By Dylan Tomine
Both of my kids love their science classes in school, and Skyla often mentions wanting to be a marine biologist when she grows up. So when the field biologists from the Wild Fish Conservancy invited us to participate in some beach-seine sampling, as part of their project to assess juvenile salmon habitat around Puget Sound, we jumped at the opportunity.
These guys were incredibly friendly and patient with the kids, happy to explain each process as they captured individual fish, measured and recorded them without harm, then placed them into another bucket for release once the netting was done. A great lesson in how science works in the field and the importance of consistent methodology.
Above: Frank Staller, field technician for the Wild Fish Conservancy, explains the sampling process to Skyla and Weston. Puget Sound, Washington. Photo: Dylan TomineOnce the kids were familiar with how it all worked, the guys put them to work. I don’t know how much actual “help” the kids provided, but it was a fantastic experience for the kids to feel like they were contributing.
The abundance and variety of life captured in the seine impressed the kids, who are used to just observing from above the water while fishing. They caught juvenile chum, coho and pink salmon, cutthroat trout, a starry flounder, several varieties of sculpins, marine worms, shrimp … endless fascination. Huge thanks to everyone at Wild Fish Conservancy, for making us feel like part of the crew, and for all the important work you’re doing to protect the fish we love.
Dylan Tomine is a Patagonia fly fishing ambassador and the author of Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family’s Year On The Water, In The Woods and At The Table. He lives on the coast of Washington with his wife and two kids. You can read an excerpt from Dylan’s book right here on The Cleanest Line or check out Dylan’s blog (the origin of today's post) for more musings on family, foraging and fly fishing in the northwest.
Dylan is on the road this spring with some special guests to talk about food, foraging, and getting kids outside. Check the tour page on his website for the most up-to-date information.
April 12, 2016
Doors open 7:00pm, Event starts 7:30pm
In conversation with Bruce Barcott, author of The Measure of a Mountain, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, and Weed the People.
April 27, 2016
Doors open 7:00pm, Event starts 7:30pm
New York, NY
May 18, 2016
Patagonia Upper West Side
Doors open 7:00pm, Event starts 7:30pm
In conversation with New Yorker cover artist—and my brother—Adrian Tomine, author/illustrator of Summer Blonde, Shortcomings, and Killing and Dying.
By Rolando “Rolo” Garibotti
While many historic climbs occurred this past season, if I were giving awards, my “Patagonia d’Or” would go to a selfless and lasting non-ascent.
The momentum began in late 2014, with climber Steffan Gregory, who sent me an email: “I’m looking at returning to Chaltén next season and wanted to put some time in giving back. I am curious if you know if there is anything in the works regarding waste management. I’d be willing to write a grant for funding or help with an existing project.”
Above: Descending from Cerro Fitz Roy we can see Laguna Capri in the center-right portion of the photo. The team chose to build their wilderness latrine at Laguna Capri because of its popularity with hikers and relatively close proximity to El Chaltén. Patagonia, Argentina. Photo: Dörte PietronThe issue of waste management had been on the minds of the park service for some time, actually. Back in 2007, Carlos Duprez, then head of the northern area of Los Glaciares National Park, encouraged me to help him by looking into possible waste management solutions. The area has long relied on pit toilets, which provide an unpleasant experience while leaving the waste untreated. But back then, none of the options available—composting, dehydration, vault, moldering, etc.—provided a viable solution. In 2010, however, the American Alpine Club organized a conference on the issue, one of growing concern in our cherished alpine zones. From the AAC meeting emerged Geoff Hill, a Canadian Ph.D. who has extensively studied the subject. Geoff conceived of a wilderness latrine that, using urine diversion and vermi-composting (worms/invertebrates), very effectively reduces waste volume and pathogens. It is a simple, fairly inexpensive, low-maintenance and operationally safe design, ideal for cold climates and remote areas, where septic systems cannot be built and where waste cannot be easily removed. We discussed the project for several years, but it was Steffan’s interest and commitment that ignited the effort.
Fourteen months after his email, Steffan, Rachel Mangan, Ethan Newman and Alan Torne—a guide, an environmental scientist, a firefighter and writer, and a builder, respectively—left their homes in southern Utah and set off for Argentina. The four climbers, with the help of Acceso PanAm, had done the up-front work of securing funding and permission for the project. Acceso PanAm is a climbing advocacy organization for Latin America, not unlike the Access Fund in the United States.
Upon arriving in Chaltén, Steffan and his crew, with occasional help from Arístides Aitea and other national park employees, set to work. Seeing as this is the first of several possible toilets, they decided that Laguna Capri, a popular destination an hour’s hike from town, would make a good initial site. Carrying the materials, digging the pit, building the structure and assembling the mechanical system took almost two months. Once all was set, Geoff Hill flew in to provide the know-how, finesse the mechanical system, and ensure that everything worked. Now Laguna Capri, on top of its natural beauty, offers the most advanced wilderness toilet in Patagonia, a unit that provides a long-term solution to a growing issue.
The team worked 55 of the 77 days they were in Argentina. They each hiked well over 75 miles and 24,000 feet of elevation gain, and in the process carried 3,000 pounds of materials. They consumed at least 1,000 empanadas and 24 containers of Dulce de Leche. In all they volunteered 2,500 person hours. Combined with the work of Kika Bradford, from Acceso PanAm, and Geoff Hill, they devoted well over 3,000 person hours.
The project was also made possible thanks to the generous help of Acceso PanAm, a Patagonia Conservation Grant, Black Diamond Equipment, the American Alpine Club, Toilet Tech Solutions, Deep Creek Coffee Company, and the Gregory family.
So there it is, my Patagonia d’Or vote goes to Steffan, Rachel, Ethan, and Alan, along with Geoff Hill and Kika Bradford, for their dedication and hard work in helping preserve this precious resource. In a landscape magnificent enough for kings and queens, thanks to these dedicated people and companies, all of us can now sit on a golden throne.
Rolando “Rolo” Garibotti has been climbing in Patagonia just shy of three decades. He’s the author of a guidebook to the area, Patagonia Vertical, creator of the online climbing guide pataclimb.com and a Patagonia ambassador. These days he splits his time between the town of El Chaltén, Argentina, and the Dolomites in Italy. Photo: Dörte Pietron
By Adam Fetcher
Patagonia has supported the work of Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters through grant funding, our employee environmental internship program, retail store events, product donations and an invitation to attend the 2015 Tools for Grassroots Activists conference. You can read our past coverage on The Cleanest Line here and here. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit savetheboundarywaters.org.
Growing up in Minnesota, I took the lakes for granted. To me, living in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” meant summers at the cabin—waterskiing, fishing and family time on the dock. The lakes I knew were surrounded by houses and roads, and I remember falling asleep most nights to the gentle but persistent hum of motorboats wafting across the glassy water. (Almost as persistent as the hungry mosquitos buzzing around my ears at bedtime.) Even through the noise, I slept peacefully in the cool Northern Minnesota breeze.
Above: Paddling toward shore, ready for a swim in the late afternoon. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota. Photo: Adam FetcherIt wasn’t until my family’s first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, when I was in grade school, that my notion of Minnesota’s abundant lakes suddenly shifted. There were no docks, no jet skis, no golf courses—things I once considered requirements for a great Minnesota summer. Lowering a canoe into the pristine, interwoven system of lakes and rivers that make up the Boundary Waters brought a loud epiphany that was drowned out only by the sheer silence of the place. I imagined the surrounding landscape teeming with grey wolves, black bears, otters, beavers, whitetail deer, moose, eagles, ravens, lynx and loons—my favorite. I fell in love immediately and paddled off into the wild carrying a new appreciation for the fresh, clean waters that make Minnesota so special. That first night, I’ve never slept better—and in the following years I came back to the Boundary Waters many times.
But when I returned last August after a few summers away, despite the wondrous quiet, my sleep was disturbed. Under a soft rain, my dreams were filled with dread: the Boundary Waters is facing a dire threat from proposed sulfide-ore mining within its watershed, less than a mile from the wilderness edge. This type of mining is especially toxic. Scientific analysis, including a recent study published in the Journal of Hydrology, show that pollution could flow directly downstream into the heart of the Boundary Waters and devastate the entire ecosystem for hundreds of years. Like the blood in our veins, the area’s interconnected system of lakes and rivers can be instantly damaged by even the smallest intrusion. The EPA called sulfide-ore mining “the most toxic industry in America.”
After exiting the wilderness, I enjoyed an afternoon beer in Ely, at the Boundary Waters’ southern edge. Looking around, I took in the scene: outfitters teeming with people, a couple restaurants with packed tables, a busy street featuring a diverse array of open storefronts, and lawn signs supporting a grassroots campaign to protect the wilderness. People young and old walked swiftly around town, excited to be living full lives in the most modern of historic towns—one that has transformed itself from busted mining town to a bustling, sustainable economy over the past 30 years. It’s an economy built on the Boundary Waters.
While mining helped make Minnesota great in past generations, the Ely of today perfectly encapsulates the Minnesota I love. This is the North—we embrace our cold, snowy winters as integral to our identity. It’s a state full of well-rounded, resourceful people adept at dreaming up and implementing the biggest new ideas while sitting in a modern office—or hunkered down in a warm, remote cabin. It’s a state that draws talented people from all over the world with a high quality of life, great infrastructure, outstanding schools and a supportive environment for businesses of all kinds. And it’s a state that values the great outdoors. Here, lakes are loved by hunters and anglers, executives and blue collar workers, urban and rural families, liberals and conservatives, and everyone else. It’s what binds us together.
A blow to the Boundary Waters would not only wound the water and wildlife that make it special, it would hurt the spirit of the North itself, and Minnesota’s social and economic spirit would suffer tremendously. Losing the Boundary Waters wouldn’t just cost us a world-class wilderness, it could cost us 18,000 jobs and $850 million in regional economic activity driven by tourism. The Boundary Waters is America’s number one most-visited wilderness, bringing more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world to Northern Minnesota every year. This special place is a source of pride for every generation of Minnesotan and a source of inspiration for wilderness-lovers everywhere else.
Mining has a place in our economy. We all consume products derived from sulfide-ore mining, and I feel deeply for the people of Minnesota’s Iron Range suffering from the devastating loss of mining jobs in recent decades, causing economic collapse. But mining has never been a stable basis for long-term community prosperity. More importantly, the Boundary Waters is not on the Iron Range. And the edge of a pristine, water-intensive wilderness is not the right place for industrial mining pits. The history of sulfide-ore mining in the United States is a story of contamination of groundwater, surface waters and land. Like a drop of food coloring spreading fast in a bucket of water, even the slightest pollution runs the chance of damaging the entire wilderness—a risk Minnesota and its economy can’t afford.
Thankfully, in the past few weeks, we’ve seen some extraordinary developments in the effort to protect the Boundary Waters. First, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton expressed his strong opposition to proposed sulfide-ore mining by Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta. I was proud and thankful to see the Governor take a strong stand in favor of protecting a place he called Minnesota’s “crown jewel”—one that plays such an important role in his state’s identity. He’s not alone: a new poll was released just after his announcement showing that a vast majority of Minnesotans from throughout the state and across the political spectrum oppose sulfide-ore mining in the Boundary Waters watershed.
The next day, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management—which holds the expired mining leases being considered for renewal—announced they have the legal authority to deny the leases pending the results of a public environmental analysis, which will use the best science available to determine if the Boundary Waters watershed is the right place for mining. It’s heartening to know the Obama administration is committed to a rigorous study of the merits and risks presented by proposed mining. Following the proper process is important, and the mining leases have never before been subjected to environmental analysis.
These are important steps forward, but there is a lot more work to do. The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is leading a major effort to bring together a broad and diverse coalition—including businesses, sportsmen, environmentalists, veterans and more—of individuals and groups in favor of keeping the wilderness pristine for our children to enjoy and so our economy can continue to thrive. Please consider joining the campaign by visiting their website and signing your name to the list of thousands of people from across Minnesota and around the world who love the Boundary Waters. When the time comes to advocate for protection as the government reviews the leases, the campaign will need your voice.
Members of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters gather to send off Dave and Amy Freeman on a 2,000-mile canoe expedition from Ely, Minnesota to Washington D.C. The canoe functioned as a floating petition with the signatures, collected at home and during the journey, adorning the boat itself. The canoe was eventually delivered to lawmakers in Washington D.C. who have the power to stop the proposed mining project. Photo: Nate Ptacek
And now more than ever, the vast community of people from across the United States who have visited the Boundary Waters need to make their voices heard as well. The Boundary Waters is a unique national treasure unlike anything else in the world. It should be counted among other untouchable places that hold the power to change lives in a single night spent under the stars—and it should be protected.
I listed many positive traits shared by Minnesotans above. But perhaps more than anything else, Minnesota is a state that looks forward, not back—where Ely and many other communities throughout the state provide the vision of a new economic model that can sustain us for the future. The Boundary Waters plays a huge role in making the North everything we’re proud of—a place for prosperity, family, balance and a world-class culture rooted deeply in the outdoors.
Don’t take the lakes for granted. Without the Boundary Waters, we’re just flyover country.
Adam Fetcher is the Director of Global PR & Communications for Patagonia and a Board Member of the Boundary Waters Trust. Previously, Adam was deputy national press secretary for President Obama’s re-election campaign and served in the Obama administration.
Eric Johnson lives in Sturgis, South Dakota with his wife and three young daughters. He works as a high school English teacher. He’s responsible—well, most of the time.
Half way into his thirties, Eric emptied his retirement account to buy a raft, despite the fact that he lives in a state without any navigable whitewater. Just over a year later, he found something too good to be true: a group of experienced guides advertising an open spot on a pre-season trip down Idaho’s Main Salmon.
Today, we bring you the story of what happens when you ignore the red flags that pop up when something is actually too good to be true and of what it feels like to bob around in the bucket of someone else’s bucket list.
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, music credits and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and DoggCatcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production. Graphic by Walker Cahall.
By Diane French
Fifteen minutes before my wedding, I’m standing in front of my sister in my dress. “Can you see it?” She scans me, tilting her head to each side. “No. Can’t see it. But here, take this anyway.”
Two hours from now, when the hailstorm rolls in and turns my lips purple for all my wedding pictures, I’ll be wearing the brown wool wrap she’s handing me. But for now it’s draped over my arms to hide the road rash acquired just this morning on our pre-wedding mountain bike ride with the wedding party, when I clipped a handlebar in tight trees and ate it in the rock-choked dirt.
Above: Between a rock and a hard pace, Diane French digs in for the stair section of the Backbone Trail. Salida, Colorado. Photo: Sacha Halenda
My almost-husband’s road rash is older (last week’s high-speed, road-bike wipeout on freshly laid reflective stripes) but far worse. His best man administers reams of dressing and tape in an effort to staunch the tide, but it weeps through the bandages and spreads across the shoulder of his dress shirt. I silently thank god for jackets as we tie the knot under the blackening clouds. For the rest of the evening, my now-husband Sacha calls for another gin and tonic, doing his best to diplomatically avoid congratulatory shoulder slaps.
Fast-forward a couple of years. The Boulder bike path turns to dirt about a quarter mile up Boulder Canyon and gets a bit rough—exactly why we ride it religiously with our newborn in the trailer. He swings and bumps around in the hammock and harness, over rocks and waterbars, and does something he never does at home: He sleeps. Let the pathletes sprint annoyedly around our wide caravan: The kid is OUT and we’re going up as far as we can, as many times as we have to.
At year 10, we live in Salida, Colorado, and we celebrate our anniversary with a rushed lap on the Monarch Crest Trail in conditions so wet and grey we barely glimpse the legendary views between cloud banks. Washing down squares of fancy chocolate with a nice scotch from the flask, we snap a selfie at the top and haul mail down the descent. We’ve got just two hours to get to town before class lets out and our second-grader spills onto the school’s front lawn, looking for us.
By now, of course, we’ve traded the trailer and its magic nap hammock, first for a feet-down balance bike, and most recently, for a 24-inch mountain bike for our son. We ride together constantly, a bond as strong for the three of us as sharing supper or bedtime stories. The hammock sleeper has become, at 8, a pinner we can just barely catch, who rides jump lines as skillfully as any adult but zip-ties a stuffed tiger to his handlebars and sings songs inside his helmet.
Sacha and I met as climbers, climbing shaped our training and travel plans, climbers were the company we kept. So was it strange to drive all the way from Colorado to British Columbia and not climb a single pitch or problem, even though we brought all our gear? A little. But the trails we rode together instead that summer were legion and legend, and allowed us all an experience on a plane of difficulty that’s right—and adjustable—for everyone. For example. On one Whistler high-altitude classic, I pull up short of a steep, blind rock drop because … it’s steep and blind. My son immediately sails past me and disappears as everything in me contracts around my heart, listening for the bone-splitting yard sale. Instead, a helmet-muffled voice from below: “Mom, it’s totally rollable! You can do this!” I exhale, clip in and roll it, understanding that something important, possibly poetic, has just happened.
The bicycle, more than any other piece of equipment, has become a reliable witness to major movements in our lives because of its dualistic character. It figures in our every day, a regular, utilitarian presence that gets us around, jogs the dog, runs the errands, deals with stuff. But it also ascends into heroics in fantastic places when asked—all in exchange for an occasional bath, a little maintenance and a place in the garage.
Given our love of many things—riding, climbing, skiing and, most recently, Star Wars—it’s hard to know what will command the bulk of our free time, but for now, not much goes down that doesn’t involve two wheels and two pedals. It’s become popular with the resident third-grader to protest when the trail does anything but drop straight down, but I tell him to keep pedaling—when I’m really old, he’s going to be the one pulling the trailer up the bike path. I’ll be snoring in the hammock.
Diane French is managing editor at Patagonia. This story was first published in the Spring 2016 Patagonia Catalog.