OR Swan Song in Salt Lake

Videographer outside the Salt Palace

Last month, we headed to the Outdoor Retailer, held for the last time at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

Why was this the final episode of a decades-long run, drawing tens of thousands to Utah and generating millions of dollars for the city?

Utah politicians have been pretty outspoken in their pro-industry, anti-environment efforts, in particular their interest in turning control of public lands over to state hands and rescinding the designation of national monuments. In turn, the outdoor industry, led by companies like Patagonia, Black Diamond, and Polartec, has essentially said, ‘if we come to Utah, we’re complicit in their efforts.’

Read more about that here.

Nonetheless, we welcomed the chance to visit with vendors and especially remind them that horse owners and riders are part of the outdoor recreation world, too. Read a High Country News op-ed on this here. 

Highlights:

Inspiring words from former Sec. of Interior Sally Jewell

At the Outdoor Industry breakfast, held at the Salt Lake Marriott across from the Salt Palace, we heard from heavy hitters: former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (in her first public appearance since leaving office), Montana Governor Steve Bullock (a possible 2020 US presidential candidate), as well as outdoor rock stars, Alex Honnold (who earlier this year became the first to free solo Yosemite’s El Cap) and Cedar Wright (fellow climber and adventure filmmaker).

The ballroom was decked out like a political convention, with 50 tall placards placed all around the space. They announced the outdoor recreation impact for each state. In total, the industry reels in $887 billion and 7.6 million in jobs annually. Check out this interactive map here.

It’s clear the industry’s come a long way from even a few years ago, when former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt implored this same Salt Lake Palace gathering to get its proverbial act together. 

For me, personally, it was a nice opportunity to mix with the cool and powerful, sure. But it was also a reminder that the horse community needs to do a better job at being here as a stakeholder. As they say, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

Find out what products we liked.

Read more about Duckworth, the Montana wool company.

Hobnobbing with celebrity kayaker, Nick Troutman

Hasta La Vista, Utah

The Outdoor Retailer, the multi-million dollar exposition force which lived in Salt Lake City for 21 years, has pulled up stakes and is headed to neighboring Colorado. Beginning in January, 2018, the OR will be hosted by Denver.

Read this open letter to Utah from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Read Washington Post article on the OR departure from Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Utah’s unfriendly policies and rhetoric towards public land and wilderness stewardship, the twice-a-year event, which draws tens of thousands of outdoor recreationalists and retailers, will take its $45 million annual local contribution to the Mile High State.

It’s too bad Utah representatives, Emerald Expositions (which owns the OR) along with its show partner, the Outdoor Industry Association could not come to terms with the disharmony.

Can’t say as I blame the OR. I drive through Moab often enough. I’ve lived near the public lands of the Oquirrh mountains. I’ve come to the conclusion that many Utahns are either ignorant about environmental stewardship or hell-bent on manhandling and molesting beautiful public lands. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, among Utahns and Utah spaces. But overall, it’s ugly stuff.

It’s a shame the predominantly Mormon population doesn’t embrace a more sustainable approach.

I found this on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints newsroom pages:

“Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends His creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved. Making the earth ugly offends Him.”

If only.

Troubling Health Signs in Utah

Cultural and business climates often run parallel to the degree of local reportage and response. The same news event will

A view of Salt Lake area, with the inversion.

get different coverage in Boise than it will in Boston.  The concern over potentially harmful environmental impact, for example, may be less officially worrisome in Utah than elsewhere. So, the following should come as no surprise – just like the increased stillborn rates in Duchesne, Daggett, and Uintah counties – health concerns affecting seniors are troubling yet (in this reporter’s opinion) under-reported:

In specific parts of Utah, there have been observations of an unusually high number of patients with two rare neurological pathologies: glioblastomas and the logopenic variant of primary progression aphasia. The former is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. The latter is similar to Alzeimer’s but attacks the brain’s language c​enter, not the memory.

Glioblastoma as seen in an MRI

According to what I’ve been told, Salt Lake county doctors are seeing an unusually high number of both. Most remarkably, one doctor saw four glioblastoma cases in one week. Of the logopenic variant, he previously diagnosed just two cases in 20 years (elsewhere in the country).

In addition, he recently received a letter from a state board, requiring that Parkinson’s Disease cases be reported as there were concerns of an unusual increase in diagnoses. It is this doctor’s suspicion that this uptick is, in fact, still under-represents the problem. The demographic shift of the aging boomer population has been taken into account.

The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment points out that the political climate for connecting pollutants with illness is particularly unfriendly in Utah.
Nonetheless, at the University of Utah, they’ve recently noted that the state rate of Parkinson’s Syndrome is double the national average. The local rate of patients with glioblastomas is some five times the national average.

Some think even these high rates are under-reported because of the dearth of qualified neurologists in Utah and the political and social climate. Last year, the university established the first in the nation Parkinson’s Registry. Doctors are now being asked to report all PD cases.

Parkinson symptoms

Wild West (Fake) Journalism is Back!

You might think we journalists struggle more than other folks when accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” splash across our virtual desktops.

That’s because the attack is not just on liberal news outlets but on media and the propagation of information in general. It’s an attack on journalism’s basic mission to fairly inform readers.

I may be a reporter but I’m also a reader. And when university research shows that most people think that we journalists are actually enemies of the state, well, let’s just say I can take a hint. (For those of you who are so darn persnickety about sources, I’m referring to the recent Suffolk University poll which shows that two-thirds of Fox News watchers believe that mainstream media is the enemy of the people.),

I’ve seen a lawyer! I’ve seen the light!

Party line! Party on!

Wild West journalism is so much more fun anyway. Remember when frontier reports promised water and farmland aplenty to any Easterner with an ear to bend? Remember when reports of “Gold in Them Thar Hills” was the real, honest-to-god headline on news stands?

Author Timothy Snyder reminded me of Wild West journalism in a recent interview. He said:

“In the descent from a world of factual discourse into a world of emotions and alternative realities, the first step you take… [is to] manufacture lots of stuff that isn’t true. The second step is that you claim that everyone is like this. You spread this kind of cynicism that you shouldn’t really trust anybody…Once that belief spreads we’re then in the world …which is ripe for fascism.”

His book is called “On Tyranny” and he teaches at Yale. But the guy lacks a sense of humor, don’t you think? We need writers and reporters who are more easy-going and have better senses of humor. More and more, I look at my old journalism life and laugh.

I remember, for example, reporting on a large, intense animal cruelty case. Thanks to the coverage, the animal welfare officials investigated. Thanks to the coverage, the county District Attorney prosecuted. Scores of horses, goats, pigs, and other animals were removed from the abusers’ possession and the couple in question was convicted.

Not surprisingly, these folks did not appreciate the coverage and called it untrue and “fake news.”

I see their point of view now. More and more, the truth is just so much trouble. More and more, I prefer the news to reflect my social media newsfeed: sound bites and images that affirm my beliefs. No questioning or contrariness please. Embracing an ideology of doubt? No thanks!

When I was a young mom, I used to love meal times with my three sons. It was a time to bounce around ideas. I tried to extoll the French essayist Joseph Joubert: “The aim of an argument or discussion should be not victory but progress.”

Back then, I said.

— If we only listen to the news that makes us feel good, how do we grow?

— If journalists only write about approved topics with supportive bias, how is the reader (and therefore the greater society) helped?

— If we are not encouraged to ask questions, think critically, and occasionally argue, what’s the point of having a thinking brain and living in a community?

Back then, I thought that as reporters and readers we should be encouraged to dig deep, look for the sources’ angles, and weigh alternative points of view. We should be aware of conflicts of interests and ulterior motives. Abusers, people with something to hide, vested parties all routinely blame the messengers, I thought.

Around the dinner table and around the newsroom, I thought transparency and objectivity were good things. Discourse and shining the mirror back on ourselves? All good!

Now, thankfully, I’ve been liberated from the fray. If I was back at the table with my boys and they said something like “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me” I would scold them for not thinking about the math. You know – If A = B and B = C, then A = C. C’mon folks, learn it with me!

  • Discussion is Argument.
  • Argument is Verbal Combat.
  • Verbal Combat is Combat.
  • Combat is War.
  • War is bad.

We need more love in this world!

Some folks might say I’m slipping from Synder’s “fact-based discourse into an alternative reality promulgated mostly by emotions.”

But love is emotions, right? And even journalists want to be loved.

 

“Landmarks” by Robert MacFarlane is a book to reread

We regularly recommend books on NickerNews (another site in the family of Cayyuse Crest Communications). Why not here?

This first installment comes on finishing one of the most impressive non-fiction books I’ve read in years: Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane.

Robert MacFarlane

Robert MacFarlane

Landmarks is full of those moments one has an engaged reader: Ah-ha moments and passages that you immediately have to read again, not because they confound you but because they lift you to a deeper place of understanding and appreciation. Those are passages where I turn down the top corner of the page. My copy of Landmarks must have three dozen turn-downs or more.

MacFarlane refers to and pays homage to many American essayists, including Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, and John Muir. His book is a celebration of language, time in nature and wilderness, and a deeply thoughtful conversation about the junction of those elements.

Although focused on the how the English are losing nature-centric words specific to the British Isles (peat, fog, mist, etc), he even writes of Keith Basso’s work with the Apache of western Arizona:

“The Apache understand how powerfully language constructs the human relation to place, and as such they possess, Basso writes, ‘a modest capacity for wonder and delight at the large tasks that small words can be made to perform.’ In their imagination geography and history are consubstantial. Placeless events are inconceivable, in that everything that happens must

A worn, saddlebagged copy of Landmarks

A worn, saddlebagged copy of Landmarks

happen somewhere.”

Other books to consider, with leanings toward books of the western U.S.:

Hole in the Sky: A Memoir, by William Kittredge

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West, by Wallace Stegner

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey

All the West that Remains, by David Gessner. Read a three-part interview with Gessner here.

Where Rivers Change Directions, by Mark Spragg

Send us your favorites!

Open Letter to Bikers Everywhere

The recent opinion piece in High Country News sparked a viral amount of dialogue on that magazine’s site and on other platforms that picked up the piece, like Adventure Journal. It begged a follow-up on improving understanding for all who use multi-use trails.

yield-trail-sign-tempeBelieve it or not, bikers and hikers must yield to horse riders on many trails. This rule isn’t some snooty, “we were here first” deal. It’s just common sense. It’s much easier for hikers and bikers to yield to horses than the other way around.

Horses are prey animals. Bikes approach like predators, quickly and silently. Even the best-trained horses can spook, bolt, or jump sideways when they encounter bikers or hikers with big packs.
The results can be harmful to all. Think of a moose-vehicle collision. Now, take away the vehicle.

To avoid collisions and flared tempers, take these simple steps:

Download a pdf and share it with your local bike shop.

•    Announce yourself: Once you see horse and rider, let them know you’re approaching as soon as you can. No yelling necessary, just a friendly “Hey, how are you?” will do.
Mountain-Bikes600
•    Slow down or stop: Ask the rider if she’d like you to stop and step off or if slowing down and passing is okay.

•    Keep talking: Being friendly and communicative isn’t just nice manners, it lets the horse know you are a person, not a predator.

•    Anticipate around corners: Avoid tearing around blind angles. There could be large, dangerous animals around the bend! If you can’t slow down, make noise to alert possible trail riders.

•    Take the low road: If you’re on a grade and are trying to move past a horse rider, take the downhill side.

trail-clipart-TRAIL6Horse riders are not victims here. Nor are they guilt-free when it comes to trail conflict. Let’s recognize our contributions to the problem:

  • Be a polite advocate. As we noticed in the comments on Adventure Journal, mountain bikers have plenty of stories of rude, entitled horse riders. Don’t be one of them. Remember, you get more with honey than vinegar.
  • Also, if it’s been rainy, stay off trails where horses can do serious damage. It can take a long time to renew and repair trails that have been trashed when horses move up and down them in wet conditions.
  • Got a horse who’s spooky around bikes? Practice. Expose your horse to bikes in a more predictable environment. Make it a positive experience.
  • Assume the worst. Don’t put yourself or your horse in a position where things can go sideways. If you see or know of mountain bikes presence, set yourself up for a safe encounter. If this means hustling off the trail, so be it.

Have fun sharing the trail!

Kevin Fedarko Interview, Part I

We spoke recently with Kevin Fedarko, author of The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon.
Fedarko, a former senior editor of Outside magazine, spoke at the Cortez Public Library as part of the Amazing Author series.
We met over lunch, before he headed off to another speaking engagement in Telluride. We’re cross-posting from our sister site, ColoradoOutsider.com
fed6
ColoradoOutsider: Wilderness and being outside are your topics. You’re recording, experiencing, and trying to be mindful. How does that work for you? Like on this recent trek, walking the Grand Canyon (on assignment for National Geographic), were you “on” all the time?

Kevin Fedarko: In that context, I’m always on. I’m very cognizant of the fact that everything that happens is grist for the mill. I think it’s really essential to record as much as possible, in situ, to get it down in the moment.
That’s a huge challenge during a trip like that because I’m always so exhausted. You can’t take notes while you’re walking. It’s just impossible. And I was so exhausted in camp at night that all I wanted to do was go to sleep. So I carry a tape recorder right on my backpack, on a strap. I found it was amazingly efficient.
Pete (photographer and videographer Pete McBride} was constantly recording as well. Much as I’d love to be in Zen poet mode or whatever, and not worry about being a journalist, this is my material, what’s happening. Also, to get down thoughts is really important even if it’s in a really rough moment.

COO: My kids and I have an ongoing argument on whether taking pictures takes away from the moment or adds to the moment, adds to one’s ability to be in the moment. When you’re on assignment, does that make your recall and memories sharper? Or does it put blinders on, because you might not recall what you didn’t record?

KF: For me it does make them sharper because I’m forced into a level of engagement that goes beyond having fun or registering its beauty and then moving on. When you’re forced to record, you’re forced to articulate your thoughts. That pulls you in. Some might say it’s a false engagement because it’s an intellectual engagement. I’m sure you could go down that road and have a long PhD thesis on that. But for me, it does heighten the experience. It imbues it with a coherence and meaning that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Kevin Fedarko pauses before heading to Telluride

Kevin Fedarko pauses before heading to Telluride

It’s also less enjoyable. I can’t coast through it. Even when I’m trying to do that, I’m often pulled back in by some sort of insight or observation. My tape recordings may be just five seconds long or so. They are just impressions.

COO: Key words or snapshots?

KF: Absolutely. For instance, the way the pebbles at the bottom of a slot canyon are all different colors because the floor of a slot canyon collects all the different layers of rock and they are literally all jumbled together. Each represents a different place in time. Some are 2.5 million years old and some are 1.7 billion years old. So you have time jumbled together in rock, represented in color. That would be an example of an impression.

COO: But you don’t have time to fine-tune it as a wordsmith. You table that bit.

KF: Right. It seems to me it’s most important to record it. I can then think about the words later.

Read Part II, in which Fedarko discusses the specter of Grand Canyon development.

Read Part III

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