The Cleanest Line

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    What Inspired You?

    We recently received this email from Ross Curwen, a reader from, as he says, "rainy old England."

    RossJust a letter saying thanks to The Cleanest Line community from rainy old England. About a year ago I injured my shoulder. This meant I had to cut right back on two things pretty huge to me: surfing and climbing. I was a bit mopey for a bit.

    I needed to have something to maintain my fitness. Gyms, road running, cycling are all good but they're missing something. That's when I found trail running, through the Patagonia site. I don't have the huge expanse of mountains and national parks but I am spoilt with miles of cliff paths and dartmoor close to hand.

    A year later and I am hooked. I love the rhythm of the trails, the temperature changes on your face emerging from dappled tree lines onto exposed cliffs. Like a lot of people in the community it becomes a bit of obsession. I'm at work knowing I've got shoes and a head torch waiting for me and trails to conquer later.

    I wouldn't have this drive without reading the submissions on The Cleanest Line. I read the stories of all the different sports, trips and adventures and it inspires me to make my own. So all in all thank you to all of you and keep going as you are.

    This short letter got us thinking about how we got started doing the things we love to do. Surely, we thought there are lots of interesting stories out there among our readers and we thought it'd be cool to hear some of them. If you have a story to tell, by all means chime in!

    I'll go first...

    Continue reading "What Inspired You?" »

    Looking for Steelies

    1Taking the plunge.Stoecker 2 Taking the plunge (albeit it a shallow one) into the Ventura River in the spirit of Our Common Waters, Patagonia’s new environmental campaign, Patagonia editor Jim Little and a couple of friends spent the afternoon snorkeling for endangered southern steelhead trout. Along the way they sneak up on a few fish and discuss why the once plentiful animal is having such a rough go of it.

    The plan was to take a couple hours out of the workday to grab lunch at a taqueria and go snorkel the Ventura River looking for southern steelhead trout. It was late January, with 80-degree temps, light offshore winds and knowledgeable comrades: fish biologist Matt Stoecker and Ventura watershed watchdog Paul Jenkin.

    2peirano brothers Burritos (and fish tacos) in bellies, snorkel and camera gear in hand, we hit three pools looking hard for a now-scarce fish that once flashed the river in the thousands. When the steelhead ran back in the 1920s, Ventura’s public schools closed so kids could go fishing. But 90 years later, as we dragged ourselves through mossy waters trying not to swallow a single drop for fear of some gut-bending bug, I learned why the endangered southern steelhead are now so few.

    [Above - Into the river in search of steelhead. Photo: Matt Stoecker. Left - Back in the Good Old Days, the Peirano Brothers and others pulled lots of steelhead out of the Ventura River, 1920s.]

    Continue reading "Looking for Steelies" »

    R.I.P., Shoe Tree

    Shoe tree Back in 1986, Life magazine christened the 250 miles of US Highway 50 between Fallon and Ely, Nevada with the moniker “The Loneliest Road in America.” In a classic example of turning lemons into lemonade the Nevada Department of Tourism seized on the title and began a marketing campaign complete with loneliest road signs, survival guides and passports that could be stamped at various destinations along the route. Whether because of that marketing push, or simply the increased popularity of the American Southwest, Highway 50 isn’t nearly so lonely anymore. I count myself among its more frequent travelers.

    To be sure, Highway 50 in central Nevada is still wonderfully desolate and real landmarks are few and far between. One of these was the Shoe Tree. As trees go it wasn’t all that spectacular; a lone cottonwood standing next to a perennially dry creek bed 110 miles east of Reno. What made the Shoe Tree special is that it was festooned with thousands of old shoes either hanging off the branches or just as likely, lying in a massive pile below the tree. As is often the case for such things, the origins of the Shoe Tree are apocryphal. All the stories are similar, starting with a couple, either recently or about to be married, and either traveling to - or maybe from - Reno, and an argument that ended or began with shoes being thrown into the tree, ostensibly so the bride wouldn't be able to run away.

    [The Shoe Tree frames central Nevada's Desatoya Range on a chill winter day. Photo: Kirsten Mashinter.]

    Continue reading "R.I.P., Shoe Tree" »

    Picture Story: Prayer for Thanksgiving Snow





    The snow has finally come to the Sierra Nevada, giving those of us who moved here to be close to the mountains all the more reason to be thankful. If you're able to make skiing part of your Thanksgiving holiday this year, here's a little something to offer up before you drop in:


    T-day pow

    Now I point 'em down the steep,


    I pray to Lord this powder's deep,

    If my turns don't face-shots make,

    I'll have another run to take.








    [Nov. 24, 2010, 7:30a.m. - An unnamed skier gets ready to genuflect with gratitude, 30 minutes from Patagonia's Reno Distribution Center. Photo: localcrew]

    From Yellowstone to Reno

    Skye-HOL10 catalogOn the inside back cover of our 2010 Holiday Catalog is an image that originally appeared on the cover of our 1990 winter Kid’s Catalog. Not one person here in mail order even worked for Patagonia back then but nonetheless it’s a picture many of us know well. The photograph is of a little girl looking out her window at a buffalo munching grass on a snowy day in Yellowstone National Park. The reason we all know it so well is that Skye, the little girl in the picture, has worked here since 2004. When the picture reappeared in the current Holiday Catalog, I knew there must be a story behind that Yellowstone childhood and how she came to work here at Patagonia.

    The story begins in England where her mom (a Brit) and dad (an American) met while in college. They married and returned to the US, living in Boston where her dad found work as an operating technician at Massachusetts General Hospital. But the story really gets under way in 1973 with a newspaper ad, an ad for the Winter Keeper position in the Canyon Village area of Yellowstone National Park (think The Shining). Only this job didn’t entail watching over a huge hotel, it involved watching over some 200 summer cabins perched on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. He was offered the job (Skye is pretty sure he was the only applicant) and after talking it over with his wife, she decided that doing it for a year might be fun; because, she figured, you can survive just about anything for a year. So they packed up their old Saab and their new baby (Skye’s sister Emma) and headed west.

    [Photo Top: Skye at home in Yellowstone. Photo: Steven Fuller]

    Continue reading "From Yellowstone to Reno" »

    Product Testing - Paddling Around Old Fanny

    It was just a couple weeks ago that our friends down in Patagonia's Ventura offices were wishing summer a fond farewell. Maybe it's this week's return to splitter blue skies and warm breezes, maybe it's the certainty of winter's descent when the snows finally come, but our Reno-based tribe has been a bit more reluctant to let the summer go. A few weeks ago, some of our Customer Service folks headed up the hill to Lake Tahoe to try out a new sport and explore an oft-overlooked corner of the lake. Sample Coordinator Andrew Marshall files his report:
    _________________________________________

    Chip Twice a year, usually once in the winter and once in the summer, our work group gets to spend a day together doing something fun. It's a great way to bond with co-workers, maybe get introduced to a new sport and have a relaxing day away from the office. So far we've skied, snowboarded, kayaked and rock climbed, but our most recent trip was probably the best and most memorable one yet. This time, with the encouragement from some fellow employee-enthusiasts, we decided a Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) trip on Lake Tahoe would make for an excellent group field day.

    Perhaps because of the coastal California influence, stand-up paddling has become particularly popular in Lake Tahoe. It is certainly an exhilarating way to take in the beautiful views and enjoy the water. There are several businesses around the lake renting boards this summer and the SUP market has even taken to the demand by developing flat-water-specific boards.

    Fannette Emerald Bay is one of the most beautiful parts of Lake Tahoe. Pristine blue waters fill a perfectly shaped bay that is home to a small island located almost directly in its center: Fannette Island. Even more intriguing is medieval-looking fieldstone tea house situated at the very top of the island - picturesquely perfect in its own right. Despite the fact that nearly all of our group members are natives to the area (or quite nearly so), and despite having driven past it dozens of times, none of us had ever been to this island or even knew the name of it off the top of our head. We concluded it must be "more of a tourist spot" and "not a really a locals' destination." None of us really knew why - likely because it is usually a busy place almost any time of the year. We bashfully concluded that tourists were likely the reason none of us had been here before.

    [Above, left - Chip takes a breather during the circumnavigation of Fannette Island, Emerald Bay, California. Above, right - a water-level view of the Old Fanny Island tea house. Photos: Andrew Marshall]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Paddling Around Old Fanny " »

    Backyard Voting

    Bill Times Sq wide 2

    The election season has begun (at least according to the media) and here at Patagonia, we’ve revived our Vote the Environment campaign. We especially want to hear from you about what wild environmental issues are roaming through your backyard, neighborhood, or town. Let us know why people in your neck of the woods should “register to vote, know the environmental records of your candidates and vote the environment.”

    You can post your stories here or on Patagonia’s Facebook page. Please keep ‘em short and civil. Here’s one from our friend, Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and founder of 350.org. [Bill McKibben speaking at Times Square. Photo: Bill McKibbon Collection]

    My Backyard

    Vermont faces one of the most interesting environmental challenges in the country right now—and it’s a result of one of the most obvious environmental decisions any legislature has made in recent years.

    Continue reading "Backyard Voting" »

    The Shackboy Labor Day Marg

    Kc - DG_shack_fire_sm I love the characters in our world. They color things, make everything interesting, and so often dwell on the fringe. Maybe it was a compliment when my friend, The Chief, got lectured by his father: “When are you drifters gonna move out of the gray area and join the human race!”
     
    Another such character, The Danimal – Dan Gambino, more formally – and I have a connection first forged in beer, climbing, and the Big Lebowski. And, as such, Labor Day weekend seems an appropriate time for this post, given our mutual lack of labor back in the Shack days.
     
    We’d met at my wedding, when he crashed it. He was friends with my buddy Pete, who invited Dan, who then bivied in mine and my soon-to-be-then wife’s house and puked in one of our gift boxes – though he denies it and blames Pete, who denies and blames Dan. No wonder the marriage didn’t work.
     
    We became Shack Brothers in 2000, when we both lived in what was once publicly decried – in front of a packed banquet at some fancy-pants climbers’ dinner – as a “foul pit of climbing ambition and dirty dishes.” Yes, the storied local guide’s shack in Estes Park. The Almighty Shack to us. PBR cans and trash littered the floor, daylight shone through the gaps in the wall, and the mice and rats so infested our humble abode that, at times, I’d hear the Danimal going ballistic, chasing them around and hurling food cans at them. Every evening, after work our fellow climbing guides came to hang, swill PBR (for the record: this was long before frat boys and hipsters glommed onto PBR as a cool slummin’ brand), and tell outrageous stories about their day.

    [The Danimal in action, circa 2000. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "The Shackboy Labor Day Marg" »

    Backcountry Film Festival - Call for Submissions

    Deeppopecrop Time to dust off those great video clips you shot last ski season and polish up your best footage, because the Winter Wildlands Alliance is gearing up for their annual  Backcountry Film Festival and they're seeking your submissions by September 15th. Now in its sixth year, the Festival continues its focus on grassroots filmmakers who tell compelling and entertaining stories of backcountry, nonmotorized recreation and environmental preservation.

    When they say "grassroots," they mean it. From the Festival website: "You don't need a degree from a film school. You don't need footage shot while dangling precariously, camera in hand, from an ice wall in the Rockies. All you need is a compelling story, some quality footage and a keen eye for a fun, educational or juicy topic."

    This year's categories are:  Best Short Short (under 5 minutes), Best Environmental Message and Best of Festival.

    Films entered into the festival should be short - no longer than 30 minutes. In keeping with the Winter Wildlands ethos, these films should share a thought-provoking, interesting story of backcountry, nonmotorized recreation. A strong focus on environmental themes is at the heart of the Festival and the Wildlands mission, so stories focusing on conservation, preservation and stewardship are encouraged. The sponsoring organization being the Winter Wildlands Alliance, aspiring entrants should heed their direction to only enter films that take place during winter, or have a very clear relation to winter. Regarding formats, the Festival warmly welcomes whatever your creativity can conjure - documentaries, fiction, experimental, you name it.

    The Film Festival gets noisy in Boise starting November 4 before taking to the road and hitting over 30 locations throughout the nation.

    Submissions must be in DVD format, received in Winter Wildlands Alliance's Boise office by September 15, 2010 and include three copies and a $20 submission fee. See festival rules for more information and address to which you may mail your submissions. You may also contact Shelley Pursell at spursell@winterwildlands.org  or 208-343-1630 for further details.

    [Photo courtesy Winter Wildlands Alliance/Backcountry Film Festival. Skier, Sam Pope - KGB Productions. Photographer, Tuck Fauntleroy.]

    Of Marmots and Men

    Julyhike Every year, some friends and I converge on an really cool spot near Yosemite where we hike six miles carrying absurdly heavy packs and eat crazy amounts of really good food. Over the years, the only down side to this idyllic spot has been the parking. And by parking I don’t mean finding a space, this isn’t San Francisco; it’s the local fauna that’s been the problem. We've parked our cars all over the Sierra but for some reason this is the only place where we’ve had a consistent problem with marmots. Oh sure the California black bear gets quite a bit of publicity for its vandalism, but we’ve had more than our share of problems with Marmota flaviventer sierrae, the Southern Sierra Marmot. I, myself have been victimized twice.

    The first time, I was driving out on the lonely dirt road and I noticed that not only was my engine running unusually hot, there was steam pouring out from under the hood. It turns out a marmot had chewed a hole in a radiator hose. Luckily, this marmot was kind enough to chew through it near the end. Also lucky for me, MacGuyver used to be my favorite show, so using my Leatherman (I know, it should have been a Swiss Army Knife) I unscrewed the hose clamp, cut off the chewed-up end and reattached the hose. I then filled the radiator with creek water and off I went. Five years later and the hose is still intact. Another time, I started having electrical problems right after returning from the trip. I finally took it into my mechanic for his diagnosis. After a long look he asked me, in the gentlest way possible, just where exactly I lived. I guess he thought I must live in some rat-infested hovel. Unfortunately, this time the marmots had chosen to dine on my wiring harness. This is not an inexpensive repair.

    [Above: Walking away from the marmots. photo: Ken La Russa]

    Continue reading "Of Marmots and Men" »

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