The changing face of camping: record numbers of minorities hit the trails – MarketWatch

“nonwhite campers now comprise 26% of all campers — more than double when it was first measured in 2012”

by Kari Paul, MarketWatch

Teshale Nuer, a 25-year-old Afro-Latinx behavioral therapist based in New York City, recently headed into the great outdoors for the first time, joining a group of predominantly white friends in tents in Maryland. For Nuer, who was initially resistant to joining, it was one of the most foreign experiences in recent memory.

“Growing up as a person of color, camping just never seemed like an option,” Nuer said. “There was a lot of etiquette I didn’t know about. I grew up in the suburbs where people did go camping, but not people who looked like me.”

Camping has been traditionally associated with white Americans — national parks were once segregated and even recently advocates of outdoor leisure activities have asked why America’s national parks are so white. Nuer said there are a number of underlying implications for nonwhite Americans regarding outdoor activities, including the U.S. legacy of racial violence leaving campers uncomfortable around police and state park rangers.

But the activity is increasingly becoming an attractive form of vacation for campers like Nuer, according to a new study from the large national private campground system Kampgrounds of America. It found nonwhite campers now comprise 26% of all campers — more than double when it was first measured in 2012.

The biggest driver of this growth is millennials, said Toby O’Rourke, chief operating officer at KOA, which obviously has a vested interest in people going camping. The age group comprises just 31% of the adult population, yet accounts for 38% of campers — and it’s more diverse: Six in 10 nonwhite campers are millennials compared with 4 in 10 white campers.

“Nature has a PR problem.”
Rue Mapp, founder of OutdoorAfro
“I was surprised by the high enthusiasm for camping in the teenage group,” O’Rourke said. “We are definitely seeing more and more young people coming in. It’s changing the face of camping. It used to be an older, more Caucasian activity and we are seeing it skew younger and a lot more diversity.”

Rue Mapp is the chief executive officer and founder of OutdoorAfro, a nonprofit that “celebrates and inspires African-American connections to nature.” It started as a blog in 2009 and has since grown into a national network in which 20,000 people participate in camping trips and other events across 30 states. She said millennials are seeing the effects of major efforts to show better representation of nonwhite campers in their communities, on social media and in advertising.

“Nature has a PR problem,” she said. “We have not done a good job of letting people know they will be welcome. There is no padlock on any trail, there is no padlock on any campground — but if you don’t know about it, you won’t go. Social media has played a huge role in changing that.”

Source: The changing face of camping: record numbers of minorities hit the trails – MarketWatch

Epic Days and Late Nights with Jeremy Tofte, Founder of Jackson Hole’s Melvin Brewing 

“All I ever wanted to do was grow a beard, brew beer, and have fun. Maybe that’s why I live in a van.” -Jeremy Tofte, co-founder of Jackson Hole’s Melvin Brewing

by Hudson Lindenberger, Men’s Journal

Two decades ago Tofte arrived in Jackson Hole with a few bucks in his pocket and the goal to spend the winter snowboarding the famous slopes surrounding the town. To survive he bounced from job to job before opening his own Thai restaurant in 2000. The fact that he really did not know much about cooking Thai food did not stop him; he bought a few cookbooks and taught himself.

Six years later, he sold the restaurant. It was a success but he had grown tired of fighting the local government over his attempts to open a nano-brewery in the back of his restaurant. “I was sick of not being able to get good beer in town. We had to drive to Colorado to restock the fridge,” says Tofte.

With the proceeds from his sale, he took to the road spending the next two years chasing surf and summer in New Zealand, Australia, and Indonesia. When the new owners of his restaurant failed, leaving the business shuttered, the landlord called him and asked him if he would want to come back to reopen it.

Determined to open his brewery this time, he went over the town of Jackson Hole’s head — he got federal and state approval before applying. When he reopened Thai Me Up as a brewery and restaurant in 2009, he had a tiny 20-gallon system installed.

“The craft beer movement was slower arriving to Jackson, most of the locals thought we were nuts,” says Tofte. “But I did not care, I knew our brews were good.” Three years later, in their first Great American Beer Festival, they won three medals, then another three years later in 2015 they were named the best Small Brewer in the country at the GABF. Investors offered money and they started to plan on opening a larger brewery. Their Melvin IPA and 2×4 Double IPA are recognized as some of the top beers in the country.

But right as things were getting good, Tofte decided it was time for a change. “The real estate market in Jackson sucks. It’s so damn expensive,” says Tofte. “So I decided to stop renting and move into a bus.” As the face of an expanding Melvin Brewing, his constant presence on the road helped to seal the deal for him.

His first mobile home was a converted ski patrol bus. It was good, but also a pain to drive around, and guzzled gas. In February of 2016, he moved into his newest home, a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. The 4×4 van is part adventure platform, part office, part base camp, and pure party.

There are surfboards on the roof rack next to an array of solar panels, and the Thule lockbox holds his snowboards. Under the raised bed inside are his three bikes — mountain, road, and city — and the rack on the rear holds his KTM motorcycle for commuting into town. Inside he has a full kitchen, flat screen TV, PlayStation, thumping sound system, and enough beer to be the most popular guy at the campground.

“I wake up and make some breakfast, log on using a jet pack, knock out some work before heading out for some fun,” says Tofte. “We only sell our beer in places where you can either mountain bike, surf, or snowboard, so I am never far from another adventure.”

For almost thirty months straight he has been continuously cycling between Wyoming, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest. He says he would not change a thing; he loves being on the road. “Every single day I meet new people and have new experiences. Why change that?” says Tofte. “We are all going to die one day, that’s a fact. We should have fun, be nice, and live our adventures.”

Melvin beer will soon be arriving in California, with plans to head east sometime soon.

Source: Epic Days and Late Nights with Jeremy Tofte, Founder of Jackson Hole’s Melvin Brewing – Men’s Journal

Access Fund Announces 2016 Sharp End Awards 

Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that protects America’s climbing, is honored to present its 2016 Sharp End Awards to an amazing group of volunteers and activists who stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community. Please join us in congratulating:

Greg Barnes

Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award
Access Fund is honored to present Greg Barnes with a Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg’s singular focus on fixed anchor education and replacement has made our climbing areas safer and more sustainable. Greg is the longtime director of the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA), a national organization that has provided—at no cost—new bolts and hardware to hundreds of local climbing organizations and volunteers across the country. Greg developed some of the first and most enduring best practices for rebolting and fixed anchors and continues to be a leader in the field, presenting at Access Fund’s Future of Fixed Anchors conferences and serving on our Anchor Replacement Fund grant committee. Greg has personally replaced many thousands of bolts in California, Nevada, and beyond.

Ian Caldwell
Bebie Leadership Award
Access Fund is proud to present Ian Caldwell with a Bebie Leadership Award for his incredible dedication to Smith Rock, one of America’s most iconic climbing areas. Ian has played a central role in the Smith Rock Group since 2003, coordinating the annual Spring Thing climbing stewardship event, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Ian also replaces bolts and anchors at Smith and volunteers for the Deschutes County rescue team. Decades ago, Ian was an Access Fund Regional Coordinator and served as president of the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee. Ian has also worked to protect climbing areas across the Northwest and played a lead role in the 2016 Northwest Sustainable Climbing Conference. Congratulations, Ian, and thank you for your outstanding leadership.

Roger Briggs

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is pleased to present Roger Briggs with a Sharp End Award for his work to protect Colorado’s Front Range climbing areas. Roger founded the Boulder Climbing Community organization in 2012 and spearheaded the Front Range Climbing Stewards, a locally based climbing access trail crew, in partnership with Access Fund. A Boulder original, Roger has dedicated his life to climbing in the Front Range, working tirelessly to promote stewardship and responsible use.

The Keithley Family

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is excited to present the Keithley family with a Sharp End Award for their outstanding commitment to climbing area stewardship. Jimmy, Melissa, Zoe, and Noah bring a level of enthusiasm and commitment to climbing area stewardship that is impossible to overlook. As parents, Jimmy and Melissa strive to instill a strong stewardship ethic in their children, combining fun family climbing trips with stewardship work at the climbing areas they visit. Zoe and Noah now provide a positive example to their peers of what it means to be a climbing steward. Jimmy is also a board member of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance and chair of the Wasatch Anchor Replacement Committee. Thank you, Keithley family, for making climbing stewardship a family value!

Eve Tallman

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Eve Tallman with a Sharp End Award for her decades of work with Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) and her instrumental role in protecting Unaweep Canyon. In 2008, Eve helped secure Upper Mother’s Buttress, and in 2014, she expanded climbing access by securing the threatened Lower Mother’s Buttress and Television Wall. Without her behind-the-scenes organizing, grant applications, and on-the-ground stewardship, WCCC and Access Fund would not be able to celebrate a long legacy of conservation and climbing access in Unaweep Canyon. Thank you, Eve, for your contributions to Western Colorado and beyond.

Chris Irwin

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Chris Irwin with a Sharp End Award for his deep commitment to stewarding and protecting Mid-Atlantic climbing areas. Longtime board member and current president of Mid-Atlantic Climbers (MAC), Chris has been instrumental to MAC’s stewardship projects at areas like Great Falls, Carderock, Shenendoah, Coopersrock, Northwest Branch, and many more. More recently, Chris worked with Access Fund and other MAC board directors to officially open Mount Catoctin to bouldering.

Ben Bruestle

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Ben Bruestle with a Sharp End Award for his leadership of Southern Colorado Climbing Resource and Advocacy Group (SoCo CRAG) and his work to preserve and protect climbing areas in Southern Colorado. Ben has been instrumental in orchestrating Adopt a Crag stewardship events and climbing days at multiple sites, making strong inroads with a host of local land managers. Ben also dedicates countless hours to replacing worn, aging anchors and bolts in the Wet Mountains.

Roger Van Damme

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Roger Van Damme with a Sharp End Award for his outstanding leadership as Chairman of the Friends of Muir Valley. Roger has carried on Rick and Liz Weber’s vision for stewardship and conservation of the Muir Valley climbing area in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. Roger grew and strengthened the Friends of Muir Valley organization so significantly that the Webers decided to transfer Muir Valley to the organization in March 2015. This was a milestone in Red River Gorge climbing conservation. Roger improved day-to-day management at Muir, hiring support staff and instituting a successful parking donation system. With sincerity, humor, and an incredible work ethic, Roger inspires hundreds of Muir Valley stewards and volunteers.

Gus Fontenot

Sharp End Award

Access Fund is honored to present Gus Fontenot with a Sharp End Award for his decades of service to Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). An Alabama attorney, Gus has provided hundreds of hours of legal service to support SCC’s work in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. He has played a critical role in all of SCC’s climbing area acquisition projects, and he organized the SCC Land Trust. Climbers can enjoy areas like Boat Rock, Steele, King’s Bluff, Hospital Boulders, Castle Rock, Jamestown, Denny Cove, and more thanks to Gus’ generous contributions.

Jack Santo

Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Jack Santo with a Sharp End Award for his leadership of Ohio Climbers Coalition (OCC). Jack founded OCC and immediately set in motion advocacy and stewardship campaigns for Ohio climbing areas like Cleveland Metro Parks and Cuyahoga. Over the past year, he has spearheaded a partnership with county parks to open Mad River Gorge, Ohio’s largest climbing area. Jack is planning a large-scale Adopt a Crag event this May in preparation for the Gorge’s grand opening. Jack recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest but is staying deeply involved with OCC.

Outdoor Research

Sharp End Award
We are proud to present Outdoor Research (OR) with a Sharp End Award for its long-standing support and dedication to the protection of America’s climbing areas. OR’s leadership in helping launch the Climbing Conservation Loan Program in 2009 was a pivotal moment in the history of climbing conservation, making possible the purchase of 24 climbing areas. Outdoor Research also collects pro-purchase donations to support the protection of America’s climbing resources and has recently stepped up to defend our public lands.

About Access Fund

Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. For more information, visit www.accessfund.org.

Source: Access Fund Announces 2016 Sharp End Awards – Outdoor Industry Association

Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years

There have been hermits – also known as recluses, monks, misanthropes, ascetics, anchorites, swamis – at all times in recorded history, across all cultures. But there are really only three general reasons why people leave the world.

by Michael Finkel, for The Guardian  

Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he walked away from society, not to be seen again for more than a quarter of a century. He had been working for less than a year installing home and vehicle alarm systems near Boston, Massachusetts, when abruptly, without giving notice to his boss, he quit his job. He never even returned his tools. He cashed his final pay cheque and left town.

Knight did not tell anyone where he was going. “I had no one to tell,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends. I had no interest in my co-workers.” He drove down the east coast of America, eating fast food and staying in cheap motels – “the cheapest I could find”. He travelled for days, alone, until he found himself deep into Florida, sticking mostly to major roads, watching the world go by.

Eventually, he turned around and headed north. He listened to the radio. Ronald Reagan was president; the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had just occurred. Driving through Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia, blessed with invincibility of youth, buzzed by “the pleasure of driving”, he sensed an idea growing into a realisation, then solidifying into resolve.

All his life, he had been comfortable being alone. Interacting with others was so often frustrating. Every meeting with another person seemed like a collision.

He drove north to Maine, where he had grown up. There aren’t many roads in the centre of the state, and he chose the one that went right by his family’s house. “I think it was just to have one last look around, to say goodbye,” he said. He didn’t stop. The last time he saw his family home was through the windscreen of his car.

He kept going, “up and up and up”. Soon he reached the shore of Moosehead Lake, the largest in Maine, and the point where the state begins to get truly remote. “I drove until I was nearly out of gas. I took a small road. Then a small road off that small road. Then a trail off that.” He went as far into the wilderness as his vehicle could take him.

Knight parked the car and tossed the keys on the centre console. He had a tent and a backpack but no compass, no map. Without knowing where he was going, with no particular place in mind, he stepped into the trees and walked away.

Why would a 20-year-old man abruptly abandon the world? The act had elements of a suicide, except he didn’t kill himself. “To the rest of the world, I ceased to exist,” said Knight. Following his disappearance, Knight’s family must have suffered; they had no idea what had happened to him, and couldn’t completely accept the idea that he might be dead.

His final gesture, leaving his keys in the car, was particularly strange. Knight was raised with a keen appreciation of the value of money, and the car was the most expensive item he had ever purchased. Why not hold on to the keys as a safety net? What if he didn’t like camping out?

“The car was of no use to me. It had just about zero gas and I was miles and miles from any gas station,” he said. As far as anyone knows, the car is still there, half-swallowed by the forest. Knight said that he didn’t really know why he left. He had given the question plenty of thought but had never arrived at a specific answer. “It’s a mystery,” he declared.

There have been hermits – also known as recluses, monks, misanthropes, ascetics, anchorites, swamis – at all times in recorded history, across all cultures. But there are really only three general reasons why people leave the world.

Most do so for religious purposes, to forge a closer bond with a higher power. Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha all spent significant time alone before introducing a new religion to the world. In Hindu philosophy, everyone ideally matures into a kind of hermit, and today at least four million people live as wandering holy men in India, surviving off the charity of strangers, having renounced all familial and material attachments.

Other hermits opt out of civilisation because of a hatred of what the world has become – too much war, or environmental destruction, or crime, or consumerism. The first great literary work about solitude, the Tao Te Ching, was written in China in the sixth century BC by a hermit named Laozi, who was protesting the corrupt state of society. The Tao Te Ching says that it is only through retreat rather than pursuit, through inaction rather than action, that we acquire wisdom.
Christopher Knight: inside the Maine hermit’s lair
Read more
The final category includes those who wish to be alone for reasons of artistic freedom, scientific insight or deeper self-understanding. Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond in Massachusetts to journey within, to explore “the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s being”. English historian Edward Gibbon said that “solitude was the school for genius”.

Knight fit into none of these categories – he did not follow any formal religion; he was not protesting modern society; he produced no artwork or philosophical treatise. He never took a photograph or wrote a sentence; not a single person knew where he was. His back was fully turned to the world. There was no clear reason for what he chose to do. Something he couldn’t quite pinpoint had tugged him away from the world with the persistence of gravity. He was one of the longest‑enduring solitaries in history, and among the most fervent as well. Christopher Knight was a true hermit.

“I can’t explain my actions,” he said. “I had no plans when I left, I wasn’t thinking of anything. I just did it.”

Knight’s goal was to get lost. Not just lost to the rest of the world but actually lost in the woods by himself. He carried only rudimentary camping supplies, a few articles of clothing and a little food. “I had what I had,” he said, “and nothing more.”

It is not easy to get truly lost. Anyone with basic outdoor skills generally knows which way they are heading. The sun burns west across the sky, and from there it is natural to set the other directions. Knight knew that he was heading south. He said that he didn’t make a conscious decision to do so. Instead, he felt pulled in that direction, like a homing pigeon. “There was no depth or substance to the idea. It was at the instinctual level. It’s instinct among animals to return to home territory, and my home ground, where I was born and raised, was that way.”

Maine is partitioned into a series of long north-south valleys, the geologic clawmark left by glaciers surging and retreating. Separating the valleys are strings of mountains, now weather-worn and bald-topped like old men. The valley floors at the time of year when Knight arrived were a summer soup of ponds and wetlands and bogs.
A television found at Christopher Knight’s camp. Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
“I kept largely to the ridges,” Knight said, “and sometimes crossed swamps going from one ridge to another.” He worked his way along crumbled slopes and muddy wetlands. “Soon I lost track of where I was. I didn’t care.” He would camp in one spot for a week or so, then head south yet again. “I kept going,” he said. “I was content in the choice I had made.”

Content except for one thing: food. Knight was hungry, and he really didn’t know how he would feed himself. His departure from the outside world was a confounding mix of incredible commitment and complete lack of forethought – not all that strange for a 20-year-old. It was as if he went camping for the weekend and then didn’t come home for a quarter of a century. He was an able hunter and angler, but he took neither a gun nor a rod with him. Still, he didn’t want to die, at least not then. Knight’s idea was to forage. The wilds of Maine are monumentally broad, though not generous. There are no fruit trees. Berries sometimes have a weekend-long season. Without hunting or trapping or fishing, a person is going to starve.

Knight worked his way south, eating very little, until paved roads appeared. He found a road-killed partridge, but did not possess a stove or a way to easily start a fire, so he ate it raw. Neither a tasty meal nor a hearty one, and a good way to get sick. He passed houses with gardens, but was raised with rigid morals and a great deal of pride. You make do on your own, always. No handouts or government assistance, ever. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, and the dividing line is usually clear.

But try not eating for 10 days – nearly everyone’s restraints will be eroded. Hunger is hard to ignore. “It took a while to overcome my scruples,” Knight said, but as soon as his principles began to fall away, he snapped off a few ears of corn from one garden, dug up some potatoes from another, and ate a couple of green vegetables.

Once, during his first weeks away, he spent the night in an unoccupied cabin. It was a miserable experience. “The stress of that, the sleepless worry about getting caught, programmed me not to do that again.” Knight never slept indoors after that, not once, no matter how cold or rainy the weather.
Christopher Knight’s camp. Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
He continued moving south, picking through gardens, and eventually reached a region with a familiar distribution of trees, along with a diversity of birdcalls and a temperature range he felt accustomed to. It had been colder up north. Knight wasn’t sure precisely where he was, but he knew that it was home ground. It turned out that he was less than 30 miles, as the crow flies, from his childhood home.

In the early days, nearly everything Knight learned was through trial and error. He had been gifted with a good head for figuring out workable solutions to complicated problems. All his skills, from the rigging of the tarps that formed his shelter, to how to store drinking water, to walking through the forest without leaving tracks, went through multiple revisions and were never considered perfect. Tinkering with his systems was one of Knight’s hobbies.

Over the next few months, Knight tried living in several places in the area – including inside a dank hole in a riverbank – all without satisfaction. Finally, he stumbled upon a region of nasty, boulder-choked woods without so much as a game trail running through it; far too harsh for hikers. He liked it immediately. Then he discovered a cluster of boulders, one with a hidden opening that led to a tiny, wondrous clearing. “I knew at once it was ideal. So I settled in.”

Still, he remained hungry. Knight was beginning to realise that is almost impossible to live by yourself all the time. You need help. Hermits across history often ended up in deserts or mountains or woodlands – the sorts of places where it was extremely difficult to find or catch all your own food. To feed themselves, some of the Desert Fathers – third-century Christian Hermits from Egypt – wove reed baskets and sold them. In ancient China, hermits were shamans, herbalists and diviners. Later, a fad for hermits swept 18th-century England. It was believed that hermits radiated kindness and thoughtfulness, so advertisements were placed in newspapers for “ornamental hermits” who were lax in grooming and willing to sleep in caves on the country estates of the aristocracy. The job paid well and hundreds were hired, typically on seven-year contracts. Some of the hermits would even emerge at dinner parties and greet guests.

Knight, however, felt that anyone’s willing assistance tainted the whole enterprise. He wished to be unconditionally alone; an uncontacted tribe of one.

The cabins around the ponds in central Maine, Knight noted, had minimal security measures. Windows were often left open, even when the owners were away. The woods offered excellent cover, and with few permanent residents, the area would always be empty during the off-season. A summer camp with a big pantry was nearby. The easiest way to become a hunter-gatherer here was obvious.

And so Knight decided to steal.

To commit a thousand break-ins before getting caught, a world-class streak, requires precision and patience, daring and luck. It also demands a specific understanding of people. “I looked for patterns,” Knight said. “Everyone has patterns.”

He perched at the edge of the woods and meticulously observed the habits of the families with cabins along the ponds. He watched their quiet breakfasts and dinner parties, their visitors and vacancies, the cars moving up and down the road. Nothing Knight saw tempted him to return to his former life. His surveillance was clinical, informational, mathematical. He did not learn anyone’s name. All he sought was to understand migration patterns – when people went shopping, when a cabin was unoccupied. After that, he said, everything in his life became a matter of timing. The ideal time to steal was deep in the night, midweek, preferably when it was overcast, best in the rain. A heavy downpour was prime. People stayed out of the woods when it was wet.

Still, Knight did not walk on roads or trails, just in case, and he never launched a raid on a Friday or Saturday – days he knew had arrived from the obvious surge in lakeside noise.

For a while, he opted to go out when the moon was large, so he could use it as a light source. In later years, when he suspected the police had intensified their search for him, he switched to no moon at all. Knight liked to vary his methods. He didn’t want to develop any patterns of his own, though he did make it a habit to embark on a raid only when freshly shaved or with a neatly groomed beard, and wearing clean clothing, so as to reduce suspicion on the slight chance that he was spotted.

There were at least 100 cabins in Knight’s thieving repertoire. The ideal was a fully stocked place, with the family away until the weekend. He knew, in many cases, the precise number of steps required to reach a particular cabin, and once he selected a target, he bounded and weaved through the forest. Sometimes, if he was headed far or needed a load of propane or a replacement mattress it was easier to travel by canoe. Canoes are difficult to hide, and if you steal one, the owner will call the police. It was wiser to borrow, and there was a large selection around the lake, some up on sawhorses and seldom used.

Knight was capable of reaching homes anywhere along the largest pond near his hidden campsite. “I’d think nothing of paddling for hours, whatever needed to be done.” If the water was choppy, he would place a few rocks in the front of the boat to keep it stable. Typically, he stayed close to shore, cloaked against the trees, hiding in the silhouette of the land, though on a stormy night he would paddle across the middle, alone in the dark and lashed by the rain.

When he arrived at his chosen cabin, he would make sure there were no vehicles in the driveway, no sign of someone inside. Burglary is a dicey business, with a low margin for error. One mistake and the outside world would snatch him back. So he crouched in the dark and waited, sometimes for hours. “I enjoy being in the dark,” he said.

He never risked breaking into a home occupied year-round, and he always wore a watch so he could monitor the time.

Sometimes, cabins were left unlocked. Those were the easiest to enter, though soon other places became nearly as simple. Knight had keys to them, found during previous break-ins. He stashed each key on its respective property, typically under some nondescript rock. He created several dozen of these stashes and never forgot where one was.

He noticed when several cabins left out pens and paper, requesting a shopping list, and others offered him bags of supplies, hanging from a doorknob. But he was fearful of traps, or tricks, or initiating any sort of correspondence, even a grocery list. So he left everything untouched, and people stopped.

For the majority of his break-ins, Knight worked the lock on a window or door. He always carried his lock-breaking kit, a gym bag with a collection of screwdrivers and flat bars and files, all of which he had stolen, and could defeat all but the most fortified bolts with the perfect little jiggle of just the right tool. When he had finished stealing, he would often reseal the hasp on the window he had unlatched and exit through the front door, making sure the handle was set, if possible, to lock up behind himself. No need to leave the place vulnerable to thieves.
The bow of a canoe on Lang Pond in Maine’s Northern Forest. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
As the local residents invested in security upgrades, Knight adapted. He knew about alarms from his one paying job, and he used this knowledge to continue stealing – sometimes disabling systems or removing memory cards from surveillance cameras. He evaded dozens of attempts to catch him, by both police officers and private citizens. The crime scenes he left behind were so clean that the authorities offered their begrudging respect. “The level of discipline he showed while he broke into houses,” said one police officer, “is beyond what any of us can remotely imagine – the legwork, the reconnaissance, the talent with locks, his ability to get in and out without being detected.”

A burglary report filed by another officer specifically noted the crime’s “unusual neatness”. The hermit, many officers felt, was a master thief. It was as if he were showing off, picking locks yet stealing little, playing a strange sort of game.

Knight said the moment he opened a lock and entered a home, he always felt a hot wave of shame. “Every time, I was very conscious that I was doing wrong. I took no pleasure in it, none at all.” Once inside a cabin, he moved purposefully, hitting the kitchen first before making a quick sweep of the house, looking for any useful items, or the batteries he always required. He never turned on a light. He used only a small torch attached to a metal chain he wore around his neck.

During a burglary, there wasn’t a moment’s ease. “My adrenaline was spiking, my heart rate was soaring. My blood pressure was high. I was always scared when stealing. Always. I wanted it over as quickly as possible.”

When Knight was finished with the inside of the cabin, he would habitually check the gas grill to see if the propane tank was full. If so, and there was an empty spare lying around, he would replace the full one with an empty, making the grill appear untouched.

Then he would load everything into a canoe, if he had borrowed one, and paddle to the shore closest to his camp to unload. He would return the canoe to the spot he had taken it from, sprinkle some pine needles on the boat to make it appear unused, then haul his loot up through the dense woods, between the rocks, to his home.

Each raid brought Knight enough supplies to last about two weeks, and as he settled once more into his room in the woods – “back in my safe place, success” – he experienced a deep sense of peace.

Knight said that he couldn’t accurately describe what it felt like to spend such an immense period of time alone. Silence does not translate into words. “It’s complicated,” he said. “Solitude bestows an increase in something valuable. I can’t dismiss that idea. Solitude increased my perception. But here’s the tricky thing: when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant.”

The dividing line between himself and the forest, Knight said, seemed to dissolve. His isolation felt more like a communion. “My desires dropped away. I didn’t long for anything. I didn’t even have a name. To put it romantically, I was completely free.”

Virtually everyone who has tried to describe deep solitude has said something similar. “I am nothing; I see all,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lord Byron called it “the feeling infinite”. The American mystic Thomas Merton said that “the true solitary does not seek himself, but loses himself”.

For those who do not choose to be alone – like prisoners and hostages – a loss of one’s socially created identity can be terrifying, a plunge into madness. Psychologists call it “ontological insecurity”, losing your grip on who you are. Edward Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, a chronicle of two six‑month stints as a ranger in Utah’s Arches National Monument, said that being solitary for a long time “means risking everything human”. Knight, meanwhile, didn’t even keep a mirror in his camp. He was never once bored. He wasn’t sure, he said, that he even understood the concept of boredom. “I was never lonely,” Knight added. He was attuned to the completeness of his own presence rather than to the absence of others.

“If you like solitude,” he said, “you are never alone.”

Knight was finally arrested, after 27 years of complete isolation, while stealing food at a lakeside summer camp. He was charged with burglary and theft, and taken to the local jail. His arrest caused an enormous commotion – letters and visitors arrived at the jail, and approximately 500 journalists requested an interview. A documentary film team showed up. A woman proposed marriage.
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Knight is escorted into Kennebec County Superior Court to enter pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts. Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Press Herald via Getty Images
Everyone wanted to know what the hermit would say. What insights had he gained while he was alone? What advice did he have for the rest of us? People have been approaching hermits with similar requests for thousands of years, eager to consult with someone whose life has been so radically different to their own.

Profound truths, or at least those that make sense of the seeming randomness of life, are difficult to find. Thoreau wrote that he had reduced his existence to its basic elements so that he could “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.

Knight did, eventually permit one journalist to meet him, and over the course of nine one-hour visits in the jail, the hermit shared his life story – about how he was able to survive, and what it felt like to live alone for so long.

And once, when he was in an especially introspective mood, Knight seemed willing, despite his typical aversion to dispensing wisdom, to share more of what he gleaned while alone. Was there, the journalist asked him, some grand insight revealed to him in the wild?

Knight sat quietly but he eventually arrived at a reply.

“Get enough sleep,” he said.

He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn’t be saying any more. This was what he’d learned. It was, without question, the truth.

This is an adapted extract of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel, published by Simon and Schuster

Source: Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years | Michael Finkel | News | The Guardian

2017 Free Admission Days in National Parks 

April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
August 25: National Park Service Birthday
September 30: National Public Lands Day
November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Source: 2017 Free Admission Days in National Parks | National Park Foundation

Put Your Money Where Your Fun Is | Outside Online

by Frederick Reimers, Outside Magazine

It’s no secret that our public lands are in trouble. The Forest Service has had its budget cut, for everything but firefighting, by 36 percent since 1995, and the Park Service is teetering atop a $12 billion maintenance backlog. Oregon is selling a popular state forest full of old growth to make ends meet, and a Colorado nonprofit estimates that it’ll take $24 million to repair trails on the state’s fourteeners alone. In light of diminishing resources, it’s time for hikers, bikers, and paddlers to become more like gun owners and take care of our outdoor spaces.

Every time someone buys a rifle or ammunition in the U.S., they pay an 11 percent tax (10 percent for handguns) that helps fund the states’ conservation ­efforts. In 2014 alone, those taxes pumped $760 million into wildlife management, ­property purchases, and other ­essential endeavors. Without that revenue, and additional funding from a similar tax on fishing gear, our nation’s wildlife would be in trouble, says Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a Washington, D.C., hunting and angling group. The taxes, along with ­licenses, make up 80 percent of the funding for state fish and wildlife services. Fosburgh believes that other groups should be contributing as well. “It’s time for the general recreation community to ramp up their commitment to public lands,” says Fosburgh.

He’s right. Just like hunters and fishermen are required to, we should have to ante up for the sake of our forests, deserts, and mountains whenever we buy new gear. The easiest way to do that is probably to create excise taxes on items like skis, tents, and snowboards. Some have proposed that mountain bikers be required to buy a sticker that funds trail maintenance, just as dirt bikers and ATV enthusiasts are in many states. However we do it, our public lands need financial support from the people buying everything from RVs and teardrop trailers to boots and trekking poles. It’s time to pay to play.

No one wants more taxes. And the Outdoor Industry Association believes the companies it represents are overpaying already. The trade group was formed in 1989, in part to fight the “backpack tax” championed by then secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt and others. The OIA argues that gear companies are already paying more than their share in import ­taxes, since their overseas-made goods are subject to a rate between 14 and 35 percent, while other industries—cars and electronics, for example—pay anywhere from 8 percent to nothing at all. (The outdoor industry got a late start lobbying against 1930s-era tariffs.) Those taxes add as much as $45 to the price of a light waterproof hiker.

“At a time when we are trying to encourage people to get outside, we don’t want addi­tional cost barriers,” says OIA executive dir­ec­tor Amy Roberts. Furthermore, how do you differentiate between a pack used for hiking and one for carrying textbooks? Or a rain shell worn on the Appalachian Trail versus one used to stay dry in Seattle?

That sort of distinction isn’t made for gun sales. The firearms tax is nearly the same whether you’re buying a .44 Magnum or a deer rifle; Dirty Harry supports wildlife studies to almost the same degree as Ted Nugent.

If the OIA doesn’t want additional taxes, it should throw its political weight behind an effort to earmark its existing import tariffs for public lands rather than the federal General Fund, which can be used to pay for everything from military drones to border walls.

Of course, the biggest hurdle is the Repub­lican-controlled Congress, which is ­looking to slash taxes across the board. This means that the best solution for states is to follow the lead of Minnesota, where, in 2008, ­voters approved a 0.375 percent general sales tax for conservation, recreation, and the arts. It has already contributed $1.8 billion to help fund projects like the 85-mile interconnected mountain-bike trail ­system in Duluth. “The Duluth system is a tourist draw,” says ­Luther Propst, an Interna­tional Mountain Bicycl­ing Association board member. “States that fund their natural resources are gaining a competitive advantage.”

Source: Put Your Money Where Your Fun Is | Outside Online

Finding Love In Durango

Mehall’s quirky advice to finding love in Durango—hold the pickles.

by Luke Mehall, The Climbing Zine 

To paraphrase my homey Chris Rock, all successful relationships are boring.

In perilous times like these, I turn to great activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and writers such as Bob Dylan for wisdom, but equally I turn to comedians. Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and Kate McKinnon are the voices I need to affirm my own sanity.

This hit me while listening to some old Chris Rock standup about marriage. Now, you can always count on Chris Rock for a unique point of view, and he’s inspired me to write this: my tips for dating in 2017.

For a quick reference, I am 38 years old and have never been married. I guess you can say I’m a late bloomer – it took me until about 22 to learn how to talk to women without alcohol. So, you’ve got 16 years of dating experience here, and I’m going to give this information to you for free. Why should you trust me? I have a mustache, trust in the ‘stache people!

1. Here’s my first tip, something you won’t even find on pay-dating sites like Match: don’t drink on your first couple dates. Go out to coffee or tea. Take a walk in the park. Introduce your cats to one another. Alcohol makes people seem more interesting and attractive than they really are. Plus, you don’t find the real person after a few drinks. You find out who they wish they were! At a coffee shop, you can’t bullshit. Instead, you end up talking about your favorite books and your fascination for those Yay! Magnets. Boring shit like that. Alcohol makes boring people attractive and interesting, don’t fall for it.

2. Make fun of people. Real great relationships are based on what you dislike, not what you like. The world is an oyster full of weirdos waiting to be made fun of: the girl who wears her pajamas to the grocery store in the middle of the day. The small penis/big truck guys who rev their engines and speed past you on Main Ave. leaving you in a cloud of diesel smoke, only to stop right next to you at the next stoplight. These people need to be made fun of, and if you can’t do that with your significant other, you’re doomed.

Hell, you should even be making fun of yourselves: look in the mirror, you work three jobs just to pay rising rent costs and live in this town where you can’t afford to settle down and even buy a trailer. Move somewhere else, you damned fool. I hear Montrose is cheap. Start dating there.

3. Food. You must eat a meal early on and see what kind of eaters you are. The kale-eating vegan is never going to make it with the carnivore, not even if she or he, also likes kale. Personally I don’t like pickles. I find it offensive that every time you go get a burger or something they try to force a pickle on you. I mean I get it, some people like pickles, but 100 percent of people? Why do they assume the pickle?

How about chocolate? More people like chocolate than pickles. Plus, people do weird shit when they eat. Does he or she make that weird chewing noise? You know what I’m talking about. That noise could drive someone to murder.

But, if you both make that noise, maybe it might not bother you. Go eat some food people! Get right down to business, watch them chew, see if they treat the waiter with respect and if they tip. Because when it comes down to it, you can see into someone’s soul by how they treat people in the service industry, and because Durango is Durango, we’re all in the service industry! Not properly tipping is a cry for help.

4. To Tinder or not to Tinder? This one is in a grey area. On the one hand Tinder is the shallow- est form of communication known to the human race. It’s even worse than Facebook Messenger, or direct Twitter messages. Plus, in Durango, you already know half the people, so you’re swiping all over faces who you know but already dated, or don’t want to date, or already dated your best friend, and that kind of swiping does something to one’s soul.

However, I think Tinder is great if you’re not already meeting members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) who you’d like to have sex with on the day-to-day. I have friends who work for the Forest Service and such, and they aren’t meeting anyone but trees and rocks during the week. Do you really want to date a tree? Of course not, get on Tinder and start swiping.

5. Here’s something groundbreaking: be yourself and don’t take advice from friends. We’re all weird (again we live in Durango, why else would we be here?) and the truth is your significant other is going to see your funky self sooner or later. And, more importantly, they are going to have to love that weirdo. I believe there’s someone for everyone, and in the end we can’t change a thing about how we truly are.

For the latter part, I feel like the older you get, the more specific advice your married friends try to give you. In the end you probably won’t meet the love of your life on Tinder (but you might). You’ll more than likely meet that person at a restaurant, while you set your pickle aside, and she or he says, “Do you mind if I have your pickle?”

Source: Finding Love In Durango – Luke Mehall

On the Road to the Leadville 100 – Approaching Risk and Deflecting Doubt

Life is often lived in hindsight. In the moment of a big decision, it is often hard to fully understand all the factors that go into what you are thinking at the time. And it is nearly impossible to know what the impacts of any given decision will be until it plays out. You can research, plan, and try your best to predict all the possible outcomes. This is what one should do when taking risks. These risks are calculated, and not reckless. But with any big decision, there will be uncertainty and doubt.

I signed up for the Leadville 100 trail run.  Yes, I did this!  I was able to secure a spot in this race by signing up for one of the limited training packages, which also means I am working with a running coach for the first time in my life.  For those who may be unfamiliar, the Leadville 100 trail race entails 100 miles of beautiful, extreme trails in the mountains of Colorado, from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet and a total of more than 18,000 feet of climbing – all in a 30-hour time frame or less. It is one of the absolute classic races of ultra-running. It is hands-down one of the biggest challenges I will be taking on in my running life, if not my life in general, so far. Did I agonize over this decision for days on end before I did this? No, I did not. Did I fail to think this through before I did this? No, I did not.  What I did do was make a conscious decision to approach risk, as opposed to deflect risk. So much of truly living, to me, is exactly that, approaching risk versus deflecting risk.

To me, approaching risk often looks like this: I get an idea. I get really excited about this idea (probably over-excited) and convince myself it is a good idea. I set a plan in action of how to implement or set on the road to making the idea actually happen.

Basically, when approaching risk, I decide to live my ideas.

Part of approaching risk is deflecting doubt. When the doubts are internal, I tend to try to talk to someone who can provide me with real-life experience on the matter. I often seek out someone I know who trusts my decisions and thinks positively.  And someone who really knows me and supports my BIG ideas. When the doubts are external, I recognize that it might be easier for some to deflect risk.  In most of the “unconventional” challenges I have taken on in my life, the majority of the responses have gone something like, “I would never do that ….How are you going to make that work?” In the case of the Leadville 100, typical reactions also include “You’re nuts” and “That sounds awful.”

These responses surprise me because challenges are exciting! And I can think of less responsible things than taking on challenges and following a passion through. In any event, anyone can do anything for a day or two! Remember, these risks are calculated, and not reckless. I clearly see the value in encouraging those taking calculated risks in our world…just the other day my friend said to me, “If anyone can conquer the unconquerable it is you!”  The outcome will remain unknown until the race, but I certainly appreciate such encouragement over the alternative.

The one thing you can never predict when approaching risk is the reality of how you are going to feel. This risk, the unpredictability of how you are going to feel, is the true risk… yet the one that holds the most potential for growth and rewards. All of the other risks are just doubts that can be resolved one way or the other.

I am sure the road to the Leadville 100 will be a true range of experience, both positive and not so positive.  The perfect opportunity to…

Approach risk.  Deflect doubt.  Live my ideas.

Ilene Bloom is an evolving ultra-runner, mother and lawyer who lives in Denver. In conjunction with training for the Leadville 100, she is raising money for the American Cancer Society at this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/leadville-trail-100-run-for-cancer/fundraiser/ilenebloom.  If you have any questions or thoughts about this article, Ilene can be reached at ilenebloom@hotmail.com.

If America’s public lands were a business, the GOP would be bungling the balance sheet

America’s public lands perform best when protected for recreation. In fact, the business of outdoor recreation, which relies heavily on public lands, supports more jobs (6.1 million) than oil, natural gas and mining combined. Americans spend more on outdoor recreation annually ($646 billion) than on electronics, pharmaceuticals or automobiles.

by Yvon Chouinard, for The Los Angeles Times

Every American citizen owns stock in 640 million acres of federal public lands. We hire public servants to manage our precious assets for maximum return. For decades, we’ve taken these sizable holdings for granted, assuming they’re in good hands.

But we’ve let the fossil fuel industry into the boardroom. We’re allowing gas and mining companies to boss around our elected officials.

 

Rather than harness the power of public lands for maximum benefit, some politicians on the right — including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Maine Gov. Paul LePage and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — are trying to repeal laws that safeguard ecologically vulnerable landscapes. They’re working to roll back protections on some of our most special wild places, including Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in my home state of Maine. And they are pushing to transfer ownership of federal lands to states.

What right do the states have to assert control over land owned by every American citizen?

They cloak all this in an argument for states’ rights, but that’s baloney. What right do the states have to assert control over land owned by every American citizen? Selling public lands has been item No. 1 on Big Oil’s agenda for a long time. It’s a theft of valuable property owned by all of us.

Public lands already get used for drilling and mining and grazing and other kinds of development, which makes good sense. But some places are simply too exceptional to put at risk. That’s why both political parties have long placed trust in our federal agencies to make appropriate decisions about the best use for our lands. It’s not a perfect system, but it works pretty well.

These agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, take into account the input of citizens, along with scientific and economic data, to provide a wide range of benefits from public lands.

It’s outrageous that politicians would take away this oversight. But just as bad, these supposedly business-minded politicians can’t read a simple balance sheet.

America’s public lands perform best when protected for recreation. In fact, the business of outdoor recreation, which relies heavily on public lands, supports more jobs (6.1 million) than oil, natural gas and mining combined. Americans spend more on outdoor recreation annually ($646 billion) than on electronics, pharmaceuticals or automobiles.

Some argue that oil and gas jobs would multiply if more lands were opened for development, but in reality, those jobs are being replaced by robots. Because of automation, between a third and a half of the workers who lost their jobs after prices fell a few years ago still can’t find work, even as prices and production surge again. Those jobs have largely moved on to new industries, such as renewable energy. (Would you believe it?)

You can’t outsource the jobs of workers operating a roadside motel near a national park or automate the job of a local river guide in one of rural America’s many wilderness gateway towns. Public lands power a sustainable, homegrown economy. From 2008 to 2011, during the height of the recession, the outdoor industry grew 5% every year.

Areas in the West with protected lands consistently enjoy better rates of employment and income growth compared to those with no protected lands, a recent study shows. In the 22 years since the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah was declared a national monument, jobs grew by 38% in two neighboring counties.

Some lawmakers are acting far outside the interests of the public land owners they were elected to serve. In the corporate world, we’d show them the door immediately. Of course, that’s not how our government actually works.

Some 91% of Westerners agree that national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other federal lands are essential to their state’s economic prosperity, but Americans who support protecting public lands are badly splintered. Hunters and anglers love and value our public lands, but the “hook and bullet” crowd scares off environmentalists and some businesspeople. Environmentalists love and value our public lands, but hardcore activists scare off most businesspeople and some hunters and anglers. Businesspeople love and value our public lands, but lots of folks get skeptical when corporations are involved in advocacy.

We need to work together to protect our public lands. We all value access to wild places where our air, water and wildlife are safe from pollution and development. We all benefit from the enormous economy generated by the conservation of our lands. And we all hate getting ripped off by hucksters posing as smart businesspeople, threatening not just our economy but our American heritage as well.

Let’s drop the discord, start acting like owners and demand that our elected representatives start delivering the value we deserve.

Yvon Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia.

Source: If America’s public lands were a business, the GOP would be bungling the balance sheet – LA Times

Congress Rolls Back the Public Process on 245 Million Acres of Public Land — Outdoor Alliance

Minutes ago, the Senate passed H.J. Res 44, a measure also passed by the House a few weeks ago, to roll back the public process and progressive management on the 245 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Congress used the Congressional Review Act (CRA), an arcane rule that allows Congress to roll back agency regulations within 60 days, to repeal BLM Planning 2.0. Planning 2.0 was a widely-lauded effort to modernize the 30-year-old rules currently governing land planning on BLM land and give it a better public process.

Planning 2.0 was a strong rulemaking, based on extensive public input. It made important changes to modernize BLM planning, including how the BLM handles data from uses like outdoor recreation. BLM Planning 2.0 was built in response to years of gathering input from local communities and diverse shareholders about how best to manage these public lands. The Planning 2.0 Rule would have ensured a better, fairer public process for the management of public lands.

Repealing Planning 2.0 guts the public process on public lands and also bars “substantially similar” rulemaking in the future. This means that the BLM will be stuck with an outdated process designed in the early 1980’s and will be unable to update it unless Congress acts to give the BLM the authority to make absolutely necessary modernizations to its rule.

“There were many great things about the 1980’s, but BLM land management rules were not one of them. Like the cassette tape, it was time for those rules to be updated and Planning 2.0 incorporated input from local communities to create more flexible, modern land management. Planning 2.0 improved how outdoor recreation would be managed on public lands, and the CRA sends us back to the 80’s” said Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance.
“Having a voice on our public lands is incredibly important to the recreation community and we’re disappointed to see this step backwards on the public process,” said Katherine Hollis at the Mountaineers.

“It’s disappointing to see a constructive planning process tossed out. Like never before, outdoor recreationists must buckle down and engage in the public process, developing the relationships that will highlight the value of outdoor recreation for quality of life and the economy,” said Aaron Clark at the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

The fact that Congress repealed BLM Planning 2.0 is a huge downer. But there is something you can do. Take Aaron’s advice and tell your Congressperson how you feel about rolling back the public process and the role of outdoor recreation on our public lands.

Source: Congress Rolls Back the Public Process on 245 Million Acres of Public Land — Outdoor Alliance