Report from the Outdoor Retailer – What We Liked

Imagine you’re at a mall on the weekend before Christmas and all the crowds around you are fit, driven, and over-caffeinated. That’s pretty much the scene at the Outdoor Retailer at the Salt Palace convention center. Thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of buyers, managers, and working media types (like me) are meeting. It’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Among the offerings, there are a lot of technical pieces (specialized climbing rope, specialized paddle boards, specialized watches, specialized phone chargers, etc., etc.) bright, snappy clothing, and the latest on how to bring domesticity into the back country. We managed to whittle through the morass and find some excellent (and perhaps overlooked) products:

Good to Go – this Maine-based company, led by an accomplished and adventurous chef, takes the same ol’, same ol’ out of camp meals.

Pull Start Fire – taking the wishing and finger-crossing out of campfires, even in the rain.

Rite in the Rain – notebooks and writing implements that work, even in the rain.

Duckworth Wool – wool from Montana, crafted into fabulous clothing in North and South Carolina. We’re verrryy keen on this new company. Review of their Vapor t-shirt coming soon.

Benchmade – we found some female-friendly knives from this Oregon company. Review coming soon.

Green Goo – natural salves from this women-owned Colorado company. We love their Travel Packs, which come with lip balm, first aid and pain relief salves, and bug spray.

Adventure Medical – We love their Me and My Dog first aid kits. An essential for your barn, truck, or camper.

Bullfrog – horse riders sweat, too! We dig their sweat-resistant, sunscreen/bug repellant combination lotion.

And it was fun to visit with Bullfrog’s celebrity kayaker Nick Troutman, too. Read more at UtahOutsider. 

Klean Kanteen – this company sets the bar for doing the right thing in a complicated market. It’s a B Corporation and is especially innovative and transparent. “We adhere to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, then Profit,” said one representative at the OR. Aside from that, we love their new colors and kits. Check out there starter Coffee Kit here. 

Stanley – the company’s Switchback mug gets the prize for no-spill, no-drip To Go mug. It’s also pretty easy to clean between uses.

OsanaBar – a new, awesome-smelling, mosquito repellent soap that works! The company also has an excellent charitable arm. It supplies soap to communities threatened by malaria, the sometimes deadly disease carried by mosquitos.

LL Bean – the Maine company continues to introduce fun, tough, not-your-gramma’s clothing. The colors and fabrics are perfect for us horse riders. We love their Back Cove Heathered tee, their Luna jacket, and their Whisper Lodge flannel. 

Whisper Lodge flannel shirt from LL Bea

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

Kevin Fedarko Interview, Part II

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

Read Part I

COO: You’re really self-deprecating. Not just as a public speaker but as an oarsman (Fedarko manned the boat which carried the latrines during his boating stints on the Colorado River). Are you really that bad?

KF: No, I can’t resist a good joke on myself. The basic parameters of that story are true. I was a very bad oarsman. I’m still not great. And I did become the permanent poo boat guy. But I also knew that it was a great story. It’s kind of hilarious. And I knew that it would teach me something. Had I focused more on being an oarsman, I would have gotten better. I would have proven myself over time and acquired those skills. But I made a conscious decision not to because ultimately I’m a writer. I’m not a dory boatman. I had to decide that one avenue was more valuable than the other.

COO: And you’re not a bad presenter either. Your presentation was polished and thoughtful. Did you have help?

KF: I haven’t had any coaching. I have done it dozens of times. It is kind of polished. But I am really awkward when I start. It takes me a good 10 minutes to get going. That’s who I am: someone who’s very uncomfortable being up there, who’s stumbling over himself, who’s not a natural. Someone once told me that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an extrovert derives energy from being around people and an introvert has energy sucked out of them. I’m definitely the latter.

COO: How do you divide your time now? Over the last few months?

KF: The last several months have been sort of insane. Pete and I have been trying to complete this walk and then write the story immediately. It’s been kind of like two trains colliding. I have also just completed a ghost-writing project. You’re also catching me at a moment where I don’t think I’ve ever been more exhausted. There is no balance in my life at the moment.

But starting June, I have nothing for two months. I have a pile of books I want to read. Nothing else.

COO: Are you happy with your daily, monthly, yearly life? With your accolades and whatnot?

KF: I think you’re laboring under the misimpression that there is all this acclaim. Sam Carter interviewed me for a radio interview and asked ‘What’s it like to be famous?’ I’m like, ‘Dude…’

COO: But book tours and racing around southwestern Colorado is not sitting in a lonely, dark room, typing away.

KF: It’s not as if the phone is ringing off the hook and people are calling all the time, asking me to speak.

COO: At the Cortez library, you showed a video of the specter of Grand Canyon development. Looking ahead to the generations to follow, are you depressed, optimistic?

KF: I’m not a father and I don’t think I know enough about young people to either be inspired or depressed. Around them, I find myself experiencing a bit of both. I worry that people don’t read. I worry that kids spend most of their time indoors.

COO: I noticed that most people at your talk were our age. (We’re both around 50 years old.)

KF: You’re right. But there are times when I run into young people and I think they’re amazing. There’s an organization called Grand Canyon Youth. The whole mission is to put young people on the river. They’re incredible.

People my age have been worrying about the superficiality and general cluelessness of young people since probably the age of rock art. I think some of these worries are a bit manufactured.

Read Part I

Read Part III

Kevin Fedarko, Part III

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.
fed6We met over lunch, before he headed off to another speaking engagement in Telluride.

Read Part I

Read Part II

COO: This is your first book. When it came to the story of the Emerald Mile, did it call to you? Did people around you say ‘this story is book-worthy, you gotta do it!’ Or was there any compulsion, like, ‘at this time in my life, I gotta write a book’?

KF: It might have been a bit of the latter. A book represented where I wanted to get with writing. Not so much because a book is longer, but with a book, you get to focus on one thing. Not writing about something, then moving on. Even writing for a monthly magazine, you parachute in with a set of ideas. You emerge from a two-week process with something to say about it. That became dissatisfying for me over time. I really wanted to dive much more deeply. I think I’ve always wanted that.

This story took an enormous amount of time to coalesce in my head. I couldn’t figure out: what was the story? where was the center? what did it involve?

At first, it didn’t even occur to me that there were two stories, one at the dam and one on the river. So all that stuff got worked out in the very messy process of writing a proposal and trying to write the book.

It was chaotic and messy and lacked anything remotely approaching clarity.

COO: After the proposal, did it evolve again? Or did the folks in New York respect your vision?

KF: This was my first rodeo with book publishing. It doesn’t always work this way. I wound up with an agent who was very hands-on. She helped me shape the proposal. It was 20,000 words. She was part of the process.

The proposal is like a sales document. It’s not the book. It’s not like you can take it, like a balloon and blow it up into a 110,000-word document. I needed to throw that away and start from scratch again.

COO: Right. The sales document is how the book will fit into the publishing world and supersede all the other books out there. And why now is the time for it to be published.

fed7KF: By the way, The Emerald Mile was not a bestseller at the beginning. I talked with Brendan Leonard of Semi-Rad and there’s a DirtBag Diaries podcast that describes the whole thing.

[Simon & Schuster debuted the book in March, 2013. The release coincided with a long-running dispute between the publishing company and Barnes & Noble that climaxed with the bookseller refusing to sell any books by S & S rookie authors. For The Emerald Mile, “the marketing feel apart. It was a downward spiral that ends with the death of a book,” said Fedarko, who responded to the debacle by relentlessly touring the western states, doing book signings, sleeping in the back of his truck, “living like a river guide”, and cultivating his own following.] Listen to the podcast here.

Some people have criticized The Emerald Mile and it did get me thinking. It might be going to far to say I appreciated it, but it’s been useful and valuable.

COO: Yeah, readers tend to be unhappy if the book wasn’t what they expected. Not that it was a bad book, but book reviews tend to be 2 stars when the sales pitch wasn’t the same as the goods.

KF: It’s so interesting you say that because the single biggest criticism has been that it wasn’t enough about the journey and it was false advertising. It has to do with the subtitle. A certain type of reader has felt he’s been sold a bill of goods…I was

Fedarko speaks at Durango High School. Courtesy Durango Herald

Fedarko speaks at Durango High School. Courtesy Durango Herald

explaining the criticism to kids at Durango High School because I thought it might resonate.

Here’s a book that starts with two chapters, these kind of sexy things happen. But the next thing you know, you’re in the 1500’s with Spanish conquistadors and then you’re thrown 70 pages of environmental history before you even start to connect things. Certain readers felt that was unfair. It goes back to the subtitle. I would have really liked the subtitle to get away from what it is now and towards what’s more essential.

One of my favorite critiques: a guy wrote on some blog that The Emerald Mile was a terrible book and how there are only three chapters that deal with the speed run. His advice to readers, particularly kayakers, was to buy the book, rip out 75 percent of it, keep the last three chapters, and then throw that in the trash, too.

Isn’t that great?

COO: Well, at least one boater is reading the whole thing. My son.

KF: The idea that young people are reading it is great. Durango High School adopted the book. That’s the most amazing thing that’s happened.

COO: I’m sure the teachers chose it for the very reasons critics have panned it – the research, the history, and environmental issues.

KF: Right. They’re using it as a sort of base camp. They go to a power plant. They go to Glen Canyon Dam. They go on a camping trip. They’re on the Animas. Their adoption of the book is the single most gratifying thing that has happened in connection with the book.

Read Part I

Read Part II

A Feline Catch and Release

Say what you will about trapping. It’s not always humane and not always pursued by hunters of integrity and compassion. (Us “non-consumptive” parties – hikers, bikers, and horseback riders – can be less than virtuous, too, tossing litter and otherwise trashing the wilderness.)

But the efforts of one trapper and one conservation officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, were most impressive and effective when a big, healthy mountain lion was nabbed in a trap intended for bobcat.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.42.17 AMIt happened late last year in the Pine Valley Mountain Range, in Washington County, said the officer, Mark Ekins. The trapper (who wishes to remain unnamed) checked his trap after setting it the day before. Ekins estimated the cat had been in the trap 10 hours. With his cell phone propped on a nearby log, the two tended to the big cat and released it within six minutes. No tranquilizer darting. No equipment save a few catch poles. Check out the video here.

The release was just another day on the job, demurred Ekins. “It’s all relative to what you’re used to. I’d rather release a mountain lion than jump out of a plane.” In the 10 years on the job, he’s never gotten hurt and has released scores of predators. Once, a bobcat took a swipe and knocked off his glove.

Initially, the 10-year veteran officer (whose father worked as a Utah game warden for decades) brought the video home to show the wife and kids. They weren’t overly impressed. “It was not a big deal to them,” said Ekins of his family’s reaction.

IMG_5591 copyBut after he posted it on his personal Facebook page, he got a call from KLS, the Salt Lake City television news station. Reporter Faith Heaton Jolley covered the story here.

Suffice to say, viral happens. The video and accompanying story have been reported in England and beyond. It’s been viewed over 100 thousand times.

Reaction has been mixed, remarked Ekins, with some commenters calling trapping “’cruel and barbaric’ while others understand that trapping is an important part of conservation.”

On that December day, Ekins monitored the cat’s recovery and followed its tracks. He said it was in “great shape and great health.” After resting for several minutes, it moved off and seemed fine, he said.

 

Tempest Williams wows OR crowd

The Outdoor Retailer is all about the selly-selly-sell. Thousands of outdoor gear exhibitors tout their latest socks, stoves,

image_previewskis, shoes, snowshoes, and shovels in the effort to wow thousands of buyers (or not). Increasingly, however, it’s also about organizing and affirming the outdoor industry’s growing political clout in order to tackle some serious and pressing issues of our generation: preservation of open space and public access to wilderness.

That’s why hundreds of OR exhibitors and attendees packed the 7am breakfast to hear Terry Tempest Williams give the Outdoor Industry Association’s keynote address.

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Last year, former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, urged the OR audience to coalesce in the fight against the development, extraction industries, and the Bundy element. This year, Tempest Williams sent out a similar message, but with more passion, fewer stats, and a different (but equally troublesome) Bundy.

Tempest Williams traveled extensively to research her upcoming book, “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks” (savvily timed with this year’s centennial celebration of the park system). The book promises to be “a meditation and manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America,” says one press release.

At the podium last week, the author of “Refuge” and “When Women Were Birds” presented a map (complete with hashtags, search terms, and theme music) and emotional call for outdoor activism. Some highlights from her 50-minute talk:

  • The outdoor industry needs to return to its roots. We all need to return to our roots, as human beings who care about place. In a word: wildness. In two words: protecting wildness. With three words: protecting public lands.
  • It is not enough to see these lands of portals of recreation and retail, commodities and commerce, but the open door to awe and wonder and acts of imagination that create hope for humanity, not just the isolation and promotion of the individual.
  • Remember not only what it means to be human but that we are one species among many.
Banner at the OR industry breakfast

Banner at the OR industry breakfast

Tempest Williams mentioned her recent visit to Paris, during the climate talks. She was particularly impressed by young demonstrators, who insisted they be heard, despite crackdowns by police after the city’s terrorist attacks. She marched with them.

“They said, ‘we’re in another state of emergency and in another state of terror and it’s called climate.’

…The young people were outraged. They marched. There were tens of thousands of them. They had huge red banners that said, ‘Keep it in the ground’ and ‘This is up to us.’”

Near the Eiffel Tower , she asked one of the demonstrators why he was there. He was a wildfire fighter from Fairbanks, Alaska, who witnessed six millions acres burn last summer. “I had to do something,” he told her.

“I returned home to Utah and I said, ‘what can I do?’…We can shut down these oil and gas leases on public lands. That’s what I’m going to do.”

She stepped down from the podium to a standing ovation.

Hashtag: keepitintheground

Music: Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Season.

SEO term: E.O. Wilson, half, earth (which discusses the author’s posit that half of the earth must be set aside as wilderness in order to have a sustainable, viable future for all living things. It also references the tentative title of Wilson’s upcoming book: Half Earth: The Struggle to Save the Rest of Life.)

Bits of Winter Wonder

IMG_2450

 

 

Winter has come and I’m determined not to bring bad juju (ie, snarkiness) to the season. As in: “Brrr, I don’t want to do _______ (fill in outdoor activity) because it’s too dang cold.” or “I’m just going to sit around the space heater and not do ______ (fill in outdoor activity) because it’s dark already.”

The inspiration of the week actually came amidst and because of the cold and dark. We were headed to the airport at 430 am and a few inches of fresh snow covered our gravel road, Road 46. We saw two sets of coyote tracks that ran the course of the road for more than a mile. They braided each other, sometimes became one, then deviated separately. At a few points, it looked like they played or rolled, maybe stopped to scratch an itch, or sat for a spell. The tracks were so fresh.IMG_2305

On the return leg from the airport, still in the dark, I got to view and contemplate their meandering paw prints once more. The snow was so crisp and dry it seemed illuminated by the moonlight and by the truck lights. Driving through it felt a bit like night swimming through phosphorescence (something I did as a kid in Maine).

Winter does seem to be the quietest season. While animal tracks are, obviously, more obvious, other evidence seems to diminish and become subtler. Smaller birds are quieter and seem to stick to the underbrush more. Others have migrated, of course.

A Golden Eagle, spotted earlier this year in the canyon

A Golden Eagle, spotted earlier this year in the canyon

Once again, I had the fortune of spotting a Golden Eagle in the area. There is nothing subtle about its appearance and nothing quiet about the neighborhood protest it raises from ravens and hawks. I watched as two hawks from clear over the other side of the canyon made a B line for the soaring giant. They positioned themselves above it and dove down a few times, like flies on a horse’s butt. It’s funny to think of red tailed hawks as big birds and then to see them as just lil’ fellas up against a Golden.

Not many birds have discovered or trust the porch bird feeder I installed. A lone junco, though, likes to just sit and eat. It practically tucks itself into the nook of the feeder, surrounded by seeds, while looking out and staying safe.

Mancos continues to interest and impress:

P & D’s is the local grocery store. I go there often for a quick slice of pizza to break up my workday at the library. I work there because I have no Internet at the house and because it’s a cool library with cool folks. Over Thanksgiving week, I discovered that P & D’s throws a big Thanksgiving Day meal for the community. For free. It’s not a feed-the-hungry type deal so much as a just a really lovely community tradition. As many as 500 people show up, I heard.

IMG_0111How cool is that?

My son and I checked out a new local gym, called the Grand Gym (it’s on Grand Avenue). They have lots of different yoga classes as well as circuit training (weight lifting and such). We did a circuit class led by a college football player turned circus acrobat, David Stickler. Very knowledgeable trainer. Yesterday, I returned for a seminar led by an accomplished physical therapist/instructor, Beth Austin. Instead of exercising, we’re learning about how to use our body correctly when we exercise and even when we’re at rest. The class was full; we were young, old, male, and female.

All in this tiny, blip-on-the-map town.

Read more about Mancos here.

 

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