As the World Tilts

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1995

As the World Tilts
By Larry Burke

With an imperceptible heave of the axis, the season of sunscreen and bug juice is upon us once again, and suddenly the world is thrumming. This time of year, the only thing people seem to think about is going AWOL somewhere outdoors--to put in the kayak, to stoke up the Weber, to head off for the cabin with a fat book and a fly rod. Perhaps there is no better way to slip into a summery frame of mind than a classic road trip over the country's less-beaten paths. And who better to have behind the wheel than National Book Award-winning author and frequent Outside contributor E. Annie Proulx, casting her discerning eye on the unspooling terrain? Last summer Proulx and photographer Jim Collins set out across the continent, asking a deceptively simple question of everyone she met: "So what do you do for summer fun?" The answers she got--from such disparate characters as shepherds, rock climbers, and rodeo cowboys--never fail to surprise.

We pay homage to the hot season in other ways as well. Six of our ablest outdoor hands offer a primer on the grace notes of summer living, such underappreciated skills as how to shoot rapids in an open canoe, how to find an idyllic shorefront cottage, and how to actually enjoy running when it's 95 degrees and miasmal as a swamp. Meanwhile writer Jack Barth finds himself in Yosemite, pulling weeds and scooping ice cream to learn what it's really like being a concessionaire coolie for the summer.

As the Atlanta Games loom ever larger on the calendar, former Outside senior editor Daniel Coyle, author of the acclaimed book Hardball: A Season in the Projects, takes a look at a rarefied class of Olympic athletes: the fastest men on earth. Focusing on such 100-meter stars as Dennis Mitchell, Leroy Burrell, and Carl Lewis, Coyle delves into the mercurial egos and seething rivalries that characterize these hothouse orchids of track and field. "Sprinters are a whole different species," says Coyle, in his story, "Speed." "They're fine-tuned creatures whose personalities have been reduced to an otherworldly task--to bend time."

Elsewhere in this issue: Jack Hitt plumbs the oblique logic and singular masochism that recently inspired 42-year-old French adventurer Guy Delage to inch across 2,500 lonely miles in the first-ever transatlantic swim. Contributing editor David Roberts treks to southern Utah to hike a network of ancient Anasazi trails carved into a breathtaking and heretofore uncharted gorge named, appropriately, Mystery Canyon.

Finally, in "What Are You Whining About?" Paul Kvinta profiles some uncommonly hardy outdoorsfolk who have experienced bona fide brushes with death--shark attacks, skydiving accidents, the occasional rendezvous with a tumbling boulder--only to bounce back and declare, "Nah...just a flesh wound." A touch of hubris? Surely. A smidgen of insanity? Perhaps. But no doubt many of us could use some of their game resilience as we break out this summer.

A postscript: You can now send letters to the editor via e-mail; our address is [email protected] While you're at it, drop in on Outside Online, the service that we launched on the World Wide Web earlier this year. We're at

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Get tips. Get stories. Get fit.

Looking for the best in fitness? We got you covered.

Thank you!