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Outside Online Archives

Outside magazine, July 1999

"There is little point of setting out for a place that one is certain to reach," wrote the British mountaineer H. W. Tilman. It's an approach to adventure that resonates in the life and work of writer Mark Jenkins, whose new column, The Hard Way, debuts this month with an account of his sea-to-summit ascent of British Columbia's Mount Waddington (see page 39). A nearly lifelong resident of Wyoming—his father was a professor of mathematics at the state university in Laramie—Jenkins has made a habit of avoiding the easy or the obvious path: He earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a masters in geography (his thesis, titled Chemical Composition of Fresh Snow on Mount Everest, is based on samples he collected on the North Face in 1986); he biked across Russia in 1989 (the trip was the subject of his first book, Off the Map); and in 1993 he participated in the first descent of Africa's Niger River, an experience recounted in To Timbuktu, which the Los Angeles Times named one of the best books of 1997. He has also climbed the three highest peaks above the Arctic Circle, and has wandered extensively across Europe, South America, Southern Africa, and Asia. His base remains Laramie, where he lives with his wife, Sue, and their two daughters.

As for the question about whether true adventure is dead, Jenkins's far-flung exploits are proof that it's not. He hastens to explain that the title of his column "is not about risk per se, but self-reliance." He adds, "I love what risk suddenly requires of us: focus, faith, determination. It teaches you what kind of person you might be when you have to think on your feet, make critical decisions, improvise. This is what I love about the outdoors—improvisation, the on-the-spot necessity to live up to your potential. In the outdoors, decisions matter."

Starting this month, Jenkins will chronicle his ongoing travels in thought and deed, with a consistent bias in favor of destinations where arrival is uncertain and return is never guaranteed. "The world's only getting smaller if you stay in your car," says Jenkins. "But drive to the nearest mountains, start walking, and you'll get a huge bite of reality."

When Sacramento-based author William T. Vollmann isn't writing novels, he's reporting from the world's hot spots: Kosovo, Littleton, the U.S.-Mexican border. Chilling out for the birth of Canada's new Inuit-led territory ("The Very Short History of Nunavut," page 54), he offers a hopeful yet wary view of the future for its democracy-giddy citizens: "It's spectacular, empty country," says Vollmann, who set part of his 1994 novel The Rifles in Nunavut's icebound climes, "but there'll be skyscrapers and McDonald's up there in 30 years."

After wrapping up his wilderness outing with microbiologist Chuck Gerba ("Hey Buddy, Is That a Virulent Pack of Angry Clostridium perfringens in Your Sierra Cup?" page 86), former senior editor Andrew Tilin found himself transformed—at least temporarily—into an obsessive hand-washer, and also a bit of a wet blanket on camping trips near his Santa Fe, New Mexico, home. "If someone pulls out a dirty fork and starts stirring the scrambled eggs," he says, "I go nuts."

Two years ago fitness writer Paul Scott traded tending bar in New York for Bangor, Maine. Now, between assignments, the Minnesota native runs forest roads and practices his crossover dribble at the local Y. Though he has yet to master all the trick moves in "So You Want to Be a Superstar" (page 92), Scott says that his adopted hometown is ideal for polishing any game. "This place hasn't been overtaken by überathletes," he says. "So I feel like I'm really pushing the envelope when I hit the streets."

Contributing editor John Brant isn't new to the topic of drugs in sports: His November 1997 profile of Luc van Lierde examined the Belgian triathlete's controversial withdrawal from the 1997 Ironman competition just after new drug-testing procedures were announced for the race. In "Playing Dirty" (page 66), the Portland, Oregon–based reporter digs deep into the seamy story of doping among professional cyclists. "You can only rely on the heavy stick for so long," he says of the crackdown on drugs now underway, "and then you have to start educating rather than prosecuting."

Veteran Outside photographer Michael Llewellyn took a break from portraiture to do shots of pro cyclists as they raced laps around a town square in France. "I'd have maybe ten seconds to snap a few frames, then they'd be gone," he says. "Being surrounded by thousands of hysterical cycling fans didn't help." This summer, Llewellyn will once again photograph both the quick and the quiet: He's documenting a top decathlete and starting a book project depicting draft horses at work in Europe and America.

"It was your typical Tijuana-Ensenada gringo tour," recalls frequent contributor Bruce Barcott of his first visit to Baja in 1981, as a 14-year-old held captive in his family's faux-wood-paneled station wagon. Eighteen years later Barcott returned as a journalist, this time venturing deep into Baja California Sur to report on the tenuous balance between whales, ecotourism, industry, and local interests ("Love and Death and the Leviathan's Lair," page 78).

LEFT: Madeleine Tilin; RIGHT: David Emmite

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