The Cleanest Line

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    Floating Through Nowhere

    By Jim Little

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    Most people have never heard of the Owyhee Canyonlands, let alone pulled over to visit. On a map of Oregon, it’s that mostly blank expanse in the southeastern corner of the state near the Idaho/Nevada border—a place most would call nowhere.

    Rome, Burns and Jordan Valley are the nearest towns of any note. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge—site of a recent 41-day showdown between a group of armed, anti-federalist “occupiers” and the federal government—is the most recognizable nearby landmark for those who follow the news.

    Above: The Owyhee River flows 346 miles from northeastern Nevada before dumping into the Snake River on the Oregon/Idaho border. Photo: Jim Little

    Continue reading "Floating Through Nowhere" »

    Paddle Power: The Rise of Kayaktivism

    By Cameron Fenton

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    The house I grew up in was full of art from the Canadian Arctic. From soapstone carvings to caribou tufting and Ted Harrison paintings, my parents had brought it with them when they moved south from their home in Yellowknife on the northern shores of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. But among all of this, it was a small model of a skin-on-frame kayak that captured my imagination.

    Qajaq, the Inuktitut root word for what we now spell kayak translates roughly to “hunter’s craft.” For thousands of years, these boats have been tools used by Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic as tools to pursue whales, seals and other prey across the frigid waters and coastlines of the Arctic. Long, fast and silent, kayaks today are primarily used as pleasure craft, but ever since a massive wave of water-borne protests took place last spring in the Pacific, they are fast becoming a symbol of a new kind of people power in the fight to stop runaway climate change.

    Above: Kayaktivists attempt to blockade coal exports from the Newcastle Coal Port on Australia’s eastern coast. Photo: 350.org

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    Why Minnesota Can’t Afford Mining Near the Boundary Waters

    By Adam Fetcher

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    Patagonia has supported the work of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters through grant funding, our employee environmental internship program, retail store events, product donations and an invitation to attend the 2015 Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference. You can read our past coverage on The Cleanest Line here and here. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit savetheboundarywaters.org.

    Growing up in Minnesota, I took the lakes for granted. To me, living in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” meant summers at the cabin—waterskiing, fishing and family time on the dock. The lakes I knew were surrounded by houses and roads, and I remember falling asleep most nights to the gentle but persistent hum of motorboats wafting across the glassy water. (Almost as persistent as the hungry mosquitos buzzing around my ears at bedtime.) Even through the noise, I slept peacefully in the cool Northern Minnesota breeze.

    Above: Paddling toward shore, ready for a swim in the late afternoon. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota. Photo: Adam Fetcher

    Continue reading "Why Minnesota Can’t Afford Mining Near the Boundary Waters" »

    Dirtbag Diaries Podcast: A Slosh in the Bucket

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

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    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.

    Continue reading "Dirtbag Diaries Podcast: A Slosh in the Bucket" »

    Save the Blue Heart of Europe: The Balkan Rivers story

    By Ulrich Eichelmann

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    The Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe is known for its Mediterranean beaches, past wars, corruption, ethnic conflicts and, to insiders, Slivovitz and ćevapi—the plum schnapps and traditional minced-meat dish of the region. Stories about the area are plentiful, but I want to tell you a different story—a story about beauty, diversity and uniqueness, and an imminent threat in disguise.

    It is a story about the rivers between Slovenia and Albania, which are the most intact on the entire continent. Wild rivers with extensive gravel banks, spectacular waterfalls, deep canyons, crystal clear streams full of fish, large alluvial forests where rare eagles nest, even karstic underground rivers. But, most amazingly, almost nobody knows about them. They’re a hidden treasure in the middle of 21st century Europe.

    Above: Vjosa River, Albania. Photo:Roland Dorozhani  

    Continue reading "Save the Blue Heart of Europe: The Balkan Rivers story" »

    Dirtbag Diaries Podcast: The Threshold Moment

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

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    When Kevin Fedarko stepped through the door of the O.A.R.S. boathouse in Flagstaff, Arizona, he didn’t realize he had crossed a figurative threshold as well as a literal one. Kevin had planned on rafting the Grand Canyon for a wilderness medicine course. Then, he planned to go back to his life as a successful freelance writer. But what he saw in that warehouse and in that first week on the Colorado River left him desperate to find a way to keep coming back. Kevin spent the next smelly, humiliating, beautiful and life-altering decade of his life developing a relationship with the Grand Canyon, writing about the Grand Canyon, and, ultimately, fighting to protect it.

    To learn more about the current threats to the Grand Canyon and how you can help, visit Save the Confluence and Grand Canyon Trust.

    Brendan Leonard wrote and narrated this episode. You can find more of his work at Semi-Rad.com.

     


    Listen to "The Threshold Moment" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud.

     

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, music credits and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and DoggCatcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production. Graphic by Walker Cahall.

    Have a great weekend everybody.

    Go Simple, Go Solo, Go Now – The Life of Audrey Sutherland

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    On February 23, 2015 a true heroine and friend of the company passed away. Audrey Sutherland grew up in California and moved to Hawai'i in 1952, where she lived to be 93. She raised her four children as a single mother, supporting her family by working as a school counselor. In 1962, she decided to explore the coast of Moloka'i by swimming it while towing a raft with supplies, the first of countless solo adventures by this remarkable woman. 

    Please read some shared stories from folks who were lucky enough to meet her. Photo: Sutherland Collection

    I met Audrey Sutherland, while editing her book Paddling North, at her house overlooking Jockos (named after her son of surfing fame) on the North Shore of O'ahu. She was in her late 80s and getting a little hard of hearing, but there was a spark in her eye and cast of her bearing that radiated her adventurous spirit. In the course of us reviewing the edits on her book I learned about her childhood in the Los Angeles foothills, her marriage to and divorce from a commercial fisherman, her move to Hawai'i, and how she raised her family by herself on the beach on the North Shore. 

    Continue reading "Go Simple, Go Solo, Go Now – The Life of Audrey Sutherland" »

    Xboundary – Defending Alaska & British Columbia salmon rivers from open-pit mining

    By Ryan Peterson & Travis Rummel 

    An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines—at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska—has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. These concerns were heightened with the August 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.

    Last summer, as part of production for Xboundary, we completed a 100-mile transect of the Unuk River watershed. What follows is an excerpt and action alert from an interview we did with Trout Unlimited Alaska after the trip, who, along with Patagonia, sponsored our project.

    Video: Xboundary a salmon film by Ryan Peterson.

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    Paddle to DC: A Quest for Clean Water

    By Dave Freeman, video by Nate Ptacek


    The plastic sign posted to a tree in our campsite reads: “ALL FISH MUST BE RETURNED TO THE WATER IMMEDIATELY. FISH CONTAMINATED WITH PCBs DO NOT EAT.” Paddling through a superfund site is not typically part of a canoe trip, but on day 73 and 74 of our journey from Ely, Minnesota to Washington D.C., that’s where we find ourselves.

    My wife Amy and I are about 1,500 miles into a 100-day, 2,000-mile expedition to protect the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide ore mining. We departed from the Voyageur Outward Bound School on the Kawishiwi River on August 24, 2014 where a flotilla of 20 canoes joined us on the water for the first mile. We paddled right past the proposed mine site of Twin Metals and followed the flow into the pristine Boundary Waters to begin our journey.

    Video: Paddle to DC: A Quest for Clean Water from Save The BWCA on Vimeo.

    Continue reading "Paddle to DC: A Quest for Clean Water" »

    Elwha River Uplift

    Words and photos by Dylan Tomine

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    The kids and I decided to squeeze in one last, close-to-home, weekday excursion before school started, so we headed over to the newly dam-free Elwha River for a little float. The last piece of the upper dam was removed last week, so it seemed like a good time to go see what had changed since I was there earlier this summer. And I wanted the kids to experience a river being reborn. That’s Weston and Skyla starting out, courtesy of our friends at Olympic Raft & Kayak.

    Continue reading "Elwha River Uplift" »

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