If you're of the passionate opinion that the Midwest is severely underrated (it's OK, we know a few of those types), it's your week. If you're of the opinion that road trips are great, it's pretty much always your week here at Outside. But that didn't stop us from giving you some sonically-pleasing treats this week, too.
The Midwest Claims Its Place in the Adventure Film World
We keep a pretty close eye on the adventure-film world. So it was an odd moment of realization when we spoke to Aaron Peterson, the Marquette, Michigan-based filmmaker who brought us Cold Rolled, and he pointed out that the Midwest has never had an adventure film festival of its own. At this year's Telluride Mountainfilm, Peterson says, "I was for the most part the only person from a non-mountainous region. I went back to the Midwest, thinking, this can’t just be me. Who else is doing this?"
Luckily, Peterson and friends have a response: the brand-new Fresh Coast Film Festival, running October 13-16 in Marquette. You wouldn't think it's the debut year from the looks of things: the lineup includes more than 50 films, focusing mainly on work that's about or from the Great Lakes region, in addition to some national and international favorites like Denali. (Peterson does note that Denali profile subject Ben Moon is originally from Muskegon, Michigan.) "My driving mantra is if you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly," Peterson told us. Here are four more reasons to make the trip to the Upper Peninsula next weekend.
You'll see films you've never heard of—because they originally weren't made for you. "A lot of these creators have never really thought about submitting this stuff to film festivals. I also think folks are just busy. These are independent content creators, they’re getting it done and moving onto the next thing. A friend of mine produced a series called The Ways, a series of short films about contemporary Native American culture in the Great Lakes. It was a grant-funded thing created basically as educational material, but it’s done really, really well. They’re really elegant, they’re poignant, they’re important." (Fresh Coast will show a film from the series, Prayers in a Song.)
You'll get to check out a region laden with Best Town nominees. Who knows, you could be living there one day—Peterson thinks so, too. "I'm trying to capture this energy. It seems to me like adventurous folks are seeing in their own backyards—we have great land use, great partnerships, we’re growing our trails hundreds of miles every year, seems like. We’re kind of behind in the outdoors being cool and a dominant culture, but there are a lot of untold stories here, they’re a little goofy, not as epic maybe, but nobody else writes about them."
You'll be supporting work for a greater good. "The driving thing here is, the Great Lakes are important. It’s a whole hell of a lot of fresh water: six quadrillion gallons, the most on earth. We’ve got fights on the horizon—oil pipes under the Great Lakes, active sulfide mines. We have this really smart, experienced older generation of conservationists here, then we have this younger generation who has media savvy—they need to come together and share energy one way, knowledge the other way, to try and really cement the future of conservation in the region. I’m hoping Fresh Coast can be a place for that dialog."
You'll get to squeeze in some great mountain-biking, kayaking, and fly-fishing. Peterson's friend, Bill Thompson, owns local outfitter Down Wind Sports. With his help, the festival offers 11 different tours, from trail running to SUP. "This area isn’t designed for tourists. If you’re not a local it’s hard to get your foot in the door and find those cool spots you saw on Instagram or whatever. It’s still fairly undiscovered. We don’t have local guides for the most part, so this is one of the rare times when we’re organizing it, facilitating it.
"Marquette’s an amazing little town with cool stuff right out the back door. It really does show that true Midwestern fun hog identity. You can do all of this stuff in one day if you have time and the right shoes."
Soundtrack for Your Fall Road Trips
Late this summer, assistant editor Luke Whelan road tripped from Berkeley, California, through the Southwest to Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin his new job at Outside. That's a lot of driving. So we asked him to give us his playlist:
I’d never spent time in this part of the country, and the shifting landscapes—from the stark Mojave to the towering red rocks of Zion and then up into the pine and fir forests of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains—made for some incredible driving. From beginning to end, my iPod accompanied me with bangers for zooming through the wide open tundra of Northern Arizona, quiet tracks to wind through the Southern Rockies, and still more tunes for everything in between.
A good road trip soundtrack has the ability to instill extra layer of meaning to the landscape passing by the windshield, to create a mood and atmosphere to frame the scenery. Few artists can create an aural environment quite like Justin Vernon, who released his much-anticipated third Bon Iver album (22, A Million) last week. To take advantage of this exquisite album dropping, we made a soundtrack for your last-minute drives through the foliage, to the ocean, or to your favorite camping spot before the cold comes. —L.W.
A Memoir Joins the Conversation on Race and the Outdoors
We first saw J. Drew Lanham’s writing in Orion magazine, which published his essay, “9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher.” The wildlife biologist and Clemson University professor told NPR in 2013, “I didn't run into anyone who looked like me who liked birds. You know, it just became clear that it was an overwhelmingly white hobby… thinking about how we can serve these beautiful creatures as fellow beings on the planet who share air and water and earth, I think it's a critical thing that we think beyond our binoculars to think about conserving those other beings that share our space.”
In his first non-academic book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, Lanham goes way beyond birdwatching to expand on these ideas. He returns to the people and scenery of Edgefield County, South Carolina, where he grew up and developed his love of nature, and takes an unflinching look at what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity” in the activities he loves. Consider it required reading—it’s a thoughtful and relevant-as-ever look at race and identity in the great outdoors.