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Inside Royal Robbins Outdoor Destinations Stories that Inspire

Yosemite Facelift Success!

October 9, 2016
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The Royal Robbins cleanup crew at Tunnel View

The Yosemite Facelift was a fantastic success. Two weeks ago, nearly 1,500 people flocked to the weeklong Facelift, put on by the Yosemite Climbing Association for the 13th straight year.

A Royal Robbins crew of 24 was thrilled to join our fellow Yosemite lovers to help the park recover from the high traffic summer season. Nearly 4 million people visit Yosemite every year, and unfortunately not everyone is so careful about packing out what they bring in to the park.

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Sometimes a beer can isn’t a beer can, it’s an artifact.

Before heading out on the trail, everyone received a training session from the YCA. Interestingly, not all trash is really trash. Some things have been there so long (old beer cans, historic light bulbs) that they become archaeological artifacts. Such artifacts need to be left where they are by federal law.

However we were able to stay within the law and still help keep our park beautiful.

Here are some numbers that sum up the week:

Volunteers

  • 1,477 Unique Volunteers
  • 2,493 Volunteer days
  • 11,714 Volunteer hours

Weights

  • 5,733 Lbs. of litter
  • 6,464 Lbs. Special Projects
  • 12,197 Lbs. Total removed from Yosemite National Park

Entrance SignThe Facelift was not only a fantastic opportunity to get outside and spend time in the birthplace of the Royal Robbins legend, but it was also a great opportunity to give back. Without our national parks, our lives are not as rich or beautiful. It’s extremely important to support the outdoors and the environment, whether it’s through sustainability efforts like using bluesign® approved fabrics or recycling programs like Royal Rewear.

To learn more about Royal Robbins’ social responsibility program, click here.

Outdoor Destinations Stories that Inspire

Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks Service

August 25, 2016
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Today marks the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service. Although the first American national park – Yellowstone in Wyoming (and a bit in Montana and Idaho too!) – was created far earlier in 1872, the Park Service itself is a ripe 100 years young.

On August 26, 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act, creating the Park Service as a part of the Department of the Interior. The NPS originally oversaw only 37 protected areas. Today, that list includes 59 national parks and 411 total sites, including national seashores, monuments, historic sites, trails and more.

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Find Your Park

To celebrate the Centennial, the NPS has created a fantastic and simple way for everyone to get outside to their nearest and favorite national park. Just go to findyourpark.com. You can discover outdoor adventure paradises close to home or close to your next vacation destination. Whether it’s hiking in Yosemite Valley, sea kayaking the Maine Island Trail (the country’s first water trail) in Acadia National Park, or even visiting some of our greatest historical sites at the National Mall in Washington, DC, this country has so much to offer.

For more information on the Centennial, visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm.

But most importantly, get outside and have fun!

Stories that Inspire

Sally Jewell: Outdoor Leader

June 28, 2016
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Sally Jewell is a leader in the outdoor industry. As Secretary of the Interior, she oversees all of our national parks, monuments, refuges and other protected lands.

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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

About ten years ago, when she was CEO of REI, I had the pleasure of kayaking with her in San Diego. During her six years at REI, our paths crossed often, and her contagious positivity and can-do attitude left a lasting impression on me.

That afternoon in Mission Bay was no different. Strong headwinds had put an on-time arrival at a dinner meeting in peril. But instead of cutting short or turning back, Sally Jewell, with a quick smile and a strong stroke, led the way forward, as she still does today in Washington.

So I wasn’t surprised to see her progress in the recently released U.S. Department of the Interior’s Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2015. The report is a glowing summary of why she is perfect for the job: her ability to be a good steward of the land while at the same time delivering economic progress.

In 2015, investments made by the Interior in conservation, recreation, water and renewable energy led to $106 billion in economic output and supported 862,000 jobs.

All in, her efforts in leading the Interior Department account for about $300 billion in economic output and 1.8 million jobs that are supported by the Interior’s activities including:

  • Outdoor recreation in our national parks, monuments, and refuges
  • Water management
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Hunting and fishing
  • Support for Native American tribal communities
  • Scientific research and innovation
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Sec. Sally Jewell’s Dept. of the Interior had a strong 2015

 

All of this occurred while visitation to public lands managed by the Interior (such as national parks and national wildlife refuges) grew by 20 million in 2015. That’s a total of 443 million visits.

Find Your Park

With the National Park system’s centennial occurring this summer, you can be sure that number will continue to grow (visit the NPS website to find the park nearest you).

But Secretary Jewell’s contributions aren’t limited just to economic benefits. The National Park Foundation, of which she serves as Board Chair, has an incredible initiative called Every Kid in a Park, which provides free passes to our park systems for all fourth graders.

The Foundation’s Open Outdoors for Kids program is also raising funds to support children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have access to a park. It’s programs like these and the Boy Scouts of America that are crucial to opening the eyes and minds of children across the country.

As a member of the outdoor industry for over 20 years, I’m very proud to have one of our own rise to the occasion and help lead our country to a more environmentally conscious space with such amazing financial repercussions! Sally Jewell is a leader that we all look up to.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can view the report and a data visualization tool here: https://my.usgs.gov/doidv/index.html

Stories that Inspire

Yosemite Climber-Access Trail Restoration: Join the Effort

May 10, 2016
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Did you know that one of the most dangerous parts of rock climbing is actually accessing the rock face itself? That’s right – the access trails to some of Yosemite’s greatest climbing routes are falling apart.

In Yosemite, the park service has not historically established official access trails, and climbers have been creating their own routes for years. After decades of intense use, this informal network of trails has become severely eroded, no surprise considering nearly 150,000 climbers visit Yosemite every year.

The Yosemite Conservancy’s Climber-Access Trail Restoration program is now in its fifth year. They’ve id’d priority sites and rehabilitated a number of trails throughout the park. By the end of this fall, they hope to complete the restoration of the access routes in the Tuolomne Meadows area, but they need help.

A trail crew at work on restoring access trails for rock-climbers in Yosemite.

A trail crew at work on access trail restoration for rock-climbers in Yosemite.

How can you help?

Volunteer – every hand, every shovel makes a difference in our park. Visit http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/volunteer to sign up.

Donate – this Yosemite trail restoration program needs money – $80,000 in fact. Join us in supporting the Yosemite Conservancy here.

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Join the Yosemite Conservancy’s trail restoration efforts throughout the park

You’re not a climber? Well these trails aren’t restricted to climbers. In fact, these great hiking trails lead to some of the most incredible parts of the park. For every trail that the Yosemite Conservancy improves, that’s one less place for the National Parks Service to worry about. This program benefits all of us.

This year, the program will target the Middle Cathedral-East Buttress approach in Yosemite Valley and in bouldering areas in Tuolumne Meadows. The result will be a sustainable system of trails that provides visitors safe routes to climbing areas while protecting natural and cultural resources for future generations.

We hope you join us in supporting the Yosemite Conservancy’s Climber-Access Trail Restoration Program.

 

The Yosemite Conservancy is Royal Robbins®’s primary non-profit partner. Our founders, Liz and Royal Robbins, are former Board Members and current Council Members of the Conservancy. Yosemite is our birthplace and our heritage – its iconic granite walls inspired Royal and Liz to build outdoor clothing at a time when the industry didn’t even exist. We are proud to continue to support this national treasure.

Through the support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provides grants and support to Yosemite National Park to help preserve and protect Yosemite today and for future generations. Work funded by the Conservancy is visible throughout the park, in trail rehabilitation, wildlife protection and habitat restoration. The Conservancy is also dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience and providing a deeper connection to the park through outdoor programs, volunteering, wilderness services and its bookstores. Thanks to dedicated supporters, the Conservancy has provided $92 million in grants to Yosemite National Park. Learn more at yosemiteconservancy.org or call 1-800-469-7275.

Stories that Inspire

Our Royal Ambassador in Arabia: Skyler Burt – Educator, Photographer, Adventurer

March 22, 2016
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Born in Yosemite Valley, we make versatile apparel for people who bring the spirit of a life lived outdoors to everything they do. Our ambassadors are artists, scientists, teachers, and travelers. Their professions may not seem so different from yours or ours, but they are all adventurers. We are thrilled to welcome Skyler Burt to the Royal Robbins family.

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A camel kiss in the Wahiba Desert

 

My name is Skyler Burt. I am primarily an editorial food and travel photographer, but I’m also an educator, writer and father of two amazing girls. I’m sitting right now in our studio in Muscat, Oman, a little known city on the coast of the Arabian Sea that my wife, Heather, and I have called home for the past six years.

Heather and I have always had a taste for adventure and the unknown. This yearning pushed us to pack all our possessions into her parents’ closet and set out to travel the world nine years ago. Luckily they’re still holding onto our stuff.

 

Long stays are  the only way to get to know a place and its culture

 

We both prefer slow travel versus whirlwind-tours. After spending nearly three years in Northeast Asia photographing the travel lifestyle for Lonely Planet Images, we’re into our sixth year in the Middle East working on various projects with magazines and agencies with our company Yellow Street Photos. I’ve always believed that long stays are truly the only way to get to know a place and its culture.

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Skyler behind the camera in Muttrah Souq, Oman

 

With temperatures soaring well above 120˚F during the summer months, Oman is a land of dry, Mars-like seas of undulating sands that crash like waves onto sharp, rocky mountains. The word for mountain in Arabic is jebel, and at times even the jebels seem to be moving, rising and falling into giant craggy canyons and tears in the earth.

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A rose farm atop Jebal Al Akhdar in the Hajar Mountains

 

A few years ago, I landed an academic position in Oman as the head of the photography department at the Higher College of Technology, a local government-run college. Heather and I actually work together. On the weekdays, we teach college students the art of photography, and on the weekends we explore Oman, while raising our two beautiful young daughters. Living abroad can be challenging at times, but after growing up in the farmlands outside the small town of Boring, Oregon, I needed adventure.

From exploring historic Muscat, to hiking in the Hajar Mountains to trekking across the Sharqiya Sands, the Sultanate of Oman is an incredible destination for authentic culture and a unique outdoor experience. Since Sultan Qaboos took the throne from his father in a bloodless coup in 1970, Oman has emerged as a peaceful sanctuary amid the tumult and turmoil of the region. In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme ranked Oman as the most improved nation over the previous 40 years. But unlike many developing nations, the government has smartly focused on providing accessibility to remote areas with modern infrastructure while preserving the environment and the traditional culture of its people.

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Getting some honey from the mountain bee-keepers in the Hajar Mountains

 

Over the last year, in addition to teaching, I’ve documented food culture of southern Sri Lanka, created images for the Oman Ministry of Tourism, Ritz-Carlton, and The Chedi Hotel, welcomed my second daughter into the world and poured hours into my educational food photography site We Eat Together.

But I’ve decided to step out of the academic world and lead a team of photographers exploring some the most remote areas in Oman. We’ll be creating a vast archive of images to help promote the adventure-travel tourism industry that Oman is quickly becoming famous for.

The jebels seem to be rising and falling into giant tears in the earth

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The terrace farms of Jebal Al Akhdar in the Hajar Mountains

 

Our team will start in the Hajar Mountain Range in the north, a vast open space with some of the best hiking, climbing and camping in the entire region. Not only will we be photographing life on the trail, but we’ll also be documenting the cultural heritage of the unspoiled villages that remain. We will then work our way south into the Wahiba Sands and encounter the nomadic lifestyle of the local Bedouin, before venturing into the untouched caves and wadis (valleys or ravines that are dry year-round except after heavy rains) that crisscross this desert.

Follow our journey as we wind our way around the back-roads, trails and breathtaking landscape of the Sultanate of Oman, the jewel of Arabia.

Stories that Inspire

Climbing Over Barriers

September 25, 2015
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The energy is high as we pair up for another night of rock climbing at our local gym. Minor hand and knee scrapes are common at these events, but all you notice are the smiles stretched wide across everyone’s face. As one climber rolls her wheelchair over to get her harness, another asks, “Can you hand me my leg?”, and I pass him his prosthesis. This is the world of adaptive climbing. Our climbing partners have various physical disabilities such as limb difference or amputation, visual impairment, and paralysis.

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Maureen Beck, born without her left hand, belays her climbing partner in Boulder Canyon, CO.

Rock climbing is the main activity provided by Paradox Sports, a non-profit based in Boulder, Colorado. Paradox is an incredible organization which creates physical adaptive sports communities for sports ranging from rafting and stand-up paddleboarding, to mountaineering, rock, and ice climbing.

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Maureen maneuvering through the interesting crux of the climb while I have her on belay.

Climbing, my personal love, breaks the barriers of perceived limits – a great metaphor for working through the challenges some people face when living with a disability. We all adapt to get through physical and emotional obstacles in our lives. In order to successfully ascend a route, you must overcome both physical and emotional obstacles. It is a full body workout and you glean an intimate understanding of your unique body mechanics. You also learn to mentally let go of insecurities, doubt, and fear giving way to trust, belief and conviction.

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Working my way up a beautiful crack in the limestone cliffs at Shelf Road in Canon City, CO. Shop the Essential Tencel Tank.

There is a distinct bond that happens between climbing partners during these gritty moments. You give your belayer the honor of your life in their hands. They become your safety line and the difference between a catch and a fall.

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Heading up to the start of our multi-pitch climb in Eldorado Canyon State Park, CO. Shop the Breeze Thru Tank and Jammer Roll-Up Pant.

Then a deeper connection happens. They watch the transformation of you getting out of your comfort zone, harnessing your inner strength and pushing beyond what you think you can do. These are vulnerable but proud life moments. You feel closer with those that are a witness to these kinds of mini triumphs.

Taking a minute to soak in the beauty of our natural playground. I watch climbers across the way on the Bastille Crack, one of the most classic climbs in the country.

Taking a minute to soak in the beauty of our natural playground. I watch climbers across the way on the Bastille Crack, one of the most classic climbs in the country.

In adaptive climbing, perceived barriers often stem from societal judgment or stigmas. Paradox builds a community around adaptive sports because the experience can be as life changing for the witness as it is for the climber. The shift in perception is important for everyone. Together we redefine what it means for any of us to be differently-abled.

Maureen and I found a great lookout spot to enjoy the view and swap climbing stories.

Maureen and I found a great lookout spot to enjoy the view and swap climbing stories.

Maureen Beck, a Paradox Sports ambassador, epitomizes this mantra. She was born without her left arm a few inches below her elbow. Since starting rock climbing at the age of 12, she has become an accomplished and world-recognized climber.

Maureen’s dog, Beanie, ready to help take the protective tape off her arm.

Maureen’s dog, Beanie, ready to help take the protective tape off her arm.

But it’s Maureen’s attitude and perspective that make her an inspiration. When she chose to play soccer as a kid, despite having only one hand, she picked the position of goalie! No one can define rules and limits on what she can do, except for her.

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Maureen tying in and getting ready for another lap.

Through a healthy outlook, Maureen has never let her limb difference limit her. She doesn’t see it as an absence of a full arm; she finds the positives. In climbing she boasts, “I don’t have fingers to get tired!” Maureen has made the decision to not make excuses. She embraces the creative process of adapting and doesn’t let anything get in the way of her goals for a full and happy life of adventure.

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Exploring different options on my way up the route.

Everyone’s body and mind function a little differently. I’m drawn to the powerful time and space that rock climbing offers to pay attention to the core you. We get to know ourselves and what we’re made of. We adjust our movements to sync our body with the natural flow of the rock. The connection I feel with my climbing partners, myself and the nature around me are incredibly powerful.

Erich Meinig scoping out the route before starting his ascent. Erich is deaf and has several amputated fingers; nothing slows him down from finding holds and climbing techniques that work great for him.

Erich Meinig scoping out the route before starting his ascent. Erich is deaf and has several amputated fingers; nothing slows him down from finding holds and climbing techniques that work great for him.

Whether you are missing fingers, lost the use of your legs, or have emotional barriers in your way, you have a choice. You can let it define you and your limits, or you can adapt and find your best route through life.

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In my happy place! It’s always a good time when climbing.

To learn more about Paradox Sports and its adaptive sports programs, please visit http://paradoxsports.org/.

Stories that Inspire

Adventures of Kris Kolenut & East Fork Farm

June 10, 2015
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Kris Kolenut has the look of a tried and true thrill seeker. Arms tan and sun spotted from hours on the water, hands rough and callused from wedging them in cracks, unmistakable sandal tans and scars from who knows what – each one a telltale sign of a mountain man.

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Kris preparing to embark on a climb. Shop the Cool Mesh Baja Long Sleeve.

He has stories about guiding in Shining Rock Wilderness, being followed by a pack of coyotes, and instructing his crew to sharpen sticks for defense. He has stories about spending all day on the Linville River, navigating house-sized boulders downstream in search of inspiration, and tells of sharing sweat lodges with Native Americans on reservations. He knows what it feels like to let go of the brakes on a mountain bike, or disappear over a waterfall in a kayak.

Moments like these don’t come easy; they come from following instinctual cravings to feel alive. On the edge, but in control. His pursuit of passion has made Kris well rounded, from guiding at-risk youth in the backcountry to sea kayaking the hidden coves of Lake Jocassee. Kris can name nearly every plant around him in the middle of the woods, and could easily navigate the best possible route through rough country.

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Belaying down the rock face. Shop the Cool Mesh Baja Long Sleeve.

Kris escaped New Jersey in pursuit of the lifestyle, and he has found it as a professional guide based in Brevard, North Carolina. Now, he has his eyes set on his next adventure: a base camp for any southern Appalachian experience. A partnership with longtime friend Scott Sullivan on the East Fork Farm is set to poise Kris to offer a completely unique experience.

What he calls a fusion of farm life and adventure camp, the East Fork Farm is already a functioning farm on the French Broad River, its waters fed from the lush Pisgah National Forest just upstream. Rows of what will soon be summer crops dominate the landscape, but the bigger picture includes plans for a pavilion, where Kris will brief daily trips, check-in gear, and get to know his clients over food grown right there.

“We want people to be able to get a real taste of what Southern Appalachia living is like,” said Kris. “That includes great food.”

Kris has guided hundreds of trips, and he knows what makes them run smooth. Part of that experience he credits to his time at Brevard College as part of the Wilderness Leadership program, where he learned from some of the best instructors in the country to plan the logistics of any backcountry excursion, but to also have a plan B.

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Packing up after a night in the outdoors. Shop the Expedition Stretch Long Sleeve.

“I love to plan the trips. Reading the maps, thinking of every last detail, and making the day fit a particular group of people is part of the fun. It can be stressful, but that’s what makes a trip run. Plenty of people can lead a trip, but the logistics part of my Immersion semester made me realize that being an outdoor guide is so much more,” he said.

While Kris loves the outdoors and leading trips, part of his goal with the East Fork Farm is to make connections with his clients and bring their experience full circle, to show them how people affect things like water quality, and how their food is directly influenced by what goes on upstream.

“It’s not that people don’t care, it’s just that they don’t know,” said Kris. “But showing them how to appreciate nature…as a guide, getting someone to make even one realization, is why I do this. The farm is kind of a new spin on an old thing, something to appreciate this beautiful place in a different light.”

Education is at the heart of the East Fork Farm Adventure program, sharing their experience and love for the outdoors is how the owners plan to tie it all together.

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Enjoying the day at East Fork Farm. Shop the Cool Mesh Short Sleeve.

Kris, and everyone else on the farm, is busy with the final operational touches, scouting new routes, applying for guide permits, finding wood and nails to build the buildings themselves and everything else that comes up.

“I’ve taken lots of people out to do lots of things,” said Kris. “Even if it’s just a buddy from out of town…they always say to me after a big day in the woods: ‘Man I wish I lived here. That was incredible.’ I always laugh and say ‘I know, I get to do this everyday.’”

Photos taken by Karin Strickland of the McDowell Photo Project.

Stories that Inspire

The Pacific Crest Trail: 6 Months of Simple Living

April 6, 2015
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Royal Robbins ambassador Mark Gallo takes us on his trek down the Pacific Crest Trail. Check out his first post here.

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Preparing my tarp for the snowfall.

As I continued down the PCT, the Sierra Nevada greeted Michael and I with a little surprise. Five miles north of Sonora pass, we were welcomed with the first snowfall of the season. This was exciting because at the beginning of the hike in the Cascade Range, we experienced the last snowfall of the season.

It began less than an hour after we arrived at camp; luckily we’d set our tarps up before it began to accumulate. That night I awoke hourly to brush the snow off the top of the tarp and prevent it from sagging on top of me. The work paid off as I woke up dry, toasty, and excited to follow a crisp, untraveled snow path. The path was already trodden by a small herd of early morning does, but not enough to keep my feet out of the snow. My shoes quickly became saturated with water, taking me back to the beginning of the walk in wet, snowy Washington.

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A lake view along the PCT, where it joins the John Muir Trail.

In the Sierra Nevada, the PCT joins up with the John Muir Trail, which is typically a hiker highway in the summer months. I walked this section in October, which made it a little colder but brought many benefits. The fall months have drastically reduced traffic, and I had ample camping opportunities at night. Best of all, it allowed me to appreciate the beautiful fall colors. The numerous crystal clear lakes, jagged granite peaks and plush meadows were stunning.

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Taking a moment to enjoy the tranquility of a stream.

When I walked down the trail into a vibrant aspen grove, I felt blessed to be immersed by such a magnificent organism. A creek flowed through the grove and my senses became inebriated with the sights and sounds of nature. It is simple to sit in such an area and clear the mind of all thought, instead just listening to the sounds – wind blowing through tree tops, rustling water – and feeling the warm sun on your skin.

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Adventures downstream in our Craigslist-purchased boat.

Not everything that happens along the PCT involves walking. Outside of Ashland, Oregon multiple forest fires had forced trail closures farther south. My companions and I had the option to road walk around the fires or hitchhike and complete the sections in the future. Another option was to scope the local Craigslist, purchase a canoe and attempt to float around the fires! After the above photo was taken, we floated approximately 2 miles before a large rock gashed a hole in the stern of our boat. This was nothing that a quick hitch to town for some fiberglass cloth and epoxy couldn’t fix. The next morning, after some solid curing time, we set out once again, only to make it another 2 miles. The river was simply too shallow, so we headed back to the trail.

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The view from Mt. Bernardino, looking out towards the Pacific Ocean and Los Angeles, shows a marine inversion layer, which is caused by a temperature inversion, where the air closer to the ground is colder, rather than warmer. The warm air above then presses down upon the cool air preventing it from dissipating. Later on, I walked into this fog and slept in its dank depths.

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The PCT meets McDonalds at this unique point along the trail.

I have never felt healthier than while on the PCT. Besides a diet of mostly dehydrated food, bars, and trail mix, the constant walking made my body strong. However, when I stopped moving, all my muscles would seize up. After sitting or lying for an extended period, my feet were not happy to be stood upon.

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A remarkable desert sunset.

The desert can be tough on hikers. The lack of water and excess of sand wears many people out quickly. Personally, I loved every moment of the desert. A few of the luxuries included the opportunity to see the sunrise and sunset every day, the ability to walk at night under a full moon, and the chance to observe the stars as they float across the night sky. I was able to look past the rigid vegetation and the drastic temperature variations between night and day and simply enjoy what is.

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A storm rolling in over the desert.

The views in the desert are simply stellar. There are no large trees to block the sky or the environment surrounding you. When it rains, the smell of the desert emanated, invigorating my every step. As I brushed against the desert sage, it acted like a sweet perfume. It is significantly easier to keep track of the weather as it can see it blowing in from afar. In contrast, the forest gave me the feeling that I was in a green tunnel, and my focus became set on set on smaller things in my immediate surroundings.

Hiker Family

My hiking family in Sierra City, California. From top left around: Minky, Duffy, Pearl (me), Circle, Loohoo, The Duke, Alaska Joe, Chaga.

I am so thankful for the beautiful people along the trail that kept my morale soaring and a BIG smile on my face! Complete strangers took me in and gave me supplies and food.  My friends along the way gave me my trail name, Pearl. I will miss these folks very much!

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Friends from the trail. From the left: Circle, Pearl (me), Mrs. Anderson, Eskimo boy and Ju Lion

A huge thanks to all of the following and everyone else who made me smile and kept me dancing all the way to Mexico!

• Anderson’s
• Saufley’s
• The Boys at Jive Coulis Productions, Eric Leadbetter
• Barbara in California city
Mountain Valley Retreat
• Duffy
• Awesome family in Tehachapi whose information I lost
• Ziggy and The Bear
• The Marshall Family
• Grandma & Pop Pop
• Everyone who read the book “Wild” and decided I was starving and gave me food
• All who picked me up off the side of the road with my thumb out
• Water cachers
• Teresa Martinez – CDTC Director
Royal Robbins – couldn’t have done it without clothes

Parents

My wonderful parents

Last but definitely not least, my beautiful parents. There is absolutely no way I could have hiked the entire PCT without them. Before I left on this journey, I packed up 15 resupply packages ranging from 5-10 days that had to be sent out one after another. I generally knew how much food I needed in each, but not much more than that. My mom was always on it, whether I needed extra brown sugar for my oatmeal, extra water purification tablets, or even a new pair of shoes (went through 3 pairs). I could not be more grateful to my parents. Some people asked what I missed most while on this trail, hands down my answers was my parents.

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The beginning of my journey in Canada – June 14, 2014.

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The end of my journey in Mexico – December 4, 2014.

 

 

 

Stories that Inspire

Roof of the World Expedition Finishes After 4,000 miles Crossing the Himalayas

February 23, 2015
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Riding into temple square, old capital of Nepal. Bhaktapur, Nepal.

 

Royal Robbins ambassador Gerry Moffatt recently completed his Roof of the World film expedition after 108 days and 4,000 miles, in which he overlanded the entire length of the Himalayas on motorcycle, foot and kayak. From the high plateaus of Ladakh, across Nepal, to Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon – it was truly an old fashioned adventure. Below is a recounting of the expedition in his own words…

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12,774 foot view of Dhankar Monastery, above the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers. Spiti, India.

Adventures are life-affirming experiences, each unique and separate, and not to be grouped into the sum total of daily life. Solo kayaking 180 miles of whitewater on the remote Tsarap Chu and Zanskar rivers, in the midst of one of the most severe storms to hit the region in 50 years, is an experience that deserves to live on its own in the adventurer’s memory. As does motorcycling 17,000-foot Himalayan passes, wandering around the abandoned, jungle-covered Beatles ashram in Rishikesh, trekking the Annapurnas during their worst avalanche disaster, interviewing inspirational social entrepreneurs in Nepal, and understanding the truth behind Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness. Nothing written, or filmed, can ever completely capture the whole experience. It must be lived.

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Taking a hit on the Mangde Chhu River, Central Bhutan.

 

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En route, descending from Spiti to Rishikesh. Hairpin turn number 174. India.

 

Alone for countless miles under the stars, sleeping on the banks of a mighty Himalayan river – I remembered that the comfort of a campfire and warm sleeping bag can’t be underestimated.  I recognized how much traveling, exploring, and getting away from the familiar helps us make better sense of our lives. I felt grateful and alive.

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Sunset over Modi Khola River, seen from Annapurna Base Camp during trek. Nepal.

 

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Ancient chortens at my camp site. Day One, Tsarap Chu solo river expedition. Zanskar, India.

 

My journey only proved to me how connected we all are on this planet. Despite outward appearances – and whether someone lives in Leh, Rishikesh, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Paro, Punakha, Delhi or Sun Valley, Idaho – I was shown time and again how common our desires are as humans.  How common are our passions, dreams, hopes, and happiness. And how equally common are our shortcomings – our fears, greed, thoughtlessness, selfishness and ignorance. It helped me to understand that our challenges are indeed global, and that our solutions must also be global.

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Speaking with a Sadhu on a sunny day. Bhaktapur Square, Nepal.

 

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Flat tire number one. Leh-Manali Highway, India.

 

I’ve enjoyed 32 years of working and living in the Himalayas as an expedition leader and guide, but now – at the age of 50 – I feel acutely aware of my responsibility to protect the resources I’ve used and help change things for the better. In the end, Roof of the World is a story about change, reflection, and finding the inspiration to create meaning in what we do.

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Sacred cow, sacred river. Ganges River, Rishikesh, India.

 

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The only man to have paraglided off the summit of Everest, Sanu Babu gives me a fly-by. Himalayan foothills, Nepal.

 

Though the dust is still settling, we are well into logging and editing our film footage now. If all goes well, in another 5 to 6 months we’ll have a beautiful film and story to share with the world.

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Taking a 5-minute break. Somewhere on the Leh-Manali Highway high in the Himalaya, India.

 

We are deeply thankful to our friends at Royal Robbins – our expedition sponsor – for their support on this unforgettable adventure, living their mission and helping me to truly Go Everywhere.

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Himalayan sunrise. Somewhere in Central Nepal.

 

Stories that Inspire

Talking Shop with Metalworker Preston Farabow

December 21, 2014
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I recently had the opportunity recently to speak at length with Preston Farabow. Preston is a skilled metalworker who brings an artistic touch to his trade. Over the course of his career, he’s created beautiful trophies, sculptures, furniture, and more. You can learn more about Preston and his work on his website, at http://www.prestonfarabow.com/.

I asked Preston some questions about his work and his passion for art. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How would you describe what you do for a living?

A: I make pretty things for rich people. But I’ve always hoped I would be able to do something more important.

I bend metal for a living, and I create sculpture and custom architectural and ornamental ironwork. In some capacity, I’m a blacksmith, a designer, an artist, and a therapist. During the course of the day, I wear a lot of different hats. But the glue of what I do is metalwork.

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Preston’s creative vision is expansive, and runs from Nascar belt buckles that feature lug nuts welded together, to left over cod.

Q: Have you had success finding something more important, in your view, to do outside of your daily work?

A: My desire to do something better has given rise to my new business, a nonprofit school of metalwork. In metalwork, nothing is irreconcilable. You’re taking scrap metal, wreckage, and turning it into something beautiful. The larger lesson from that is applicable to many demographics, especially to at-risk inner city populations. Metalwork is a vehicle for that lesson.

The name of the school is the Ferre Beau School of Thought. Ferrebeau is the original form of my last name. It translates from French to “Beautiful Iron.” Somewhere back in my genealogy, there were metalworkers.

Q: So does your foundation focus on work in the inner city?

A: Yes, and I’m about a year and a half into the development of it. I’m writing the first set of curricula. It’s probably going to be aimed at the drug-addicted and alcoholic youth. It’s not limited to those populations, but those are the groups I’m going to start with. Everyone is at risk of something.

I’m not entirely sure what the foundation is going to end up being, but I’m certain, more than anything, that it’s what I’m supposed to do.

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A custom headboard with light fixture, made by Preston.

Q: What are some things that make metalwork, more so than other forms of art and craft, relevant to a target group seeking new direction?

A: Metalwork is about transformation. It’s a little bit dangerous, which has a certain appeal to it, especially to men and boys. It involves fire. From my experience, when you light a fire, you have everyone’s attention. I think metalwork has a lot of lessons to offer that transcend the actual craft.

I have a luxury in my chosen field in that I can make mistakes on a daily basis, and do. And I can redo it. Woodworkers don’t have that luxury. If they cut a piece too short, they have to start over. I can weld and recut steel when I make a mistake. I can shape and reshape the materials in my work. Part of my business is that we’ve given ourselves the luxury to make mistakes. And as long as we’re not repeating those mistakes over and over, it shows that we’re pushing the limits of our medium, and that we’re going to arrive at a discover eventually. And for all students, there’s a benefit to the physical labor of it.

The product that makes it to the pages of my website is refined and perfect. The story behind them is not perfect. I’ve set my hair on fire, I’ve broken things and cussed, I’ve had a lot of failures in my work. And I stand back from those failures and celebrate them. I think that resonates with at-risk students.

Preston takes a break at this shop with some of his men.

Preston takes a break at this shop with some of his men.

Q: How is the Ferre Beau School of Thought doing so far?

A: It’s been very well received. I’ve started out just teaching classes on an individual basis. Ultimately, my one-year goal is to have my nonprofit status in place, start teaching larger groups, and hiring staff. Initially I was just going to build a custom vehicle so that I could go anywhere and set up shop, at a corporate headquarters or a trade show. I think this is relevant to a large audience. I don’t know anyone, anywhere, who’s not at risk of something.

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These three trophies for a Red Bull air race were designed by Preston Farabow.

Q: How will metalwork help your students, especially the ones who end up following a different career path than metalworking?

A: It’s not my intention to produce cutting-edge metalworkers through my school. But it is my goal to empower people to think creatively. And metalwork helps me reach that goal. The power to think creatively, no matter what you do, if you’re a lawyer, an accountant, or an artist, helps you a lot.

I hate hearing people say they don’t have a creative bone in their body. We’re all born creative, we just educate that instinct out of us when we’re told what to do in life, through school, through churches, and just through growing up.

Q: I hear artistic ability runs in your family. How does your creative spirit live on in your children?

A: Some of the most creative ideas I’ve ever witnessed came from my children when they were three years old. Like I said, we learn barriers and limits as we grow up.

I have two sons. Liam is sixteen; he’s the cerebral one. He’s the thinker. Aidan is eleven; he loves working with his hands. Every opportunity he has to work with me in the shop, he takes it. Between these two sons, I’ll have labor and management covered for my business someday.

My children are my muse. They are my inspiration, and they are why I strive to get better every day, as a person and as an artist.

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An ornamental staircase that features not only the guard rail, but a suspension system that supports the entire structure.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist? Did you have any formative influences from other artists?

A: I was pre-med in college. I went to an art event in Charleston, South Carolina, and I saw Phillip Glass perform. From that point on, I did an about face and decided I wanted to be an artist. I love his work, and it soothes me. If I had to name one inspiration, someone who works in the creative field, it would be Phillip Glass, the musician.

Preston poses with one of his creations in progress.

Preston poses with one of his creations in progress.

Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep getting better at what you do?

A: There’s a quote on my website I go back to often, which says that my passion for beautiful ironwork far exceeds my ability to produce it. That inspires me to continue to strive to produce beautiful ironwork. It’s in my blood. It’s in my DNA. I’m fortunate to be able to do that for a living. It’s a rare thing.

 

For more stories like Preston’s, keep checking in at the Royal Robbins blog!