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    Backyard Adventures: Little Wild Places

    Santa Rosa Plateau 03 Today's Backyard Adventure was one we almost missed. It surfaced recently in an unexpected folder - no doubt the result of a botched drag-n-drop. We're happy to have found it and would like to offer the author our apologies, and readers, his submission. It's a nice reminder of why we started the Backyard Adventures series in the first place.

    TCL reader Greg Russell lives in Riverside, CA and teaches biology at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. He's grown up in the West and, as a result, has been within reach of wilderness most of his life. Our call for your backyard adventures reminded him of an essay he'd seen in an old Patagonia catalog. Says Greg, "It made me look at the concept of 'wild' in a whole new way, and now, as a father, I want to instill that in my son."


    The message of Ernest Atencio's "Little Wild Places" has stuck with me since I first read it in a Patagonia catalog years ago. As a teenager hungry for Big Adventure, I had failed to see the wildness present in my own backyard. After reading that essay, it was if reptilian scales had been peeled from my eyes. For the first time, my backyard came alive with wildlife—horned lizards, orioles, finches, robins, kestrels—and a stone wall to boulder on, even if it did take a little imagination. It was enough to fill my soul with hope and contentment. Big Adventure, I found, was anywhere you were willing to look. 

    Since then, I have graduated college, gotten married, earned a Ph.D., become a father, and purchased a home in urban southern California. As I sit here looking out my window on a January day, I am reminded to look for the beauty and Big Adventure in those Little Wild Places. If I were to go in my immediate backyard, I could show you where to find alligator lizards, or show you the group of jays that lives in the pine tree next door.

    [Owen & Stephanie Russell at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve near Murrieta, CA. Photo,  Brent Deschamp]

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    Backyard Adventures: The Sawtooth Traverse

    Morning after Central Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain Range offer a stellar backyard for Steve Graepel's adventures. A Boise resident, he wedges his endurance training around family and a full-time job. His Backyard Adventure gives us a glimpse at a beautiful section of country to be included in one of his bigger projects: connecting 1,200 miles across Idaho’s backcountry by foot, raft and mountain bike. We can't wait to read that Backyard Adventure. Until then, here's Steve in the Sawtooths.

    “Steve, I’ve got an idea ...”

    This is how it always starts. One of us drops the bait. Only this time it wasn’t me.

    Alice lake2 Scott and I have both been caught up with middle management - middle life. He runs a lab in the Bay area, and I've been tasked with leading a creative department at my place of work. Our schedules have been forged out of early mornings and late nights. Workouts squeezed between bottles and diapers.  We've both grown soft under our heavy shells of work, kids and family, barnacled with noon-meetings and mortgages...second mortgages. Our early trips together, traveling to climb in far-flung ranges have become cob-webbed memories and we now feel fortunate when we can carve out a weekend together every other year or so. As incentive to extract us from the grind of our day jobs, Scott makes the pitch.

    “Let’s do the two days.”

    Like carp to corn, I’m hooked.

    [Top, Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains in early morning light, as seen from the author's bike after running over 40 miles of trail to traverse the length of the range. Above, the route as it runs past an un-named lake below Alice Lake. Photo: Steve Graepel.]

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    Backyard Adventures: On Lone Cone

    IMG_1328 A few weeks ago some of the folks from the California office cruised up to our part of the coast. Glen Morden, one of Patagonia’s product designers, is a transplanted Canadian, so he was piloting the minivan as they rolled across the Island and into town. They showed up on a typical Tofino day—thick cloud, sheets of rain and fun little wind-groomed waves at Cox Bay. Glen and I used to be cursed every time we surfed together, but after a few hours of waves on that first day it seemed that our luck had finally been lifted.

    Editor's note: Today's post comes from Malcolm Johnson, editor of SBC Surf Magazine and author of the Patagonia field report "Not a Soul in Sight." For more musings and music recommendations from Malcolm, head over to his blog.

    From then on, the rest of the week in Tofino turned out to be pretty grand. The sun came out, the weather warmed up and the Californians caught some lovely slabs of fish with the guys from Jay’s Clayoquot Ventures. There were a few swims in the clear water of the Sound, and we managed to work a trip up Lone Cone into the schedule—one of the two main peaks on Meares Island, it’s a great upward grind that leads through some of the lushest old growth on the coast. It’s a bit of a burn for the legs, but the view you get from the top is always worth the work.

    [The folks in the forest on Meares Island. Photo: Jeremy Koreski]

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    Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 3

    Today, we've got the final installment in Old School's Toiyabe Trails series (previous posts: Part 1, Part 2).

    Audio_graphic_20pxWe personally believe any trail story is best served up with a cuppa steamy brew (or a frosty barley pop, your discretion) and the right music. Find your trail traveling theme music right here, courtesy of the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot's weekly podcast.

    1_Camp4 The morning after our unplanned layover day dawned clear and sunny, and while there was still a stiff breeze, it was nothing like the howling winds of the day before so we packed up and headed north. The TCT is split neatly in half by the Ophir Creek Road and the three of us have been backpacking long enough to never pass up the chance to lighten our load – we took advantage of the road to drop a food cache at the top of the pass before starting our hike. By lunch we were at the cache and by dinner we were enjoying cold beer and hamburgers.

    [Flat spots are a rare treat along the northern stretch of the trail. Photo: OldSchool]

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    Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 2

    6a00d8341d07fd53ef011570c281bc970b-800wi Welcome! We're pleased to bring you part two in this series. If you missed Part 1, no worries, you can find it right here.

    Nevada is smack-dab in the middle of the Basin and Range topography of the Great Basin so every mountain range is an island poking up out of a sagebrush sea. These ranges are generally quite narrow, so driving from west to east is like driving across a giant washboard. Coming from Reno, our first view of the Toiyabes left us awestruck, not so much from the beauty of the range but the amount of snow that still covered it. I knew it had just snowed a foot and a half the week before but we still weren’t quite expecting the amount of snow still left up high, and we weren’t too psyched (or prepared) to hike in snow for any length of time. Luckily we had planned our route from south to north, giving the higher and snowier northern section 3 additional days to melt out.

    [A view of the Toiyabe Range's high point, Arc Dome. Photo: OldSchool]

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    Backyard Adventures: Toiyabe Trails - Part 1

    Cview Mention Nevada to most folks and what comes to mind is Las Vegas glam and desert heat. Truth be told, many Nevadans are more than willing to let you think that but for the record, with 313 named mountain ranges, Nevada has more mountains than any state except Alaska. Since moving here five years ago, I have been trying to wean myself away from the Sierra Nevada by exploring some of Nevada’s more remote ranges. The Toiyabe Range, which is nearly in the middle of the state, more than fits that definition. So when my friend Chris called me up asking for ideas for a good late spring backpacking trip I not only suggested the Toiyabe Crest Trail, I invited myself along as well.

    [At 10,000' for a stretch of nearly 50 miles, the crest of Central Nevada's Toiyabe Range is well-situated to catch snows that would otherwise miss the arid valleys of the Basin and Range territory. Photo: OldSchool]

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    Backyard Adventures: Finding Reasons Not to Leave

    Front cast Another installment of the Backyard Adventures for TCL readers today. This time, we're heading back East a bit, and a little back in time, to eastern Virginia in early January.

    Folks who live along the mid-Atlantic seaboard know this is one of the few places on earth that didn't get the memo - the one that stipulates rain should turn to snow when the temperature falls below 32 degrees. Bitter cold, gray skies, and depressingly infrequent snowfall makes it a hard place to get outside during the too-long period between the warm, sunny days of September and the first buds of April.

    David and Terrell Juth found that the right back yard can make all the difference between letting the season get the best of you, and getting the best of a season.


    For us, backyard adventures are the bulk of our "adventures," and even the aimless ones are pretty damn fun. Our latest was just a walk down the hill ...

    I visit a small fraction of the places I’d like to each year. Balancing everyday life with the frequent urge to escape is a challenge, and four years ago I tilted things towards my ideal - I moved.

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    From White Lines to Tight Lines, Shifting Seasonal Gears w/ Mikey Weir & Friends

    4thlines What looks to be the last winter storm of the season has just pulled out of the area and winter seems to be drawing to a close in the Sierra. It's time to shift gears. No doubt we'll eat those words with a final flurry of crop-crushing cold, but still, now's the time to reflect on a season that's been epic for many (ahem, Colorado) and surprisingly not-so-bad for others (uh, yeah, that'd be us).

    So here's one for all the pow-hounds out there. Pour yourself a barley-pop and enjoy some images of tasty Sierra lines. They come to us courtesy of Patagonia Ambassador Mikey Weir, who has every bit as much fun hitting the water when it's frozen as he does when it's flowing. When he's not earning his living as a professional fishing guide and filmmaker, Mikey (who's also a pro snowboarer) turns his keen eye toward some of Tahoe's choice pickings. Mikey actually sent us these shots earlier in the season, but the mostly rider-less images seemed like a perfect way to cap off the season. After all, sometimes the best part of a run is looking back the turns you've carved. Feel free to share your reflections on the season in our comments section.

    Oh! And to help complete the transition, stay tuned for an upcoming story about Mikey's adventures taimen hunting in Mongolia. For now, here's Mikey on those Tahoe lines:

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    Backyard Adventures: Anything But: KC's High Carbon Weekend

    Not long ago, we offered up a Backyard Adventure tale from Patagonia Climbing Ambassador, mountain writer, and senior editor for the American Alpine Journal, Kelly Cordes. Kelly told us all about the great climbing to be had within 15 minutes of his door. Kelly's an honest man, so he didn't shy away from offering up today's wry post about another of his recent climbing trips - one with a decidedly different carbon profile than his true Backyard Adventure. Consider it a reminder of what backyard adventures are NOT. Maybe it's that earlier backyard trip that's got him thinking this way . . .

    On Wednesday, Scotty D called from California. A work delay had him with a few days to kill, and he had a room, a rental car and his company was paying him to sit and be bored.

    Capitalizing on that human ability to rationalize nearly everything and draw simplistic stopgap lines for our problems, I figured a break would help my work. I’d fallen behind and needed rejuvenation, so Thursday night I boarded the plane on a frequent flier ticket. Free trip to Yosemite. Yes, “free.”

    I emailed my friends and AAJ colleagues, John and Dougald.

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    Backyard Adventures: Fear of the Dark

    We're pleased to offer today's Backyard Adventure from Patagonia Climbing Ambassador, mountain writer, and senior editor for the American Alpine Journal, Kelly Cordes. Patagonia's Ambassador Liaison and all-around Grassroots Guy, Kristo Torgersen recently asked our climbing and skiing athletes for some notes about their favorite clothes. The request entered the Cordes Mental Cuisinart and came out like . . . well, just check out the soundtrack-enabled report . . .

    Cordes - view

    If I could only have one piece per body part category to do the coolest things I want to do all year, it would be the following - I call it my Kit For Life. Here it is:

    - Wool 1 T-shirt
    - R1 Hoody
    - Houdini
    - Simple Guide Pants
    - Nano Puff (coming, Fall 2009)

    A few days after getting Kristo's request, Friday the 13th struck [insert creepy Fear of the Dark sound here]. I’d been frantically working on deadlines, and wasn’t doing any of the cool things intended with any of the stuff in my Kit4Life (K4L - the catchy nomenclature arose as a compensatory mechanism).

    It was mid-afternoon and I was still in my sweatpants drinking coffee and typing away. Butt-rock blared through the speakers. From the desk in my office-kitchen-living room at my tiny cabin in Estes Park, I can shift my eyes slightly left of my monitor and the window frames Hallett Peak and the Rocky Mountain National Park skyline. On this day, snow-capped peaks glittered between rocky buttresses under perfect skies, pulling my view from the screen with increasing frequency. Holy Diver, you’ve been down too long in the midnight sea, ohhh what’s becoming of meeeeee...

    [The enviable view from Casa de Cordes. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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