Between the Lines

Jan 10, 2002
Outside Magazine

THE MAGAZINE you're holding marks the culmination of Outside's first 25 years, and I'm happy to report that the occasion finds us all in shockingly good spirits—having a blast, really, as we negotiate the tricky parts of being halfway between 20 (God, we were young!) and 30 (yikes, sounds too serious already). The number 25 feels perfect, and we arrive pointed in a fine direction: forward.

This 25th Anniversary special issue is partly a celebration of where Outside has been since we hit the ground running in 1977, evidenced by names that longtime readers know very well. Like Tim Cahill—a founding editor who was crucial in establishing Outside's voice—and stalwarts such as Ian Frazier, Bob Shacochis, Mark Jenkins, Sara Wheeler, Bill Vaughn, Daniel Coyle, and Hampton Sides. Throughout this issue, these and other writers serve up stories touching on topics that will always resonate around here: memorable locales, big critters, cutting-edge sports, environmental crusades, and towering figures in the world of adventure.
Along the way we revisit major events that defined the era, and drop in on a man who is widely considered the greatest climber of the past quarter-century: Reinhold Messner. Messner's speedy ascents of Mount Everest in the 1970s and 1980s—done, for the first time, without supplemental oxygen—knocked down long-standing beliefs about the limits of human possibility.

In that spirit, we set out to create a rich, sprawling portrait of the opportunities, challenges, and risks of the present and future. In our expanded Dispatches section, we look ahead to new frontiers of experience, gear, and discovery—complete with a unique compilation of places and challenges that remain to be knocked off.

For the feature pages, we sent our finest writers and photographers all over the planet with a clear mandate: Find what excites you and bring it back. The results, we hope you will agree, are remarkable. The grand master of far-flung wildlife reporting, Peter Matthiessen, illuminates the glory and tragedy of the Indian tiger. Ian Frazier, a writer famous for the humor and clarity of his work, delivers haunting news from the floating world of icebergs, frozen apparitions that heighten our foreboding sense that the earth's climate is changing in fateful ways.

Elsewhere you'll find sharp takes on the hottest kid in snowboarding; on a spiritual trek through Indian country; on an Alaskan hoedown that celebrates the lifesaving attributes of a certain brand of sturdy pants. And you'll find something that no milestone issue of Outside would be complete without: a full-throttle, open-ended Cahillian ramble. Always ready to test what he calls "the raggedy edge of risk," Tim journeys deep into Iran's legendary valleys of the Assassins, taking a close look at a style of political violence that, history says, will inevitably fall to ruin.

As a bonus, pulling this issue together gave us a chance to work with some of the greatest photographers around. Opening the mail every day and pulling out stunning images by Anton Corbijn, Peggy Sirota, Seamus Murphy, Keith Carter, and many others was as thrilling as reading the words our writers sent from around the world.

It's been a pleasure. And it's all been a reminder of the truth coiled within Thoreau's distilled pronouncement, "In Wildness is the preservation of the World." When you read "Walking," the essay in which Thoreau wrote those words, you realize that the sentence is a barbaric yawp affirming the strenuous, participatory role that human beings play when they venture outside. Elsewhere he advises, "We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms."

The human soul depends on such moments of total commitment, just as the preservation of the world depends on conservation, wildness, and a bold exploratory spirit. We'll keep that in mind as we forge ahead.

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