The Stories You Loved Most in 2017

Revisit our best of the year—picked by you

(Outside/Annie Tritt/Katherine Lam/Emmanuel Polanco/Malin Fezehai/Redux/Rahawa Haile/Nicole Rifkin)

How do we determine which stories get the most love? It’s not the clicks (that would be too easy). It’s how much time, on average, thousands of readers have spent with articles we’ve published this year. You spent a lot of time reading these features, and we have to agree they’re worth it. Here’s a look back at the stories you may have missed or may just want to revisit.

1. The Road Goes On Forever and the Story Never Ends

(Riccardo Vecchio)

“Lance Armstrong is telling a story. He is seated at a boisterous table in a barbecue joint in Aspen, Colorado, along with his five children, ages 6 to 17, his fiancée, assorted friends, and a reporter.”

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2. How 1600 People Went Missing from Our Public Lands Without a Trace

The wild is free and open, full of opportunity to explore—and also to get lost. (Steel Burrow/Tandem)

“When Joe didn’t show up to get ready for dinner, Collin and Christian drove up the road, honking and waiting for Joe to come limping toward the road like a lost steer. At 7:30, a small patrol of ranch hands hiked up the rocks toward Faith, the closest formation. By 9:30 there were 35 people out looking. “If he was hurt, he would have heard us,” recalled Joe’s uncle, David Van Berkum, 47. “He was either not conscious or not there.”

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3. From Kidnapping to Kids: My Life On and Off the Rock

Rodden at her home in Berkeley, California. (Annie Tritt)

“Before I was kidnapped, before I discovered the chaos that is true love, I believed in routine.”

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4. A Very Old Man for a Wolf

Humans don’t know how wolves decide which way to go, but the choice is as important as any they’ll ever make. (Molly Mendoza)

“It’s the nature of the wolf to travel. By age two, wolves of both sexes usually leave their birth packs and strike out on their own, sometimes covering hundreds of miles as they search for mates and new territory. Whatever the reason, when wolves move, they do it with intent—and quickly. Humans don’t know how they decide which way to go, but the choice is as important as any they’ll ever make.”

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5. Inside the Mind of Thru-Hiking’s Most Devious Con Man

Traveling across the West, Jeffrey Dean Caldwell presented himself as a free-spirited outdoor archetype for over a decade. (Katherine Lam)

“On a Thursday in late April, Melissa Trent, a single mother in Colorado Springs, Colorado, logged into her account on the dating website Plenty of Fish and had a new message from a user called ‘lovetohike1972.’ ‘I can’t believe a woman as pretty as you is on a site like this,’ he wrote.”

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6. Did Airbnb Kill the Mountain Town?

Short-term leasing is changing the lives of mountain towns' permanent residents. (Rebecca Stumpf)

“In Bozeman, in Ketchum, in Jackson, in just about every destination or gateway town, one hears a similar murmur: not only are short-term rentals squeezing the last drops out of the housing supply, but more pro­foundly, they are threatening the very character that drew in locals—and tourists.”

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7. Ryan Zinke Is Trump’s Attack Dog on the Environment

Zinke is one of the few Trump-era cabinet secretaries with the juice to make things happen. (Emmanuel Polanco; Image: Malin Fezehai/Redux)

“‘You’ve got a Chubby on,’ I said. Zinke looked at me, then down at the zipper on his pants. ‘Your fly,’ I said. ‘It’s called a Chubby Chernobyl.’ Zinke laughed. ‘We killed them on the Middle Fork with this one last summer,’ he said.”

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8. Going It Alone

Appalachian Trail
The author on McAfee Knob, near Roanoke, Virginia, June 2016 (Courtesy of Rahawa Haile)

“I’m tired of this man. His from-froms and black-blacks. He wishes me good luck and leaves. He means it, too; he isn’t malicious. To him there’s nothing abnormal about our conversation. He has categorized me, and the world makes sense again. Not black-black. I hike the remaining miles back to my tent and don’t emerge for hours.”

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9. The Curious Case of the Disappearing Nuts

As the price of nuts rises quickly—and drastically—theft increases. This is especially true in California, the world's top grower of almonds and the second-largest producer of pistachios and walnuts. (Patrick Leger)

“‘When you look at the logistics needed to complete this crime,’ he told me, all signs point toward an organized group. ‘You steal 370,000 pounds of almonds, you’re not ­going to sell it on the side of the road.’”

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10. The Thieves Who Steal Sunken Warships, Right Down to the Bolts

The divers had not drifted. Their anchor had held. And they were in precisely the right place. The ship, on the other hand, was not. (Nicole Rifkin)

“As the seafloor came into view, answers to a few of those questions became clear. The divers had not drifted. Their anchor had held. And they were in precisely the right place. The ship, on the other hand, was not.”

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