Tag Archives: Outside

An Oregon Wolf, Profiled

Emma Marris’s Outside story on OR4, the first male wolf to start a pack in Oregon since the 1940s, is a biography of a 21st-century predator told largely through the eyes of Russ Morgan, the field biologist who’d tracked him for more than six years. Marris weaves together uneasy questions about the scientist and his subject: What does preservation mean when, in order to survive, wildlife can’t transgress human definitions of acceptable behavior? What happens to the subjects we observe when we transpose surveillance technology from the human realm into the animal realm? Whose landscape is it, anyway?

The bureaucracy of wildlife management is part oxymoron, part paradox. The tensions are apparent from the moment that Morgan, the stoic biologist, places the first tracking collar around the neck of a tranquilized OR4.

Six months after their first meeting, on February 12, 2010, the black male got a collar and a name. Morgan used the signal from OR2 to track the family by helicopter. When he found the wolves, he had to try and pick the alpha male out of a half-dozen adult-sized wolves coursing through the rocky defiles of Road Canyon in lower Grouse Creek, just a few miles from the elk site. It was easy enough to spot OR2, and she had a companion running beside her, keeping close. Morgan figured he’d found his alpha.

Wolves are so fast — they can do bursts of 38 miles per hour, ten faster than Usain Bolt — that Morgan’s helicopter pilot struggled to keep up, while Morgan, leaning out the door, tried desperately to get a clear shot at the alpha’s rump. Suddenly, the big black wolf tripped over brush and rolled in a somersault. When he righted himself, he sat down and started barking and howling at the chopper, inadvertently concealing his backside.

“When he flipped over, I could see the rotor wash flattening his hair,” Morgan says. “He was frustrated. He gets pretty frustrated when he is being chased.” Finally, the wolf stood and Morgan got a shot off. Darted, the animal slowed, sat, and then went to sleep in the snow. The terrain was too steep to land, so the pilot dipped into the ravine, where Morgan stepped out with his kit. The helicopter took off, and Morgan shared a moment with the unconscious alpha. As he weighed him — 115 pounds, the largest wolf ever recorded in Oregon — took blood samples, and affixed tags and a collar, the black wolf officially became OR4, a wild animal with a name. A wild animal with his DNA on file.

OR2 wasn’t happy about any of it. She stood a couple hundred yards away while Morgan worked, howling continuously.

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The Wolf In a Puffy Marmot Jacket

Getty Images

At Outside, Brendan Borrell profiles thru-hiking scam artist Jeff Caldwell, a man who started his life of crime by stealing from his friends. Later, using an outdoorsy trail persona, lies, and rugged good looks, he preyed on lonely single women and the elderly, robbing them not only out their money, but also of their belief in the basic goodness of humanity. Clearly unable to stop himself, Caldwell even started to groom Borrell as a mark during their correspondence for the piece.

Caldwell’s victims typically fell into one of two communities: elderly people and women, whom he often found by participating in Facebook and Meetup groups for hikers, by using the website Couchsurfing.com, and by hanging around trailheads, hostels, and outdoor gear stores. By the time he met Trent, he had been traveling across the West, presenting himself as a free-spirited outdoor archetype, for over a decade.

A pattern emerged with each of Caldwell’s cons, too. He’d scope out a victim, share his tale of woe, then enthrall her with his adventures (“31 wolves talking to each other!”) and quixotic pursuits (“I’m buying land. 155 acres. You can come stay with me. . . putting up a yurt”). Next, he’d give her a sentimental gift—say, an Alaska shot glass or an Appalachian Trail patch—and send her selfies from the mountains. Finally, he would orchestrate a personal crisis that ranged from the plausible to the bizarre, and finish it off by asking for a small loan or else he’d just steal what was lying around. The con might be over within days. In a few cases, he was able to stretch out such a relationship for years.

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How Patagonia Continues to Operate As a Model of Responsible Capitalism

How serious are you about saving the planet? Many marketing types say that activism is the new hot advertising strategy, but some businesses actually believe in the philosophies they espouse, like Patagonia. Founded in 1973, the California-based company has always aimed to balance responsible production with environmental activism, by funding environmental causes, refining its business model and manufacturing practices, and empowering like-minds. With the Trump administration’s move to dismantle environmental protections on public land and climate change, Patagonia’s staff believes that too many companies in the outdoor industry have been too passive for too long, and the time has come to spend more company profits fighting the political forces that not only threaten America, but humanity’s future. At OutsideAbe Streep examines the ways Patagonia reaches consumers, manages its factories, thinks of its role in a revolution, and urges other businesses to step up. With power and influence comes great responsibility, which puts brands in the position to influence social good. Interestingly, this socially responsible model has quadrupled Patagonia’s profits during the last ­seven years. The question is: are those other companies committed to long-term political activism?

For decades, Patagonia sought to demonstrate that profitability and environmentalism can go hand in hand—to show a better way by, for example, encouraging fair-trade practices in foreign factories. The company advised Walmart, helping the retail behemoth clean up its supply chain, and worked with Nike to create the Textile Exchange, a nonprofit that encourages more sustainable practices in the apparel industry. Chouinard now believes that he was mistaken in trying to influence publicly traded companies. “I was pretty naive thinking you could do that,” he told me.

Marcario presented an alternative: grow Patagonia into a much bigger brand so that everything it did would have greater impact. She was uniquely qualified to make this argument. In her youth, she was an outspoken progressive activist, arrested during protests on issues like LGBT rights, AIDS, and women’s health. “She understands the need for revolution,” Chouinard has said. But she also understands business. Upon taking the CFO job, she streamlined distribution and shipping, installed industry-standard software, and focused on improving e-commerce. “Doing things that, you know, like, retailers do,” she laughs. During her first year, in 2008, the global economy crashed, but Patagonia—and much of the outdoor industry—didn’t: the company experienced growth in the high single digits. Casey Sheahan, Patagonia’s CEO at the time, told me that this was due to people “aligning themselves tribally” at a time of strife. It was a hint of the opportunity that would come with the rise of Trump.

Sheahan also told me that, at the time he left Patagonia, more than 50 percent of the revenue came from direct-to-­consumer business via Patagonia’s stores and e-­commerce. He suspects that the percentage is bigger today. (The company wouldn’t confirm or deny this.) Selling directly to a consumer, rather than through a third-party retailer like Backcountry.com or REI, ­increases both revenue and influence. According to Joe Flannery, a veteran outdoor-industry marketer and senior VP of technical apparel for Newell Brands, which owns Marmot and Coleman, Patagonia’s direct-to-consumer sales “represents one of the most powerful mechanisms of any brand. When you have that direct interaction, that means the consumer is digesting what you’re saying.”

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Now Airbnb is Wrecking Mountain Towns, Too

Log cabin in the woods
My Log Cabin by Anoldent via Flickr (Creative Commons)

We had a little trouble finding a place for the extended family to stay when we chose to meet in Sedona, Arizona for my mom’s 75th birthday. Most places wouldn’t book us for under a week thanks to a regional law limiting short term rentals. Several mid-size Arizona cities and have taken a stand against companies like Airbnb, which make renting a place for a family’s gathering a more lucrative choice than renting to locals. But for visitors and property owners, Airbnb has been mostly a good thing, and the state of Arizona recently agreed. Last year it overturned the local laws and made short term rentals legal.

It’s not news that Airbnb has caused limited rental options in places like San Francisco and New York City, but now residents in rugged places are feeling the pinch too. At Outside, Tom Vanderbilt looks at how home-sharing services are affecting the character of places like Bozeman, Boise, and Crested Butte.

From Barcelona to Boston, the world has been grappling with the ­arrival of home-sharing platforms. Amid any number of skirmishes—neighbor against neighbor, tourist against townie, lobbyist against legislator—cities have scrambled to get a handle on this “wild west” (one of the most common descriptors of the new home-rental landscape) and rushed to enact regulations. Everywhere you look, the battle is raging. In Flagler County, Florida, just north of Daytona Beach, 150 people turned out for a March meeting over a bill, backed by home-­rental companies, that would limit how ­local governments can regulate short-term rentals, or STRs, as they are now frequently ­abbreviated. In Asheville, North Carolina, the issue proved so contentious that, late last year, a task force created to study STRs publicly splintered, according to the ­local Citizen-Times. In March, the city of San ­Diego—where residents of neighborhoods like Ocean Beach have decried the loss of ­local identity as rentals have proliferated—had to move a meeting on STRs to a bigger venue because of overflow crowds.

In the Mountain West—“God’s country, renter’s hell,” as one alt-weekly tagged it—where towns are already chronically beset by housing shortages, traffic problems, and the invariable ambivalence about sharing one’s slice of heaven with the tourists who help sustain it, the entrance of Airbnbs and VRBOs and HomeAways has heightened the tension. Some places, including Boulder and Denver, have passed tough regulations that permit only primary residents to rent out their properties for short periods. Other towns have taken the opposite tack, changing laws to allow previously illegal renting that was already on the rise, as happened late last year in Missoula, Montana.

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America’s Great Lake, or the Greatest Lake?

Winter Sea Caves, Lake Superior by Sweet Alize via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake. In the winter, it’s so cold you’ll only have a minute to recover from the shock, should you take a tumble into its freezing waters. At Outside, Stephanie Pearson explores the lake’s extreme history, expanse, diversity, and dangers. It’s the first time Pearson, a world traveler, has taken the time to get to know the natural wonder that is literally in her backyard.

Pukaskwa is the only wilderness-designated park in Ontario, an impressive distinction in a province that has about 1,000 polar bears, more than 250,000 lakes, and one person per square mile in its entire northwest region. With a single road in, surrounded by backcountry so dense that few people other than its original Anishinabek inhabitants have seen it, the park is a favorite of expert kayakers who paddle Pukaskwa’s raw coastline and backpackers who know they need at least ten days to hike the out-and-back 37-mile coastal trail.

That kind of toughness sums up the steely character of most folks who have lived along Lake Superior over the centuries—from the Ojibwe to the French voyageurs to Nordic immigrant fishermen.

Everyone except, perhaps, me. I can count on two hands the number of times I ventured off Lake Superior’s shoreline growing up in Duluth. In the winter, when the air temperature dropped below zero, steam would rise from the lake, shrouding the city in magical puffs of white. But on the dreariest days, the lake would reflect the lightless, bruised sky, so dark and heavy that I felt like it was crushing my spirit. My family didn’t have a boat big enough to safely navigate such a dangerous body of water. Its inaccessibility made Superior that much more mysterious—like a giant mood ring reflecting the temper of the universe. Even on the most benign summer days, its power was omni­present. Once, while landing my sister’s kayak on a rocky beach in five-foot waves, I capsized and hit my head. It made me wonder if the lake was a living entity, actively trying to kill me.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens during a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Alec MacGillis, Justin Heckert, Peter Vigneron, Michael Lista, and Anthony Breznican.

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The Great, Ongoing California Nut Caper

Victoria Jones/PA Wire URN:29365116

In California, massive nut heists rattled the state for two years before the industry figured out they were the target of a well-organized theft ring. “Nut theft has ­exploded into a statewide problem. More than 35 loads, worth at least $10 million, have gone missing since 2013.” At Outside, Peter Vigneron reports on these daring nut jobs, which are thought to be linked to a Russian organized-crime ring.

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How Thieves Are Stealing 6500-Ton Ships Off the Sea Floor

The U.S.S. Houston (with President Franklin Roosevelt standing under the big guns in 1938) is being stolen by pirates off the sea floor, piece by piece. (AP Photo/George Skadding)

At Outside, Kathryn Miles reports on how pirates are diving down to wrecks on the sea floor in search of scrap and are stealing 6500-ton ships in their entirety, leaving only the imprint of the massive hulls on the sea floor.

What these divers should have found was a 6,440-ton cruiser, complete with tower, turrets, and catapult—a ship long and large enough to launch a seaplane. Instead, they found only the impression of a hull on an empty seafloor. The vessel that had once lain there had first been discovered in 2001. It was surveyed a year later. Since then, recreational divers had visited. And sure, ocean currents can drag debris from a downed plane or even cause a renaissance galleon to resurface. But this was a massive steel ship. The only way it was going to go anywhere was if someone—or lots of someones—had moved it.

The team’s search for other battle casualties in the area was no less haunting. HMAS Perch, a 300-foot-long Australian submarine, was gone. So were two British ships—the 329-foot HMS Encounter and the 574-foot Exeter. Another, the 329-foot HMS Electra, had been gutted. A huge section of the Kortenaer, another 322-foot Dutch warship, was also missing. Seven ships in all—either lost without a trace or grossly scavenged. An eighth, the USS Houston, was mostly intact, but it was clear pirates had begun gutting it as well.

Sunken warships remain the property of their country of origin regardless of where they are found. Laws regarding their stewardship vary a little from nation to nation, but in general, the ships—and everything on or in them—belong to that country’s navy. There are even more specific rules, both stated and understood, for vessels containing human remains. It’s a code of conduct among divers: Let deceased sailors rest undisturbed.

But even for all this disturbance, the vessels and the lost souls they carried remained mostly intact. Until they disappeared altogether.

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Queer and Black and Hiking the Appalachian Trail: Rahawa Haile on Going it Alone

Photo by Tracy Keller (CC BY-SA 2.0)

At Outside, Rahawa Haile shares her story of hiking the Appalachian Trail as a queer black woman in the spring of 2016 — traveling through hundreds of miles in states that staunchly supported Donald Trump in the election.

Heading north from Springer Mountain in Georgia, the Appalachian Trail class of 2017 would have to walk 670 miles before reaching the first county that did not vote for Donald Trump. The average percentage of voters who did vote for Trump—a xenophobic candidate who was supported by David Duke—in those miles? Seventy-six. Approximately 30 miles farther away, they’d come to a hiker ­hostel that proudly flies a Confederate flag. Later they would reach the Lewis Mountain campground in Shenandoah National Park—created in Virginia in 1935, dur­ing the Jim Crow era—and read plaques acknowledging its former history as the segregated Lewis Mountain Negro Area. The campground was swarming with RVs flying Confederate flags when I hiked through. This flag would haunt the hikers all the way to Mount Katahdin, the trail’s end point, in northern Maine. They would see it in every state, feeling the tendrils of hatred that rooted it to the land they walked upon.

There were days when the only thing that kept me going was knowing that each step was one toward progress, a boot to the granite face of white supremacy. I belong here, I told the trail. It rewarded me in lasting ways. The weight I carried as a black woman paled in comparison with the joy I felt daily among my peers in that wilderness. They shaped my heart into what it will be for the rest of my life.

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24-Hour Competitive Rock Climbing: Finger Tips as Rough as Rhino Skin

MR Free climber in action on a rock (Thomas Aichinger/VWPics via AP Images)

At Outside, Eva Holland profiles the sweaty, rhino-skinned, costumed competitors of Horseshoe Hell — a competitive rock-climbing race in Arkansas, in which participants attempt to complete as many climbs as they can in a 24-hour period in blazing temperatures.

The craziest rock-climbing event in the world happens annually in the Ozarks of Arkansas, in a u-shaped canyon with enough routes for 24 straight hours of nonstop ascents. They call it Horseshoe Hell, but don’t be fooled: for outdoor athletes who love physical challenges with some partying thrown in, it’s heaven.

From 10 a.m. today to 10 a.m. tomorrow, two-person teams will climb nonstop—or as close to nonstop as they can manage—­racking up points for each route they complete. To be considered official finishers, each climber will have to send at least one route per hour; to automatically qualify for next year, each will have to do 100. Some teams will climb hundreds of pitches.

Time crawls by in a blur of increasing pain and exhaustion. At 4 a.m., with six hours to go, there’s a scramble of activity as each team completes a mandatory check-in, the event volunteers verifying that nobody is so thrashed that they become a danger to themselves or others. The temperature has dropped to a halfway-reasonable 67 degrees, but the humidity has climbed to 98 percent. The night is a swamp, the darkness punctured only by headlamps bobbing up and down the rock walls. The cicadas scream. Flying, biting insects charge into every small pool of light.

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