You can't win every mountain bike race, or make it to the top of every pitch. Learn from it, and keep going. But when she felt her partner's climbing rope careen through her hands over a cliff, she realized in an instant that the consequences of her failure could be much larger than individual defeat. Are there some failures you can’t embrace?
When Steve Casimiro moved across the country to write for Powder magazine in the 1980’s, he wasn’t sure his work was going to matter. But after 30 years living and breathing outdoor publication, and starting his own magazine, Steve reflects on the importance of storytelling in our culture.
Boulder, Utah. Population 250. Sitting in the heart of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, this small town of ranchers and settled-down dirtbags prides itself on staying out of the spotlight. It’s the right amount of quiet here. The ranchers ranch. A few small businesses cater to hikers and wanderers. Visitors come and go. Boulder was thrust into the spotlight in 1996 when President Clinton declared the monument. And in 2017, Boulder again found itself at the center of the debate when President Trump issued an order to cut the size of the monument by nearly half. For this installment of Endangered Spaces, we traveled to Boulder to capture a snapshot of a community thrust into a fight they did not choose. A fight they may have little influence over. And a fight about how to protect public lands and who decides. The outcome of that fight will have lasting implications not just for Boulder, but to all communities who rely on public lands. For a population of 250, Boulder had a lot to say.
“We biked through wind, rain, and snow. If lightning struck, we kept going. We only stopped if it got too close. We outran tornadoes in Oklahoma. We waited out a storm in an old horse barn in Montana, huddled like penguins, our bikes cast carelessly aside in the mud,” writes John Flynn. After John lost his mom to cancer, he biked with a group of friends from Texas to Alaska to try to find her again-- in the mountains, the rivers, and the solitude of the open road.
“I’ve spent my entire life going on adventures, but I wasn’t ever really the creator of these adventures,” says Kathy Holcombe. “My role is as the dream maker. And, I have a lot of pride in that role.”Exist in a relationship long enough and we fall into roles. Life is busy. It doesn’t make sense to double up on work. Cultural gender dynamics come into play. One partner excels at certain things. But what happens when we step out of our role? In the fall of 2017, Kathy Holcombe stepped out of her role in the family, and embarked on a year of adventures that challenged her in ways she never expected, and profoundly changed her view of herself.
Last spring, Andy and Katherine Wyatt set up basecamp on the Powell Glacier in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains.After years of individual rad mountain accomplishments in climbing and skiing, they realized they’d never taken a large trip together. The trip started perfectly and then it all went wrong. At full volume, the power of the natural world is terrifying and the limitations of our physical forms so evident. Survival stories are powerful. To the listener, they pose a question. What would you do? Would you make it? What would run through your mind? It’s all theoretical — until it’s not.
Carmen Kuntz has lived a dirtbag life for over a decade. She’s moved every year since graduating high school, and has explored some of the world’s most remote places in her kayak and hiking boots. But with all the moving around, Carmen began to wonder if she was missing out on something. Specifically, a home — and the connections to the community and landscape that come with it. Does home have to be a place, or can it be a feeling?
After more than 50 years of bipartisan support, Congress failed to re-authorize the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the fall of 2018. LWCF grants have protected over 2.3M acres of natural areas and cultural heritage sites and provided recreational opportunities to all Americans across the 50 states. With more than $22 billion on the table, the team at Outdoor Alliance, comprised of avid kayakers, climbers and all-around (reformed) dirtbags, are faced with the daunting task of convincing Congress to reauthorize the funding amidst a contentious political climate.
In this week’s double-feature episode, Amie Begg and Jessica Kelley head out solo into the Himalayan and Alaskan wildernesses--on their bikes. Through the challenges they face--from negative 20 degree temperatures to near-collisions with moose--both women find new perspective on what it means to adventure alone.
Mitch Breton grew up as as devout member of the Catholic Church. He ascended the religious ranks through his childhood, and assumed that one day he would become a priest. Then, he found whitewater paddling. A summer of raft guiding rerouted Mitch’s spiritual journey -- from one that had existed within four walls and an altar, to one that flowed with the current of the Kennebec River.
Jeanie Adamson, a 50-something Mom, decided to switch things up last year for spring break. When she told her son, Luke, she wanted to ski at every resort between Dallas and Lake Tahoe, he offered up Sherrod, his newly-renovated 1990 Dodge Ram van for the job. The two of them threw in their skis, buckled up, and embarked on what would become a memorable mother-son trip.
There is no clear way to cope with death and grief. Moving forward is often heartbreaking, baffling, and uncertain. So, how do we best honor those we’ve lost? When he was 12-years-old, Navy Seal and backcountry snowboarder Josh Jespersen tragically lost his father. Confused and angry, Josh drifted in school and got into legal trouble. He joined the Navy Seals, where death was a constant. Josh would drink to celebrate the life of his fallen friends, but this led to more legal trouble, more confusion, more anger. Ultimately, Josh realized that the best way to honor the dead was to embark on an outdoor adventure that would amplify their memory. He realized he had to live for those he had lost.
After a childhood of moving from one suburban neighborhood to the next, Jonathon Stalls felt starved for connection--to anything or anyone. In a quest to find community, he set out with nothing but his own two feet to carry him from Delaware to California. The awkward, exhilarating, and at times terrifying challenges he faced over the next 8 months helped him tear down the walls around his long-standing isolation.
After falling in love with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Charlie Turnbull and Leon Morton set out to recreate the 1,615-mile journey described in the novel – but on bikes. In July. With camera gear and a few buddies in tow, they followed historic Route 66 from Oklahoma to Southern California. And along the way, they found a place that really brought Steinbeck’s book home.
“For better or for worse, ideas are infectious. They become our goals, and the struggle to realize them becomes memory, the story of our lives,” says Fitz Cahall.When Brian O’Dell decided it was time to stop driving his Honda Civic, he didn’t list in on Craigslist. Instead, he posted in to outdoor forums in the PNW. The cost? Free, but there was one catch. This year, we hear how Brian’s idea for engaging with his community changed another person’s life, and what goals contributors, staff, and community at the Dirtbag Diaries have for 2019. Our ideas are what make us keep growing as individuals--and as a community. Happy New Year!
Chris Kalman, Austin Siadak and Miranda Oakley got to go on what should have been a climber’s dream trip--fully funded first ascents of granite big walls in the Coast Range of British Columbia, helicopter transport in and out, and good team dynamics. But, by the end, Chris realized that this dream trip left him feeling a little hollow and he needed to redefine how he pursues meaningful adventures.
"To work in tourism is to witness the human comedy," says Joe Aultman-Moore. "Every guide has stories that start with, "You'll never believe this...'. Nowhere, it seems, do people go further from the familiar that on cruises to Alaska." Working as a seasonal guide at a remote camp in rural Alaska with ten other men, Joe Aultman-Moore figured it would take nothing less than a request to Santa and his team of flying reindeer to meet a girl. Can Christmas wishes still come true?
Drew Hamilton makes a living by taking people out into the remote Alaskan wilderness to hang out with brown bears. These days, he does it, in large part, as a unique way to protect this magnificent landscape from the proposed Pebble Mine. For the fifth installment of our Endangered Spaces series, we travel to the mainland of southern Alaska to meet Drew and the bears and to better understand the threats to this landscape.
Our ninth annual Tales of Terror brings you three stories that will send shivers down your spine. From ghost-like figures walking silently through the snow, to shadows lurking in a backcountry hut and canyon, these stories will keep you peering over your shoulder.
For the past five years, Janelle Kaz has traveled on her motorcycle fighting against the worldwide problem of wildlife trafficking. Travel along, as she follows jungle roads in Colombia into the incredible indigenous culture of the Kogi.
“I have really good reason to believe that if I hadn’t have been walking down the strip and found that 72-foot tower to climb, that I would be dead or in prison. I have no doubts about that,” says Juan Rodriguez. Juan is an American citizen, an immigrant and a climber. Today, we follow Juan’s journey from Mexico to climbing shop owner, through illegal border crossings and to the first rock wall he ever climbed on the Las Vegas strip--a chance encounter that altered the trajectory of his life.
“I was certain I was paralyzed. My legs were totally limp, I was hanging upside down and the only thing stopping me from falling 160-feet headfirst into the talus below, was this rope that was wrapped around my foot,” remembers Craig Gorder. In November, 2016, Craig took a fall climbing that injured him badly, and dramatically altered the course of his life. We follow Craig through the first year of his recovery--the day to day questions and decisions, setbacks and victories, mini-crises and mini-epiphanies that really make up the recovery process.
“I have a pretty young grandfather, but he was starting to get old and knew he had one or two more big expeditions in him,” says Ethan Roebuck. “He wanted to put together a big trip, because he’s getting older, but also because I’m getting older. When Ethan’s grandfather proposed that they go on a tandem kayaking expedition along the Canadian coast the summer before Ethan’s senior year of high school, Ethan was onboard. Producer Cordelia Zars brings you the story of a wild adventure, a passing of the torch, and the special bond that emerges and evades the constraints of words.
“Any time I ski a steep line, I’ve done it hundreds of times, and still every time for me there is that moment of fear on top, where I am like, ‘Do I really want to do this?’,” says Jason Hummel. “But, also, anytime you do anything scary, it really ties you down to the moment, the instant, to that second, and all that matters is the next turn.” Just as Jason had started to feel like he knew what his home mountains had to offer, he stumbled into this idea that made him reconsider how much he still had to explore. Today, we bring you Jason’s journey to ski all of the glaciers in Washington--a story about how sometimes, by placing a constraint on adventure, we can deepen our relationships with the places we consider most familiar.
For most of his adult life, Cam Fenton has fought against climate change--and particularly to protect the Arctic. “The funny thing was, for most of that time, I couldn’t tell you why,” says Cam. He traveled to the Arctic hoping for revelations about climate change and renewed purpose to fight the good fight. He did walk away with a revelation--just a very different one than he expected.
Expedition kayakers Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic have what is perhaps the longest running, most successful partnerships in outdoor adventure, but, in April 2017, on an expedition to the Colombian Amazon, the team dynamics grew so strained that being held hostage by an armed rebel group didn’t seem like the worst thing that could have happened. In Part II, we’ll get into the history of this epic partnership, what went so wrong, and what happens moving forward.
After a breakup and a drinking habit sent John Gray in a downward spiral, he decided that he needed something radical to shake him out of his "life avoidance stupor." So, he signed up for a semester-long Outward Bound course that would take hime from the Appalachians to the Everglades to Costa Rica-- and change his outlook in a lasting way.
Expedition kayakers Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic have what is perhaps the longest running, most successful partnerships in outdoor adventure, but, in April 2017, on an expedition to the Colombian Amazon, the team dynamics grew so strained that being held hostage by an armed rebel group didn’t seem like the worst thing that could have happened. In Part I, we’ll follow Ben and Chris down Colombia’s remote Apaporis River.
Today, we bring you the first episode of Duct Tape Then Beer's new show, "Safety Third." Big wall climber and former wingsuit flyer Chris McNamara believes risky outdoor pursuits are essential. But, what happens when something vital has the potential to kill you? You find different ways to take risks.
“In the early stages of my pregnancy, I was intrigued and ready for the changes that would take place,” says Chelsey Magness. “As an athlete, I expected body image and performance challenges. I expected exhaustion. I expected attachment issues to my newborn twins. I never expected what was actually to come.”Chelsey and her husband Jason have built unique lives as professional adventure racers and partner acrobatics and slacklining instructors--among other things. When unimaginable tragedy struck their family, they came up with a unique way to move through their grief.
There are a lot of serious problems in this world, but the solutions don’t always have to be serious. Fly-fisherman and runner Andrew Todd channeled his concern for Colorado’s native trout and the watersheds that support them into the creation of a joyful, irreverent, event: The Flyathlon.
Chronic depression and the deaths of a few friends launched Tyler Dunning on a mission to visit all of the National Parks. He constructed an identity around the project, started writing a book and making a short film about his journey. But part way through his project, he lost interest, and was again left with the question, ‘Now what’?
“I was working this corporate job, and, every day, I looked out the window and thought, ‘Man, those mountains are so beautiful, I wish I was out there’,” remembers Perry Cohen. Growing up, Perry was an outdoorsy kid--hiking and cross-country skiing in rural New Hampshire. He was thrilled when, as a teenager, he got to sign up for an Outward Bound course. But the experience left him disappointed. For the first time, he didn’t click with the group. Perry reconnected strongly with the outdoors in his late thirties, as he transitioned from female to male. Being outside helped Perry have an appreciation for a body that he had felt alienated from. Looking out that window, he realized that he wanted to help other transgender folks get outside.“I thought there must be some queer outdoor organization leading trips that I could go work for, but I didn’t find one. So, I got despondent for about twenty-four hours, and then I thought to myself, ‘I’ve led a corporate HR department, I understand how to run a business, maybe I should just start one’. And so I did.”
Carmen Kuntz had just started to break into the world of competitive, freestyle whitewater kayaking when she sustained a mild traumatic brain injury. For the past four years, she has had to confront a new kind of challenge: learning to balance the risk of re-injuring her head and the risk of losing who she is.
“For me, it was a way to stay connected—literally: tied to my free-range daughter by a length of 10-millimeter climbing rope, and connected to my own dream of being an adventurer,” says David Altschul. “And that was how I found myself on a ledge, high above the Columbia River, in the dark.”For the past decade, David has told the story of the infamous “Escape From Beacon Rock”–a failed attempt to climb a basalt monolith with his daughter, our producer, Jen. At age 72, it dawned on him that, rather than continue to tell the story of the failed climb, he could connect with his daughter by actually climbing Beacon Rock, and doing it this time as a ‘real’ climber.
“Here I was, a professional wilderness instructor with no food or water, a sopping wet tent and wetter sleeping bag, no way to banish the chills or signal that I needed help,” says Emma Walker. “For the first time in my career, I began to think I might need a rescue.”Emma’s husband Bix has also worked for years as an outdoor guide and educator. So, when the two of them set out on an overnight backpacking trip to a beach on Hawaii’s big island, they were unconcerned--maybe a little too unconcerned. Emma Walker and her husband, Bix, have both worked for years as wilderness instructors, so when the two of them set out on an overnight backpacking trip to a beach on Hawaii's big island, they were unconcerned. Maybe a little too unconcerned.
"The notion that there's one dream that we're all after and agreed upon ways in which you can verify that you are indeed living that dream drives me crazy," says Forest McBrian. "Everyone's dream is a little bit different. In May of 2017, Forest and Trevor Kostanich spent a month traversing the North Cascades from Snoqualmie Pass to the Canadian Border (well, almost) in a style that broke all the rules of an epic mountaineering expedition--in the best way possible.
"It's like being caught in a spiderweb. You'll find yourself pushing with every part of your body, and no part of your body will be able to move. You're totally trapped by--held by plants," says Elsa Sebastian. She bushwhacked through the overgrown clearcuts of Southeast Alaska in a creative effort to defend the remaining old growth on her home island, Prince of Wales, from a proposed bill that would transfer up to 2-million acres of the Tongass National Forest to the State of Alaska. For the fourth installment of our Endangered Spaces series, we follow Elsa and her companions as they trek across the island to see for themselves what's been lost and what remains to be saved.
"I think the jack of all trades gets a bum rap. The jack is the master of none, but I think the jack probably has a lot of fun," says Fitz Cahall. We open our annual Year of Big Ideas with an ode to “mediocrity” from Fitz, then turn, as always, to our community for inspiration for the coming year.
Cordelia Zars shares stories of her family's unconventional adventures--like dragged a 90-lb keyboard 10-miles through the snow on a 9-degree Colorado evening--and she reflects on how those excursions shaped her and her siblings.
"It's like the Iditarod with a chance of drowning," says Jake Beatty, one of the organizers of the Race to Alaska. What's crazier than trying to race from WA to AK on a boat without a motor? Karl Kruger's decision to enter the race on a SUP.
For our eighth annual Tales of Terror episode, we have five stories that span the range of things to fear--from angry men with shotguns, to bears and mountain lions, to things that really don't have any explanation in the world of science.
When Tyler Neese and four friends loaded up the truck for a spring break ski vacation in Colorado, the stoke was high. Until, just minutes from the slopes black ice and a distracted driver flipped their trip upside down. Sometimes, it's not about what happens to you, it's about how you react.
For our third Endangered Spaces episode, we travel to Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to follow Dave and Amy Freeman on "Paddle to D.C." and "A Year in the Wilderness," two adventures that had a real impact in advocating for the protection of the place they love most.
"If you're thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated. That's what they say. Those perfect people who always have a clean, happily-colored, reusable adult sippy bottle on hand," says Anya Miller. "Most often, I only realize that I'm thirty when someone offers me a drink. My friend Jesse Bushey brought up climbing El Cap. I didn't even know I wanted to--until he suggested it."
"When we were living in a house, we were always compromising what we thought we should be doing," remembers Kathy Holcombe. Until, the day she, her husband, Peter, and their daughter Abby moved into a Winnebago to travel and work from the road. "I want her to see that... whatever her wildest dreams are, to chase them and not stop until they come true," says Kathy. 12 year old Abby's dream? To kayak the 280-miles of the classic Grand Canyon run.
"I looked like some mountain man's girlfriend, and sometimes, that's all I felt like," remembers Andrea Ross. But after an accident on Mt. Humphreys forced Andrea to draw on her EMT training, she reached a turning point in her relationship and the way she imagined her life.
"The reason that I was able to do it is because I was incredibly naive," says Lucas St. Clair. "I had no idea how much work it was going to be, when I started. Not a clue." The thing Lucas did: work to establish Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in the North Woods of Maine. We started this "Endangered Spaces" series for two reasons. First, we want to take a deeper look at a handful of important, active land battles. Second, and every bit as important, we want to follow the stories of a handful of people who, in their own, quirky ways, have stepped up to protect the threatened spaces they hold dear.For Lucas, the endangered space wasn't the land he was working to protect, but the communities that surround it. The comment period for the 27 monuments on Zinke's list ends July 10th. Outdoor Alliance makes it easy to speak out for the places that are important to you. To plan your trip to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, visit Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters.
"Three days from the end of the trip, I started to panic," writes Emma Walker. "I still didn't know what to do with my summer, let alone the rest of my life. Inspiration, as I'd imagined it, hadn't struck. Now, I had to face the realization that I didn't have an exit strategy. This had been it, and it would inevitably end."The summer after her first year of graduate school, Emma enrolled in an Alaska Pacific University Expedition Mountaineering course. She told her family she signed up because it meant she'd earn graduate credits to traipse around the Harding Icefield. But she also hoped the trip would bring some clarity on the bigger questions, like whether or not grad school had been a mistake and what she was still doing in Alaska.No lightning bolts of clarity struck during her trip, but looking back a year later, she could see that, perhaps, her month in the Alaska mountains had given her the inspiration she needed after all. You can find more of Emma's writing at myalaskanodyssey.com or listen to her first Short, "I Poo: A Love Story"
"As a brown woman, I stand out," says Mary Ann Thomas. "People came up to me just because they were curious, just because they were like, 'There aren't a lot of strangers here, we're just interested in who you are as a person-- as a whole person.'"Mary Ann is the daughter of Indian immigrants, she's queer and she had always lived in the liberal bubble of big cities on the East Coast. When she embarked on a six-month, 6600-mile bike tour across the country, she worried most about the prejudice she might encounter as she pedaled through middle America. She was surprised to discover that the stereotypes she had to confront in a profound way were her own. Check out the blog from Mary Ann's trip, or find more of her writing here.
When a bad breakup sent him spiraling into a deep depression, Tom Ireson fixated on an unconventional way to get his head straight:"I really needed something to focus my mind on to pull me out of that," Tom says, "and about the biggest thing I could think of was to try and do a new route on a big wall." Not just any big wall, a big wall on the other side of the world in the remote and wild valley of Cochamo, Chile. When he latched on to the idea, Tom had never been to Cochamo and never climbed a big wall, much less established a new route on one. Today, we've got one for you about how, if you find yourself at the bottom of an impossibly deep hole, sometimes it takes an equally impossible goal to pull yourself out of it. If you want to hear more from Tom, check out his 2014 Short, 'Go For It'.
"I used to go climbing in the same way people would go to a well, a source of life equally routine and sacred. It would fill me up--leave me refreshed and full after a hard day in the mountains," writes Keith Erps. "After Ryan's death, climbing appeared dark and ugly. I wanted to love it, but had to find a new answer to the 'why' questions."For many of us, the relationship we have with the outdoors stretches back longer than most of our friendships. But what do we do when what should have been a type one fun day in the mountains turns into the worst day of our lives? How do we redefine our relationships with the activities we love? Ryan's family started a scholarship in his name to help underserved youth get outside. You can donate here. You can find more of Keith's writing here.
Matt Muchna and Peter Journel are best friends, and complete opposites. Matt is spontaneous. Peter is a planner. Matt is an idealist, Peter in a realist. And a few years ago, they made a bet: Peter bet that Matt couldn't climb one of the highest continental peaks for less than $3,000. If he did, Peter would pay him back for the trip. "When I made this bet, I had maybe two or three pairs of cut off pants that were now shorts--or jorts--a pair of sandals, and maybe six or seven pretty nice Hawaiian shirts," remembers Matt. "And that was it." Today, producer Francesca Fenzi brings you a story of mountain climbing on a budget, friendship, and idealism versus realism. You can find more of Francesca's work at: francescafenzi.com
"Every day on the mountain and every night at the bar, drinking and partying was as much a part of my life as skiing," remembers Paddy O'Connell. "That is until, of course, they became the only part." We've heard the stories of addicts who found salvation in the outdoors and the outdoor community, but that's not the way the narrative arcs for everyone. For Paddy, recovery looked less like slashing pow turns with his ski-bum buddies, and more like a game of catch with his dad on the back lawn of a treatment facility in Minnesota.
Loosely speaking, there are two kinds of fear. There's the fear of external, objective hazards--like getting caught in an avalanche, or taking a bad fall climbing or getting mauled by a grizzly bear. Then, there's the internal, more slippery kind of fear, like the fear of not being pretty enough, or not being popular enough or not being perfect enough. When Kat Cannell embarked on a 350-mile, solo horse-packing trip through the mountains of Idaho and Montana, across snowy mountain passes and through a large swath of grizzly bear country, she had to confront both kinds of fears. She realized that maybe conquering the fear of having a head on with a grizzly and conquering the fear of not being pretty enough really isn't all that different.This April, Kat and activist Katelyn Spradley plan to ride 900-miles from the Washington Coast to Redfish Lake, Idaho, following the path of Idaho's wild salmon up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon Rivers to their spawning grounds in the Sawtooth Basin. Learn more at RideforRedd.org, or follow the trip on Facebook or Instagram.
If you travel down to Ushuaia, Argentina, you might just find a bus plastered with a massive photograph of Sam Evans-Brown. In that photo, he's sprinting, shoulder to shoulder, with Olympic cross-country ski-racer Martin Bianchi in the final stretch of the 2008 national ski championship of Argentina. Today, Sam brings us the backstory to that photograph--a story about a split-second act of kindness that altered the course of Martin's life, and about figuring out when it's time to leave the races behind. Sam hosts the podcast 'Outside In', a show from New Hampshire Public Radio about the natural world and how we use it. A version of this story originally aired on 'Outside In'. You can find "Don't Cheer for Me Argentina" here.
"'Oh, shoot', my dad muttered for the tenth or fifteenth time in the last five minutes. Then, he burst into exhausted chuckles," remembers Deron Daugherty. "I looked up the chute that we were trying to march out of: thirty degrees of slop, several hundred feet to go. 'Shoot', I agreed, and laughed, the dark laugh of those initiated to the secrets of redlined exertion. Type 2 fun before I knew its name. When Deron's uncle coerced him and his father on a trip to Vasey's Paradise, an oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, they had no idea what they'd find down there. They didn't know about the chute. They also had no idea what truths they would uncover about one another, the bonds that would form between the three of them or how long those bonds would last.
No matter who they voted for, right now, a lot of people in this country would agree that things could be better. In the long term, if want thing to go well or if we want to move forward or to grow, then two, almost evenly divided, sides of the country can't remain at intellectual war. So, this year, we bring you our annual Year of Big Ideas, but with a twist. With the current state of our country, asking people about their personal goals to get rad outside didn't quite feel right. Instead, we went out the simple/utterly confounding question: How do we move forward? Today, our friends, contributors and listeners weigh in with their thoughts and goals on what we do in 2017 and in the years to come. Happy New Year!
"I have now officially sold out," writes Chris Kalman. "I work more than I climb. I pay rent and sleep in a house I'm getting rich off of writing--so rich, in fact, that I do my grocery shopping inside the store now." Today, we bring you the story of Chris's life through the eras of three vans, "Ford," "Chevy" and "Van," to his current, nameless fancypants car. How do you reconcile a dirtbag soul with changing goals and dreams? You can find more of Chris's writing at FringesFolly.com
Chad Kellogg. September 22nd, 1971 to February 14th, 2014. Seattle climbing community legend. Dear friend to many. And the toughest guy around. "For Chad, not eating and shivering on ledges--that was like skiing powder for him. It was just that fun," remembers Jens Holsten. Today, we take a look at what gets left behind when someone like Chad leaves us, and what grows in that vacant space. In part one, we hear from Jens, Chad's climbing partner, good friend and mentee during the final years of his life. In part two, we follow Ras Vaughan and Gavin Woody as they pick up the torch on a project Chad dreamed up, but never completed: the Rainier Infinity Loop. An idea so grand, it seemed almost inhuman.
With a professional ski guide for a dad and a skin instructor for a mom, Nina Hance learned early how to set a steep skin track and charge hard. At 20, she started to work toward her ski guide certification and got a job as an apprentice guide for a heli operation in Alaska. Imagine her delight when, her first week of college, she met Olivia, climber skier and aspiring avalanche forecaster: the ultimate female adventure companion. "She taught me how to party hard, and I made her wake up early for powder days," says Nina. "Whether in deep conversation over a bottle of wine, swapping leads on a multi-pitch, or giggling in the skin track, we couldn't get enough of each other." Then, one morning, Nina awoke to a phone full of missed calls from mutual friends, and the terrible realization that she would have to find a new way to love the mountains.
"As a mom, you have no book that tells you the right way to take care of your kids through bad times," says Bonnie Elozory, mother of four. For seven-years, the Elozory family weathered a relentless streak of bad luck. With no instructions on how to pull her family out of the muck, Bonnie got creative. When her husband nudged Bonnie to rekindle her dream to hike the Appalachian Trail, she latched on to the idea. And decided to take the kids. "Oh my gosh," Bonnie remembers thinking, "this is going to save our lives." *This episode contains discussions about assault. If you're listening with young ears, or have sensitive ears, you may want to skip this one. Click here to read Bonnie's blog from the trail.
"This is the part that I never anticipated: the boots have taken on a life of their own. They've just worked magic with people," says M'Lynn. "I'd like to see Paul's boots continue to be an inspiration, continue to get people off the couch and out into the fresh air and paying attention to what they're doing with their lives."Paul's boots have now covered all 2,189-miles of the AT. All three pairs have summited Katahdin. Now, we've got quite the collection of size 13 hiking boots at the office. And we agree with M'Lynn: we think it would be a shame to let them sit in the corner and collect dust. For our third and final episode on the Paul's Boots project, we bring you the story of thru-hiker Alex Newlon, who carried a pair of boots the entire length of the AT, and we have one last ask for you: Where do these boots go next? Email ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org Watch the full Paul's Boots film.Listen to the first Paul's Boots episode and the Update from the Trail episode.
This is our seventh annual Tales of Terror episode. Over the past seven years, we've read a lot of scary stories about things that happen out in the woods. We've discovered that there are all kinds of frightening things that can happen out there, but there are two ingredients that, mixed together, seem to lead to a terrifying experience more often than anything else: 1. Going out alone2. Trying to go to sleepToday, we bring you three stories of what happens when you try to go to sleep alone in the woods. First, we'll hear from Ryan Taylor, then from Jason Prinster and then from Duct Tape Then Beer's very own Isaiah Branch-Boyle. Happy Halloween, everyone. Maybe go camping with a buddy.
In the fall of 2015, photographer Pete McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko embarked upon a journey to rally support to protect one of our most awe-inspiring national treasures: the Grand Canyon. Their method? A 700+ mile sectional thru-hike of the wilderness that lies between the rim and the river. They knew the trek would challenge them, but they had no idea how quickly and completely the canyon would leave them demoralized and physically destroyed.The two of them were contemplating giving up when, as Kevin puts it, 'A miracle happened'. Today, a story about three people who have dedicated the better part of their lives to developing a unique skill--and a project so complicated and important that it required their cumulative experience to pull it off. It's also a story about friendship, and how friends working toward a common goal can lead to something greater than the sum of its parts. You can find Pete's photography and film at: www.petemcbride.com/To hear more from Kevin, pick up a copy of his book, The Emerald Mile, or listen to the Diaries episode, "The Threshold Moment."To learn more about Pete and Kevin's journey, check out these two articles: "6 Painful Lessons I Learned by Hiking the Grand Canyon" and "Are We Losing the Grand Canyon?"To learn more about the current threats to the Grand Canyon and what you can do to help, visit: savetheconfluence.com
"The days and months on the road had unspooled before us and we'd simply followed the thread. But the bobbin was empty now," writes Dave McAllister. "Fine Jade would be the last cumulative "now" we shared, the final adventure we'd have as a group. At least on this trip. Maybe ever." Last spring, Dave and his band of dirtbag travelers celebrated their last moments together and helped their friends get hitched in style--atop a desert tower. Today, we bring you a story of gumby ingenuity, spring in the desert, feather boas and a little tale of 'dirtbag theology' in motion. You can find more of Dave's writing at: Thundercling.com
Last winter, we received an email from M'Lynn. Her late husband, Paul, had a dream to hike the Appalachian Trail. He never made it to the AT--but, M'Lynn thought, maybe his boots could? Maybe they could serve as a reminder for all of us to live our dreams while we can. Maybe they could go one step further and literally pull someone off the couch and onto the trail.We asked you, our community, to help us make that dream a reality. More than 400 emails poured in, from seasoned thru-hikers to first-time backpackers. We heard a resounding, 'Let me know how I can help'. We knew we were part of an incredible community, but damn. We're floored. Today, we bring you an update on the journey Paul's boots have made over the past nine months, introduce you to some of the hikers who carried Paul's boots and hear M'Lynn's reaction. Listen to the first Paul's Boots episode. Learn more about the Paul's Boots Project.
"Maybe you and I would have the same recommendation--from my standpoint to the climbers out there, and from your standpoint to the mother's of those climbers out there," Kyle Dempster said to his mother. "Talk about the worst case scenario. Don't pretend that it doesn't exist. Express the love that you have for each other, and also the insurance that, in the event of worst case scenario, life will go on." On August 22nd, 2016, Kyle and his climbing partner Scott Adamson went missing on Pakistan's Ogre II. After days of bad weather, friends and family, with incredible help from the Pakistani government, were able to conduct a search, but found no trace of the two climbers. Our hearts go out to Terry and to all of Kyle's friends and loved ones. We know that he understood the risks involved in the activities he did, and we know that still doesn't it any easier for the people close to him to live with the hole he's left in their lives. Kyle was one in a billion. We originally aired a version of this episode in 2014--a story from Kyle and his mother, Terry, about the struggle of loving an adventurer. The struggle between loving them so much that you don't want to see them hurt, and loving them so much that you want to support them in pursuing their dreams and doing the things that make them tick.Last year, we reworked this piece to submit to the Third Coast Audio Festival. We have never aired this version publicly. It seemed like the right moment.
Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic are the expedition kayakers. Over the past decade, the duo have made first descents of over 120 rivers in wildly remote locations across 36 countries and 6 continents. In 2016, Ben and Chris traveled to Myanmar to complete a source to sea descent of the Irrawaddy River. The both say it was the first time they failed completely to accomplish their objective--and also one of the richest experiences they've ever had. "Had we floated freely down the Irrawaddy, I don't know that we would've learned nearly as much about what actually was going on," says Ben. "The corruption that's occurring in that area stopped us from running the river. It wasn't just a side note. It was directly in front of us." Today we, bring you a story about the intersection of politics and adventure, and about the richness in failure. You can read more about Ben and Chris's trip to Myanmar here.
"I think all of us -- dad, me, my brother -- recognized a window of opportunity in which our flexibility as freelancers overlapped with dad's entrance into the golden years of being both retired and fit," says David Hanson. "Plus, it felt like dad and I had some things to figure out. Our differences weren't just that he liked park lodges and I preferred remote bivy sites." For the past five years, David's father, Scott, has visited a cluster of National Parks. And every year, David and his brother take turns accompanying him. Today, we travel with David and his father to Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend in search of two of the greatest gifts our public lands give us: family time and common ground. You can find David's writing, photos and video at: davidhandson3.com
"Over two weeks I went from pretty 'fine'--I have to say 'fine' with air quotes and an eye roll because it's that kind of fine--so, I went from 'fine' to 'I'm out'! I just needed a life restart," says Katie Crafts. For her thirtieth birthday, Katie gave herself a trip on a cruise to Antarctica. In the other, older passengers on the ship, she caught a glimpse of her future if she continued on the path she was on. In the ship's crew, she saw something else: a superwoman equivalent of herself. Today, we bring you the story of a journey to the far reaches of our planet, and of what it takes to see the person you want to be, and then become that person. It starts with saying 'yes'.
"If you go on some really big, really ambitious trip or you have some enormous goal, if you look at the big picture all the time, it's too intimidating, it's too big, it seems too insurmountable," says Jim Harris. "If you break it down into the next move, or the next pitch, or the next day of hiking, or the next rapid or whatever it is, those chunks are manageable. And there's a lot of aspects to spine injuries that are that same way." A year and a half ago, Jim traveled to Patagonia to attempt a 350-mile traverse of the Patagonian ice cap via kite-ski and packraft. But before the team even made it out of town, Jim was practicing with his kite when an errant gust of wind pulled him into the air and the slammed him back into the ground, breaking seven vertebrae and rendering him paralyzed. For the fifth installment of our Mileposts series, we travel to Grand Teton National Park to bring you a story of how much these places we love can take away from us, and about how, sometimes, those same places can teach us the skills we need to come back. You can find Jim's photography at: http://www.perpetualweekend.com/
"I'm not what you'd call a 'runner.' I prefer it to getting fat, but not by a lot," writes Brendan Leonard. "The most I'd run in the past fews years was probably close to 12 kn. I ran a marathon once, and although it felt pretty recent, it was nine years ago." So what's a non-runner to do? Sign up for a 50K trail race with less than 25 days to train, of course. Ready, set, race. You can find more of Brendan's writing at semi-rad.com
Jim Herson and Anne Smith live in the Bay Area. They're in their fifties. Jim has worked the same computer science job since he graduated college in 1982, and he and Anne have been together nearly that long. They have two kids, a 17 year old daughter and a 13 year old son, who they shuttle around the city in a maroon Subaru wagon. An all-around American family. Except for one thing-- Jim and his kids get their family bonding time a thousand feet off the deck on Yosemite's classic routes.
"Tommy grew up in Estes, but you notice that so many families and so many kids just don't go into the the National Park," says Becca Caldwell. While Rocky Mountain National Park is just a short drive from Estes Park, CO., Becca found parents gravitated to the local playground and coffee shops for playdates. "Why aren't we going out on the trails and letting the kids run loose? How can we change that for my sons's generation?" she asked. It's a question that many experts have been asking too. Today, for the fourth episode of our Mileposts series, we hike with the Little Explorers in Rocky Mountain National Park, and see how Becca's simple act is forming a community of kids and parents out on the trails.
Before Semi-Rad.com, Brendan Leonard wrote a Short for The Dirtbag Diaries called Sixty Meters to Anywhere. He recently published a book with the same title, documenting his journey from handcuffs to hand-jams, from rural Iowa to the mountains of Colorado and from business casual to assignments for Climbing magazine. We returned from our sixth annual pilgrimage to the 5Point Film Festival with something a little different this year: a lightly edited version of the presentation Brendan gave to a packed house. See you there next year? You can order your own copy of Sixty Meters to Anywhere, see the schedule for Brendan's 2016 book tour and find more of his writing at Semi-Rad.com.
Looking west from Seattle, the skyline of Olympic National Park is defined by the notched peak of The Brothers. "I see it stuck in traffic. I see it from meeting rooms in downtown Seattle. I see it on my evening runs that I use to stay in shape for my days in the mountains. I've looked at that skyline and imagined the light, the wind and thought, 'I could be standing on that peak,' -- instead of dealing with 'this', whatever 'this' is," writes Fitz Cahall. It can be easy to wallow in the constraints, responsibilities, and duties of life. It can be so damn easy to play the grass is greener game. When Fitz takes a spring Friday to go and climb The Brothers, he gets a chance to look back in the opposite direction and realizes that it's not about which side is greener. It can be as simple as going when you get a green light.
"My new husband, Bix, consulted the map and asked if I thought we'd make it to Bowknot Bend that day. Lots of honeymooners probably have similar conversations, except for one small detail," writes Emma Walker. "Unlike those couples who coyly take their twos at the gas station down the street, my spouse of less than a week sat discussing the finer points of canoe rigging from his perch atop of the river toilet." Today, Emma shares her take on the ingredients for an awesome relationship: honesty, openness, unconditional acceptance of ourselves and of each other--and a solid foundation of poop jokes. You can find more of Emma's writing at: https://myalaskanodyssey.com/
"You have to imagine that you're on the frozen Arctic Ocean. You're six miles from shore, you can't really tell where the ocean stops and the white shore begins. All you see is white--and this thing where they're dumping crap into the ocean to make this island," says Dan Ritzman. "And there, stuck in the ice, is a sign that says 'No Trespassing'."It was 1999, the beginning of the climate movement. Oil companies had started to talk about green energy, but continued their dogged search for fossil fuel. At the time, Dan worked for Greenpeace, who was determined to expose that hypocrisy by any means necessary. Today, we bring you the story of a Danish ex-special forces trainer, some very cold weather, some crooked State Troopers, a group of activists and the sometimes thin line between standing up for our wild places and adventuring in them.
"The sky above you goes on forever, and the landscape appears as endless as the sky. The world is expansive and you are tiny. All of your problems shrink down to the head of a pin," writes Melina Coogan. "This is why places like this matter--places like Great Smoky National Park: they give us perspective." Just months after Melina got married, she walked out of a doctor's office with a sobering health diagnosis. Today, for the second episode of our Mileposts series, we travel with her to Great Smoky National Park to see what perspective we can take home. You can find more of Melina's writing at: http://www.thewildercoast.com
Eric Johnson lives in Sturgis, South Dakota with his wife and three young daughters. He works as a high school English teacher. He's responsible--well, most of the time.Half way into his thirties, Eric emptied his retirement account to buy a raft, despite the fact that he lives in a state without any navigable whitewater. Just over a year later, he found something too good to be true: a group of experienced guides advertising an open spot on a pre-season trip down Idaho's Main Salmon. Today, we bring you the story of what happens when you ignore the red flags that pop up when something is actually too good to be true and of what it feels like to bob around in the bucket of someone else's bucket list.
"I unclipped the hot belay device from my harness. I looked over at Conor, smiled and announced, 'This is the best part of my day so far'!" writes Jen Altschul. "For a moment, a smile of pure joy spread across his face--which, just as quickly, flipped into disappointment when he realized that I was talking about being back on the ground." The first time Jen tried to climb a desert tower, her and her partner bailed after the third pitch and returned the guidebook. Today, we bring you a story of abrasions, frustrations, failure and an eventual, unlikely love for the peculiar formations of the desert southwest.
"Sometimes, when I'm hiking somewhere near Moab and chatting with other people, I think about saying something like, 'You know what's great about this hike? In about 75-minutes, you can be at Milt's Stop & Eat'," says Brendan Leonard. "Milt's is a 19-mile drive from Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, it's 55-miles from Indian Creek and 75-miles to Canyonlands' towering red and white striped sandstone needles. I mean, when you think about it, it's kind of the nucleus of all that rad stuff."In the first episode of our Mileposts series, we explore the national parks around Moab, Utah--and celebrate with a milkshake. You can find more of Brendan's writing at: www.semi-rad.com/
"We started the trip without much of a purpose," writes Fil Corbitt. "We wanted to be pushed around. Wanted to find something we didn't know we were looking for. We wanted to take some small chance and see where we landed. And see which side was facing up." But how do you find that kind of serendipity when you only have a week? Fil created a game. Each morning, he and his friend would wake up and roll a single dice. The rules? A one meant go north. 2 = east, 3 = south, 4 = west, 5 = stay put and 6 meant to cross the nearest state border. The only rule? No backtracking. Today, we follow Fil as he and his friend Brian figuratively and literally roll the dice and see where they land. And which side is facing up. This episode originally aired as a six-part series on Fil's awesome podcast, Van Sounds. We cut quite a bit of material to turn it into a single piece. You can listen to the full version of the Dice series as well as other awesome travel stories, like the Freight Train episode, at: http://vansounds.org/
We got a call from Australia. M'Lynn's husband, Paul, passed away this past July. He left behind three pairs of polished hiking boots and a backpack packed for his dream hike: the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. M'Lynn reached out to us. She had an idea for one final gift for her husband. "How good would it be," she asked, "for his boots to make the journey even if Paul could not?" We want to make it happen. Give a listen. We need your help. Want to help? To learn more, click here.
"I followed my friend through the small, dark weight room in a crusty garage-like building left over from the station's army days and up a narrow, twisted staircase," Hilary Oliver remembers. "Behind the door at the top of those stairs hid a magical place."Drudgery and boredom ruled most of Hilary's season at Antartica's McMurdo Station, but she also got an unlikely introduction--one that opened up a whole different world. You can find more of Hilary's writing at thegription.com
God told Steve Wescott to walk from the Space Needle to Times Square, NYC, with a goat named LeeRoy, to raise $200,000 for an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. Or at least that's the elevator pitch. In truth, when Steve started out of Seattle in 2011, it had much less to do with God, and much more to do with running away from himself and the mistakes he had made as a Christian rock star and sex-and-love-aholic. You probably don't want to listen to this one with your kids. To learn more about Steve's project and the orphanage, Uzima Outreach, visit: http://www.needle2square.com/
"In the end, Iran's spirit took me completely and pleasantly by surprise," writes Greg Buzulencia. "The benevolence I received inspired me to approach every situation with a more open mind. Doing so opened up the world in a way I hadn't expected." Greg left for the Middle East with dreams of powder turns, but returned with the best gifts that travel can offer: new friends, shattered assumptions and a refreshed perspective on the world and the people in it.
Phantasmal footsteps, strange silhouettes, inexplicable movements and unaccountable sounds. In our sixth annual Tales of Terror, Bix Firer, Lorraine Campbell and Kealan Sojack share three stories of 'What the *&@! was that'? A dream? Or an indication that, perhaps, we are not as alone in the woods as we like to think. Happy Halloween.
"Our four seater plane touched down on a small gravel bar in the heart of the Brooks Range. We unloaded. The engine roared back to life, and the plane disappeared down valley into the blue-gray mountains. Then, the mosquitos came," writes Fitz Cahall. In May, Fitz received an email that contained a golden ticket--a float trip down the Kongakut River through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There was just one problem: the timeline collided with prior commitments to family and friends. How one email, one trip and one decision to say yes crystallized Fitz's commitment to responsibility and desire.
"This was one of those rare moments in life where you must act or die and everything was therefore very simple--although the outcome remained unclear," writes Kim Campbell. "If I lived, I knew that I could manage what followed. It was like a dare and a promise." Today, we bring you the story of Kim's first sailing trip, of horizontal masts and lightning strikes and, in her words, a "kernel of confidence that bloomed over the years." You can find more of Kim's writing at: http://blog.kimzyn.com/
Maps. We've all studied them. Stuffed them into backpacks or the seatback pocket of our car. Maybe we've even been led astray by a map. But have you ever thought about the person who made that map? Or how that person might influence your initial impression of a landscape?"A map in not a perfect representation of a landscape. It's an abstract representation." says cartographer Marty Schnure. Today, we have a sotry about a mapmaker, Patagonia Park, and the process Marty uses to create a map--a map that she hope will connect you to a place.
"By midweek, I can't focus on my duties at work, and spend most of my time on Summitpost and Mountain Project," writes Niki Yoblonski. "There are so many things in the world I want to see--so many mountains to climb, things to discover. I have to get out of there." Yet, inevitably, Sunday evening has her praying for the trailhead, a burger and a soft bed. Niki's theory on achieving the work-outdoor life balance? Just turn the hourglass. You can find more of Niki's work at: TheMilesTickAway.squarespace.com. And you can listen to her previous Short, "By Slim Chance."