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Plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky / A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd


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Editor's Letters

Dec 14, 2017

Editor’s Letter. Issue 14. Winter 2017.

“Memory conspires against nature. The forgetting can begin in the instant that a change takes place… if you’re unaware of the animals’ past presence, then their absence will seem perfectly natural, and the question of whales* in the future simply will not occur to you.” J.B. Mackinnon, The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be.

WRITTEN BY

Apoorva Prasad

You can subscribe to the Outdoor Journal here.

As a journalist-turned entrepreneur, I created The Outdoor Journal to inspire people to travel and spend time outdoors — and thus spark a desire to protect the outdoors and nature. So I was a bit befuddled when many readers asked us in a more generic way, “and when will you do trips?”. My initial response was, “there are so many great adventure outfitters out there, why should we do trips?!”. The readers would ask, “well, there are many, but we just don’t know which one to trust…”.

That was when the lightning bolt struck. People wanted the outdoors in their lives, but they did not seek risk — they sought the perfect illusion of risk, of adventure. Simply creating a media platform wasn’t enough — we needed to tie it all together and engineer an online platform capable of not only listing all the existing companies in the adventure travel industry, but also build an transparent system that could objectively promote good actors and eliminate bad actors from, quite literally, our ecosystem. How could we ensure that companies that willfully damage the environment not get unknowing customers, simply because they had a good website with great SEO or used Facebook for digital marketing better than the good companies? How could we help promote businesses that genuinely that cared about their customers, guides and the environment — but didn’t necessarily know how to build a great website or have a credit card payment gateway or reach international customers via all the confounding means of digital marketing that exist today?

In the last century, media businesses were the “platforms” that performed exactly the same function, relying on editorial integrity to recommend the best companies hence the success of the travel guidebooks, in that ancient era. But the 21st century decimation of the media industry by internet giants has created a deeper problem of trust, than reducing it — from fake reviews to fake news, from meddling in democratic elections by foreign agents, to the lack of authenticity in a world driven by optimizing “likes” and clicks.

On the other hand, we wanted to build an ethical, social impact startup, with the goal of using adventure travel as a way to make the world a better place. This vision was recently validated when we won a major grant award from Booking.com, as an early stage startup in sustainable tourism. Now I would like to invite you, our readers who started us on this journey in the first place, to begin your own journeys with the best partners — on OutdoorVoyage.com.

*Ed’s note: or tigers, or lions, or elephants or…

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Mountain

Nov 12, 2018

Crag Caucus: Veterans and Politicians Rock Climb Together with American Alpine Club

The “Hill to Crag” event series connects veterans and legislators on rock climbing excursions to advocate for public lands. AAC Chairman and active-duty US Army Major Byron Harvison serves the beta.

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WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

Since its creation in 1902, climbing advocacy non-profit the American Alpine Club (AAC) has championed protection for the public lands that serve as unrivaled outdoor venues for climbers and other recreators. Their latest outreach program, the “Hill to Crag” initiative, offers lawmakers and their staff a chance to experience these public lands at iconic climbing spots across the nation. The excursions provision local elected officials with a fun day in a harness, a few sore muscles, and a heightened appreciation for public lands to parlay into protective legislature.

Golden, CO. Photo: Chad Vaughn

After the inaugural event in spring 2018, AAC’s Salt Lake Chapter Chair Byron Harvison saw the potential for veterans to contribute. Harvison, an Army Major and experienced climber, felt that veteran involvement could engender open dialogue. Conversations regarding public lands management can be polarizing; Harvison thinks politicians will respond positively to the testimonial of veterans. “Elected officials may be more inclined to hear what veterans have to say,” he says. Likewise, “discharged veterans oftentimes have a desire to continue to serve and this is a great opportunity.”

Golden, CO. Photo: Chad Vaughn

Harvison explains the Hill to Crag stratagem. “First, we talk about outdoor recreation as a way to deal with veteran-specific issues like PTSD, addiction, and depression following deployment,” he extolls. These dialogues are personal and poignant. Harvison focused on rock climbing after an intense deployment in Afghanistan, and he isn’t the only veteran to credit outdoor recreation with healing. “A lot of guys can say ‘Hey, getting outside saved my life’, and they are able to share those raw stories with these legislators,” he adds.

Harvison knows politicians are beholden to monetary interests and thus explicates the value of outdoor recreation on the local and national economy: “Nationally, outdoor recreation has surpassed the oil and gas industry in economic terms.” A recent government report estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $412 billion annually to the US GDP, and Harvison recognizes the potential for the industry to throw its weight around. “We are finding our voice and coming to realize how loud that voice can be,” he explains.

The crux of Harvison’s discourse is the indispensability of public lands protection. “All of these things—the mental health benefits and thriving outdoor economy—hinge on the availability of public lands to recreate on,” he summarizes.

Photo by Byron Harvison from the Golden, CO Hill to Crag event on October 12, 2018.

Chalk it up to smart strategy, productive dialogue, or a bit of crag magic, but the Hill to Crag events have already made an impact. The inaugural excursion in May of 2018 was testimony to the power of storytelling as pedagogy. Members of the AAC and climbing advocacy group the Access Fund brought Utah Congressman John Curtis to rock climbing mecca Joe’s Valley Boulders in Emery County, UT. Harvison explained to the lawmaker that “each climber contributes around $58 per night to the local economy of nearby Castle Dale.” Castle Dale, a tiny town of 3,500, hosts 19,000-25,000 climbers annually from around the world who are drawn to the area’s intricate sandstone boulders. Emery County faces the economic stagnation typical of a declining coal-mining community, but recreational tourism has considerable potential. “Climbing is a sustainable resource,” Harvison enthuses. “We were able to show Curtis the national and international appeal of our public lands.” In July of this year, Curtis proposed the Emery County Public Land Management Act, which would create a National Conservation Area out of the San Rafael Swell, designating over a half-million acres of the redrock desert parcel federally protected wilderness. The proposal juxtaposes nearly every piece of land-grab legislation to emerge from Utah in the past year and wagers on the economic potential of recreational tourism. Curtis’s proposition, on the heels of a Hill to Crag event, is radical in its embrace of public access instead of for-profit enterprise.

Photo by Dillon Parker from the Vedauwoo Recreation Area, WY Hill to Crag event on October 19, 2018.

Perhaps the AAC recognized the aptitude of rock climbing as a metaphor for public lands access when they launched the Hill to Crag program. Central to both climbing and public lands advocacy is an ethos of respect for natural resources and the responsible placing of protections, be them nuts and crams or legislature. The AAC will hold their final adventure of 2018 on November 16 in Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina (pictured in cover photo). Harvison says that the program will launch spring events in Oregon and Montana and has plans for a route bolting clinic in Wyoming after a successful Hill to Crag climb in the state’s Vedauwoo Recreation Area last month. In concert with the Hill to Crag series, the American Alpine Club is also expanding veteran and active-duty military outreach with new discounted club membership options and targeted events.

Special thanks to US Army Major Byron Harvison, who was interviewed for this piece.

Cover photo by dconvertini via Flickr,

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