Once a year, from 1975 to 1978, skateboarders in pursuit of speed and recognition gathered in Signal Hill, California, to race down a roughly 30-degree slope. Actually, after the first couple of years, contestants in the annual Signal Hill Speed Run weren't so much skateboarders as speed junkies in small-wheeled crafts of variable designs bombing down a road surrounded by thousands of spectators. The event began after a producer for The Guinness Book of World Records television show called the head of the U.S. Skateboard Association and asked for a competition fit for television. As one can imagine, a large number of unqualified contestants pushing the boundaries of design and speed in proximity to a large crowd led to plenty of record runs, a wild party, and a whole lot of accidents.
“As a professional
climber I like to say that my gift in life is the ability to relentlessly beat
my head against a wall. I live by the ethos that if you hit your head
hard or long enough, it really feels good when you stop.” —Tommy Caldwell
This past October, 34-year-old
climber Tommy Caldwell began hitting his head against El Capitan again. He set out with Jonathan Siegrist to work on a roughly 30-pitch
route called The Dawn Wall that he started in 2007. It has seven sections of 5.14 and seven
sections of 5.13, and would be one of the world’s hardest big wall routes if
completed. In November, Kevin Jorgeson joined the pair. Jorgeson has been
working on the route with Caldwell since 2009. On November 15, 2012, Caldwell stopped in the middle of the project, ending at the 13th pitch with characteristic optimism. “Last day on the wall for the season,”
he said on Facebook. “Sad to be done, but good progress was made.”
John Davis paddling in Congaree National Park. Photo: Susan Baycot
Climate change, development, ranching, and oil and gas exploration tend to get a lot of ink when it comes to threats to wildlife in the Western United States. But wildlife corridors are another vital factor, and one that relates very closely to all the aforementioned variables because they allow wildlife to adapt to changes in their environment while maintaining vital migration patterns. The movement of keystone species, such as cougars, wolves, and bears, through these corridors—or "wildways"—is vital to balancing ecosystems, as well. In fact, the study of these corridors is a fundamental aspect of conservation biology, as Mary Ellen Hannibal describes in her book The Spine of the Continent.
Unfortunately, highways tend to fragment these corridors, as roadkill makes perfectly obvious, and other demands are continually encroaching on these passageways. Conservation biologists are continually working to protect wildways and keep them open. On January 25, wilderness advocate, writer, and adventurer John Davis will set out from Sonora, Mexico, on a 10-month journey along this spine, which is linked through a number of mountain ranges, including the Rockies, from Mexico into Canada.
The goal for this project, dubbed TrekWest, is to drum up attention and improved protections for the waterways and mountain passes along the corridor. Along the way Davis will conduct a sort of moving symposium, meeting with scientists and researchers who are studying the pressures being put on wildlife corridors through development and other demands. He plans to broadcast these interactions via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and the trip is being made possible through the Wildlands Network, which Davis co-founded, and a range of other conservation groups, listed on the route map.
Long slogs and extreme weather are not foreign concepts to Davis. For his TrekEast adventure in 2011, he hiked, biked, and paddled 7,600 backcountry miles from the Florida Keys to Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula.
He says he is motivated to go on these treks both as a way of putting wildways into the national discussion but also for his own fulfillment. "I do this first and foremost because I believe in the value of nature, but also for selfish reasons," he says. "I like to recreate in wild places and I personally lose each time an acre of wildlands are lost."
"The conservation community alone isn't enough [to protect these corridors], we need to get a national consensus on this. The outdoor recreation community is absolutely vital to this," he adds. "I hope to strengthen the ties between conservation biologists and outdoor recreationalists, who should be active in trying to protect these areas. I hope that's one thing my trek will draw attention to."
In fall 2013, Patagonia will celebrate its 40th anniversary, proving once and for all that responsible business can also be profitable business. In the words of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, "only those businesses dancing on the fringe are going to be here 100 years from now."
On the night of January 11, 2013, during a dive off the Kona coast to view manta rays feeding on plankton, something strange happened. After the divers went down and lit up the water, a bottlenose dolphin slowly swam around them before aproaching diver Keller Laros and turning over. In the underwater lights meant to illuminate the manta rays, Laros saw that the dolphin's pectoral fin was entangled in fishing line. He set about cutting the line with his dive knife.