As a third-generation Scout, an Eagle Scout, and the survivor of two expeditions to the Philmont Scout Ranch, I took great pleasure in reading Adam Goodheart's "Thrifty, Clean, and Brave" (November). Philmont was indeed a magical place, and at
times during my own 56-mile trek I too resented ever signing up for such a torturous journey. But now, 11 years later, I see it taught me discipline, teamwork, and respect for our beautiful natural environment—even if it didn't "tame the anarchy of adolescence." If each of the 20,000 annual visitors leaves with just one of the values I came away with,
then Philmont has served its purpose.
Brian R. McFarland
History has proven that scouting is one of our greatest resources for developing leaders for this nation and the world. I was a Boy Scout as a youth, I have been an adult Scout leader 35 years, and this summer I was a crew adviser at Philmont. Goodheart described the "rulers" of Philmont as "paunchy"; I would remind him that Philmont has height and
weight requirements similar to the military's. If it were not for the volunteer adult leaders—those "Paraguayan generalissimos"—there would be no Scouting program.
George E. Hauptmann
The Old-Fashioned Way
Thank you for reminding us, in covering the accomplishments of George Mallory and Sir Edmund Hillary ("Ghosts of Everest" and "The Man Who Knocked the Bastard Off," October), that it is the
adventurous spirit that pushes one to reach the top, not the price tag on one's gear. With grace and humility, wearing not synthetic fabrics from sponsoring companies but cotton, rubber, canvas, and wool, they itched, suffered, and got wet—and in Hillary's case, at least, made it to the summit.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
In "Ghosts of Everest" you say that a body thought to be Andrew Irvine's had had "its cheek pecked by goraks." What the heck are goraks?
Fort Lee, New Jersey
The editors reply: Goraks are large Himalayan birds that look remarkably like ravens. They have been spotted at altitudes as high as 27,000 feet.
I admire Jones and Piccard's accomplishment of circumnavigating the globe in a hot-air balloon ("Big Air," October). However, I am dismayed by their disregard of the leave-no-trace ethic. Jones describes dropping propane tanks and plastic bags of human excrement over "totally
remote areas." Littering is littering no matter how grand the adventure, and the code holds true for everyone: Pack it in, pack it out. (But what could one expect from a team that describes deserts as "desolate wastes"?)
Michael K. Lucid
In the Dark
I very much appreciated your recent article on light pollution ("Blinded by the Light," Dispatches, November). As an amateur astronomer, I can only imagine the skewed theories of the universe that might have evolved if the anemic night skies currently visible from most
cities—and increasingly blighting our national parks—were the basis of past scientific discovery.
I absolutely loved Rob Story's article featuring the boys of Teton Gravity Research who make "snow porn" ("Super-Fat Days, Coma Nights, and the Quest for Tearjerker Footy," November), particularly their soulful orange truck. I live in the Columbia Gorge, where
sailboard-hauling trucks abound, and Story has reminded me that we have our priorities straight. Thanks for the great read.
The Dalles, Oregon
The picture of the diver riding a manta ray (Exposure, October) showed poor judgment, both by the diver and by you. Research has shown that big fish like the manta can suffer serious problems over time if their mucous coatings are rubbed off by humans.
Elton A. Ellison
Silver Spring, Maryland
The editors reply: Mr. Ellison is correct. Unfortunately, photographer Jeff Rotman was unaware that touching manta rays is potentially harmful, and while Outside tries to make every effort to avoid directly or indirectly endorsing detrimental environmental practices, this one slipped through. We
apologize for the oversight.
Correspondence may be sent by e-mail (email@example.com) or addressed to the Letters Editor, Outside, 400 Market St., Santa Fe, NM 87501. Please include your full name and address.