The Cleanest Line

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    The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get – A Paragliding Journey in the Pioneer Mountains

    By Gavin McClurg

    Paragliding_distance_record_jodymacdonaldphotography3

    I've been really fortunate in the last couple decades to explore many of the farthest corners of the globe – thirteen straight years of sailing, chasing wind and waves on a series of kitesurfing expeditions, which included nearly two full circumnavigations, and the last couple years, paragliding all over the Alps, South America, Central America, Africa and the Himalayas. Just like surfers chasing swell, pilots chase seasons and weather.

    Reggie Crist, a former Olympic alpine skier and friend of mine who lives here in Sun Valley is even making a movie about how athletes are like migratory animals, hopping on planes or jumping in cars chasing what they “need” be it adrenaline, or escape, or just pure fun. Animals, of course, are seeking food and shelter, which is all we really need as well. But for some people this other “need” is as urgent as the next hit is for a junky. Without it we find life marginalized, gray and drab.

    [Above: Gavin McClurg soars. Photo: Jody MacDonald

    Continue reading "The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get – A Paragliding Journey in the Pioneer Mountains" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: Tales of Terror Vol. 4

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall

    Dbd_tales_terror_4Is there something out there? It’s a question that lurks in the back of my mind. Probably in yours too. It’s one of the very reasons why I love the outdoors: the unpredictability.

    Over the years, I’ve collected experiences. Moments, like bits of data, that collectively guide my intuition. And yet, we’ve all had that moment where hairs stand up on the back of our neck. Was it heightened perception? Or did the wind just blow the right way? And if you convince yourself it was the wind, does some lump of doubt sit in your stomach? Because sometimes you just won’t believe something is out there. Until it’s right there.


    [Listen to "Tales of Terror Vol. 4" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, 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]

    Shutting Down or Opening Up? Reflections from Yosemite on the 16-day Government Shutdown

    By Ron Kauk

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    I stood in wonder during a walk through the valley, at day 10 or something, as the exaggerated drama played out once again in this microcosm of America – a seven-mile long, mile-and-a-half wide sacred place on earth. It was as if the place could hear itself think, or simply just talk the real language of thousands of years between trees, plants, animals, rivers and rocks.
     
    I was in awe of this feeling, the power of such a place that hosts over 4 million people a year. At the end of every summer, I feel as though it’s becoming harder and harder for the valley to absorb the impact of human stress and disconnect.

    [Above: El Capitan peaks out of the trees. All of the photos in this story were taken by Ron Kauk (himself a Yosemite resident) while the park was closed to the public.]

    Continue reading "Shutting Down or Opening Up? Reflections from Yosemite on the 16-day Government Shutdown" »

    Things Unsaid

    By Belinda Baggs, photos by Adam Kobayashi

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    There are moments when words don’t seem to be enough, when we’re afraid they won’t do justice or that they might even scare the moment away. So instead we stay silent, keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, and just hope that others feel the same.

    Sharing a sunrise, or when the sunrise is at 4:15 AM, even better, lying next to your family in bed. Watching the baby chest of your son rise and fall with each breath, his little face so peaceful, mouth a perfect outline of pink, and five perfect miniature fingers clutching tight on his dad's forearm. The creation of life is a magical thing, and sharing the love of family is incomprehensible until it’s you squashed on the edge of the bed, at peace with waves going unridden, a heartwarming glow pulsing through your body.

    As the hot, spring sun begins to radiate through the rice paper walls, a little croaky voice, with eyes still shut, utters, "beeeach, Beachhhhhh." Rayson is awake and ready to start another day.

    [Above: The second Rayson first opened his eyes to see the daylight of Chiba, Japan. It's always the best thing to wake up with a happy baby and get a morning hug.]

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    DamNation – Susitna: Alaska’s Mega Dam(n) Proposal

    By Matt Stoecker and Travis Rummel

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    The Susitna is a huge glacial river that drains the indomitable Alaska Range. Denali looms on the horizon. One of America’s last great, wild, undammed rivers, it is home to large numbers of king, sockeye, pink, coho and chum salmon, which push through its heavy currents to spawn in its clear-water tributaries. The “Su” sees the fourth largest king salmon run in Alaska, producing hundreds of thousands of them each year.

    The state of Alaska wants to build a 735-foot-high dam on the Susitna to generate electricity. It would be the nation’s second tallest. It’s not the first time the Su has been looked to as a potential source of hydropower. Studies done in the 1950s and ‘80s both explored the feasibility of damming the river. Both agreed that it didn’t make financial sense.

    [Above: Old growth forests and the confluence of Kosina Creek and the Susitna River would be submerged under the reservoir created by the proposed dam. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

    Continue reading "DamNation – Susitna: Alaska’s Mega Dam(n) Proposal" »

    I Dream Greenland

    By Lizzy Scully

    Breakfast spire

    I dreamed of climbing in Greenland for a decade. This summer I finally visited the southernmost reaches of that country and climbed in the Torssukatak Fjord with photographer John Dickey, Quinn Brett, and Prairie Kearney. Team Glitterbomb put up three first ascents: "Morning Luxury" (5.11-, 1400ft) on The Breakfast Spire, "Plenty for Everyone" (5.10+/11-, 1800ft) on the Barnes Wall, and "Four Quickies" (5.9, 400ft) on the Submarine Wall. I recorded the trip via video, audio, photo, and diary entries.

    [Above: The Breakfast Spire. All photos by Lizzy Scully]

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    Chuitna Mine – Pebble is Not the Only Mine Endangering Salmon

    By Paul Moinester

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    Peering out the window of the plane, I took a deep breath and tried to soak it all in. The sun was glistening on the expansive mudflats, casting a bright glow over the pristine landscape. To the west, the Alaska Range was commandeering the sky, its snowcapped peaks piercing the clouds. Everywhere the eye could see, serpentine rivers were snaking through the flats on their journey to the Cook Inlet. And though too small to be seen from the sky, the rivers were teeming with salmon, beckoning me to immerse myself in these pure waters and pursue that heart-stopping tug.

    It’s hard to fathom a place so raw, so barren, and so untouched. But it’s even harder to acknowledge the disturbing reality that this landscape is endangered and could soon become an industrial wasteland if the proposed Chuitna coal strip mine is given a green light.

    [Above: View from the plane of the pristine Chuitna watershed. All photos by Paul Moinester]

    Continue reading "Chuitna Mine – Pebble is Not the Only Mine Endangering Salmon" »

    Long Live the Dirtbag Dungeons

    By John Burgman

    4_The Cleanest Line

    I am a climber, and at the risk of offending the enthusiasts of other outdoor pursuits, I’d argue that climbing is among the dirtiest, in the literal sense. Routes and problems are conceived and sent above cleared patches of dirt, moves grunted out through gritty clouds of chalk dust. Meals or snacks, if there are any, are consumed swiftly with scabbed fingers and raw palms, and airing out sweaty, grubby feet is a frequent – even necessary – occurrence.

    Surfing has pristine, crystalline waves looping on the horizon. Sea kayaking and canoeing have sleek keels constantly licked by the water. Paragliding and base jumping and other aerial endeavors have vast expanses of clouds and open sky.

    Climbing has gravel. And dust. And a lot of rocks.

    Indoor rock climbing gyms, at least up until recent times, used to be equally grimy – dingy hole-in-the-wall vaults meant primarily for biding time until winter thawed and the natural walls of the Great Outdoors were accessible once again.

    [Korean climber Zooey Ahn powers through the crux of a bouldering problem in a "dirtbag dungeon" in Seoul. Photo: John Burgman]

    Continue reading "Long Live the Dirtbag Dungeons" »

    Inspired by Nature – The 2013 Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference

    By Jim Little

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    They flew in from rural Alaska, from Albuquerque, South Boston and Traverse City, Michigan, where they work to stop dams, preserve native forest, create urban farms and develop regional water-management plans. Coming together at Fallen Leaf Lake (near Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Sept. 11-15, for Patagonia’s Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, some 74 environmental activists from distant corners of the country and everywhere in between took a break from their often solitary, usually underpaid nonprofit existences to try to become more effective advocates for the natural world.

    The Tools conference is a skills training organized by Patagonia’s environmental department and led this year by 15 experts from government, communications, fundraising and environmental nonprofits. Patagonia convenes the gathering every two years with the help of staff at Stanford Sierra Camp. This was our 13th Tools conference, and going by participants’ comments, among the best.

    [Spelling it out. Environmental activists, Patagonia employees and conference presenters pose for a pic that, in case you can't quite make it out, spells "TOOLS." Photo: Mikey Schaefer]

    Continue reading "Inspired by Nature – The 2013 Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference" »

    Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_bio_photoIn 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympics record by rejecting the standard "straddling" technique – one leg, then the other – in favor of flinging his whole body up and over the bar, head first and backwards. At first track and field officials tried to ban the awkward move dubbed the Fosbury Flop, but it was so effective that soon almost all high jumpers used it, as they still do today. The Flop was not a transactional solution aimed at tweaking the conventional way of doing things, but a transformational solution that changed how the game was played.

    To make changes on the scale needed to address the severity of today’s environmental, economic and social crises, we have to change the rules of the game on three levels: in our governments, in our businesses and in our communities. Our communities are a good place to start: They're close to home; the solutions are usually easier to achieve than trying to make change at the international, national or even state levels; and the emotional and social rewards are more immediate.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities" »

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