From the Noösphere to Out There

Out ThereNew story from the Star Tribune:

Not long after I graduated from college in the mid-1990s, I got a job as a cashier at Midwest Mountaineering, a popular outdoors store in Minneapolis. The best thing about it (apart from the employee discount) was getting to read Outside magazine when business got slow.

In those days Outside’s pages were filled with writers I loved: Jon Krakauer, Tim Cahill, David Quammen. Around that same time, the magazine came out with its first anthology: “Out of the Noösphere.” It was filled with classic stories from the previous two decades. I read my copy until it fell apart.

Since then, Outside has come out with a few other collections, all filled with great stories. This year it published another: “Out There: The Wildest Stories from Outside Magazine,” an assortment of “misadventures.” These include everything from working the “groover” (toilet boat) on a Grand Canyon raft, to canoeing the Mississippi River in a 57-foot flood, to an immersion in the strange world of competitive water sliding.

Most of the stories in “Out There” date from the 2000s, which got me thinking about howOOTN writing on the outdoors has changed over the years. After all, the genre is one of our great traditions, dating back to the likes of Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and others. Yet for much of the 20th century, the writing was dominated by muscular prose, sarcastically described by Cahill, Outside’s co-founder, as “ ‘Man’s Adventure,’ ‘Adventures for Men’ and ‘Man’s Testicles.’ ” In a recent interview, he said the goal in founding the magazine was simply to write, “stories about the outdoors that were literate. That’s all.”

Read the rest here.

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Saving the Night Sky

MilkyWayStromatolites_Zhang_1080New Story in the Star Tribune:

A few years ago, in the fall, I went camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on a string of clear nights. When the sun set, there was no moon and the stars came alive in the sky, billions of them stretching from one horizon to the other. In the dark, I lay on a warm rock near the water for a long time, watching meteors flare and satellites circle the earth before turning in.

220px-The_End_of_Night_coverLater, I got up in the night, stepped out of my tent and looked north. The big dipper still hung there, only it had spun, like someone reached down and turned it with a giant hand. For a few seconds I stood there, struck by the palpable sense of being on a planet spinning through space.

A few days later, I was back in Minneapolis, where I would look at the night sky and think of all the stars I couldn’t see. Instead, there I saw a bluish haze with a few bright points. This is what’s known as the “skyglow” and it’s something that increases every year, blocking more of the cosmos from our view.

Read the rest here.

Photo via NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The Same River

SWMFrom Southwest Airlines Magazine: Uncharted Waters:

At 6 a.m., I was shin deep in the Mississippi River, strapping our bags into our canoe so they wouldn’t float away if we capsized. On shore, my wife, Bridgit, stood with our two girls, Libby and Josie, who were skipping rocks.

P1010993Once the last bag was secure, we climbed in and found, to our relief, that there were still several inches between the top of the canoe and the water. We pushed out into the river, and were off on our journey southward.

It was an adventure we had planned ever since we’d moved back to Minnesota nearly a decade ago. I’d grown up in a small Minnesota town called Winona, 120 miles downstream from where we lived now in Minneapolis. It felt important to connect the two places, to 20170627_153041know the river between them. We would row together, like the voyageurs. We would forget about the modern world and its troubles for five days and see our home in a new light. It was just a small piece of the river’s 2,350 miles, but it was a piece filled with meaning for me.

Read the rest here.

Running Wild in Duluth

201803.pdf_1-500x649Last fall I ran the Wild Duluth 100k. Here’s the race report from Ultrarunning Magazine:

The sky was dark and the ground was dry when we arrived at the shore of Lake Superior for the ninth annual Wild Duluth 100K on October 21, 2017. There were 74 of us with our crews, gathered at Bayfront Park, only half of whom would finish. There were thunderstorms forecast but it was still calm and clear at 6 a.m. when the race started. We left the lake behind and came to Enger Park, a 530-foot bluff that looks out over the city. The trail was a sheer mile up, and almost immediately back down, which was what the whole day would be like as we followed the Superior Hiking Trail south. Along the way, we would slowly accumulate 10,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss). The air was cool, and in the dark, the trail flags easily reflected the path. After about an hour, the sun rose red over the lake.

Read the rest here.

He speaks for the trees

From the Star Tribune:

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 4.44.50 PM

Dennis Robertson was visiting his wife’s hometown of Medicine Hat, in Alberta, Canada, when he picked up a brochure for the local “Heritage Tree Trail.” There were seven trees on the trail. They drove around the city tracking them down, one by one. There was giant white pine planted by a famous horticulturalist. There was the first cottonwood planted in the city (in 1888). There was a dragon spruce, native to China, that grew well in Medicine Hat’s environment. There were other trees of note.

 

When Robertson got home, it occurred to the retired ophthalmologist that Lake City had some pretty good trees, too, and that those trees had some history. For starters, it had a park filled with unusual species from the Jewell Nursery, which was founded in 1868 and became the largest landscape nursery in the country, if not the world. A heritage tree trail, he thought, would be a great way not only to help people learn about those trees but serve as a bridge to the past. As far as he knew, such a trail also would be a first in Minnesota.

The idea of heritage trees has been gaining in popularity around the world, even if what constitutes “heritage” is open to debate.

Read the rest here.

Get Outdoors

A new column at Minnesota Monthly, where we’ll be talking about trail running, ice climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, logrolling and more:

Hunt Jennings had been in town for three days researching Minnehaha Falls, checking the conditions, and monitoring the creek’s water level. On the morning that things looked right, Jennings quickly assembled a local safety crew and, before the park department could stop him, set his boat in the water just above the falls. Within seconds, he paddled over its 53-foot drop to make the first official descent of the cascade. Jennings, who lives in Tennessee but frequents a family cabin in the Boundary Waters, is a professional kayaker—he went to a special high school for kayaking—and knows how to do these things. 

Read the rest here.

Shooting A Year of Sunrises

Recent story from the Star Tribune:

DEFe-8sVYAAA0biLast fall I was staying in Red Wing when I got up early to go for a run on the iconic Barn Bluff towering over the river city. The hill wasn’t far from our hotel and seemed like a good place to watch the sun come up.

When I got to the top, the light was still dim, but I was surprised to find a woman there, silhouetted against the morning sky at the eastern overlook. She had a tripod and a camera pointed at the horizon.

Her name was Ellen Lentsch, a 44-year-old aspiring photographer, and it was her 274th consecutive sunrise on the bluff. She had 93 more before she would accomplish her goal: To photograph the sunrise from that same point every day for a year. Her idea was to put them together to be able to see the sun moving across the sky and back again. She also wanted to capture the moment in all its colors and moods and to cast a familiar sight in a new light.

“The world around us,” she says, “we take it for granted. But if we pause a moment and look around, there’s so much beauty right in our own backyard. I want people to see that. I want people to realize this is not an ugly world.”

Read the rest here.