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M O U NTA I N H AR DW E AR
CONTENTS O U T S I D E M AG A Z I N E 01/02.17
The secret to wellness? Maximize all those daily choices—walk or drive? log in or work out?—that can make or break your health. For decathlete Ashton Eaton, tweaking the little things made the difference between the middle of the pack and two Olympic golds. BY GORDY MEGROZ
In the 1970s, fisherman Raymond Stansel lived large as one of Florida’s biggest pot smugglers. When he got caught and skipped bail, a strange adventure began—life on the lam as a conservationist. BY RICH SCHAPIRO
0 Exit Stage Left
As the Trump administration prepares a very different agenda for public lands, departing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell sits down with CHRISTOPHER KEYES to talk about her legacy and the changes to come.
Tinier Than Thou
Once the cult vision of hipsters and design freaks, the tiny-house movement has grown downright huge. MARK SUNDEEN joins the faithful to see if the simple dream is still alive.
72 A Healthy Dose
These days, Americans are taking psychedelics like ayahuasca not to get high, but as part of a new self-help craze. GRAYSON SCHAFFER dismissed it, ridiculed it, and then tried it. He’s never felt better in his life.
7 The Detective of Northern Oddities
In a mammalian version of CSI: Alaska, Kathy Burek is a veterinary pathologist who slices open whales and polar bears to determine cause of death. What her necropsies reveal is a truly disturbing picture of the warming North. BY CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON
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COVER AND THIS PAGE, PHOTOGRAPHS BY
COVER AND THIS PAGE: STYLING BY VICTORIA MESENBRINK FOR ASSIGNMENT AGENCY; GROOMING BY KELLY PEACH
2 Feel the Noise
Ah, wilderness, where the wind whispers through the pines and the iHome rechargeable mini speaker cranks out Drake and 38 Special. This is bliss to CHUCK THOMPSON, who makes no apologies (well, maybe a few) for bringing tech into the woods.
P RO VE N FAS TE R & S TRO N GE STRO GER O N T O U G H PA I N T H A N E X T R A S T R E N G T H T Y L E N O L . ®
M A K E PA I N A D I S TA N T M E M O R Y.
Use as directed.
© Pfizer 2016. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
“Human history is a list of things that couldn’t be done and then . —BOYAN SLAT, PAGE 20
6 Exposure 14 Between the Lines 96 Parting Shot
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First Look: A 22-year-old from the Netherlands has a bold idea for getting plastic debris out of our oceans. It just might work. Media: The radical quest to live a simpler life. Mountaineering: Climbing the world’s most dangerous peak. In winter. Epic: Seven marathons on seven continents— what does it take to survive the greatest running event on the planet?
Icon: Jimmy Chin’s tricks for staying way ahead of the curve.
Wanted: A motorized bigwheel for grown-up kids. Outfitted: Ski setups for big days at the resort and in the backcountry. Spectrum: Footwear that’s part boot, part sneaker, and all beautiful. Upgrade: Tailgate like a pro. Style: Women’s coldweather fitness apparel.
Southeast Asia: Get off the backpacking trail with these wild escapes, from cycling among forgotten temples in Laos, to freediving with whale sharks in Indonesia, to surfing and yoga in Sri Lanka. Base Camp: Kicking back in the olive groves on the edge of California’s Los Padres mountains. Go List: Dog-friendly lodging, and a ski bag way better than its name.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: MICHEL PORRO/CONTOUR BY GETTY; DUSTIN SAMMANN; HANNAH MCCAUGHEY. ON MADELEINE: NEW KATRON VEST, CAT LADY RACERBACK BRA, AND LUX ARM WARMERS BY OISELLE.
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Koreski was on a late-summer job at the Nimmo Bay Resort in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest when he ran into Adrien Mullin, one of the resort’s guides. Mullin had just spotted a pristine alpine lake during a helicopter tour and wanted to go back and explore it. When the two arrived, freediving gear in tow, they found clear blue water that was more than 100 feet deep. Shortly after jumping in, Koreski, who lives on Vancouver Island, captured this splitlevel shot of Mullin. “The water looked tropical, and then above you saw snow-covered mountains,” Koreski says. “It was surreal.” THE TOOLS: Canon EOS-1D X, 15mm fish-eye lens, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/500 second
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On the second day of a ski trip last March, the Swiss Alps provided Doran and a small group of skiers with perfect conditions—blue skies and a foot of fresh snow. The team hiked to a bowl on the edge of the Adelboden ski area to take advantage of the previous day’s sizable dump. Doran, who lives in Breckenridge, Colorado, shot American Sven Brunso coming down the face of Seewlehorn Peak. “The relief there was just massive,” Doran says. “You really feel small in the Swiss Alps.” THE TOOLS: Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 10–20mm f/3.5, ISO 200, f/9, 1/1,250 second
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EXPOSURE Andrew Strain
Last spring, after traveling 30 hours from Whistler, British Columbia, Strain landed in Akureyri, in northern Iceland, and immediately boarded a helicopter bound for the mountains of the Hidden Land Peninsula. Strain was exhausted, but when you get a chance to heli-ski in Iceland with Olympic snowboarders, “you do what you can to stay awake,” says the 32-yearold photographer. Strain watched Scotty Lago and Greg Bretz shred a line down a long ridge, and when they stopped to wait for the helicopter near the shadow of the peak they’d just descended, he knew he had a good shot. “I didn’t direct them, they just ended up there,” he says. “It’s such a simple composition.” THE TOOLS: Nikon D810, 70–200mm f/4 lens, ISO 200, f/8, 1/1,000 second
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X P T: The Experience A new Original Series from OutsideTV starring legendary waterman Laird Hamilton, and his wife - Gabrielle Reece. Based on the training methods around the Breathe » Move » Recover philosophy, XPT: The Experience documents the XPT team and key participants as WKH\VHHNWRLPSURYHRYHUDOO´WQHVVWKDWUHVXOWVLQDEHWWHUOLIHVW\OH
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Outside Turns 40
“Each person is born into a wilderness, and I believe instinctively returns to it for peace of mind, challenge, and reward.” Those are the words of our founder, Lawrence J. Burke, taken from his editor’s letter in the debut issue of Mariah, a “quarterly journal of wilderness expedition” that would eventually merge with another recently launched adventure title, Outside, to become the magazine you hold in your hands today. Or perhaps it’s a phone you’re reading this on. Since premiering in 1977, our mission to inspire active participation in the world outside hasn’t changed, but the media landscape we operate in has been anything but static. Back then we delivered print stories four times a year to your mailbox; now you can find our ever expanding offerings—stories, photo galleries, videos, newsletters, television episodes, podcasts,
Facebook and Instagram posts, tweets, and more— anywhere digital media is consumed. This month we begin a year of celebrating our 40th anniversary, using all those avenues to present a unique look at Outside’s past, present, and future. There’s a lot of accumulated history to mine, and we’re excited to reconnect you with some of the characters that have defined our brand and fill you in on our continuing efforts to evolve. For starters, you can look to our rebuilt masthead, which now blends our digital and print editorial teams in one space, a more accurate depiction of the way we create stories across platforms. On page 28, you’ll find a profile of Jimmy Chin, the first in our yearlong Icons series—an Outside Hall of Fame for the athletes and thinkers who have had the biggest impact in the world of sports, business, and adventure we cover. Many of these Icons will also be featured each month on Outside Television on our ongoing Outlook program. (Chin’s episode debuts January 14.) Finally, in January on Outside Online, you’ll find the first installment of our monthly Top 40 anniversary lists—a collection of highly opinionated pieces sure to spark some hate mail. There’s more, of course, but we won’t bore you with a year’s worth of navel gazing. We know that anniversaries tend to matter more to us than to readers. But 40 years? The fact that we’re not just still alive but thriving makes this a milestone worth celebrating. —CHRISTOPHER KEYES (
Ray Stansel in police custody, 1974
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To report his story about a wanted American marijuana smuggler turned Australian tour-boat captain named Raymond Stansel (“Long Gone,” page 54), New York City writer Rich Schapiro flew 32 hours to Daintree, Stansel’s adopted hometown in rural Far
North Queensland, population 150. On his fourth day there, a farmer invited him on a feral-pig hunt. Schapiro is usually game for authentic experiences, but something about the offer gave him pause. He soon learned that the hunt would have him following dogs into the bush as they sniffed out and surrounded the hogs,
For October’s “Get Fat,” fitness writer T. J. Murphy waded knee-deep into the debate over the ketogenic diet, an edgy approach to weight loss that may overturn decades of wisdom about human metabolism and the risks of high-fat foods. Or it might just make people sick. Many of you chimed in. I’m not denying that a keto diet can increase fat loss, but I am saying that there are safe ways to achieve the same results, mainly caloric monitoring and restriction. If the medical community strongly advises against excluding food groups and adding unnecessary amounts of fat, then I tend to believe them.
the ketogenic diet a try. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it works! It ended up saving my life, putting some serious autoimmune issues I was suffering from into complete remission.
This summer— after doing the research, listening to critics, and weighing my options—I gave
TRAIN IN BLOOD
Vancouver, British Columbia
which can weigh more than 200 pounds. “Once the party reaches the quarry, a spear is brought out,” Schapiro says. “Only the most experienced hunters can land a fatal head
El Centro, California
A diet that revolves around bacon? Yes! Saranac Lake, New York
I know that if I’m eating well, drinking lots of water, getting >
blow in one try. I was told that it’s almost always a bloody, loud, and messy encounter. Needless to say, I passed on the opportunity—and steered clear of bacon for the rest of the trip.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: GRAYSON SCHAFFER; JAMES DAY/GALLERY STOCK; FRANK ROSS/TAMPA TRIBUNE
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LINES This month in Outside history: 1982, when skis were skinny and tops were tight.
San Francisco, California
I just finished my first two weeks and have another two to four left at the Gulf Breeze, Florida, location of Exos, profiled in Nick Heil’s “Surrender to the Higher Powers.” Every day when I leave, I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus! Their tactical rehab program for law enforcement and special ops is no joke. It’s life changing. JON RODMAN
West Palm Beach, Florida
Facebook Comment of the Month: John Elliott Just. Stop. With. The. Vans. Like Reply Oct 11, 2016 at 11:38pm
What We’re Watching
This month, Outside Television premieres XPT: Breathe, Move, Recover. Watch as former MMA fighter Kyle Kingsbury, John McGinley (a.k.a. Dr. Cox on Scrubs), and others try out Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton’s training philosophy.
Chuck Thompson’s Writing Playlist
In his essay about our increasing use of digital technology in the outdoors (“Feel the Noise,” page 62), Thompson confesses that he now regularly brings his iPod and a mini speaker into the wilderness so he can jam out in nature. Given this habit, we asked him what he listened to during each stage of the writing process.
The Photo Says It All
For “A Healthy Dose” (page 72), editor at large Grayson Schaffer participated in a neo-shamanic ayahuasca ceremony, in which he ingested the psychedelic substance dimethyltryptamine, an illegal Schedule I drug. How did the experience change him? These before and after photos speak for themselves.
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Brainstorming “In a Room,” by Dodgy “Nineties British rock gets anything started right.” Research “The Magic Clap,” by the Coup “I rely on songs that sound good when they’re played really loud. That way I’m able to distract myself from the tedium.”
First Draft Nothing “I need total silence to write.” Editing “Queen of the Slipstream,” by Van Morrison “It doesn’t get in the way.” Final Draft “Drink in My Hand,” by Eric Church “A good job-welldone song.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LEVI BROWN; COURTESY OF OUTSIDE TELEVISION; COURTESY OF GRAYSON SCHAFFER; JEFF LIPSKY
sleep, exercising, and not coming down with a cold, then I’m healthy. I probably wouldn’t get the at-home blood tests described in “Know Thyself,” but I could understand doing so if I was an athlete and wanted to optimize my training and reach peak performance. It’s a lot cheaper than going to a doctor.
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Black Diamond Ambassador Tobin Seagel and Jen Reddy earning turns in Grand Teton National Park. Mark Fisher | Adam Clark
Smells Worse than Fishy During the month he spent shadowing veterinary pathologist Kathy Burek for “The Detective of Northern Oddities” (page 78), contributing editor Christopher Solomon inhaled the intense stench
of numerous dead animals as Burek sliced and diced them for her reports. “My most lasting impression of this assignment was Burek’s dedication and professionalism,” he says. “The next most lasting impression was of the smells she encounters in her work.” Just how
nasty was it? We asked Solomon to rank the fumes of death alongside other foul odors he has endured in the course of his travels. 1. Tidal-flat necropsy with Burek of a week-old, sun-ripened beluga whale fetus. 2. A hostel room in Chamonix with
a memorably rank Frenchman. 3. Second necropsy with Burek, of a 74-pound moose calf in a University of Alaska lab. 4. The hallway of the Alta Peruvian Lodge in Utah where lodgers line up their wet ski boots. 5. Sarajevo bars back when smoking was still allowed.
“This subculture, although it seemed to be about nifty gadgets and Murphy beds, was at its heart the expression of our longing to .
World’s Greatest (For Now)
In “24-Hour Fitness” (page 46), we call Ashton Eaton “the greatest athlete alive.” It’s not the first time we’ve made that declaration. Looking back at recent issues, we found several premature coronations. Naturally, we decided to pit them against one another in a thoroughly scientific throwdown to determine the absolute best of the best. ROUND ONE Ashton Eaton (Jan/Feb 2017) vs. Two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist
Trey Hardee (July 2012) Two-time decathlon world champion
WINNER: Ashton Eaton The current Olympic champ bested Hardee at the 2012 London Games.
Lance Armstrong (July 2005) Seven Tour de France “victories”
Sled dogs (March 2010) Perennial Iditarod heroes
WINNER: Sled dogs Even at his juiced-up peak, Armstrong’s VO2 max topped out at around 85. Sled dogs: 200.
ROUND TWO Ashton Eaton vs. Sled dogs WINNER: Sled dogs We’d love to see Eaton run 50 sub-four-minute miles in a row. In the snow. Pulling a sled.
Go With Us
Winter is the best time to take to the high South Pacific seas. Outside GO’s new tenday cruise through Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago aboard the 112-foot, five-cabin Tiger Blue will have you fishing for a dinner of freshly caught ceviche, snorkeling with stingrays in one of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs, and indulging in watersports like wakeboarding and kayaking before hitting the beach for cocktails and barbecue. Learn more at outsidego.com.
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TECHTOPIA We’re sending intrepid technology reporter Brent Rose to Las Vegas in search of the best adventure tools and toys at the massive 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. Look for his field reports starting January 5.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: MICHAEL STEELE/GETTY; TIM DE WAELE/CORBIS VIA GETTY; COURTESY OF GOPRO; COURTESY OF TIGER BLUE; JULIAN FINNEY/GETTY; CALVIN HALL/GETTY
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NEWS F R O M
T H E
Boyan Slat wants to remove half the Pacific Ocean’s plastic within a decade.
FI R S T LO O K
The Crowdfunded Conservationist
HAS A YOUNG DUTCHMAN FOUND THE SOLUTION TO ALL THAT PLASTIC IN OUR OCEANS?
by Andrew S. Lewis the Dutch coast, near the top of a concrete high-rise in downtown Delft, is a palatial glasswalled office better suited to Silicon Valley than a 13th-century city. The building is home to the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation created in 2013 that is hoping to deploy a giant 62-milewide filtration device in the Pacific Ocean, the initial step in an effort to rid the seas of plastic. When I visited the Netherlands last June for the
TEN MILES FROM
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launch of a scaled-down prototype, I found the CEO, 22-year-old Boyan Slat, slumped in a cubicle. His shaggy hair gave him the look of either a boy-band star or an eccentric genius, depending on your opinion of him— and these days there are a few. Slat is a new breed of environmentalist: young, crowdfunded, and tired of waiting around for government solutions. Still, he’s less a traditional ocean conservationist than a natural continued > PHOTOGRAPH PHOTOGRAPH BY Tktktktk BY Michel Tktktktktk Porro
DISPATCHES engineer. When he was 12, he set a Guinness World Record for the most water rockets launched simultaneously: 213. Slat’s inner environmentalist didn’t come alive until he was 16, when he began scuba diving on a trip to Greece. Expecting to see an array of sea creatures, he instead saw a slew of plastic trash. The experience was life changing. Slat, who would soon drop out of Delft University of Technology to focus on the issue full-time, remembers thinking, This plastic problem, I want to know more about it. The news was grim. About nine million tons of plastic waste makes its way into the oceans each year—by 2050, plastic will outweigh fish. Making matters worse, much of the debris has been broken down by wind, waves, and sun into tiny microplastics, which are extremely difficult to remove. As Slat’s obsession grew, he gravitated to the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast area between Hawaii and the North American continent, where it has been estimated that 170,000 tons of plastic rubbish
“Even if we stopped producing plastics today,” Slat says, “oceanborn microplastics will increase twentyfold over the next few decades if we don’t do anything.” swirl in the currents. He contacted marine engineers, scientists, and experts to talk about cleaning up the Garbage Patch. Everyone told him the problem was unsolvable. Dozens of other entrepreneurs were also searching for a solution, to no avail. A breakthrough came when he discovered the work of American oceanographers Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham, who, in the 1990s, tracked the movement of a lost consignment of 29,000 rubber bath toys as they floated across the Pacific, corralled by the current. If ocean flotsam remained grouped together, says Slat, “why can’t you just stay put and let the plastic come to you?” In 2013, Slat developed the Ocean Cleanup Array, a moored, 62-mile V-shaped floating barrier (think of a giant pool noodle with a five-foot fin extending below the water’s surface), which will lie across a plastic-laced stretch of Pacific current and funnel the trash to its vertex, where a silo-like receptacle will then catch and store the debris. The barrier, Slat says, will reduce the Garbage Patch by half in less than a decade. Early estimates put the cost of the array at $330 million. After a TED Talk Slat gave in 2013 went viral, he launched his first crowdfunding campaign, raising $80,000 in 15 days. A second effort, in 2014, brought in $2.1 million from 38,000 donors, including $600,000 from the Dutch government.
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At his office in Delft, no one seemed concerned that, apart from the prototype, the barrier remains conceptual (its launch is scheduled for late 2020), nor were they bothered by the Ocean Cleanup’s partnership with fossil-fuel giants Boskalis and SBM Offshore, which are contributing materials and engineering expertise. “We’re trying to get the point across that we can’t just not talk to them,” said 31-year-old Bruno Sainte-Rose, the project’s lead computation modeler, referring to other big industry players. “If they come with a couple of million dollars, we’re interested.” Not surprisingly, the Ocean Cleanup’s funding philosophy and lofty goals have met with criticism. Kim Martini, a University of Washington oceanographer who often satirizes what she sees as Slat’s boyish naiveté on the blog Deep Sea News, has written the project off as unfeasible, due to concerns about the prototype. Marcus Eriksen goes even further, suggesting that the Ocean Cleanup could do more harm than good, diverting resources from efforts to keep plastics out of the ocean in the first place. Eriksen cofounded the 5 Gyres Institute, a Culver City, California, nonprofit that focuses on activism, research, and education, to fight plastic pollution at the corporate and government level. He says the problem has been described inaccurately, thanks in part
to organizations like the Ocean Cleanup. “It’s not a patch, and it’s not a soup either,” Eriksen told me. “It’s a plastic smog. And like the smog in our atmosphere, just cleaning it up is not a viable solution.” He believes money and effort should go toward policy instead of what he considers pie-in-the-sky innovation. “When the Clean Air Act came into play, it set high standards for what’s tolerable in terms of emission controls. You saw gasguzzlers come off the roads, standards for coal-burning plants, corporations innovate. There was no one saying, ‘Let’s suck carbon out of the atmosphere.’ ” Slat regards his critics the way a teenager greets parents who just don’t get it. “Even if we stopped producing plastics today, oceanborn microplastics will still increase twentyfold or more over the next few decades if we don’t do anything,” he told me. We were in the galley of the Estrella, a battered fishing boat hired for the day to ferry a scrum of journalists out to witness the 328-foot prototype’s mooring in the North Sea, 14 miles from the Dutch coast. It was dawn, and the faint silhouettes of wind turbines were visible on a stormy horizon. Slat apologized for the plastic cup that held my steaming coffee. “It’s everywhere,” he said, wringing his hands. “Human history is a list of things that couldn’t be done and then were done,” he continued. “The way you advance a technological society is to try things—to be controversial and contrarian in your thinking in order to get to something that eventually people say, ‘I told you it was a great idea.’ ” Three months later, the prototype was pulled from the water for maintenance after engineers detected damage from heavy wind and waves. “When ideas are confronted with reality,” Slat wrote on the Ocean Cleanup’s website, “there will always be surprises.” O
PREVIOUS PAGE: CONTOUR BY GETTY. THIS PAGE: COURTESY OF THE OCEAN CLEANUP.
Testing a prototype of the Ocean Cleanup Array in the North Sea last summer
ALSO ON OUR NIGHTSTAND
Three Other Can’t-Miss Books Out This Month At the End of the World, by Lawrence Millman ($25, Thomas Dunne) Millman, an Outside contributor, dives deep on a string of brutal Inuit murders in 1941 and uses them to highlight the way technology is altering the natural world. The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, by Tim Moore ($27, Pegasus) One of Britain’s funniest travel writers grabs a bike, starts riding in Norway, and pedals 5,300 miles through the former Soviet Union. New-school homesteaders Olivia Hubert and Greg Willerer in Detroit
What Doesn’t Kill Us, by Scott Carney ($27, Rodale) With “bodyhacking” catching on across the globe, Carney talks to the experts and then uses himself as a guinea pig.
Lives Well Lived
IN AN ALWAYS-CONNECTED SOCIETY, THE URGE TO UNPLUG . .
by Blair Braverman was anguished about the sacrifices of modern life, from marriage—prioritizing someone else’s interests, living in just one place instead of dirt-bagging around the West—to the challenge of choosing between far too many brands of butter at the supermarket. So he sought out people who’d chosen paths of radical simplicity and integrity, those who held true to their principles even when it made life just plain difficult. The resulting book, The Unsettlers ($26, Riverhead), profiles three couples in fastmoving detail, starting with the decision to reject mainstream life and bearing witness to their struggles along the way, in each case ending on a moment when that idealism is put to the test. We first meet Ethan and Sarah, founders of a self-sufficient community in rural Missouri called the Possibility Alliance, who are
COURTESY OF KATHLEEN HENSLEY
AUTHOR MARK SUNDEEN
so steadfast in their beliefs that they won’t even ride in a car; then there’s Olivia and Greg, urban farmers in Detroit who envision reinventing the local food system (and who— spoiler alert—resist the seduction of selling to Whole Foods); and finally come Steve and Luci, food activists in Montana whose acceptance of parts of the modern world is framed, though perhaps not explicitly, against the previous couples’ pursuit of perfection. “By living within limits,” Sundeen writes of all three, “they find the sort of abundance that so many of us long for.” Their stories aren’t simple, just like growing one’s own food and building shelter from scratch are about as far from simple as a person can get. In The Unsettlers, “simplicity” instead serves as shorthand for clarity of purpose, difficult work, and unrelenting responsibilities. It’s about renouncing a prepackaged existence for the true labor of tend-
ing land, growing food, and building families. “When I get to make something myself with natural materials and simple tools, of course it’s hard work and it takes time, but the crafting itself becomes a spiritual experience,” Sarah says. Steve is less prone to poetics. To his sons’ laments about the farm demanding constant work, he says, “They have a fucking hockey rink.” Sundeen’s voice is wary and personal, and his reporting is compelling. But the motivation behind it—his ambivalence about settling down with the love of his life—never quite gels with the rest of the book, particularly because the institution of marriage remains unquestioned even as he picks apart others. (The couples view themselves as revolutionaries, yet they’re all married, hetero, and have children—the nuclear family tackles the frontier.) Still, look past the conceptual stuff and the book takes on some important topics: using fewer resources, growing your own food, and pursuing an anticorporate existence. Like marriage, these are acts of radical commitment. Each is a renunciation, whether to people, land, or ideals. Life’s deepest pleasures come hard, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth working for. 0 1 /0 2 . 1 7
THE NORTH RIDGE Opposite the Abruzzi Spur. Due to frequent avalanches, it’s rarely climbed. But in early 2003, a team of Poles, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Georgians used the ridge to get to 25,098 feet, the highest anyone has reached in winter.
THE VERT K2’s steepness makes the climbing more difficult than on other high peaks—and the retreat harder when things go wrong.
HAZARD THE STORMS “Compared with other 8,000-meter peaks, K2 has a lot more clouds and precipitation,” says Madison. Generally, there’s only a day or two of good weather to make a summit push, and even then winds at the top can exceed 100 mph.
THE ABRUZZI SPUR ROUTE In summer this is the “easiest” way up. But, says Russian mountaineer Denis Urubko, “in winter conditions, this route could be more difficult than others.” Exposure to the wind makes for slow, dangerous travel. Still, two of the three previous winter attempts followed the spur. Neither made it higher than 23,950 feet.
The Winter of Our Discontent HOW DO YOU MAKE CLIMBING THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST MOUNTAIN HARDER? DO IT .
THE COLD K2 is part of the Karakoram range, which sits significantly farther north than the Himalayas. With wind chill, you can expect temperatures down to minus 80 degrees— much colder than Everest.
by Marcello Rossi LAST FEBRUARY,
Italian alpinist Simone Moro led a team to the top of Nanga Parbat, in the western Himalayas, leaving K2 as the only 8,000-meter peak without a winter ascent. “There’s a reason for that,” says Garrett Madison, who operates Madison Mountaineering and has climbed K2 once. “It’s by far the most challenging.” Only 386 people have made it to the
top of the 28,251foot mountain, compared with 7,604 on Mount Everest; one person dies for every four who summit. So far, three winter attempts have failed, felled by biting temperatures, minimal daylight, erratic storms, and teetering seracs. Moro would be a good bet to finally succeed—he’s notched four first winter ascents of 8,000-meter peaks—were it
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not for one thing: in 2011, his wife dreamed he died on K2, and he has vowed never to attempt it. Here’s a look at who might, the hazards they’ll face, and their likely routes.
The Cast KRZYSZTOF WIELICKI Polish, 67 In February 1980, Wielicki summited Everest, becoming the first to make an off-season ascent of an 8,000er, and has since added Kangchenjunga and Lhotse to that list. He was a member of two failed winter expeditions to K2, in 1988 and 2003. “I want to settle my account with the mountain,” he says.
DENIS URUBKO Russian, 43 Urubko made the first winter ascents of Gasherbrum II and Makalu with Simone Moro. Now he wants to tick off K2. He was on a failed winter expedition in 2003, and in 2014 he tried to raise money for another trip but fell short of his goal.
A Brief History of the Savage Mountain
The first attempt on K2, made by a group of English and Swiss mountaineers.
Italian climbers Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli are the first to reach the summit.
Pole Andrzej Zawada leads the first winter expedition on the mountain.
Wielicki heads up the second winter attempt.
A group of nine Russians make the third winter attempt.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: GOOGLE EARTH; CORY RICHARDS/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE; STEFAN NESTLER
Around the World in 183 Miles
ONLY AN INSANE PERSON WOULD EMBARK ON A SEVEN-DAY, SEVEN-CONTINENT . .
by Graham Averill THE WORLD MARATHON Challenge may be the greatest running event you’ve never heard of. This January, more than 35 runners will travel via charter plane to knock out 26.2-mile runs in Chile, Miami, Madrid, Marrakesh, Dubai, Australia, and, yes, Antarctica. “You’re racing against top athletes in harsh conditions, ranging from the tundra to blazing-hot streets,” says first-timer Michael Wardian, 42, a pro ultrarunner who’s completed some of the sport’s toughest events. “It’s awesome.” The first two iterations of the WMC featured modest fields; just nine men and one woman raced in 2015. That may be because it’s so expensive—the entry fee is nearly $40,000. But the event is gaining traction, pulling in big-name runners like Wardian and Ryan
Hall, who holds the American record for the fastest half marathon. (Wardian is paying his own way, but Hall’s sponsors are picking up his tab.) “I was retired and not even enjoying running very much when I heard about the WMC,” Hall says. “But the concept drew me in. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” While Wardian has a knack for odd challenges like this one (he holds the world record for the fastest 50K on a treadmill), the WMC is completely out of Hall’s comfort zone. “It never even crossed my mind to run backto-back marathons before,” the 34-year-old Olympian says. Running 183.4 miles in 168 hours will obviously be difficult, but race director Richard
Donovan says all that continent hopping is the true hurdle. Flights between stages range from two hours (Madrid to Marrakesh) to a cramp-inducing 17 (Dubai to Sydney), and runners will have to adjust their recovery patterns as they go. Competitors spend only 12 to 14 hours on each continent, and that includes the time it takes to clear customs. The WMC kicks off at its most extreme location—Antarctica, where runners must spend 48 hours adjusting to the temperature (average: 16 degrees). After that the group fly to Chile and do it all again, no matter what time they happen to land. (Last year the Marrakesh marathon started at midnight.) You can follow their progress at worldmarathonchallenge.com.
BY THE NUMBERS
Fastest total time, set by Dan Cartica in 2016.
Temperature athletes are likely to encounter in Antarctica, the lowest in the event.
77 ° F
Temperature they can expect in Australia and Dubai—the highest.
Number of hours participants have to complete the race.
4. Madrid, Spain
Total air miles covered during the event.
2. Punta Arenas, Chile 1. Union Glacier, Antarctica
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6. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
5. Marrakesh, Morocco
7. Sydney, Australia
3. Miami, Florida
< Clockwise from top left: Chinâ€™s New York Times Magazine cover; with wife Chai and daughter Marina; rooftop shoot, Chicago; Meru poster; in Outside, 2014; with Conrad Anker, Galen Rowell, and Rick Ridgeway in Tibet, 2002; in GQ; on Mount Everest in 2006
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adventure tools, tested & reviewed adventure tools tested & reviewed
Peter Godlewski, inventor of the RUNGU ELECTRIC JUGGERNAUT, has gotten used to the befuddled grins he gets from other riders when he rolls up on his ridiculous-looking e-trike, with its massive—dare we say goofy?—4.8-inch front tires. “This is not a bicycle,” he tells them. “This is an ATV.” Our testing backs that up. Designed for rumbling over sand and snow, the 90-pound beast had us charging up steep hills like we were redlining a monster truck. Cruising fire roads full of rocks and pumice in Mammoth Lakes, California, was pure fun. Those double fatties up front offer a trifecta of performance advantages, providing float on gravel and in powdery glades, making crashing almost impossible, and enabling enormous GS turns on Mammoth’s Main Street. On dry pavement, leaning into a 90-degree turn meant flying one front wheel off the ground. We also had a blast cruising the boulevards of Los Angeles, where the 2,100-watt pedal-assist motor let us cruise at up to 28 miles per hour, making it easier to stay abreast of traffic. Ridiculous? Yes. Ridiculously entertaining? Hell yes. $3,299
THE ULTIMATE WINTER TOY FOR BIG KIDS
by Stephen Krcmar
Introducing the new Golf Alltrack with 4MOTION® all-wheel drive. Soon to be everywhere. Let’s rethink dirt. Because with dirt also comes green grass, tall trees, and roads far less traveled. That’s why we equipped the Golf Alltrack with 4MOTION all-wheel drive and an Off-Road Mode*, so you can go out there and seize the beauty of this dirt-covered world, get your wheels muddy, and wash off all that civilization. After all, dirt is the greatest of cleansers.
*Optional accessories shown. Always ensure that your vehicle is equipped with appropriate tires and equipment and always adjust your speed and driving style to the road, terrain, traffic, and weather conditions. See Owner’s Manual for further details and important limitations. ©2016 Volkswagen of America, Inc.
adventure tools, tested & reviewed
It’s All Downhill
THE ULTIMATE TOP-TO-BOTTOM KIT FOR RESORT LAPS
by Axie Navas
a. Smith Vantage helmet $220 The Vantage is a standout performer, with a protective honeycomb polymer and a low profile. b. Kastle BMX 105 HP skis $1,249 At 105 millimeters underfoot, this is a solid daily driver for western skiers. A silver fir core and hollow tips keep it relatively playful.
Marmot Torbin Half Zip $120 Base layers don’t get much cozier than the Torbin, which is made from a mix of brushed and regular fleece.
c. Giro Contact goggles $240 We could rave about the superfast lens-swap system or the insanely wide field of view through top-notch glass. But we really love the Contact for its bigmountain steeze.
d. Truck M2 gloves $65 The M2’s check both the durability and warmth boxes, with tough four-waystretch nylon and goat leather built around PrimaLoft Gold synthetic fill.
e. Nordica Speed Machine 130 boots $799 These stiff, 130degree-flex boots are ideal for hard chargers who want ultimate precision. The secret: the fit system, which uses infrared heat to quickly mold the shell to your foot.
g. Flylow Chemical pants $340 These tough threelayer pants, with reinforced knees and cuffs, should outlast every other item you ski in. Ample venting along the thighs keeps them comfortable in a range of climes.
f. Original Buff Android Jones $20 Buff has singlehandedly evolved the humble neck gaiter. Its trippiest design to date is based on works by Boulder-born digital artist Android Jones.
h. Smartwool Men’s PhD Ski Light Elite socks $24 It’s tough to beat this blend of merino and synthetic fibers for the best mix of warmth, plushness, and sturdiness.
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Soul Poles Limited Edition $350 These handmade bamboo sticks don’t boast high-tech carbon-fiber anything. But they look and feel fantastic.
Faction Mitchell jacket $309 All the cool kids wear Faction. Makes sense when shells like the Mitchell offer style and resort-centric features (like a high, fleece-lined collar) at a digestible price.
O UTF IT T ED
The Other Side of the Mountain BACKCOUNTRY GEAR TO MAKE CLIMBS EASIER AND DESCENTS FUNNER
by Grayson Schaffer
a. POC Fornix Backcountry MIPS helmet $210 POC has taken the brain-protecting MIPS system and put it in a backcountry-specific helmet that weighs just shy of a pound. Adjustable vents ensure you don’t get too clammy. b. La Sportiva Vapor Float skis $1,299 At just three pounds per ski, the carbon Vapor Floats are nearly a third lighter than similar lollipopshaped powder planks, meaning you work less on the way up and fly more on the way down.
Patagonia Snowdrifter 30L pack $169 With all the focus on airbags, it’s good to remember that most days you just need a slim, wellbuilt ski carrier that fits lunch and layers.
c. Elevenate Bec de Rosses pants $1,500 Named for the famed freeride mountain in Verbier, these top-end bottoms from Swedish outerwear upstart Elevenate feature three-layer Gore-Tex and a look that’s pure athleticism.
d. G3 Ion LT bindings $549 Yes, they’re featherweight (a svelte 1.5 pounds each), but G3’s lightest bindings drive the fattest pow skis with authority. e. Eddie Bauer IgniteLite Flux Hooded jacket $249 The IgniteLite is a slimmed-down, airpermeable midlayer that vents on uphill slogs, with cushy synthetic insulation that keeps you warm on the descents. f. Arc’teryx Alpha AR gloves $189 The Alpha ARs combine Arc’teryx’s unbeatable finger articulation and weatherproofing with an over-thecuff design for maximum protection.
g. Black Diamond Pieps Micro beacon $390 Finally, a beacon the size of a smartphone. It still has three antennae for accuracy and an effective range of 328 feet. h. G3 Scala climbing skins $209 Scaled skins deliver more glide, but they don’t fold or store well in your pack. G3 solves that problem by using a hybrid construction, with plastic scales up front and pliable nylon hairs everywhere else.
Dynafit Beast Carbon boots $900 Dynafit nails powerful descents with the rigid, carbon-fiber, 3.2-pound Beast. It even has streamlined buckles for less drag.
i. Columbia OutDry Ex Diamond Snow shell $425 Columbia adapted its bomber waterproof shell for the slopes, adding an adjustable powder skirt and a drop tail for deep days.
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adventure tools, tested & reviewed
Traeger Tailgater grill $450 Small proportions aside, this puppy has plenty of room for 12 hamburgers or a few racks of ribs. A thermostat keeps the temperature even for baking or smoking, and the arms fold down for the ride to and from the hill.
The New School of Tailgating WHAT WORKS WELL BEFORE THE BIG GAME WORKS EVEN BETTER AFTER A DAY OF SKIING
by Jakob Schiller
Heritage Foods USA Boston pork butt $116 Start smoking this purebred Berkshire pork before the lifts close to ensure a thorough cook. Its exceptional fat and juiciness mean youâ€™ll win aprĂ¨s every time.
Yeti Brick bottle opener $50 This stainlesssteel top popper weighs nearly a pound, making quick work of flimsy caps.
Alite Meadow Waterproof blanket $60 Unfurl this handy waterproof mat for a dry platform to change out of your ski boots. The bright pattern adds a touch of flare.
Pelican 50 QT Elite cooler $350 Pelican made its name constructing bombproof cases for high-end cameras. It had no problem expanding into indestructible ice chests that keep beer Arctic cold while happily bouncing around in the back of your truck.
Big Agnes Helinox beach chair $150 Yes, a beach chair in winter. The extra back height makes this seat significantly more comfortable than the cargo area of your Subaru.
Cornhole Worldwide Stained Striped Hardwood $200 Cornhole is our favorite parkinglot game: one hand tosses while the other holds the beer. This attractive set is ideal for winter, thanks to the hardy stained and sealed wood.
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S P E C TRUM
High and Dry
STYLISH SNEAKER-BOOT HYBRIDS THAT KEEP YOUR FEET HAPPY ALL WINTER LONG
by Peter Koch
Vans SK8-Hi MTE $85 The MTE stands for Mountain Edition, a hint that this skater high-top is for more than popping ollies. A Scotchgardtreated leather and suede upper and an insulated liner keep the cold out, and the vulcanized sole offers beefy traction.
Ridgemont Outfitters Heritage $159 The Heritage may be inspired by the rigid alpine footwear of yesteryear, but it has an easy-walking outsole—flexible in the forefoot for comfort, stiffer from arch to heel for stability. Throw in a waterproof membrane and it’s not so backwardlooking after all.
Lowa Seattle GTX Qc $210 With a Gore-Tex liner and Lowa’s ingenious footbed— every step expels heat and moisture from tiny perforations in the cuff— this sophisticated leather- and wooltrimmed brogan prevents damp toes.
Merrell Sugarbush Waterproof $230 Named for the maple groves filling the Vermont valley where Merrell was born 35 years ago, the Sugarbush melds the latest tech (a waterproof layer, breathable antimicrobial lining, and grippy Vibram outsole) with a timeless look. Tretorn Gill $120 A cross between a high-top canvas sneaker and a weatherproof duck boot, the Gill benefits from Tretorn’s European legacy and century-plus of design experience. Those combine in an understated street shoe that can slog through slush and puddles without letting in a drop.
Forsake Trail $150 The Trail was made for flirting with dirt, with chunky directional lugs, a debrisshedding gusseted tongue, and a waterproof membrane. But unlike traditional hikers, this leather and suede beauty has undeniable urban style and the soft ride of a plush EVA midsole.
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ST Y L E STYLING BY BLAIR ANDERSON
WOMEN ON THE RUN
WINTER’S ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE LAYERING SYSTEM— FOR ANYTHING THE SEASON THROWS AT YOU
Novelty Heat jacket by New Balance, $120; High Coast Lite hoodie by Fjällräven, $90 On endurance athlete Madeleine Carey: Down jacket by ASICS, $165; Women’s MerinoLoft Ellipse Long Sleeve Half Zip Hood by Icebreaker, $230; Wazzie Wool base layer by Oiselle, $96; Generator Revolution Race tights by CW-X, $200; Speedcross 4 GTX shoes by Salomon, $160; Enduro Low Cut socks by Balega, $12
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Nine Trails 15L pack by Patagonia, $79; High Rise Jacquard Chaturanga tights by Athleta, $79
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LOSE THE BACKPACKING HORDES ON THESE WILD NEW SOUTHEAST ASIAN ADVENTURES, FROM SURFING IN SRI LANKA TO A CULINARY TOUR OF MYANMAR
by Stephanie Pearson and Jen Murphy
The 150-foot, twomasted Purnama, seen here and opposite in Indonesia's Banda Islands, is the ultimate way for a lottery winner and nine friends to explore the regionâ€™s empty beaches and world-class dive sites. From $12,500 per day; alilahotels.com
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DESTI N AT IO N S
Myanmar Eat Your Way Through Yangon
Myanmar’s culinary scene is getting a shot in the arm with repatriated entrepreneurs and expat chefs. Anchoring Yangon’s food renaissance is Rangoon Tea House, a downtown eatery in a minimalist, turn-of-the-century building known for its duck empanadas and a tasty soup called mohinga, a regional specialty. At Rau Ram, the Hawaiian-born, Harvardgrad chef Kevin Ching serves Bun Cha Feast—a smattering of spring rolls, porchetta, lemongrass pork meatballs, and rice noodles—in a luxurious bistro. Beat the city’s smoldering heat with a crisp Hoegaarden at Port Autonomy, hidden away in a leafy oasis near Shwedagon Pagoda.
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Embrace Your Inner Beach Bum
Three hours south of Bangkok, the Gulf of Thailand’s three-milelong Thung Mamao beach is one of the least crowded white-sand havens in Prachuap province. The sleek X2 Kui Buri Resort is the only hotel on it. R&R is the focus here, but you can stretch your legs on a vintage Thai cruiser or paddle a tandem kayak in the bay’s warm water. Come sun-
set it’s easy to find the 48-foot-long stone bar for a Thai whiskey tasting at Happy Sippy Hour. From $185; x2resorts.com
a–b. Thailand’s X2 Kui Buri c. Rau Ram in Myanmar d. Duck empanada e. Laos’s President hotel f. Mekong River g. Elephants in Luang Prabang, Laos h. Chef Didier Corlou in Hanoi
Traverse an entire country
Road-bike through rice paddies, kayak with river dolphins on the Mekong, and hike steep jungle paths through the waterfalls and coffee plantations of the Bolaven Plateau on the 13-day Hidden
Re-acclimate to urban living at the President hotel in Vientiane, Laos. With high tea on the lawn, it offers the city’s most opulent lodgings, though its 32 rooms make it feel more like a small palace. The spa will take care of your burning quads. From $345; akaryn.com
Places tour. Spanning the full length of Laos, the route covers nearly 722 miles, from Pakse in the south to Luang Prabang in the north, with stops at timeless French-colonial villages and breathtaking temples. In Luang Prabang, browse porcelain opium pipes in the moonlit stalls of the city’s famous night market, or sip white burgundy at the wine bars of Sakhalin Road. You can even trek with elephants in a minimally impactful way: company cofound-
THE GRAND TOUR
You won’t find better food guides than Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne, cookbook authors and cofounders of Globetrotting Gourmet tours. In 2017, they offer trips to Myanmar, Cambodia, and northern Vietnam, all with cooking classes and immersive market tours. From $1,995; asianfoodtours.com
ers Maria Coffey and Dag Goering, a veterinarian, also founded Elephant Earth Initiative, an organization that supports science-based approaches to elephant welfare and conservation. $3,990; hidden places.net
PREVIOUS PAGES: ALILA HOTELS AND RESORTS (2). THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF BHMASIA HOTELS GROUP (2); DAG GOERING/ HIDDEN PLACES TRAVEL (2); LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/GETTY; AKARYN HOTEL GROUP; COURTESY OF RANGOON TEA HOUSE; COURTESY OF RAU RAM.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: TIM BEWER/GETTY; COURTESY OF AQUA EXPEDITIONS (5); SORAYUT YOOKHAM/EYEEM/GETTY; COURTESY OF AQUA EXPEDITIONS
TAKE A STAND
Bangkok has thousands of open-air restaurants and food stalls. Some of our favorites have been doing business in the same spot for decades. Kuai Tiao Pik Kai Sai Nam Phueng Travelers and locals alike have sought out the savory chicken wings, deep-fried snakehead fish, and pork wontons for 60 years at a storied raw-food market. Khlong Toei district Daeng Racha Hoi Thot This open-air eatery serves the largest, freshest oysters and mussels in the city. Try the Hoi Thot—fresh mussels in crispy pancakes made from a batter of rice flour and arrowroot starch. Samphanthawong district Sudjai Kai Yang Or Tor Kor It ain’t bragging if it’s true: chef Aunt Sudjai Phonjang won first place in Thailand’s Som Tam Championship for serving the nation’s greatest green papaya salad out of her stall. Chatuchak district Khao Nhiao Moon Mae Waree This 24-hour stand serves sticky rice with creamy coconut milk and fresh, ripe mangos—the ultimate 3 A.M. snack. Thonglor district
a. Bangkok al fresco b–d. On the Mekong River e. Thai food stall f. Yam Pak salad g. The Aqua Mekong’s game room h. Kentucky Cha-Chuck
Paddle Your Own Boat
After redefining travel on the Amazon, Aqua Expeditions is now plying the Mekong River between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh.
Its 20-suite Aqua Mekong is more like a floating boutique hotel. Don’t be fooled by the plush amenities, though. Aqua’s team of local guides have encyclopedic knowledge of the region’s history
and wildlife, and you can join them on three-, four-, or seven-night excursions on the ship, including daytime jaunts in a skiff or kayak. Paddle through narrow waterways to bamboo-stilt dwellings,
or trek through dense jungles in search of crumbling temples. Or ride an all-terrain bike through riverbank villages. From $3,855 for three nights; aqua expeditions.com
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DESTI N AT IO N S
Indonesia Deepen Your Focus
Former competitive freediver Hanli Prinsloo set 11 South African records in her decadelong career, then went on to teach some of the world’s top adventure athletes how to stretch their lungs. Now she’s helping mere mortals learn to freedive in some of the most beautiful spots on the planet. In 2017, Prinsloo will offer a manta ray dive trip in Komodo National Park and a yacht charter to Raja Ampat, where guests can swim with whale sharks. Lessons cover the basics for holding your breath
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and slowing your heart rate, ensuring that landlubbers are relaxed and confident. You can also feel good knowing that a portion of your trip supports I Am Water Ocean Conservation, Prinsloo’s nonprofit, which works with underprivileged kids from coastal communities. Price upon request; iamwateroceantravel .com/trips
Surf the Laccadive Sea
Though peak season runs from November to April, there’s never a bad month to visit the brand-new Soul and Surf yoga and surf retreat
on the lush southern coast of Sri Lanka. Within a 30-minute drive, there are waves for all skill levels: sandybottom beach breaks for beginners, and reef and point breaks for everybody else. With daily two-hour surf coaching in the warm water, video feedback, vinyasa flow sessions, and locally sourced meals, a week at this magical, allinclusive retreat won’t be enough. From $900; soulandsurf.com
Get Back to the Farm
Nestled in a natural rainforest setting, the garden and treehouse-
a–b. Bisma Eight, Bali c. Monkey Forest d. Indonesia's Komodo National Park e–f. Sri Lanka surf g. SpiceRoads bike tour
like canopy suites at Ubud’s new Bisma Eight hotel offer jungle views but are within walking distance of the Monkey Forest, Ubud Palace, and other must-see sites in town. The staff can arrange sunrise treks and whitewater-rafting trips on the Ayung River—and the hotel's Copper Kitchen and Bar has quickly become one of Ubud’s top tables. Guests pick produce from a sustainable farm and enjoy vegetable nasi goreng and cardamomand-star-anise-infused cocktails. From $165; bisma-eight.com
It’s easier to get off the beaten path on two wheels, especially with the guides at SpiceRoads. The Asia cycling specialist recently introduced a 14-day mountainbiking trip through remote regions of northern Vietnam and Laos. A typical day tackles 20 to 62 miles, with some challenging climbs and fun descents. The trip includes a visit to Laos’s archaeological mystery the Plain of Jars and a night safari in Nam EtPhou Louey National Protected Area. Along the way, riders stop for campfire dinners with villagers and overnight in bamboo huts. $2,995; spiceroads.com
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF BISMA EIGHT; BEN BROOMFIELD/SOUL AND SURF; COURTESY OF SOUL AND SURF; COURTESY OF SPICEROADS; JEN JUDGE/AURORA; COURTESY OF BISMA EIGHT; GALLERY STOCK
Access: Ojai is a two-hour drive northwest of Los Angeles and 50 minutes east of Santa Barbara. From $650; thacherhouse.com Temps: Summers are hot and dry, with highs sometimes in the 100s. Winters are mild, with an average high of 70 and lows rarely below freezing. Detour: Pine Mountain, 40 miles north of Ojai on highway 33, has limitless moderately rated bouldering options. Indulge: Drop by the Ojai Vineyard tasting room to try Central Coast syrahs, pinots, and rieslings.
THE SWEET SMELL OF ORANGE GROVES OVERTAKES YOU AS YOU APPROACH THE THACHER HOUSE. IT’S A SIGN OF GOOD THINGS TO COME.
ROB STARK (6)
CALVIN ZARA bought
this 20-acre estate, built in 1898 in the small California town of Ojai (population 7,600), in 2010, and he spent the next five years renovating it. Now guests can stay in one of three Craftsmanstyle cottages, a new two-bedroom house, or a room in the spacious main house, which looks
out on the Los Padres mountains. There are any number of beautiful hikes nearby—try the tree-lined, five-mile Horn Canyon Trail, which starts just up the road—or bike the 15-mile paved path to the coastal town of Ventura. The Mob Shop in Ojai provides rentals, in addition to good intel on mountain biking in the
area (rentals, from $29; themobshop.com). Of course, this presumes that you can drag yourself off Zara’s stunning property. Born in Iraq, where his father was a chef, Zara raises goats, sheep, and chickens, and has extensive vegetable and herb gardens and an olive grove. He starts your day with a made-to-
order breakfast of justlaid eggs, homemade yogurt, and freshly baked sourdough bread—the smell of which will lure you out of bed—and also offers cheese- and yogurt-making classes. Hanging out in the kitchen cooking with Zara is one of the best ways to spend
an afternoon. Whatever you do, don’t miss kicking back on the front porch for sunset cocktails, when he puts out a tray of homemade goat feta, pickled cauliflower, nuts, and olives, served with a collection of local wines. —MARY TURNER
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DESTI N AT IO N S
Find the right Limited Ingredient Diet formula for your pet
A weekend ski trip can turn into a fullblown nightmare if you want to bring your dog. In response to skier complaints about restrictions at hotels in their favorite resort capitals, a number of hospitality groups are making serious changes. “The logistics of a ski vacation can be difficult,” says Caitlin Martz, of Utah’s Waldorf Astoria Park City. “Hotels are going beyond just allowing pets to accompany their owners on their trip and are beginning to treat dogs as guests.” Here’s a rundown of some of the amenities. —ERIC KILLELEA
• Single-source animal protein • Grain-free formulas • No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives • 100% satisfaction guaranteed
Colorado, the RitzCarlton, Bachelor Gulch indulges dogs with a Bachelor Pack, including bath treatments, toys, and treats available from room service. >In Vermont, guests at Stowe Mountain Lodge can avail themselves of grooming and dog-sitting services.
>Starting this winter, dogs and owners can dine together during Yappy Hour at the Little Nell in Aspen, where the hotel’s pastry chef whips up gourmet dog biscuits. Fido requires more? Order him the grass-fed
beef tenderloin with eggs and brown rice from the pet menu. > Utah’s Waldorf Astoria Park City boasts a full-time director of pet relations (Sammy the mutt) and offers services like dog massages, administered by a certified
canine masseuse, and pet-sitting while you’re on the slopes. >At the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho, guests receive a logoed leash, a Frisbee, and a backpack for comfortably carrying a dog.
Natural Balance® L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets® food and treats are an ideal choice for dogs with food sensitivities.
There’s nothing sexy about ski bags. That’s why Douchebags are such a revelation. The brashly named Norwegian luggage earned a cult following after pros were seen rolling them through terminals. With a light, compressible rib construction, the bags travel well, look good, and let fellow skiers know that when it comes to gear, you have standards. —AXIE NAVAS
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FROM TOP: TONY WINTON/RITZ-CARLTON, BACHELOR GULCH; COURTESY OF DOUCHEBAGS
>In Beaver Creek,
the perfect day
Hour Fitness PHOTOGRAPHS BY
EVERY DAY, WEâ€™RE CONFRONTED WITH A THOUSAND CHOICES THAT CAN MAKE OR BREAK OUR HEALTH: CREAM AND SUGAR? CARPOOL? WALKING MEETING? CHECK INSTAGRAM? HIIT OR LONG AND SLOW? ONE MORE BEER? BUT DECISION FATIGUE CAN ALSO INCREASE STRESS AND ZAP MOTIVATION. SO WE ENLISTED OLYMPIC DECATHLON CHAMPION ASHTON EATON (AND A FEW OF THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST RESEARCHERS IN THE COUNTRY) TO DESIGN THE PERFECT DAY.
BY GORDY MEGROZ
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the perfect day
We’re calling it:
28-year-old Ashton Eaton is the greatest athlete alive. OK, not a shocking choice now, but he hasn’t always been world-class. The Oregon track star was high school state champion in the 400 meters and the long jump, but he was barely looked at by college recruiters. Then, in his senior year, his track coach suggested Eaton try the decathlon. “What’s the decathlon?” he said. But he gave it a shot and soon earned a partial scholarship at the University of Oregon. Titles quickly followed: five NCAA crowns, five world championship gold medals, and, most important, back-to-back Olympic golds in London and Rio. It’s easy to look at the staggering medal count and think that Eaton’s life has been nothing but joyful tears during the national anthem and photo-ops with his similarly successful heptathlete wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton (bronze in Rio). But as any triumphant athlete knows, it’s daily habits that make you a success. “After college,” says Eaton, “90 percent of my days were bad. The better I got, the harder it was to improve.” He plateaued. Then, in 2011, he made some changes off the track, improving his nutrition and devoting more time to rest and recovery. A year later he was atop the podium in London. Though his life is far different than most of ours, Eaton contends that raiding his playbook can help anybody optimize their workweek for yearround health. So we did. In the following pages, we lay out an ideal day in the life of, well, you—one that takes inspiration from the best of Eaton’s game plan.
6 A.M. RISE AND SHINE
Nobody likes being jolted from sleep by a blaring alarm. Our bodies are meant to wake up with the sun, but that’s not always practical during the shortest days of the year. Instead, try Philips’s HF3520/60 Wake-Up Light ($170). You set the alarm and it gradually illuminates, mimicking sunrise. If that’s not enough to rouse you, program it to emit soothing sounds like forest birds or crashing waves.
6:01 A.M. RELAAAAAX
Meditation increases the quantity of gray matter in the frontal cortex, which controls memory and decision-making. Studies also show that it decreases stress and sharpens focus. Best of all? You can reap the benefits in just ten minutes. Sit in a quiet place, choose a word or phrase to act as your mantra (like “relax”), close your eyes and take
several deep breaths, then breathe normally and repeat your mantra in your head. Your mind will drift. That’s OK. Note the drift and return to your mantra.
problem-solving. Skip the e-mail and Web browsing. Instead, tick off your most important tasks first, when you’re still mentally fresh.
6:15 A.M. DRINK YOUR FIRST CUP OF COFFEE
8:30 A.M. HAVE A SNACK
Smaller, more frequent meals prevent Not only does caffeine improve reaction big spikes and dips in blood-sugar levels. time and decrease muscle soreness after a Refueling every few hours will also help tough workout, but research suggests that you avoid food coma. >“Snacking keeps my your morning mud can also energy levels consistent,” lower your chance of many says Eaton. “I’ll eat yogurt cancers and certain heart We’ve been preaching and muesli with honey, problems. What’s more, you standing desks for a nuts, and seeds.” get to drink a lot of it. A 2004 few years now because study showed that ingestthe evidence is over9:30 A.M. ing 80 to 100 milligrams of whelmingly against your TAKE A BREAK— caffeine every three to four chair. A 2013 survey of more than 63,000 AND DRINK hours is best for optimal permiddle-aged Australian COFFEE formance. (A cup of coffee men found that those NUMBER TWO has about 95 milligrams.) who sat for four hours >“I drink my coffee black, We’ve always envied a day had far greater and I always try to have it smokers. Not for the incidences of high blood pressure, heart disease, outside,” Eaton says. “It’s a lung cancer or that cancer, and diabetes. But trick I learned camping. I stale-cigarette smell, but more recent research sleep terribly when I camp, because they have a builthas shown that standing but having that coffee outin reason to get up from isn’t enough—you actuside really wakes me up and whatever they’re doing ally need to be moving for a good two hours makes me feel better.” and go outside for a break. each day to make a difTurns out they were onto ference. New wearables 6:17 A.M. something. K. Anders like the Fitbit Charge EAT A BALANCED Ericsson, the psychol2 ($150) periodically BREAKFAST ogy professor who’s best remind you to get up and move. For athletes, breakfast really known for asserting that is the most important meal it takes 10,000 hours of the day. Researchers at of practice at something Loughborough University found that to make you an expert, also found that cyclists’ performance in a 30-minute after“working in 90-minute intervals turns noon time trial was 4.5 percent worse when out to be a prescription for maximizing they skipped breakfast, even though they productivity.” That follows research by ate about 200 calories more at lunch. Nathaniel Kleitman, a sleep scientist at >Eaton’s go-to breakfast is two fried eggs, the University of Chicago who in the 1960s two pieces of toast, two pieces of bacon, discovered that we progress from a state and an avocado, which is a great balance of of alertness to fatigue approximately every protein, fat, and carbohydrates. 90 minutes. He found that a 20-minute break was sufficient to reset.
7 A.M. GET MOVING
Walk to work. Or even better, ride your bike—surveys show that bike commuters are happier than their walking and carpooling coworkers. Whatever you do, try to get a little sunshine into your morning. It has several health benefits, from increasing serotonin levels, which makes you more active and alert, to boosting vitamin D, which keeps your immune system strong.
8 A.M. START WORKING
People tend to be more productive earlier in the day, especially when it comes to
9:50 A.M. CHECK E-MAIL
It’s easy to constantly read and respond to e-mail. But it’s not smart. Instead, look at
Skip the Morning Shower
Most people bathe too often, which can lead to dry and cracked skin, increasing your susceptibility to infection. Don’t worry, you’ll shower later, after your workout. But do put some sunscreen on your face, even in winter. We like Ursa Major’s Daily Defense Lotion with SPF 18 ($54).
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your inbox minimally, says Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a leading researcher on the connection between media consumption and stress. “Every time you check your e-mail, you lose focus on the project in front of you,” she says. Research shows that when people are interrupted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to regain their momentum. “Don’t spend more than an hour on it each day,” advises McNaughton-Cassill. Don’t trust yourself? The free SelfControl app lets you block yourself from distracting websites like Facebook. >“I changed the notifications on my phone so it doesn’t make any noise,” Eaton says. “That way I’m not always checking it, and I have more control over my time.”
10:30 A.M. HAVE ANOTHER SNACK
Play with Your Pup
Simply petting a dog increases a person’s level of oxytocin, a chemical responsible for decreasing stress. Further, a 2011 study found that owning a pet makes us fitter and happier.
>“I like to set up a cutting board with hummus, bread, carrots, apples, and cheese,” says Eaton.
11 A.M. TAKE A BREAK AND VISUALIZE
A close relative of meditation, visualization is used by all-star athletes and Fortune 500 executives, who credit the technique with helping them execute difficult tasks. Just close your eyes and imagine yourself nailing that presentation, golf swing, job interview, or whatever it is you need to focus on. When it comes time for the actual task, you’ll be ready and perform better. >“For months leading up to a competition, I’ll go through an entire decathlon in my head,” says Eaton. “I lie in bed, close my eyes, and just start playing out each event.”
12:30 P.M. EAT LUNCH
Think of it as more of a hearty snack, and use the opportunity to take a longer break. If you must, this is a good time to check Instagram or the latest headlines. But keep it short. “Consuming social media and the news too much can contribute to depression and anxiety,” says McNaughtonCassill. “During lunch is a good time to do it, because you’re not distracting yourself from more important things.” A better use of your time would be a walk around the neighborhood or lunch with your coworkers: a Cornell University study showed that employees who eat together are more effective collaborators. As for the meal,
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make sure you get enough carbs to fuel your after-work training. A turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with a piece of fruit is a good option. >“I don’t really eat lunch, because I’m snacking throughout the day,” Eaton says.
1:30 P.M. DRINK SOME GREEN TEA
To keep you from tossing and turning later, replace your afternoon coffee with green tea. It’s got about 30 milligrams of caffeine and has been shown to slightly increase metabolism and reduce cholesterol. And while you’re at it, do 25 push-ups.
2:30 P.M. HAVE A SNACK
An apple and a handful of walnuts should do the trick.
3 P.M. TAKE A BREAK AND JOURNAL
Seriously. Writing down the things that are giving you anxiety will significantly reduce stress, which leads to improved immune function and lower blood pressure.
4:50 P.M. TAKE A BREAK AND CALL YOUR MOM
Maybe not every day, but a recent study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that people who received help from their loved ones in the form of advice or emotional support were more satisfied with their lives than those who didn’t.
5:10 P.M. CHECK E-MAIL AND WRITE A TO-DO LIST FOR TOMORROW Your list should consist of small, achievable tasks that get you closer to a larger goal. For example, don’t put down “write presentation” if that can’t be entirely accomplished on the following day. Instead put “write part one of presentation.” And emphasize what will be your most important tasks, so your first hour of work in the morning is as productive as possible.
According to Matt Barnes, who researches the effects of alcohol on fitness at Massey University in New Zealand, a 154-pound man can have three and a half drinks and not affect exercise recovery. But that much alcohol can wreak havoc on your sleep. A single glass of wine won’t hurt. And moderate wine drinkers live longer, have fewer heart attacks, and stay sharper into old age.
the perfect day
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IT’S NOT A PERFECT DAY WITHOUT SEX, RIGHT? PAUL KELLEY, A CLINICAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY’S SLEEP AND CIRCADIAN NEUROSCIENCE INSTITUTE, BREAKS DOWN THE TIME OF DAY WHEN YOU SHOULD BE FOOLING AROUND BY AGE.
TWENTIES: 3 P.M. Let’s face it, twentysomethings will have sex whenever. But Kelley’s research shows that their libidos peak in early afternoon. Sure beats writing down the things that are stressing you out. THIRTIES: 8:20 A.M. During this decade of your life, your circadian rhythms shift, causing you to wake up earlier. In turn, early sunlight seems to boost testosterone in both men and women. FORTIES AND FIFTIES: 10:20 P.M. Kids and work demands make morning sex nearly impossible. Kelley recommends that couples get to it after ten, when the chaos of the day has subsided.
6 P.M. EXERCISE
hormone that promotes fat storage. It also raises the oxygen capacity of your blood, which allows for faster recovery and better performance in endurance sports. While the pros rely on infrared saunas, you can get similar results in a regular sauna, a steam room, or even a warm bath.
7:15 P.M. SHOWER
Rinsing under cold water for three minutes, followed by three minutes under warm water, continues the recovery process. The contrast in temperature causes dilation of your blood vessels, which stops muscle inflammation.
7:30 P.M. EAT DINNER AND UNWIND
With your family. No TV, no devices. A 2015 Journal of Marriage and Family study showed that quality time—reading to your kids, playing games—is far more important than quantity. >Eaton’s go-to dinner is steak, salad,
Several studies favor afternoon or and a microbrew. Often he’ll add pasta, but early-evening workouts, in large part “at the end of the season,” he says, “when I’m not burning calories like crazy, I stay because core body temperature is higher away from carbs at dinner. They just turn and muscles and joints are warmer and into glycogen, and then that turns to fat.” more prepared for activity and exertion. A 2009 study published in the journal 8:45 P.M. Chronobiology International found that STAY INFORMED cyclists who rode at 6 P.M. recorded Subscribing to a couple of newsletters will better power output than if they rode at keep you up on current events without 6 A.M. A 2016 meta study that surveyed more than 660,000 men and women drowning you in inforwith varying levels of physical activmation. Our favorites: ity found that 60 to 120 minutes of The Daily Skimm, exercise was ideal to maintain overQuartz’s Daily Brief, A 2011 study in all heart health. and, of course, Outside Nature showed that having greenery >Eaton’s training isn’t practical or Online’s What You around suppresses necessary for the average athlete. Missed. the amygdala, the But he does have a prescription part of the brain 9 P.M. that’ll make anyone fitter. “People that controls anger TURN OFF try to get fancy,” he says, “but there’s and frustration. No need for a green THE SCREENS no reason to get too complicated. thumb—plants like The blue light emitted This workout hits everything.” Run pothos and aloe are from your devices— a quarter-mile to warm up, then do low maintenance. including your TV— three rounds of 10 to 15 burpees, prevents you from pull-ups, squat jumps, dips, and producing melatonin, the hormone that hurdle hops (a standing leap over helps make you sleepy. a 24-inch-high bar).
7 P.M. RECHARGE
Eaton puts a huge amount of time into recovery, focusing on massage and an intense form of acupuncture called dry needling. But you don’t have to be logging Olympic-caliber workouts to benefit. The latest research supports 15 to 30 minutes of heat therapy, which increases natural growth hormones and decreases cortisol, the stress
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10 P.M. GO TO BED
Turning in early ensures you get adequate sleep, which is crucial for everything from learning and memory to mood and judgment. Aim for seven or eight hours. >“Our sleep was dramatically improved when we each got our own comforters. Your heat is more regulated, and we don’t wake up when the other one moves.”
the perfect day
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M A G A Z I N E
Longg gone one ************************************************** W h e n R a y m o n d S t a n s e l w a s b u s t e d i n 19 74 , h e was one of Floridaâ€™s biggest pot smugglers. Facing trial and years in prison, he jumped bail, changed his name, and holed up in a
Au s t r a l i a n
r e m a r k a b l e t h a n t h a t ? H i s s e c o n d l i fe a s an environmental hero.
************************************************** b y
After his disappearance, Raymond Stansel rebuilt his life under a new identityâ€”Lee Lafferty. Clockwise from top left: Lafferty, with daughters Jessie and Kianna, in Australia; in the Daintree rainforest; one of the boats Lafferty used in his tourism operation; Lafferty and his wife, Janet, in 2000; the Daintree Cruise Centre, which Lafferty built; Lafferty with Jessie and newborn Kianna in 1980.
Jewell on the job in 2014 at the newly created Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico
Exit Stage Left During her four-year tenure as Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, a former oil-industry engineer and CEO of REI, has helped designate 18 new national monuments, increase youth engagement in the national parks, and limit access for energy exploration. As a Trump administration with very different views on conservation prepares to take the reins in Washington, C H R I S T O P H E R K E Y E S sat down with the secretary to discuss her legacy—and the uncertain future of America’s public lands. KEYES: It’s now nine days after the election. What’s the mood like at Interior? JEWELL: Well, let’s say it was a reflective day for all of us. Back in 2008, when I was at REI, the worst quarter I had was when President Obama won the election. Our sales were down 20 percent. I ended up laying off 800 people. At the Department of the Interior, we had a minerals-management service that was accused, rightfully, of illegal activity with the oil and gas industry. About a year into his presidency, we had the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I think that there’s certainly disappointment about the election, but when I reflect on what we inherited eight years ago, I feel good about what we’re handing over to the next administration. In President Obama’s first meeting with President-elect Trump, he advocated for Obamacare. If you were sitting down with your successor, what would you fight for? I hope I do have that opportunity, because once you’re sitting in this chair, and you understand the size and complexity of your work, you look at it a little differently than when you first came in. So what I would say to that new secretary: We all come with a set of skills, and those are useful but not sufficient, so surround yourself with people that help fill that gap. Second, this job is about listening deeply to different points of view. You can’t go in with a fixed frame.
What about a specific policy? The most pressing issue of our time is climate change. You cannot be the Secretary of the Interior and deal with the wildfires and the droughts and the invasive species and coastal erosion without recognizing that climate change is real. I would discuss that. And if that person is a climate-change denier? No matter what beliefs a person comes into this position with, the job has a way of showing you what’s really going on. During the campaign, Trump promised to “streamline the permitting process for all energy projects.” How quickly might his team be able to undo your efforts to place certain areas off-limits? What businesses want is certainty. You don’t mind playing by the rules, but you want to know what the rules are. And when the rules are stretched, like the environmental-impact statements that are required, you will get challenged in court. What we’ve done in this administration is identify the areas that are appropriate to develop and the areas that should be off-limits to development, and we codified some of that, with, for example, national monument designations. That’s not going to get rolled back, because those decisions remove the conflicts surrounding those areas in advance. It’s expensive for companies to be involved with protracted litigation.
Will the debate over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be back in play? There’s little doubt that there’s oil under the coastal plain of ANWR, but I believe there are some places that should remain off-limits. It took decades to update the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s comprehensive conservation plan, which said that the area should not be developed because disturbance would have irreparable impact on caribou. It would have to be redone if oil and gas development is to be supported. Or Congress would have to step up and say, We see the science and we’re going to ignore it. And I believe the American people will hold their elected officials accountable for that. But a lot of these issues never even get talked about in the campaigns. The idea that we’ll hold elected officials accountable for environmental policy hasn’t played out. It’s our responsibility to make our positions known. If people don’t make their voices heard, those who do will be the squeaky wheel. Before I took this job, I went to Washington, D.C., with other people from the outdoor industry to make the case to members of Congress, and I wondered, Is anybody really listening? I will say that, from this side now, yes, people are hearing you. And if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. If we’re not talking about environmental issues, if the only things being discussed are trade
policies and health care reform and taxes, we can’t be surprised when it doesn’t come up as a major issue in the campaign. As you mention, the outdoor industry has been flexing its muscles recently. The Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions Act, which requires the government to account for the estimated $646 billion economic contribution of the outdoor economy, passed the House this week. Yes, the first outdoor-industry study based on hard data showed that the recreation economy is almost as big as pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, and motor-vehicle parts combined. That is extraordinary. That narrative has been lost, oftentimes, to the value of public lands for extractive purposes. But what the REC Act begins to do is to monetize the value of lands in conservation. This is an industry that employs millions of people. It supports rural economies. The legislation will ensure that it continues. In addition to pressure to increase oil and gas leasing, there is a growing idea that our federal lands should be given back to the states to continued on page 92 >
Listen to the complete interview with Sally Jewell on the Outside Podcast: outside online.com/podcast.
Most of us hit the outdoors seeking calm and quiet, but CHUCK THOMPSON prefers to blast a little 38 Special by his campfires. Still, even a rustic headbanger like
him has to wonder if the coming age of total backwoods connectivity is good for bees, beasts, and man. I’d like to ask that you not judge me for what I’m about to say. Though I know you probably will. Two years ago, I made an important discovery—that Thin Lizzy, specifically the Jailbreak album recorded by those star-crossed Irish legends, actually enhanced the experience of hiking in Central Oregon’s Mount Jefferson Wilderness. It happened by accident, more or less. All I knew that morning, with eight miles and lots of elevation gain lying ahead, was that I needed a few classic jams to help push me through. So I brought my iPod and earbuds, just like I do when I’m out for a run in my neighborhood. What I didn’t know was that I’d taken the first strides into a thicket of backwoods recrimination and guiltinducing moral ambiguities. Do electronics belong in the wilderness? If so, to what extent? And what kinds? These questions are currently being debated by ideological progressives and puritans alike, not just on outdoor-related
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websites but in the medical community and the halls of Congress. Opinions come from a bewildering range of people, everybody from peer-reviewed scientists to borderline cranks, and it’s not always easy to tell who’s who. On that promising morning, though, discord was but a faint abstraction as I began to learn how much I loved packing tunes into the woods. Then, after merely hiking with music, I graduated to camping with music. The breakthrough was the acquisition of one of my favorite gadgets ever—the iHome iHM60 rechargeable mini speaker. About the size of a racquetball, this featherweight little gizmo pumps out surprisingly resonant beats. It works whether the lakeside mood calls for Drake or Thy Art Is Murder. Or, for that matter, Lakeside. After these bands became part of my rustic jamboree, I went further into the production end. My tasteful campfire playlist now includes acoustic and semi-acoustic leaf-rustlers from the Marshall Tucker Band, Robert Earl
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Keen, Israel Nash, First Aid Kit, Jolie Holland, the profoundly uncool Spyro Gyra (no apologies—they’re from Buffalo, by the way), and a little-known Canadian folkstress named Lindsay Ferguson, whose touching ballad “Ships” never fails to stop everyone mid-s’more. There’s no denying it. Music makes hanging around a campfire even more hypnotic than it already is. In the Yukon’s stunning Kluane National Park, it also gave our little party comfort. We let the iHM60 purr through the night in an effort (successful, apparently) to keep the park’s grizzlies at bay while we slept. STILL, WHILE I’VE enjoyed this new world of camping wonder, I never felt completely at ease about my zeal for arriving in the backcountry with guests named 38 Special and Breakbot—a moral dilemma that’s been around longer than you’d think. As far back as 1978, outdoor writer Patrick McManus called the bleating of transistor radios in the woods “among the most hideous sounds on earth.” In their 1993 book Wilderness Ethics, Laura and Guy Waterman presented a full-on case against outdoor electronics, calling them an affront to the spirit of the occasion. “Much more important than the intrusion of noise is the intrusion of a tie back to the world of technology and civilization,” they wrote. “Wilderness has nonhuman significance.… Wilderness is a place where we leave Earth alone.” This predicament has become exponentially more complex with the universal wireless miracle that compels us, like it or not, to remain attached to civilization wherever we roam. We’ve left the quaint world of transistor radios far behind, and most of us seem electrified to have done so. After all, only lunatics would argue for an outdoor ban on all modern technology, which includes everything from digital cameras to water purifiers to life-saving SOS devices. And goddammit, seeing as how they went to the trouble of inventing it, I’m not prepared to give up my Jetboil. It’s connectivity that’s causing unprecedented concern. On the surface, it would seem that my backwoods beats are harmless, so long as I’m not a jerk about inflicting my noise on other people. But the entire notion of technology in the woods turns out to be a much more significant issue than that, with ramifications that can’t just be reined in simply by using the volume control. Even when we’re not actively interacting with the digital world, our devices are. Packing music into the toolies isn’t just about being a clueless boor with question-
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able habits in the field. It’s also about being munications Commission. Singer is tweaked a clueless boor who might be harming the by the FCC’s July 2016 announcement that it environment. Literally. is taking steps to enable rapid development Around the world, studies are proliferating of next-generation 5G technologies and on the devastating effects of “electrosmog,” mandate the spread of wireless to rural areas. the blanket of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) To deliver the expected huge leap in perforthat we’ve cast across the planet, which mance, 5G will likely depend on “millimeter could be harmful to various wild species. For waves,” signals in the high frequency range. example, German scientist Ulrich Warnke Scientists are already looking at the health has argued that there’s a link between colony risks these pose. Singer speaks emphatically collapse disorder in bees and our mania for about the potential harm to wildlife. cell phones, whose RF waves discombobAlbert Manville, a former biologist with ulate bees’ orientation the U.S. Fish and Wildand navigation mechlife Service, and now anisms. an adjunct faculty Then there’s Firstmember at Johns HopNet, a nationw ide kins University, echoes Studies are proliferating on Singer’s view that there wireless-broadband “electrosmog,” the blanket of is legitimate cause for network for emergency communications that worry. “Complicating was approved by fedwe’ve cast across the planet, the issue is the fact eral law in 2012. Backed which could be harmful to that there currently are by numerous studies, no standards for wildvarious wild species. the Department of the life exposure,” he says. Interior has raised con“That includes the cerns about the harmlicensing and regulaful effects it may have on migratory birds. tory rules and procedures of the FCC.” In a dramatically titled 2014 book, An ElecThe FCC hasn’t updated its guidelines for tronic Silent Spring, Katie Singer reports on power-density exposure to humans since a Spanish study of a frog habitat located near the passage of the Telecommunications a cell tower. Researchers found that frogs Act in 1996. Singer points out that section artificially shielded from the antennae’s waves 704 of the act includes a clause that forbids had a mortality rate of 4.2 percent. Frogs left state and local governments from regulating exposed to the waves reportedly suffered a “wireless service facilities on the basis of the whopping 90 percent mortality rate. environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.” According to critics like Singer, SINGER IS A consultant who works with this verbiage means that even if everyone in the Vermont-based EMR Policy Institute, your town agrees that a proposed new cell which studies—and generally opposes— tower is going to kill all the birds, bees, and federal standards for environmental expo- frogs, your city council is legally prohibited sures to non-ionizing electromagnetic from denying a permit based on emissions. radiation associated with broadcast, radar, In effect, telecom profits trump environmobile-phone, and personal-wireless tech- mental health. nologies. As I grew morally muddled about my habit of camping with electronics, which DURING HIS remaining time in office, FCC has come to also include a smartphone and chairman Tom Wheeler isn’t expected to tablet, I decided to call her at her home in exercise the hand of restraint in this Wild West of wireless. Prior to assuming his post northern New Mexico. “These issues you’re raising are actually in 2013, Wheeler was a famed advocate for terrifying, but the questions need to be telecom-industry interests. From 1992 to asked,” she tells me. “We have deployed all 2004, he served as president and CEO of the this stuff without asking: Is there any harm Cellular Telecommunications and Internet here to ourselves, to biodiversity, to the entire Association, a group that describes itself as lobbying for the industry “at all levels ecosystem?” Singer talks with me on a landline; as she of government.” That’s no bullshit, either. mentions, she has never owned a cell phone. President Obama once called him “the Bo “I don’t mind telling you that I don’t have a Jackson of telecom.” I thought Wheeler might be able to shed cell phone, except that it can trivialize the issue, because then that’s all people focus some useful light on the government’s plans on,” she says. “They think, ‘Oh God, is she for backcountry wireless. But the FCC totally weird or what?’ Yes, I am weird, but media office ignored no fewer than five e-mail and phone requests for statements that’s not what we’re talking about.” We end up talking about the Federal Com- from him or anybody else—about 5G, sec-
tion 704, or anything that touches on the wireless wilderness. Meanwhile, the news from the government is relentlessly pro-wireless. In January 2016, five Democratic congressmen, led by Jared Huffman of California, sent a letter to Obama urging funding to extend Wi-Fi and cell service throughout all of America’s national parks. The effort sparked the expected Internet opprobrium, but when I get Huffman on the phone, he comes across as a thoughtful guy who’s simply in favor of a popular proposal. “I’m not hearing any blowback to the idea that our visitor centers and park facilities should have basic connectivity,” he tells me. “Overwhelmingly, people agree that it’s a good idea.” Huffman’s Second Congressional District stretches from the Oregon border all the way to Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and it includes heavy hitters like Redwoods National Park. “We have to recognize that a new generation is coming up, and they access information differently and experience the parks differently,” Huffman says. “We need to keep up with the times.” Huffman also waves off environmental teeth-gnashing. As a member of the California State Assembly, he says, he worked with the state’s Council of Science and Technology to survey the land use and produce a report after public concerns arose because the California Public Utilities Commission authorized the installation of new wireless smart meters throughout the state. “I’m aware that there are a number of people who worry about [electrosmog], but it has never been validated by any peer-reviewed science,” he says. “The California Council on Science and Technology did not validate concerns about EMFs and health risks. “I really don’t think it’s an issue,” he adds. “From what I’m told, there are far greater EMF exposures that people should be concerned about from their microwave ovens.” I’M CYNICAL about all politicians, but Huff-
man doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. Even so, his “everybody just chill out” position is cold comfort for people like Singer, who are
perpetually frustrated by government agendas and roadblocks in the face of a danger they perceive as self-evident. Approach this byzantine subject from any angle and you’re in danger of tumbling into an enormous gulf of misunderstanding and distrust of Big Government. Given my own frustrating experience trying to pry an official word or two out of the FCC, it’s easy to see how cynicism develops around the issue. When I first called Singer, I was stone in love with pumping up my campfire sounds.
An hour on the phone with her was like rayeeain on my wedding day, a black fly in my chardonnay. But it was also, still, the good advice that I just couldn’t take. I might not be as gaga over wireless as the rest of the planet, but I’m not as freaked out as people like Singer seem to think I should be. And I’d gotten attached to having Norah Jones in my tent at night. It was that damn frog study that kept nagging at me. Ninety percent mortality rate? Jesus! I decided to take my problems, literally, to Nancy Messinger. A cofounder of the Portland Natural Medicine clinic in Oregon, Messinger is a cardiac nurse and electromagnetic-radiation specialist certified
by the International Institute for BuildingBiology and Ecology in Santa Fe. I wanted her to give me a precise sense of my personal electronic footprint in the wild. Messinger’s EMF-mitigated office — it’s surrounded by poured-concrete walls that are two feet thick—is rigged with an impressive set of research-grade meters, gizmos, and assessment instruments for detecting radiation and radio frequencies. “The Europeans, especially the Germans, are light-years ahead of us in understanding this stuff,” she says. I lay out my favorite backwoods toys—iPhone, iPod, iPad, the adorable iHome mini speaker. She breaks out Gigahertz Solutions’ HFE59B meter with a UBB 27 omnidirectional antenna (to measure radio frequencies) and a Gigahertz NFA 1000 EMF/gauss meter that measures magnetic and electrical fields. The unit of irradiance we’re measuring is microwatts per square meter, or µW/m². “Anything over 1,000 microwatts per square meter is a serious concern,” Messinger says, because increased exposure may create health risks. She begins by waving the HFE59B over my iPhone. Bursts of loud static tear through the room. The meter surges between 4,720 and 6,000 µW/m². “That’s not bad compared with my Android phone,” she says. She tests her phone to demonstrate. The meter crackles and pops like an angry bug zapper as it bounces between 8,530 and 15,140 µW/ m². The iPad fares better, registering anywhere between 1,770 and 4,050 µW/m² while it pulses, searching in vain for a wireless connection in the bunker office. The iPod is a disaster. It blows the meter to 14,000 µW/m² when it’s turned on and finally settles in at 13,830 µW/m² as it cries out for an electronic mama every two seconds like an orphan in a barren field. THE NUMBERS certainly seem ominous, but
what do they actually mean? Messinger whips out a chart of reported health effects associated with RF radiation. The data on it comes from BioInitiative 2012, a report issued by 29 international scientists and health experts who warn of possible risks from wireless technologies and electromagnetic fields, based on information from more continued on page 89 >
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Griswold, founder of Tiny House Blog, a gray-headed avuncular type in cargo shorts and sneakers, confessed that he didn’t even live in one. No matter. All could benefit from its principles: Reduce your belongings. Get out of debt. Do work that you love. Sager advice has never been given; indeed, these very principles had guided my own adulthood. But if living tiny doesn’t require a dollhouse, then what were we all doing here? The first Luminary I met was Nina Zamudio, whose tale was pure bravura. A native Californian, Zamudio had worked her way through college, was earning a good income, and had even bought her mother a home. She had achieved the American dream. Then she divorced and moved out of her IN MY IMAGINATION, the Jamboree prom2,800-square-foot house in Orland to take ised a quaint circle of funky sheds inhabited care of Mom in Chico. Now 49, with lusby anarchists who’d pass the porch-bound trous black hair and an irrepressible smile, evenings picking banjos, sipping moon- Zamudio told me that after her mother’s shine, and comparing insulation R-values. death, she’d spent months getting rid of But because last year’s hordes had packed everything. Her mother’s place was only the grounds of the Western Museum of 1,200 square feet, but the empty house felt Mining and Industry, backing up traffic, this hollow and lonely, her solitary voice echoyear the Jamboree supersized to a field at the ing off the walls. She attended a workshop Air Force Academy. My subversive fantasies with Jay Shafer, a 52-year-old designer and were deflated by the armed guard at the builder hailed by Oprah Winfrey as the Tiny academy gates, who demanded my license, House Man, author and publisher of the weapons, explosives, and drugs. 2009 movement bible The Small House I followed a stream of Tiny JamBook. Transformed, Zamudio sold the mers driving through the piny hills house and rented her first tiny home. to the stadium, one minivan She moved to Texas, where— WHEN painted with TINY HOUSE OR helped by a crew of friends T I N Y BUST! FIND US ON FACEand strangers—she built an J A M M E R S B O O K . We throngs— eight-by-twenty-foot A S K E D O N E nearly 60,000 before house on wheels. A ANOTHER “ARE YOU the weekend was church allowed her to B U I L D I N G ? ” I T WA S N O over—filed our vehipark on its grounds. MINOR INQUIRY BUT cles into long rows, She found a new set R AT H E R T H E E X I S T E N T I A L then stampeded toof friends at the Dallas QUESTION, AND WHEN ward the entrance on Tiny House Meetup SOMEONE RESPONDED foot. Saturated with group, not to mention “ T H R E E M O N T H S the carnival cloud a boyfriend. N O W ,” A G I D D Y T H R I L L of a pork smoker on Zamudio inspired BUBBLED INTO THE AIR. wheels, ringed by me. Who doesn’t want Porta-Potties innuto rebound from advermerable, a field of yelsity with panache, to low grass and gravel be reawakened at midwas packed with dozens of trailers on blocks, dle age, to forge meaning amid drudgery and lines of looky-loos at the steps. A string of isolation? Tiny Housers’ zeal approaches booths showcased off-grid accoutrements the religious. “It’s not really about the tiny from solar panels to composting toilets to house,” one told me. “It’s about values, a twig-burning cookstoves. way of life.” Another said, “Your whole life I had a date at the Tiny Stage to get to the changes when you live in a tiny house.” As heart of this phenomenon. A roster of the with any sect—or recovery group—its core movement’s Luminaries would clarify the is the narrative of personal transformaTiny House Philosophy, which, it turned out, tion, whether being saved or getting sober. had little to do with bookshelves-as-stairs Here the stories pivoted around Turning or sinks-in-closets. One philosopher, Kent Tiny. Before Tiny, there was an unhappy Jamboree in Colorado Springs last August, I was undergoing my own tiny crisis. My wife and I had bought a tiny car that got nearly 40 miles per gallon. We’d even upcycled a Mexican roof mutt into our own tiny dog, who consumed at mealtime less than one cup of kibble and canned pumpkin and whose tiny poops hardly registered at the landfill. Meanwhile we’d upsized to a twobedroom bungalow—our biggest yet. Even as I understood that appetites like mine were plundering the planet, I could not stop wanting a third bedroom. As for the car: it was the first I’d ever owned that was too small to sleep in, so if the weather turned bad I might have to get a hotel, and wouldn’t that indulgence offset the efficiency? Was small actually beautiful? I was ticurious.
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marriage, unpaid bills, stifling office work, a home of 2,500 square feet or more; after Tiny came freedom, new love, debt relief, self-employment, and, of course, a handmade nest. When Tiny Jammers asked one another “Are you building?” it was no minor inquiry but rather the existential question, and when someone responded “Three months now,” a giddy thrill bubbled into the air, because we knew she had been reborn. DULY EVANGELIZED, I set out to view the homes. But instead of the art brut of mad visionaries, I found professionally built sales models. An attractive rig from Northern California’s Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, the nation’s first and biggest manufacturer, cofounded by Jay Shafer himself, was outfitted with a flat-screen TV, faux-log stove, air conditioner, and washing machine, charged by a rumbling generator and encircled by a bevy of attractive salespersons in shirts that read DREAM BIG GO TINY . Cost of this model: $91,000. Inside I heard one Jammer say, “Did we bring the snacks or leave them in the car?” One of the “workshops” was a pitch by Ikea reps. Better to call this the Tiny House Trade Show? As for the gadgets, as much as I admire a diminutive toilet, serious homesteaders make humanure by pooping into a bucket of sawdust. And a twig-burning stove can be fashioned from a No. 10 peach can. If we are trapped in a cycle of earning and spending, I wasn’t sure that any purchase would free us. A schism in the House of Tiny! While the Luminaries espoused buying less stuff, what was happening across the field was the peddling of merch, all of it cool, none of it cheap. While a panel of real estate developers discussed the potential profitability of tiny-home villages, a petite woman from Portland, Oregon, who lives in a 100-square-foot wagon leaped to her feet and hollered, “What’s the square footage of the homes you live in?” My unscientific polling suggested that most tiny-come-latelies were drawn in by television shows—and indeed, casting agents infiltrated the Jam, passing out cards for Tiny House Arrest, He Shed She Shed, Tiny WhoreHouse, Tiny House Mogadishu, Tiny House Swept Out to Sea (maybe I made some of those up), and even Tiny House Hunters, which documents not building a wee home but shopping for one. I surmised, perhaps unfairly, that people on these shows are less interested in dismantling the consumerist paradigm than in getting on teevee. I rushed to the stage for the first real celebrity, a 36-year-old freeskier and carpenter named Zack Giffin who chanced into hosting Tiny House Nation, FYI network’s
surprise hit that documents designing and building by reg’lar folks. Tan and blond and unshaven, Giffin took the stage in skate shoes. If Jamboree-goers were expecting bromides about rugged individualism, Giffin’s sermon felt more like Big Government liberalism, complete with “economic segregation” and “the stigma of low-income housing.” He declared, “Zoning is a good thing,” an apparent blasphemy to a flock that detests regulation—a topic so tangled that I’ll have to return to it later. Which is not to say that he dismissed craftsmanship. He praised Shafer’s elegant designs: “Without him, we wouldn’t be here.” Two hundred people lined up to get an autograph, take a selfie, or ask some tech question like “How do I install a P-trap under a tub so that it won’t break off if I hit a speed bump?” Giffin spent five minutes with each, giving hints on hot roofs and DC inverters. His fans crossed the spectrum: bearded hipsters, married lesbians, a woman who literally rose from a wheelchair to embrace him, an active-duty soldier in a cowboy hat with bald eagles painted under the brim who, after waiting more than an hour, pressed a card into Giffin’s palm and said, “I hit you up on Facebook but you didn’t respond.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” “Check out my YouTube site on bug-out survival.” Also in line was Zamudio, with a skinny fellow in cutoff tan jeans and a navy T-shirt and wide-brimmed felt hat. I speculated out loud that Giffin was the Jam’s biggest draw. Zamudio motioned to her companion. “This is Jay Shafer.” The godfather himself! Shafer blushed at the praise and then shook my hand, his blue eyes twinkling, an impish grin above a chin of gray stubble. His gangly arms flapped at his sides, like a marionette in the wind. Shafer had been living tiny since long before the recession. In 1999, he built the first Tumbleweed, perfectly symmetrical with wood-plank siding, a nub of a porch, and a lancet window under a gable, a motif he described as “American Gothic meets the Winnebago Vectra.” A movement was born. But before I had a chance to speak with him, he disappeared into the woods. RECENTLY I FOUND myself looking at an ad for the most modern innovation in housing. “Beautiful design—top quality materials—decorator-styled interiors—nationally famous appliances.” The sell spoke of low cost, minimal upkeep, and high resale value. The woman on the retro sofa between a pair of art deco lamps was super hip. Would you be surprised that the ad comes from a 1960 issue of Trailer Topics maga-
zine? I recognized the boxy windows and wood veneer of the Detroiter Mobile Home because I once rented one of the same vintage. No more than 400 square feet, it was perfect for this dirtbag bachelor and his fleabag heeler. Yet I dispute its promise of
upgrades: in bankerspeak, the trailer is not an asset but a liability. I can’t get a loan to enlarge it, and if I try to sell it, no bank will issue a mortgage. Unlike with a real house, the only incentives to repair my trailer are sentimental love and desperation. Due to a perfect storm of zoning, flood maps, and building codes, the only legal thing I can do to my trailer is scrap it and build a full-fledged house, which I can’t afford. Hence my attraction to the quasi-legal tiny. T H AT N I G H T I pitched
high resale. When the land beneath the trailer I rented was sold, my castle was literally scraped from the lot at great expense to its owner, who thought he had made a wise investment. According to federal housing regulations, mobile homes built before 1976 cannot be legally occupied unless grandfathered in. Tiny houses have struggled against zoning codes, which set minimums of 1,000 square feet or more. Proponents bypass this by placing their homes on wheels, thus qualifying as RVs—which can’t be full-time permanent dwellings. A community of four tiny houses in Portland has developed in the backyard of a conventional house, which dwellers pay rent for and use its shower and kitchen. Therefore, they contend, they are not living “full time” in their tiny homes. Current options for a spiffy home on wheels are to fly below the radar and hope to avoid getting booted, move to some unregulated hinterland and contend with long commutes and isolation, or grapple with the law. Some days, my wife and I fantasize about going to live on our paid-for acre by the creek in Moab: no rent, no mortgage. But the trailer just seems too small. As for Clockwise from top left: Tiny-home dweller Nina Zamudio; Lee Pera of the Tiny House Collaborative; Dee Williams’s house; a model from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
my tent at the designated campground, a mowed field 30 minutes from the Jam on the flanks of Cheyenne Mountain, whose gra n ite bowels house some of North America’s top-secret nuclear missile defenses. None of the Luminaries stayed here. I saw a grand total of two tiny houses: a professionally built Mobile Relief Office, marketed to insurers to process claims after disasters, and a minuscule trailer molded of lacquered fiberglass that belonged to a family from Denver. Its maiden voyage had warped its door. In the morning, a child gave me a tour, pointing at the drain on the floor that allowed showering. “Can you sleep in here?” I said. “You have to fold down some hatches and put in a mattress.” “Where did you sleep last night?” “In the tent.” I met a young couple from the Midwest who were living in a van and who aspired to drive it to Portland, where they’d heard you could park on the streets without getting hassled by cops. They asked me to like them on Facebook. There seemed to be a fundamental flaw in the Tiny Dream: it promised financial freedom and affordable housing, yet in most cases it involved buying what amounted to an RV and still not owning land. Some adopters retreated to conventional homes, renting their backyard pirate dens on Airbnb: “We are letting people into our home, in hopes to inspire others wanting to make the change to tiny a little easier,” advertised one couple from Everett, Washington. Did they mention the $83 per night? By 2015, tiny houses had devolved into grist for a Portlandia spoof in which a hipster writes a novel while sitting on the
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john and his wife cuts toast on his back, plus unintentional parody like the actual Portland couple trying to crowdfund $30,000 to build a home, rewarding donors with homemade Christmas ornaments. “With the struggle of finding affordable housing,” they reasoned, “we feel that we need more time in this amazing city. The answer for us... tiny living.” Maybe tiny houses don’t make good homes so much as they make good stories. Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller, the thirtysomething auteurs behind the 2013 documentary Tiny, filmed their build in the high Rockies, made the festival circuit, and landed a string of speaking engagements. But without running water in the subzero winter, they hauled the thing to a backyard in Boulder before Smith lit out to Los Angeles and Mueller to New York. “I would have been impressed to learn about a significant lifestyle change that lasted,” wrote one disgruntled viewer on the film’s website. “I am forced to believe that the film was simply about Chris making a film.” To be fair, Thoreau hardly lived in his Walden cabin, either. Building a tiny house is to living simply as getting pregnant is to raising a child. The hard part is not the designing, building, blogging, and networking: it’s committing to a place and living within your means.
The line to view it was long. “I hear you started all of this,” I said. “Nah,” she said with a throaty laugh. “I heard about it from Jay Shafer.” I’m generally skeptical about the wonders of design. Thumbing through Dwell recently, its pages fragrant like money, I came across some fund manager’s off-grid compound intended to “celebrate nature,” and I thought: If you really want to celebrate nature, you could start by not building your goddamn house in it. But being inside Williams’s house gave me a feeling of peace. Nothing fancy, nothing extra. The cedar walls hinted of contemplation. I stood with her for half an hour, talking about the freedom of owning few things, of her years in her van as an itinerant rock climber. A thundershower broke open and we stood together under an umbrella. Williams posed for pictures and answered questions. She rolled her eyes toward the sales models Jay Shafer, godfather of the movement
BACK AT THE Jam, I asked around for
Jay Shafer. I heard only the stuff of legend. Boarding a plane in California to come to the event, he had posted on Facebook for an airport pickup, and by the time he touched down, five strangers had volunteered. He offered one of them the extra bed in his hotel room, which was four times the size of his house. He tried to walk the three miles from the Drury Inn and Suites to the Jamboree, crossing six lanes of I-25 before turning back at the high fences of the Air Force Academy. I bumped into Zamudio and asked if Shafer was manning a booth. “Jay Shafer doesn’t need a booth,” she said. “Jay Shafer is a booth.” My initial assessment of zero DIY homes turned out to be false. There was one. It was an 84-square-footer built by Dee Williams, a 53-year-old from Olympia, Washington, who in flip-flops and rolled jeans, with gray bangs and a quick smile, is perhaps the godmother of tiny houses. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease at age 40, she sold her regular house and built her dream, even penned a memoir. Hers was a singular attraction: the only house actually constructed and inhabited by its owner.
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and said, “Can they squeeze a clothes dryer above the dishwasher?” She watched the muddy unwiped shoes enter and exit. “Look at those people taking umbrellas into my house,” she said. “I’m going to close it up.” And she did. Shafer arrived, all sparkly eyes and elfin grin, clad in the same cutoffs, T-shirt, and flat-brimmed hat as the day before. He greeted Williams, then darted behind her house. I wandered back there. He was gone. I suspected that I was not dealing with a mere mortal but a magical being. I chased him into the woods. Rounding the first stand of trees, where I guessed I’d discover him frolicking with a pot of gold at the base of a rainbow, I nearly
bumped into him, and he recoiled in surprise. His fingers curled around a small green carton. I felt like a jerk for following him. I looked at the object in his hand. I said, “Are those menthols?” “No. They’re organic.” “Can I have one?” Yoda was hiding from his Jedi knights to get a fix. As I smoked his tobacco, he told me that his new company and plans for a tiny village had stalled. “Life got in the way,” he said. Although from a distance he could pass for 30, Shafer is past 50. I saw the lines around his gleaming eyes, the gray in his stubble. “I’ve had a lot of AFGOs.” “What’s that?” “Another fucking growth opportunity.” Shafer was raised in a large suburban house in Orange County, California. “I never had a true sense of home,” he said. After attending the University of Iowa, he got a master’s in fine art in New York City. But urban life didn’t suit him. He returned to Iowa City, where he taught art, living in a pickup and later an Airstream. Although he considers himself secular, as an artist he was drawn to sacred symbols and icons. “I got tired of building shrines I couldn’t live in,” he said. I asked him if he’d been on any of the tiny-house shows. “I was on Oprah.” “What was that like?” “Like watching Oprah on television, but in 3-D.” During a commercial, she told him that he had inspired her to get rid of one of her mansions. “I wish she would have said it on camera.” Shafer went on to describe design in a language I had not heard at the Jamboree—or anywhere. “Integrity is my word for God,” he said. It was wrong to conceal structural elements or disguise materials, and purely ornamental features were like a comb-over. Both attempted to convince us that the homeowner (or the hair owner) felt secure but of course revealed insecurity. “My best designs come only when my ego gets out of the way, when the higher power flows through me.” He had a sense of humor about it all, too. “I spent weeks trying to design a dining table that would convert into a coffee table. Finally, I figured out that all I had to do was turn the thing on its side.” He described himself as a “meaning addict,” always looking for higher significance in material objects. “A gate in a picket fence that opens onto a narrow path that leads through a yard to an open porch that covers a door,” he said, “is a set of symbols we
recognize as signposts guiding us through increasingly private territory toward the threshold of someone’s clandestine world.” I finally got it. I had not understood why Williams’s house felt so authentic while so many of the blocks on wheels felt awkward or false. This subculture, although it seemed to be about nifty gadgets and Murphy beds, was at its heart the expression of our longing to find our place in the universe, to become as beautiful and functional as nature itself. I HEARD A LOT of talk at the Jamboree about “home.” A young waitress from Jackson, Wyoming, faced with leaping rent, had bought—financed, actually—a Tumbleweed house for around $90,000 and hauled it to some friends’ property where it couldn’t be seen from the road. I looked at the pictures. It was awesome. And it had solved her problem of affordable housing. But a mobile structure, no matter how lovely, is like a car: it loses value. Land, however, is permanent and, for the most part, gains value. I wondered how much of the tiny-house craze was simply a reaction to the historical forces that have made land impossibly expensive. Indeed, Shafer, Williams, and Zamudio were each parked on someone else’s property, a situation offering fine lessons in building community, in our interdependence on fellow man. But that doesn’t achieve my own dream: to piss off the porch onto my own damn land and owe the bank nothing. Which leads us to the movement’s holy grail: legality. The hot Jam topic is changing code. Shafer has proposed using the zoning of an RV park to create a village of bungalows. Builders in Colorado have run with the concept, developing permanent, legal tiny villages in the towns of Salida, Walsenburg, and Fairplay. “This is not just a movement,” said Darin Zaruba, owner of EcoCabins, organizer of the Jamboree, and developer of the Whispering Aspen Village in Fairplay, which is already taking $1,000 deposits for lots. “It’s becoming an industry.” The cities of Fresno and Ojai, California, have permitted backyard tiny houses, often as rentals to help homeowners pay their mortgages. If the movement is to have widespread impact, its adherents will have to master not just carpentry and wiring but the tedious jargon of planned unit developments and accessory dwelling units. They must step out of the shadows and into city hall. In November a crew of Luminaries, including Zach Giffin, descended on Kansas City for the International Code Council hearings, where the nonprofit ICC writes building codes adopted across the country. They won preliminary approval for the first
set of tiny-house building codes, cover- stopped responding to e-mail.” ing everything from emergency egresses to Shafer’s tale is the inverse of his acolytes’: low-overhead staircases. The changes don’t the tiny house came first, followed by debt, apply to homes on wheels or affect local despair, unhappy marriage. In keeping with zoning rules—but proponents said they’d his belief in the integrity of raw material, he cleared a first major hurdle. was candid about his hardships. He would Nonetheless, the thrill of freedom reigns. no more disguise heartbreak than he would Those who do first and ask forgiveness later structural columns. seem to win as often as those who seek I kept thinking of the story—perhaps a permission. “I didn’t stress about zonmyth—of the Rolling Stones’ 1964 visit ing and code,” Zamudio told me. “I to Chicago’s Chess Records, the label wanted a tiny house and I didn’t that recorded Howlin’ Wolf and give a shit.” Bo Diddley. By then, white boys BUILDING That night a series of had turned the blues into the A T I N Y thunderstorms soaked booming industry of rock HOUSE IS TO the Jam. I drove to the and roll. Keith Richards L I V I N G S I M P LY A S Drury, which jutted told a biographer that GETTING PREGNANT IS out of a shopping cenat the studio, perched TO RAISING A CHILD. ter with all the proporon a ladder with a T H E H A R D PA RT I S tions and geometry of brush, was his hero, NOT THE DESIGNING, a ten-pound brick of Muddy Waters. “He BUILDING, BLOGGING, government cheese. was painting the godA N D N E T W O R K I N G : No vacancy. The closdamn ceiling, dressed IT’S COMMITTING TO est room was in Denall in white, with white A PLACE AND LIVING ver, 60 miles away. I paint like tears on his WITHIN YOUR MEANS. returned to the field face, ’cause he wasn’t at the base of Mount selling records at the Apocalypse and stuffed time.” I told this story my muddy feet into my damp sleeping bag. to Jay Shafer, and he nodded and said, “I can My midwestern van friends were gone. I understand that.” checked their Facebook page. They’d posted a 40-second video, without commentary, ON THE FINAL morning, Williams spoke on shot from the window of a moving vehicle, stage. She said nothing about woodworking of the landscape of the West, where so many or circuit breakers. She talked about her limhave chased a dream of a better life: yellow itations, all the things she didn’t know how flats framed by brown mountains, a dust to do, how her friends had stepped up. She spoke of mortality, the passing of loved ones, devil swirling in the distance. the decay of her body, the acceptance of her AS FOR THOSE AGFOs: After feuding with ultimate death. She wanted to face it withhis partner, Shafer lost ownership of Tum- out artifice or delusion. She wept freely, and bleweed Tiny Houses in 2012, before the Shafer and the Luminaries camped in the company tapped its current bonanza of 80- front row wept with her. plus employees building 15 homes a month Maybe the big isolated homes, long lonely in its Colorado Springs factory. Jay left with commutes, stacks of bills, endless hours a $30,000 debt that he has still not paid. bound to a screen—they aren’t the disease Tumbleweed’s lawyers accused him of will- but the symptoms of something more perful trademark infringement and advertising vasive. A sense that we don’t belong; that “knockoffs” of Tumbleweed products that our place in the world is without meaning; Shafer himself had designed. Then, in 2016, that we can’t dissolve the boundaries of after seven years of marriage and two sons, individuality and connect to the divine, to Shafer and his wife split up. Despite what nature, to each other. you might guess, the reason for divorce When the people’s choice prize was anwas not that all four were crammed into 98 nounced, I inspected the winning house. square feet. The family had bought a very The siding appeared to be wood, but when small fixer-upper and planted Shafer’s tiny I ran my fingers across it, it was cool metal, house in the yard, which he used as an office. stamped with fake grain. Until just a few months ago, when he hauled The people had spoken. They preferred O his home to an orchard, he’d been sleeping in the comb-over. a tent, crashing on friends’ couches, pulling food from dumpsters. He told me he hadn’t CONTRIBUTING EDITOR MARK earned any income in the past year. “Some SUNDEEN ( @SUNDEENMARK) IS people set up social-media accounts for me, THE AUTHOR OF THE MAN WHO but I stopped looking at them,” he said. “I QUIT MONEY AND THE UNSETTLERS.
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Illustration by Jack Vanzet
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a he althy do d se Was it the time travelers, the
or the song from Pocahontas? All
I know is that, as my exploration
grew from a
full-on ayahuasca ceremonies, I felt better than I ever
had in my life.
BY GRAYSON SCHAFFER
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“ARE YOU FEELING the plants?” Pluma Blanco whispered. It was nearly midnight, in the darkened great room of a mansion in a nice neighborhood overlooking San Francisco. I was kneeling behind a makeshift altar arrayed with objects of spiritual significance set out by the twenty or so other houseguests lying prone on blankets and camping pads on the floor. Beneath the entire slumber party stretched a large canvas drop cloth that was soiled, like a cage-fighting mat, with mahogany stains from the previous night’s bodily expulsions. “No,” I told the shaman, feeling a little ashamed. When the Uber driver dropped my girlfriend, Emma, and me off, it was a beautiful summer Saturday. The cars parked along the shady lane suggested a barbecue or dinner party. But inside the open door, we found an assemblage of alternative healers, PTSD sufferers, recovering opioid addicts, and wanderers padding quietly around the dimly lit spaces. Some were already friends through these gatherings. Others, like us, had heard about it via word of mouth. No one spoke above a reverent whisper, and we’d all been told not to engage with the neighbors when coming and going. “There may be purging. Have you heard about the purging?” one of the shaman’s assistants asked. He showed us a stack of plastic painter’s buckets and what looked like an ordinary trash can. “This is a one-way sealed alchemical portal for what you’ve worked so hard to release.” But hours later, after prayers, meditation, snorting a sinus-clearing liquid tobacco called tsaank, and finally ingesting a strong cup of ayahuasca—the psychedelic brew at the center of this ceremony—I felt nothing. Around us the others were in the throes of vomiting or deep in psychotropic stupor. The shaman wore a purple cast on his right arm. He’d broken it a couple of weeks earlier while mountain biking. He was stocky and well muscled, in his late forties, with a close-cropped faux hawk and an embroidered short-sleeved white tunic that hung untucked over his cargo pants. He had a softspoken intensity about him and always made eye contact. According to the bio that his assistant had sent prior to the retreat, the shaman was born to midwestern Christian missionaries in the Darién jungles of Panama, where he’d lived for his first 15 years. After college he returned to Panama to study plant medicine among the same indigenous Embera healers who had given him his moniker at birth.
But friends here still know Pluma Blanco by his one-syllable American name, which I’ve agreed not to use. That’s because dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the active ingredient in ayahuasca—despite the brew’s use in pilot studies as a therapy for everything from PTSD to addiction cessation—is still an illegal Schedule I drug. Ayahuasca is actually made from two plants, the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the Psychotria viridis shrub, both found across the jungles of Central and South America. The P. viridis leaf contains DMT, though if you ate it, your stomach acids would zap it before anything happened. The trick is
Instead of being a middle finger to an orderly society, as they were in the sixties, psychedelics have become this generation’s silver bullet of mental health and mindfulness.
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in combining both the leaf and the vine, which contains an enzyme inhibitor that prevents DMT from breaking down immediately in your gut. The odds of anybody randomly combining these two otherwise inert plants—out of all the millions in the jungle—into a stiff brew are nearly impossible, something that would require divine inspiration, which is how indigenous folklore describes ayahuasca’s discovery and early ceremonial use across the Amazon basin since at least 1000 B.C. Pluma came over and poured another ounce or two of the earthy liquid from a stainless-steel HydroFlask bottle on the altar. I put the cup to my lips and for a second time tasted the sweet, woody flavor. It went down like a comet and sat like a burning sphere in my chest. Still nothing. He poured another cup, then another. He lit tobacco, inhaled, and then exhaled onto my forehead. He sang soft, lilting songs in Embera. Behind my closed eyelids, I gradually became aware of an animated ball of light that was drifting off in the distance. I followed it, bringing it closer until it entered
my body and then exploded in the form of projectile vomit. “Good,” Pluma said soothingly. There was no nausea. It was just this sphere of energy leaping from my chest and then a wave of realization: the purge isn’t a side effect but the thing itself. I got the feeling that if I’d ignored the ball, I would have continued to feel nothing. But now I staggered to my feet, flaming jaguar patterns pulsating across my vision, and went back to my mat, where I purged again. A second later, Emma threw up as well. Then we lay back to see what the plants had to say. IF YOU’VE BEEN paying attention to pop culture, you may have noticed that America is in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance. Burning Man— the epicenter of loosely tolerated drug use—isn’t even edgy anymore. The recent Ben Stiller vehicle While We’re Young traffics in the zeitgeist humor of a forty-something couple attempting to recapture their youth at an ayahuasca ceremony. Four-hour lifehacking guru Tim Ferriss has touted both ayahuasca and psilocybin, found in cubensis mushrooms, as a hard reset on your mental computer. On the Outside Podcast in August, he called psychedelics, without irony, “15 years of therapy in five hours.” Meanwhile, the buzz among young Silicon Valley types is that microdosing on LSD boosts creativity. And instead of making pilgrimages to Peru, where backpackers have long sought out ayahuasca ceremonies with indigenous shamans, tech bros are reaching enlightenment without even leaving their zip code. Evidently, somewhere between This Is Your Brain on Drugs and legal marijuana, the narrative on psychedelics got flipped on its head. Instead of being a middle finger to an orderly society, as they were in the sixties, psychedelics have become this generation’s silver bullet of mental health and mindfulness. And rather than riding the wave of antiwar angst, as they did when Timothy Leary’s Harvard Psilocybin Project leaked into the counterculture movement, the drugs have grafted onto our collective obsession with self-improvement and lifestyle design. Leary’s fiery directive was to “tune in, turn on, drop out.” Ferriss just wants you to 10x your productivity, to “level up and reach a phase change.” Until the mid-1960s, mushrooms, LSD, and DMT were all legal. Then, in 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and psychedelics became politically toxic as a research topic. Now, how-
ever, they are once again finding accept- that they tend to generate a new perspecance in academia. Privately funded research tive in the user. “I think the experience itself sanctioned by the FDA and DEA has been gives you the opportunity to change your under way at Johns Hopkins, New York Uni- daily practices,” says Nielson. “It shows you versity, the University of Wisconsin, and what you need.” the University of California at Los Angeles, Her comments echo something that the among others. late neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote in his Scientists at the Johns Hopkins School 2012 bestseller Hallucinations. “We need to of Medicine, led by professor of psychiatry see overall patterns in our lives,” he said. “We and neuroscience Roland Griffiths, have need detachment of this sort as much as we used moderately high doses of psilocybin to arrest major depression and existential anxiety among terminal cancer patients. In 2014, Griffiths’s team released a study in which people trying to quit smoking achieved an unheardof 80 percent success rate after six months using psilocybin and talk therapy. Now they are tackling softer subjects, like whether high doses of the drug—the equivalent of roughly four to five grams of dried mushrooms, several times larger than a recreational dose—will produce spiritually significant experiTimothy Leary in 1967, outside the ences among serious 63-room New York mansion where meditators and clergy he and his followers lived members. At the University of California at San Francisco, a preliminary survey is currently looking at whether need engagement in our lives.” ayahuasca has therapeutic benefits for peoThat’s sort of how I ended up in the care ple who are struggling with PTSD. According of a mountain-biking shaman bro. At 38, to faculty researcher Jessica Nielson—who I I’d spent the better part of two decades was initially unable to reach in early Sep- attempting to outsmart adulthood. I’d been tember because she was attending Burning close to marriage and decided it wasn’t for Man—the survey makes a convincing case me; owned a home and decided it was a for more involved research into ayahuasca. crappy job, not a smart investment. I was “We aren’t totally certain what it is about averaging two beers a night because that’s ayahuasca that people find healing,” says what the people around me were doing. I Nielson. “But what the results hint at is the wasn’t really depressed, but I also wasn’t symptoms and severity of PTSD decrease. using any force besides inertia to determine We’re seeing decreases in alcohol and pre- my daily routine, let alone larger goals. Life scription drug use.” Nielson plans to present was starting to catch up, and I was trying to these results at the Psychedelic Science con- fend it off. ference in Oakland in April. She also believes Pluma, a friend of a friend, was offering that her team can create a synthetic version “a gentle and loving container for ecological of ayahuasca that she hopes the FDA will one and cosmological orientation and awareday approve for clinical trials. ness.” I’ll be the first to admit that it sounded And while the future uses of psychedelics pretty fruity. My plan was, like most magaare in limbo, researchers note anecdotally zine writers covering ayahuasca, to rubber-
neck at the barfing and smirk at the cultish spectacle. Until it turned out that the drugs actually worked. I NEVER HAD a drug phase beyond experi-
menting with pot briefly in high school. It wasn’t until I was 36 and had ended a long relationship that I met Emma, who spent much of the past decade going to festivals like Burning Man. Emma is into glitter and horses and, when given the choice between wearing clothes and not wearing clothes, will generally choose the latter. She’s also working on a master’s degree in environmental management at Harvard. On a clear weekend last summer, we went to the mountains to scout elk for a fall archery hunt. Emma brought a thermos of mag ic mushrooms ground into peppermint tea, and after dinner I got over my Nancy Reagan anxiety and we drank— about 1.75 grams each. I’d always been led to believe that shrooms were things college kids did to see pretty colors and that eating them was basically like poisoning yourself. More than a few friends have since told me that they tried them in college but had bad experiences, most often coinciding with a party, a rock concert, or some other stressful experience like getting lost in the East Village. At first nothing happened. My expectations were low. “These don’t work on me,” I said. “Keep looking at your hands,” she said. “When it looks like they’re somebody else’s hands, they’re working.” I waved my hand in front of my face looking for the tracer vision that Hollywood uses to signify that somebody is tripping. “Nothing yet!” Maybe 40 minutes later, there was a shift. It wasn’t clear when it happened, but my five senses melted together and I started absorbing the world directly instead of perceiving individual sensations. This gave way to rotating mandalas in the most high-def imagery I’d ever seen. Fractal cuboid designs
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superimposed over everything; a suspicion that the artists of Eastern religion weren’t imagining patterns but copying them; the Gaia hypothesis; the burning bush; whatever it was that Picasso saw in people’s faces; and a general feeling that I’d been let in on an old joke that had been told for years by people who were smarter than me. “This is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual,” wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1954 classic of trip-lit The Doors of Perception. Time stopped and started. Spaces grew
I got over my Nancy Reagan anxiety and drank. I’d always been led to believe that shrooms were things college kids did to see pretty colors and that eating them was basically like poisoning yourself. and shrank. But most important, the universe, theretofore invisible, emerged clearly in pulsating outlines between the stars of the Milky Way. Along with it came a feeling of interconnectedness and the sense that many of the things I’d spent time worrying about up to that point were frivolous compared with health, friendship, and purpose. The inevitability of my own death visited me but seemed like it was part of the natural order, so I felt great comfort. It’s the kind of thing that makes you seem a little crazy when you try to explain it, as Tim Ferriss attempted to do with actor Jamie Foxx last year when the two were interviewing each other for their respective shows. Foxx asked Ferriss about his spirituality, and Ferriss responded that he has experienced some things while on psychedelics that suggest “we could be living in a virtual reality” and that there might be parallel universes. Foxx immediately clowned Ferriss and killed the moment: “The bizarro of it all!” And indeed, talking about your psychedelic trip is the kind of thing that can raise eyebrows. After all, there’s still a lot of paranoia over what constitutes drug abuse in a
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society as prone to stigmatization as it is to getting wasted on beer or prescription opioids. Add to that the fact that psychedelics’ effects on the brain are still hazy. Like other hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin, or the mescaline found in peyote, DMT is thought to work by interfering with serotonin receptors to put the user in an altered state, one that can differ significantly from person to person. Why some of these drugs produce common themes—like snakes, jaguars, geometric patterns, mandalas, and tessellations—remains largely a mystery. FIRST AMONG the growing ranks of serious scientists trying to unlock the mysteries of psychedelics is Roland Griffiths, the Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry and neuroscience. If he has learned anything from the mistakes of past researchers, it’s to move slowly and cautiously. After Timothy Leary was fired from Harvard in 1963 for his psilocybin research, and especially after the CSA was enacted, psychedelics became a third rail in academic research. “In addition to the failure to get institutional approval or FDA approval, the ability to get any funding also dried up completely,” says Griffiths, who received approval for his first psilocybin study in 1999. “It was thought culturally to be too dangerous.” What’s changed, in part, is a strange symbiosis between academic and recreational use—there now exist enough well-heeled people who have had transformative experiences with psychedelics (and private groups that see the promise of medical benefits) to bankroll research. These studies, in turn, give psychedelics the imprimatur of safety. But Griffiths cautions that psilocybin can be hazardous to certain people, like those with family histories of mental illness, and he advises against taking mushrooms outside of a controlled setting. “There are dangers,” he says, “and we certainly don’t want to be encouraging people who shouldn’t take these compounds.” Extremely few of the more than 250 volunteers at Johns Hopkins have had serious adverse effects after oral doses of psilocybin. About a third did have bad trips. And in a separate Internet survey Griffiths conducted last year, 1,993 people said they’d had bad trips after taking a median dose of four grams. “Of the 1,993 respondents,” the study found, “10.7 percent reported putting themselves or others at risk of physical
harm, 2.6 percent reported behaving in a physically aggressive or violent manner toward themselves or others, and 2.7 percent reported getting help at a hospital or emergency department.” In the case of ayahuasca, participants follow a cleansing protocol designed to mitigate bad trips, avoiding red meat, spicy and fermented foods, alcohol, sex, and especially other psychedelics, hard drugs, and SSRI-type antidepressants that can interact badly with the drug. Surprisingly, children in some South American communities may drink the brew, and pregnant women are not discouraged by many practitioners from taking part in ayahuasca ceremonies. In fact, there was a pregnant participant at one of the ceremonies I attended. (Western medicine hasn’t weighed in on the subject, though there are heated debates over it in Brazil.) Most of the headline-generating problems have arisen when Westerners trek into South American jungles to attend ceremonies with unknown shamans. Several deaths have been reported in Peru and Ecuador, but the circumstances are murky. In September 2015 in Peru, a New Zealand man suffered cardiac arrest after drinking a purging tobacco tea at an ayahuasca retreat. That December, also in Peru, a Brit was stabbed to death by a Canadian participant during an ayahuasca ceremony. As for Leslie Allison, a Texas woman who died during an ayahuasca ceremony in Ecuador last January, very little is known. Nor are the details clear in the death of American Kyle Nolan, 18, who was found after a ceremony in Peru in 2012. The shaman had hidden his body. It is extremely difficult to overdose on DMT—doing so requires more than 90 times a normal amount. But in these remote areas, you’re completely at the mercy of the shaman when it comes to what’s in the brew besides the vine and the leaf. Sometimes dangerous additives like toé, the toxic flowering plant brugmansia, are included to heighten the effects. As ayahuasca has made its way north, the most serious trouble hasn’t traveled with it. The DEA doesn’t track ayahuasca use, but there have been no reported deaths in the U.S., even as the drug’s popularity has soared. Some religious groups can use the drug legally. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the narrow religious use of ayahuasca based on the same legal statute that allowed Hobby Lobby to deny its employees birth control in 2014. The União do Vegetal, a spiritist Christian church that regularly holds ayahuasca ceremonies, had sued after a shipment of the drug was seized by U.S. Customs
in 1999. As a result, the DEA now has an official waiver form for religious organizations to apply for a Schedule I exemption to use ayahuasca, thought in practice only the eight congregations of the UDV and one branch of the Santo Daime church, in Oregon, have actually received the exemption. The rest are hoping that the authorities keep looking the other way. Mark Kleiman, a New York University professor of public policy who served as an expert witness in the Supreme Court case, thinks that religious exemptions for psychedelics could grow even more lenient. “The Johns Hopkins groups have shown that a fairly heavy dose of psilocybin with a little bit of spiritual preparation has a very high chance of leading to a full mystical experience, which is in some viewpoints the direct form of religious experience,” he says. “There’s an argument to be made that the freedom of religion should include the free practice of spirituality even outside of congregations.” The takeaway I got was that ayahuasca isn’t legal in the U.S. but it might as well be.
sions now, and psilocybin a few more, it’s hard to say exactly what the effects of psychedelics have been on me. Many people will quickly call them an excuse to get high cloaked in the guise of cosmic enlightenment. Maybe. (And perhaps this is a good time to confess that I’ve grown a man bun.) But here’s what else has happened. Over the past year, I’ve gradually lost interest in alcohol. The same six-pack of beer has been in my fridge for months. I’m not trying to avoid drinking; it just doesn’t seem appealing. One of the latent effects of ayahuasca has been a heightened sense of the present moment. Alcohol tends to numb that.
COURTESY OF GRAYSON SCHAFFER
FOR ME the experi-
ence, as sometimes happens with first timers, was subtle. When, for a few minSchaffer alongside his girlfriend, utes, the room was Emma, in Moab last September silent of purging and rustling, the shaman’s song would fill my head and my body would vanish. Then I was drifting along in Last October, I joined a CrossFit gym— the darkness through a series of hallucina- yeah, another cliché midlife move. I’d never tions that felt as real as anything: plates of belonged to a gym before and had certainly armor and fish scales, a scene of rotating never been disciplined enough to make lily-pad line drawings. organized fitness part of my routine. But after I was struck at how potent the stillness a year, I’m still going three days a week and was, but also how fragile. Before the night have dropped ten pounds of fat and added began, I’d been skeptical of the rituals, the another ten of lean muscle. My abs have altar, and the singing. As far as I was con- reemerged after a decade-long hiatus. cerned, we were doing drugs—why church it I’ve also become less snarky, though I still up? But now I saw that the songs, the setting have flare-ups. A few years ago, I was doing of intentions, the need to actually find and talk therapy with a psychologist who was welcome the plants, were all necessary parts convinced that in high school—the same of the process. Ayahuasca is, in a very real pressure cooker of a New England boarding sense, work. You’ve gotta meet it halfway. school that Ferriss attended two years ahead Having taken ayahuasca on three occa- of me—I developed a sharp tongue in order
to survive in that ultracompetitive world. It’s a theme that’s probably common in most high schools, and it followed me into adulthood. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve been able to let go of the sarcasm and embrace earnestness. Small slights and petty aggressions seem fleeting now compared with existential questions and actual gratitude for how much has gone right. Most of all, I was convinced that in order to write well, I needed to be an angsty, unmedicated depressive. While it’s true that I struggle emotionally with every assignment, it’s become clear that depression—though it runs in the family—just isn’t in me. “You’re depressed that you’re not more depressed,” Emma told me during that first ayahuasca retreat. Ayahuasca was supposed to force a confrontation with that emotional baggage. And I have plenty. I walk around with fairly constant highfunctioning anxiety. I feel shame over failed rel at ion sh ip s a nd missed deadlines, and I obsess over minor rejections. When my father died in 2007, I pretty much blocked out his death. His ashes are stashed in a closet at our family farm, awaiting a good time for me, my brother, and our mom to spread them. One of the common forms of ayahuasca’s visitations is called a life review. The medicine sometimes comes on like Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Past, forcing people to confront in vivid detail every relationship they’ve ever destroyed and friend they’ve ever wronged. I was convinced that ayahuasca still had a beating in store for me. BESIDES BEING a home to the União do Vegetal church, my town of Santa Fe turns out to be a hub of American plant medicine. Emma and I signed up for a two-night ceremony with one of the city’s many shamanic practitioners, as ours preferred to be called and whose identity we agreed not to reveal. As before, the demographic ranged from slightly hippyish continued on page 88 >
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Burek en route to Kenai
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When they captured her off Cohen Island in the summer of 2007, she weighed 58 pounds and was the size of a collie. The growth rings in a tooth they pulled revealed her age—eight years, a mature female sea otter. They anesthetized her and placed tags on her flippers. They assigned her a number: LCI013, or 13 for short. They installed a transmitter in her belly and gave her a VHF radio frequency: 165.155 megahertz. Then they released her. The otter was now, in effect, her own small-wattage Alaskan radio station. If you had the right kind of antenna and a receiver, you could launch a skiff into Kachemak Bay, lift the antenna, and hunt the air for the music of her existence: an occasional ping in high C that was both solitary and reassuring amid the static of the wide world. Otter 13, they soon learned, preferred the sheltered waters on the south side of Kachemak Bay. In Kasitsna Bay and Jakolof Bay, she whelped pups and clutched clams in her strong paws. She chewed off her tags. Some days, if you stood on the sand in Homer, you could glimpse her just beyond Bishop’s Beach, her head as slick as a greaser’s ducktail, wrapped in the bull kelp with other females and their pups. “They’re so cute, aren’t they?” said the woman in the gold-rimmed eyeglasses. She was leaning over 13 as she said this, measuring a right forepaw with a small ruler. The otter’s paw was raised to her head as if in greeting, or perhaps surrender. “They’re one of the few animals that are cute even when they’re dead.” Two weeks earlier, salmon set-netters had found the otter on the beach on the far side of Barbara Point. The dying creature was too weak to remove a stone lodged in her jaws. Local officials gathered her up, and a quick look inside revealed the transmitter: 13 was a wild animal with a history. This made her rare. She was placed on a fast ferry and then put in cold storage to await the attention of veterinary pathologist Kathy Burek, who now paused over her with a sympathetic voice and a scalpel of the size usually seen in human morgues. Burek worked with short, sure draws of the knife. The otter opened. “Wow, that’s pretty interesting,” Burek said. “Very marked edema over the right tarsus. But I don’t
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see any fractures.” The room filled with the smell of low tide on a hot day, of pastexpiration sirloin. A visiting observer wobbled in his rubber clamming boots. “The only shame is if you pass out where we can’t find you,” Burek said without looking up. She continued her exploration. “This animal has such dense fur. You can really miss something.” She made several confident strokes until the pelt came away in her hands, as if she were a host gently helping a dinner guest out of her coat. The only fur left on 13 was a small pair of mittens and the cap on her head, resembling a Russian trooper’s flap-eared ushanka. IT HAD BEEN nearly a year since Burek’s inbox pinged with notice of a different dead sea otter. Then her e-mail sounded again, and again after that. In 2015, 304 otters would be found dead or dying, mostly around Homer and Kachemak Bay, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The number was nearly five times higher than in recent years. On one day alone, four otters arrived for necropsy. Burek had to drag an extra table into her lab so that she and a colleague could keep pace—slicing open furry dead animals, two at a time, for hours on end. As they worked, an enormous patch of unusually warm water sat stubbornly in the eastern North Pacific. The patch was so persistent that scientists christened it the Blob. Researchers caught sunfish off Icy Point. An unprecedented toxic algal bloom, fueled by the Blob, reached from Southern California to Alaska. Whales had begun to die in worrisome numbers off the coast of Alaska and British Columbia—45 whales that year in the western Gulf of Alaska alone, mostly humpbacks and fins. Federal officials had labeled this, with an abstruseness that would please Don DeLillo, an Unusual Mortality Event. By winter, dead murres lay thick on beaches. The Blob would eventually dissipate, but scientists feared that the warming and its effects were a glimpse into the future under climate change. What, if anything, did all this have to do with the death of 13? Burek wasn’t sure yet. When sea otters first began perishing in large numbers around Homer several years ago,
she identified a culprit: a strain of streptococcus bacteria that was also an emerging pathogen affecting humans. But lately things hadn’t been quite so simple. While the infection again killed otters during the Blob’s appearance, Burek found other problems as well. Many of the otters that died of strep also had low levels of toxins from the Blob’s massive algal bloom, a clue that the animals possibly had even more of the quick-moving poison in their systems before researchers got to them. They must be somehow interacting. Perhaps several problems now were gang-tackling the animals, each landing its own enervating blow. Burek’s lilac surgical gloves grew red. She noted that the otter had a lung that looked “weird.” She measured a raspberry-size clot on a heart valve using a piece of dental floss. She started working in the abdomen. “Huh,” she said. She’d noticed that the lower part of the otter was filled with brown matter and bits of shell: the nearly digested remains of the animal’s last meals had spilled into its pelvis and down into a leg wound. This could have caused an infection and also led to blood poisoning. But where was the injury? “The colon got perforated. I have no idea how,” Burek said. She probed further until she found a pocket of something like pus at the top of the femur. She eventually separated the femur from the body, and her assistant placed the bone in a Ziploc bag. By now it was past lunchtime. Burek had been at the necropsy table for more than three hours without pause. She looked a litCLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: tle weary. What caused Burek at her home the otter’s death would near Anchorage; remain, for the moment, prelabeled tissueunresolved. The not sample baggies; knowing seemed to Burek (right) and assistant displease her, though Rachael Rooney Burek was accustomed prepare an otter to mystery. The frozen for necropsy north was always shiftat a U.S. Fish ing; you took it as you and Wildlife lab found it. in Anchorage; cutting, measurBurek straightened ing, and preservstiffly. “I’m hungry,” she ing specimens; said across the bloody Burek taking table. She removed the a break in the otter’s head and reached lab; Rooney (foreground), for the bone saw. “Who Mariah Stephens, likes Indian?” BUREK OFTEN spends
her days cutting up the wildest, largest, smallest, most charismatic, and most ferocious creatures in Alaska,
and Burek at the Kenai airport, headed into the field; inspecting and measuring a beluga whale on the beach in Nikiski.
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ALL ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED PURSUANT TO NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE PERMIT NO. 18786.
looking for what killed them. She’s been on the job for more than 20 years, self-employed and working with just about every organization that oversees wildlife in Alaska. Until recently, she was the only board-certified anatomic pathologist in a state that’s more than twice the size of Texas. (There’s now one other, at the University of Alaska.) She’s still the only one who regularly heads into the field with her flensing knives and vials, harvesting samples that she’ll later squint at under a microscope. Nowhere in North America is this work more important than in the wilds of Alaska. The year 2015 was the planet’s hottest on record; 2016 is expected to have been hotter still. As human-generated greenhouse gases continue to trap heat in the world’s oceans, air, and ice at the rate of four Hiroshima bomb explosions every second, and carbon dioxide reaches its greatest atmospheric concentration in 800,000 years, the highest latitudes are warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Alaska was so warm last winter that organizers of the Iditarod had to haul in snow from Fairbanks, 360 miles to the north, for the traditional start in Anchorage. The waters of the high Arctic may be nearly free of summertime ice in little more than two decades, something human eyes have never seen. If Americans think about the defrosting northern icebox, they picture dog-paddling polar bears. This obscures much bigger changes at work. A great unraveling is under way as nature gropes for a new equilibrium. Some species are finding that their traditional homes are disappearing, even while the north becomes more hospitable to new arrivals. On both sides of the Brooks Range—the spine of peaks that runs 600 miles east to west across northern Alaska—the land is greening but also browning as tundra becomes shrubland and trees die off. With these shifts in climate and vegetation, birds, rodents, and other animals are on the march. Parasites and pathogens are hitching rides with these newcomers. “The old saying was that our cold kept away the riffraff,” one scientist told me. “That’s not so true anymore.” During this epic reshuffle, strange events are the new normal. In Alaska’s Arctic in summertime, tens of thousands of walruses haul out on shore, their usual ice floes gone. North of Canada, where the fabled Northwest Passage now melts out every year, satellite-tagged bowhead whales from the Atlantic and Pacific recently met for the first time since the start of the Holocene. These changes are openings for contagion. “Anytime you get an introduction of a new species to a new area, we always think of disease,” Burek told me. “Is there going to be
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new disease that comes because there’s new family home, which is made of honeycolored logs and sits on an acre and a half in species there?” A lot of research worldwide has focused Eagle River, about 20 miles north of downon how climate change will increase disease town Anchorage. This is where the asphalt transmission in tropical and even temperate yields to Alaska. The rough peaks of the climates, as with dengue fever in the Amer- Chugach Mountains, still piebald with snow ican South. Far less attention has been paid in midsummer, lean overhead. Moose occato what will happen—indeed, is already hap- sionally carry off the backyard badminton pening—in the world’s highest latitudes, and net in their antlers. In July, I headed north from Seattle to to the people who live there. Put another way: The north isn’t just spend a month with Burek as she worked. She’s 54 but looks a decade younger, with warming. It has a fever. This matters to you and me even if we long brown hair and appled cheeks that live thousands of miles away, because what give her the appearance of having just come happens in the north won’t stay there. Birds in from the icicled outdoors. Her voice has migrate. Disease spreads. The changes in an approachable Great Plains flatness, Alaska are harbingers for what humans and the vestige of her Wisconsin birth and an animals may see elsewhere. It’s the front upbringing in the suburbs of Ohio. Burek line in climate change’s transformation of ends many sentences with a short, sharp laugh—a punctuative caboose that can signal the planet. This is where Burek comes in. Fundamen- either amusement or bemusement, dependtally, a veterinary pathologist is a detective. ing. Growing up in the Midwest, she didn’t Burek’s city streets are the tissues of wild see the ocean until high school. “But I was animals, her crime scenes the discolored and always fascinated by whales,” she told me. distended organs of tide-washed seals and “And I always wanted to be a vet or a wildlife emaciated wood bison. “She’s the one who’s biologist—Jane Goodall or something.” She going to see changes,” says Kathi Lefebvre, laughed. “Lots of kids wanted to be vets. a lead research biologist at Seattle’s North- They outgrow it.” Burek was intrigued by the biology— west Fisheries Science Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric how bodies worked and how, sometimes, they didn’t. After college Administration (NOAA). she went to veterinary “She’s the one who’s THE ARCTIC school at the University of going to see epidemics NORTH ISN’T Wisconsin-Madison, later come along. And she’s . moving to Alaska to see how the one with the skills . she would like working in a to diagnose things.” THIS MATTERS typical vet practice. One year As the planet enters TO YOU AND ME she lived outside Soldotna, new waters, Burek’s EVEN IF WE LIVE in a one-room “dry” cabin, work has made her one THOUSANDS with no running water, while of the lonely few at the writing her thesis for a masOF MILES AWAY, bow, calling out the ter’s degree in wildlife disoddness she sees in BECAUSE WHAT ease virology. Alaska agreed the hope that we can HAPPENS IN THE with her. “I like the seasons. dodge some of the meltNORTH WON’T I like the wilderness. I like ing icebergs in our path. stay there. the animals,” she said. It’s a career that long Burek met her future husago ceased to strike band, Henry Huntington, Burek as unusual, and she moves without flinching through a world on the coast of the Chukchi Sea in the high tinged with blood and irony. The first time Arctic, during the Inupiat’s annual spring we spoke on the phone, Burek offhandedly bowhead whale hunt, when breezes pushed said of herself and a colleague, “We’ve prob- the ice pack together and forced a pause in ably cut up more sea otters than anybody else the whaling. They now have two teenage sons. “I tell the boys they’re the product of on the planet.” persistent west winds in May of 1992,” said “Congratulations,” I said. “We all got to brag about something,” she Henry, a respected researcher and scientist with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Arctic conreplied. servation campaigns. SUMMER IS THE season when Alaskans at Surprisingly little is known about the play under the undying sun tend to come diseases of wildlife. As a result, many vetacross dead or stranded animals and place erinary pathologists end up focusing on a a call to a wildlife hotline. The call starts a few species. Thanks to Burek’s curiosity and chain of events that often ends at Burek’s her gifts, and to a necessary embrace of the
Alaskan virtue of do-it-yourself, her expertise is broad. “Anyone who gets into this kind of thing, you like a puzzle,” she told me. “You have to pull together all kinds of little pieces of information to try to figure it out, and it’s very, very challenging.” Over the years, Burek has peered inside just about every mammal that shows up in Alaskan field guides. One morning, as we drank coffee at her kitchen table, she rattled off a few dozen examples. Coyotes. Polar bears. Dall sheep. Five species of seals. As many whales, including rare Stejneger’s beaked whales. As we talked, I wandered into the living room. On a wall not far from the wedding photos hung feathery baleen from the mouths of bowhead whales and the white scimitars of walrus tusks. Upstairs in a loft lay an oosik—the baculum, or penis bone, of another walrus. It was as long as a basketball player’s tibia. Atop the fireplace mantel, where other families might display pictures of wattled grandparents, grinned a row of skulls: brown bear, lynx, wood bison. Burek tapped one of the skulls in a spot that looked honeycombed. “Abscessed tooth,” she said. “Wolf. One of my cases.” Working on wild animals, often in situ, routinely presents her with job hazards that simply aren’t found in the lower 48. Anchorage sits at the confluence of two long inlets. When Burek performs necropsies on whales on Turnagain Arm, she has to keep a sentry’s eye on the horizon for its infamous bore tide, when tidal flow comes in as a standing wave, fast enough that it has outrun a galloping moose. Knik Arm is underlain in places by a fine glacial silt that, when wet, liquefies into a lethal quicksand. Burek’s rule of thumb in the field is never to sink below her ankles. Not long ago, while taking samples from a deceased beluga, she kept slipping deeper. Exasperated, she finally climbed inside the whale and resumed cutting. Then there’s the problem of the whales themselves. “Whales are just like CrockPots,” Burek said. “They’re kind of encased in this thick layer of blubber that’s designed to keep them warm. They might look OK on the outside, but inside everything is mush.” Decay is the nemesis of the pathologist. Decay erodes evidence. “Fresher is always better,” Burek said, sounding like a discerning sushi chef. It isn’t possible every time. Colleagues told me about a trip with Burek to a remote beach outside Yakutat, to do a postmortem on a humpback. There were several in the group, including a government man with a shotgun to keep away the brown bears that sometimes try to dine on Burek’s specimens. It was raining and cold, and the whale had been dead for a while. Inside, the
organs were soup. The pilot who retrieved them had to wear a respirator. “My wife,” Henry told me, “has a high threshold for discomfort.” ONE MORNING in Anchorage, my phone
buzzed. To get a text from Burek is to gain new appreciation for the cliché mixed emotions. Often it’s a chirpy message notifying you that another of God’s creatures has expired and would you like to come see the carcass? Burek picked me up at a coffee shop on Northern Lights Avenue, driving the family’s Dodge Grand Caravan with a cracked windshield. Outside it was sunny and warm; just two days earlier, it hit 85 in Deadhorse, the highest temperature ever recorded on the North Slope. Burek’s eyeglasses were covered by sun blockers of the type sold on late-night television. She was wearing summer sandals, her Skulls and toenails painted power tools in Burek’s lab what a saleswoman would call “aubergine.” Her foot pressed the gas. We were going to pick up a dead baby moose. “Fish and Game wants to know why it died, if it’s a possible management issue,” Burek said. Last year an adenovirus, which is more commonly seen in deer in California, had killed two moose in Alaska. Officials wanted to know how common adenovirus was in the state. As work went, it was an unremarkable day for Burek. The past several years had presented her with a string of cases that were altogether more intriguing and odder and more frustrating for their open-endedness. In 2012, Burek and others observed polar bears that had suffered a curious alopecia, or hair loss, but they were unable to pinpoint the reason. In 2014, Burek described a sea otter that had died of histoplasmosis, an infection caused by a fungus that’s usually found in the droppings of midwestern bats. The infection will sometimes afflict spelunkers, which is where it gets its common name: cave disease. The finding was a dubious first, both for a marine mammal and for Alaska. But, again, why? What was a midwestern fungus doing inside an otter plashing off the coast of Alaska? Then there was the strange case of the
ringed seals. In the spring of 2011, native hunters in Barrow, the northernmost town in the U.S., started finding ringed seals that didn’t look right. The animals had lesions around their mouths and eyes, and ulcers along their flippers. Some had gone bald. A handful died. Soon, down the coast at the major walrus rookery at Point Lay, ulcers started turning up on walruses both living and dead. The number of sightings on spotted and bearded seals increased and spread south into the Bering Strait as the summer progressed. In time, a few ribbon seals were also affected. Federal officials labeled it another Unusual Mortality Event, a signal of concern and a call for more study. Burek led the postmortems, opening up dozens of animals. Researchers sent samples as far away as Columbia University, in New York, for molecular work. They tested many ideas, but the cause eluded them. Was climate change a factor in the events? T he evidence intrigued Burek and her colleagues. Seals molt during a brief span of time in the spring. According to Peter Boreng, the polar ecosystems program leader at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the longer days and warming temperatures likely cue the animals to climb onto the sea ice, so their skin can warm up and start the process of dropping old hairs and growing new ones. Having ice present is probably crucial for this molting process to happen, Boveng and others believe. But what if a warming north meant less ice for the seals to use, interfering with their molt? That would explain why the animals showed lesions in the same places on their bodies where the molt begins—the face, the rear end. And when the skin is unprotected by fur, Burek told me, “it may be susceptible to secondary inflections” from bacteria and fungi in the environment. Nature, alas, is messy and confusing. Though the reasoning seemed plausible, there was no widespread lack of spring ice in 2011 in the areas where the diseased seals were found. Deepening the mystery, lesions in walruses all but vanished in subsequent years, even as some seals continue to have them. “It’s very frustrating—very frustrating,” Burek said of trying to tease out
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an answer. A lot of her work remains unresolved. Burek knows that this is the reality of doing her job in the 49th state. It is a vast place, expensive to do research; scientists often haven’t been able to do enough baseline studies to know what’s normal and expected, versus new and worrisome, in a given population. Still, it chews at her, the inability to give answers to concerned native peoples. “I have enough self-doubt that it’s like, well, maybe it’s because I’m not working hard enough, or I haven’t done the right thing to figure it out.” TO BE SURE, the far north isn’t collapsing under contagion caused by climate change. And Burek is careful about drawing connections. Still, a good detective doesn’t need a smoking gun to know when a crime has been committed. Circumstantial evidence, if there’s enough of it, and the right kinds, can tell the story. “It seems hard to believe,” Burek told me, “that a lot of these changes aren’t related to what’s going on in the environment. The problem is proving it.” There’s a larger question, too, about what these developments augur for humans. The answer, researchers are finding, is that it’s already starting to matter. Time was, the cold and remoteness of the far north kept its freezer door closed to a lot of contagion. Now the north is neither so cold nor so remote. About four million people live in the circumpolar north, sometimes in sizable cities (Murmansk and Norilsk, Russia; Tromso, Norway). Oil rigs drill. Tourist ships cruise the Northwest Passage. And as new animals and pathogens arrive and thrive in the warmer, more crowded north, some human sickness is on the rise, too. Sweden saw a record number of tickborne encephalitis cases in 2011, and again in 2012, as roe deer expanded their range northward with ticks in tow. Researchers think the virus the ticks carry may increase its concentrations in warmer weather. The bacterium Francisella tularensis, which at its worst is so lethal that both the U.S. and the USSR weaponized it during the Cold War, is also on the increase in Sweden. Spread by mosquitoes there, the milder form can cause months of flu-like symptoms. Last summer in Russia’s far north, anthrax reportedly killed a grandmother and a boy after melting permafrost released spores from epidemic-killed deer that had been buried for decades in the once frozen ground. Alaska hasn’t been immune to such changes. A few months ago, researchers reported that five species of nonnative ticks, probably aided by climate change, may now be established in the state. One is the American dog tick, which can transmit the bac-
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terium that causes Rocky Mountain spotted for what’s happening in the world. Otters fever, which can lead to paralysis in both splash in the same waters where humans canines and humans. In 2004, a bad case of live, work, and play. They eat the same seafood poisoning sent dozens of cruise-ship food humans do. “I call them a pathologist’s passengers running to their cabins. The cul- wonderland, because they get all the fanprit was Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a leading tastic, extreme infectious diseases—not to source of seafood-related food poisoning. sound too unpleasant,” Burek said. There are other reasons to pay attention to V. parahaemolyticus is typically tied to eating raw oysters taken from the warm waters animals like otters. Mike Brubaker, director of places like Louisiana. Why was it infecting of community environment and health at people 600 miles north of the most north- the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, erly recorded incident? Health officials later points out that traditional foods—everything teased out the reason: summer water tem- from salmonberries to moose meat—still peratures in Prince William Sound, where the make up 80 percent of the native diet in some oysters are farmed, now gets warm enough remote Alaskan communities. If animals suffer, then traditional diets suffer, and so to activate the bacterium. Earlier in 2016, Burek and NOAA’s Lefeb- do the cultures that revolve around hunting, vre coauthored a paper about their discov- fishing, and foraging. ery of domoic acid in all 13 species of Alaskan marine mammals they examined, from Steller MAKING BUREK’S job even more complisea lions to humpback whales, in waters as cated, animals frequently die from mysterifar north as the Arctic Ocean. Domoic acid ous causes that may have nothing at all to do is naturally produced by some species of with climate change. As she pokes through algae, and it moves through the food web as the bones, her constant challenge is to discern it accumulates in the filter-feeding animals what’s notably weird from what’s simply that dine on it—anchovies, sardines, crabs, everyday and unfortunate. Near the airport, Burek turned into Alaska clams, and oysters. Scientists knew the algae that makes domoic acid were present, but Air Cargo, backed up to a loading dock, they never had a report of a bloom that far and parked the van. “It’s surprising how north before 2015. The hunch is that warm- often they can’t find the carcass,” she said. ing waters may be increasing the toxin’s We went inside. Burek handed a tracking number to an agent behind the counter. A presence in Alaska. “What’s going to happen to these man driving a forklift soon appeared at the 100-year-old whales when they get hit by loading dock. The forklift was freighted with a 31- gallon blue these neurotoxins three Rubbermaid Roughneck years in a row?” Lefebvre Tote labeled UNKNOWN said. “And it’s not just “we’ve SHIPPER . Burek opened mortality. It’s sub-lethal probably the hatchback of the minineurological effects.” CUT UP MORE van and pushed aside pairs A study published in SEA OTTERS of Xtratuf rubber boots. 2015 in the journal SciTHAN ANYONE The tote weighed a lot, but ence found that harmful ELSE ON not so much that one man algal blooms off the CalTHE PLANET,” couldn’t lift it. ifornia coast have caused BUREK TOLD We drove east through enough brain damage to . the sunny noonday traffic California sea lions that ULATIONS,” of Anchorage with a dead they lose their way and . baby moose in the rear of have trouble hunting. ALL GOT TO the minivan. Burek was in “This is a shot across a good mood, as she usuBRAG ABOUT the bow,” Lefebvre said ally was. Years of working of the algal blooms. “It’s SOMETHING,” in close proximity to death the type of thing that . had resulted in a sort of could happen and beover-the-fence neighborcome more common.” Here’s the broader lesson: if the animals liness with the macabre. She told me how can get sick, we can get sick, whether it’s from area hospitals occasionally helped her deinvigorated pathogens in the environment termine cause of death by performing CT or from ailing animals themselves. Three in scans of dead baby orcas or by putting the four emerging infectious diseases in humans heads of juvenile beaked whales into their today are zoonotic diseases—illnesses passed MRI machines to look for acoustic injuries from Navy sonar or energy exploration. “I’m from animals to humans. This is one reason Burek has a soft spot for surprised this car doesn’t smell worse for all sea otters like 13: they are excellent sentinels the things that have been in it,” she said. “I
had a bison calf delivered to me, and it was between a bear’s canines. “So that’s cool.” In an interesting coincidence, Burek later in a tote like that, but it didn’t fit—so these would tell me she suspected that, for all the four legs were sticking out.” We arrived at a lab at the University of other abnormalities she found inside 13— Alaska Anchorage, where Burek is an adjunct the clot, the weird-looking lung—perhaps professor. The room was small, with white the otter, too, was ultimately done in by walls, a steel table at the center, and a drain something as mundane as a predator. Bluntin the floor. Burek pulled on a pair of rubber toothed young killer whales will sometimes Grundens crabbing bibs the color of traffic grab otters but not kill them, she explained; cones, stepped into the tall boots from the they sort of play with their food. Burek had minivan, and pulled her hair back. She could seen it before. Intrigued, she telephoned the have been headed for a day of dip-netting Museum of the North in Fairbanks and asked colleagues to measure for sockeye on the Kenai. the skull of a juvenile An assistant laid out tools. TURNED OUT orca for an estimate of A big pair of garden shears OF THE TOTE the diameter of its bite. sat on the counter, as foreONTO THE The measurement perboding as Chekhov’s gun on STEEL TABLE, fectly fit the damage. the mantle. THE MOOSE “Of course, we’ll never “You’re probably gonna CALF WAS know for sure,” she said. want to put on gloves for THE SIZE OF A Still, there was a trace of this,” she said. satisfaction in her voice. Turned out of the tote . Now, using a No. 20 onto the steel table, the LAY WITH ITS scalpel, Burek quickly moose calf was the size of a LEGS FOLDED, skinned the moose calf full-grown Labrador. It lay AS IF IT WAS and opened the stubwith its legs folded, as if it born clamshell of the was just bedding down in JUST BEDDING rib cage. An unwelcome soft lettuce. Burek flipped DOWN IN visitor wafted into the the calf onto its left side, soft lettuce. room. Burek, however, which was how she liked no longer seemed to to work on her ruminants. notice odors that, were Then she began, calling out information. Sex: female. Weight: 74 they canistered and lobbed across internapounds. Death: July 13. Length: 116 cen- tional borders, would swiftly be outlawed timeters. Axillary girth: 76 centimeters. by the Geneva Conventions. As she worked, She swabbed an obvious abscess, open and the gore took on a practiced orchestration. draining, on the right shoulder. She noted Burek cut triangles of beet-colored liver the pale mucus membranes. She inserted a and dropped them into prelabeled bags with syringe into an eyeball to sample the aque- a pair of medical tweezers. She took samples ous humor. She returned to the shoulder, to of lung and lymph node and gall bladder. She the painful-looking abscess, and removed squeezed the descending colon and collected a piece of it for later examination on a glass the pellets. She filled vials and syringes. Some slide under a microscope. Then Burek of the bits she did not even bother to label; after decades, Burek could recognize them pressed her fingers into the wound. “Oh, that’s kind of gross,” she said. by sight. With a few slices, she opened the “There’s a comminuted fracture in there.” firm dark knot of the heart like a chapbook When not using a scalpel and forceps, Burek and removed what resembled red chicken often uses her fingers. After years of prac- fat. At home Burek would spin the stuff in tice, her touch serves almost as a caliper and a centrifuge. Stripped of its red blood cells, gauge. She will bread-loaf a liver and pinch the clear blood serum was an excellent way the sections, probing for hardness. She will to see which infectious agents the animal run her fingers along a wet trachea in search had been exposed to in the past. “Diagnostic of abnormalities. “Oh, feel that,” she will say gold,” Burek called it. to anyone willing to feel that. Burek cut deeper to expose the wound. THE TABLE TOOK on the appearance of a “Oh. Oh. Poor thing. It probably got nailed,” Francis Bacon canvas: A smear of blood. she said. The detective was hitting her stride An ear divorced from a head. The sprung now. Searching the exterior of the calf, Burek cage of the moose’s body exposing its soft, quickly found what she was looking for— translucent clockworks. The open mouth a second puncture wound, this one also mutely horrified. Burek noted a hemorrhage badly infected. She measured the distance on the surface of the pancreas and fibrin on between the wounds: 5.5 centimeters, or the peritoneal cavity, and she moved on. The the approximate distance, she estimated, door of the lab stood open to the smiling July
afternoon. Sunlight caught on aspen leaves. One of the two young women who were assisting Burek had just returned from her first year of veterinary school. Burek was her inspiration, she said. As the women laughed and worked, Burek quizzed her on biology and she told stories. “I had a horse head in my freezer one time.” “Bears smell absolutely horrible. I did a bear necropsy in our garage once, and my son Thomas said I could never do that again.” “Can I get some muscle?” “Those large whales? Holy cow. It’s so confusing: Where the heck is the urinary bladder?” “For a while, I had a big colony in my garage of those flesh-eating beetles that museums use to clean skulls. But a couple of the beetles got out. That’s when Henry put his foot down.” “Where’d my duodenum tag go? Anyone seen it?” “I don’t think rumens smell that bad. But I went to vet school in Wisconsin.” The steel table slowly emptied. The blue Rubbermaid bin filled. In went a foreleg. Intestines. The ear. Now another assistant lifted the garden shears. She squeezed and sliced through the ball joint of the calf’s femur, which is one of the best places on a young animal for Burek to see evidence of troubles, such as rickets, that would affect its growth plates. Burek, meanwhile, opened the skull to sample the brain. “It’s a bit of a mystery,” she said as she worked, meaning the cause of the moose’s death. Her initial guess: the bite led to septicemia, which led to encephalitis. “It’s a story that kind of makes sense,” she said. “I’d like to see more pus.” Later she added: “But in this job you have to be willing to look dumb and be wrong and change your story.” Burek asked for the time. When I told her it was after four o’clock already, her good humor slipped. “I’ve got to get to the dump.” What was the hurry? There was a new movie she wanted to see at seven, she said. She would have to race home to shower—to wash off the day, to wash off the smell, the blood, the moose. “It’s a Disney movie, I think,” Burek said. A film about animals run amok. “It’s called The Secret Life of Pets.” She loaded the moose in the back of the minivan and reached for O the bleach. “It looks cute.” CONTRIBUTING EDITOR CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON ( @CHRISASOLOMON) WROTE ABOUT THE UTAH WILDERNESS WARS IN MARCH 2016. THIS STORY WAS SUPPORTED BY A GRANT FROM THE INSTITUTE FOR JOURNALISM AND NATURAL RESOURCES.
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FUGITIVE continued from page 59
THERE’S A SAYING in Australia’s Far North
Queensland region: Your history starts here. For decades this remote stretch of pristine beaches and lush rainforest along the continent’s northeastern edge has attracted an oddball mix of Australian hippies and starry-eyed foreigners seeking a fresh start. You could be a German count or a renegade chemist who supplied LSD to the Grateful Dead. “No one gives a stuff,” said Andrew Forsyth, himself a former pilot who ferried Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth around the world, and relocated to the area in 2002 after first visiting some 40 years prior. In the 1970s, there were no traffic lights and few paved roads. Despite its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, only the most determined travelers ever reached the area. Those who did often stopped in Port Douglas, a sleepy fishing village with a crescent-moonshaped slice of golden beach. The downtown had a general store, a post office, and a couple of pubs where barefooted locals with names like Pegleg Tommy spun tales of bull sharks seen and giant crocs narrowly avoided. “You could fire a gun down the street and you wouldn’t hit anybody,” said Norm Clinch, a machinist from Brisbane who often fished out of Port Douglas. “The police? There was one station, and they’d all be in there drunk or asleep.” It was here in Port Douglas that, one day in the fall of 1975, a beat-up faded green station wagon arrived carrying a sun-baked American couple looking for just such a place. The lanky man who stepped out of the car identified himself as Dennis “Lee” Lafferty. If anyone asked—and few ever did—he was a fisherman from Texas. His wife was Janet Lafferty. If anyone asked—and few ever did—she came from Michigan, and both her parents were dead. It wasn’t just Australia’s far-off location and proximity to the reef that attracted the couple. Lafferty’s great-uncle had visited in the 1920s and described Far North Queensland as a real-life Shangri-La. It also offered an added benefit: the fishing was world-class. “We started from the get-go,” recalled
Janet, who acted as Lee’s second mate as he relaunched his career. The waters off Port Douglas were so well stocked, fishermen needed nothing more than a rudimentary lure made out of a fourinch piece of curved metal with a hook attached to have success. It was almost comically primitive. “When was the last time a fish saw a school of spoons going by?” Lee would say. Lee outfished the locals in part by using live bait—caught with the specially designed cast nets that he and Janet made and sold— and quickly established himself as one of the best Port Douglas had ever known. “I used to say, ‘I’ll back Lee against any of you cunts,’ ” said Clinch, the salty-tongued machinist, who became one of Lee’s first friends. “ ‘He’ll fish you out ten to one.’ ” If Lee did have access to large sums of money (and Janet insists that he did not), he surely didn’t act like it. At one point, he was running so low on cash that he had to borrow $8,000 from a fellow American expat named Walter Starck to buy an engine for a new boat. “He never bought anything flashy,” Starck said. “They didn’t go out and entertain. They lived a very modest life.” Five years passed, and no one came looking for them. By then the Laffertys had two daughters—Jessie, born in 1976, and Kianna, in 1980—and though they told the girls about their past, life seemed to settle down. “He was a gentleman’s gentleman,” said Edward Pitt, a local fisherman who lived a few doors down. “He never showed off. He struck me as just a normal worker.” When pressed, his fishing buddies said there was one thing about Lee that was a bit odd. Anytime one of them produced a camera, he would disappear. In 1982, the Laffertys purchased an overgrown piece of property along the Daintree River’s southern bank. The 80-mile-long waterway snakes through dense rainforest, where you can walk for miles without encountering another human being. It’s the kind of place that would have obvious appeal to an international fugitive. But rather than retreat from society, Lee started a tour venture. The area has always been an ecological wonder, boasting unique species of mangrove trees, bats, birds, frogs, and tree kangaroos. He founded a company focused on exposing people to the best of it. In a span of ten years, the Daintree River Cruise Centre became one of the area’s most vital businesses. “It was classic hiding in plain sight,” Janet told me. “It’s not hard to turn the conversation around and get someone talking about themselves. We both learned that very quickly.” Lee devoured books on the region’s ecol-
ogy. He talked to the indigenous population to learn how they used seeds and plants. It wasn’t long before people showed up carrying specimens they hoped Lee could identify. “I’d say, ‘God, he’s an encyclopedia,’ ” recalled Betty Clinch, who was one of the Cruise Centre’s first employees. As Lee’s understanding of the region’s ecosystem deepened, he dedicated himself to protecting it. He urged farmers to plant vegetation along the river’s edge to stop erosion. He pushed boaters to reduce their speed on the water so that the wake wouldn’t undercut the banks and disturb the microbes that inhabit the shallow areas. People close to him estimate that he saved the lives of hundreds of fruit bats that got stuck in the barbed-wire fences used by farmers. How he could spot them with one eye while driving on curvy country roads no one could understand. “Everybody here hates fruit bats, because they eat crops and spread disease,” said Lydia Archer, a longtime family friend. “He’d say they’re the most essential part of the ecosystem, because they spread native seeds throughout the forest.” Even Norman Duke, one of the world’s foremost authorities on mangrove forests, was impressed. He first met Lee in 2002, when Lee was hosting a research expedition. “He really knew his stuff, and that shined in a place where there are a lot of people who don’t know what they’re talking about and claim they do,” Duke told me. “He easily fit into the tradition of the classic outdoor woodsman, the guy who can make a fire out of nothing in a rainstorm.” FOR MORE THAN 35 years, Lee and Janet
lived peacefully on the river. Then, in June 2011, news broke in Far North Queensland that a fugitive American drug trafficker was living an hour from Daintree. Michael McGoldrick, real name Peyton Eidson, was the leader of a California smuggling ring and went on the run in the mid-1980s. Eidson and his wife and daughter had fled to Australia, where they operated a luxury mountain retreat. They were captured by Aussie police after American authorities discovered that the real McGoldricks were dead. For weeks the story was the talk of the Cruise Centre. The workers would sit around after-hours talking about the latest developments. It seemed everyone had something to say—except Lee. Privately, Lee and Janet were both rattled by Eidson’s unmasking. “It did cause some concern, and it did worry Dad,” his daughter Jessie told me. “He certainly did not want to be exposed.” Lee and Janet had ferociously guarded his secret since arriving in Australia. They had
few close friends; he rarely left town and never returned to the U.S. Even after the two separated, in 2011, Janet never said a word to anyone. As careful as they were, the secret still found its way outside the family. When Kianna was a teen, she told her equestrian instructor, a future Olympian named Christine Doan. (Kianna declined to comment for this story.) Years later, Jessie married Doan’s brother. The relationship soured, and so did the Doan family’s feelings about the Laffertys. “It’s a psychological crime scene,” Christine told me. Lee may have succeeded in hiding his worries about Eidson’s arrest from his employees. But the noose was beginning to tighten. Three years after Eidson’s capture, in late 2014, a tipster contacted a semiretired Florida newspaper reporter named Lucy Morgan and alleged that Ray Stansel had been living a second life as an environmentalist in Australia. Morgan was used to getting tips about Stansel; she was a 74-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner who had written numerous stories about him and other smugglers. The tip didn’t seem especially promising at first, but she wasn’t the type to let something go without a little investigation. Following the call, Morgan pulled out a set of dusty cardboard boxes that contained every available record on Raymond Grady Stansel Jr. Lee Lafferty was by then a shell of his former self. Parkinson’s disease had sapped his strength and stiffened his body. His hands shook, making it difficult for him to hold a coffee cup. Walking became a chore. Every so often he’d say something about his past that raised eyebrows—that he once slept with $2 million under his pillow, for instance—but his employees shrugged the comments off as the medication-induced musings of a sick man. In early May 2015, a friend took him out in a wooden dory. For weeks, Lee had been begging his buddy to do so. Since he was a boy, there was nowhere Lee felt more capable, more alive, than on the water. But on the river that day, Lee could hardly move on his own; the friend had to lift him into the boat. After less than an hour, Lee said he’d had enough. A couple of weeks later, Lee Lafferty got into his pickup truck for the last time. BACK IN FLORIDA, the news of Ray Stan-
sel’s death—and life—in Australia stunned the investigators and prosecutors who had spent years trying to bring him to justice. “He turned out to be a hell of a Houdini,” Salcines, the prosecutor, told me. His family in Florida had more complicated feelings. “It really just broke my heart
when he disappeared,” said his sister, Elaine Schweinsberg. “He never tried to contact us again. I felt so bad that his children had to grow up without him.” In the years after Stansel vanished, two of his sons, Raymond and Ronald, became drug smugglers and then fugitives after they were indicted for trying to haul half a ton of cocaine into Florida in 1991. Both were eventually arrested—Ronald in Costa Rica in 1992, Raymond in Alaska in 2010—and handed long prison sentences. Despite being abandoned by their father, both believe he made the right choice. “I think my father picked a good place to have a life and am glad that he won and got out of here when he did,” Raymond Stansel III wrote from the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex near Orlando. “I missed him but used what he taught me and lived without regrets for my life.” “I don’t blame Dad for not showing up,” Ronald Stansel wrote from the Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola. “I’m sure that he missed certain aspects of what was left behind. It’s like you cut a chunk of your heart out leaving. But things seldom end the way you visualize in life. You can only take your best shot and roll with the punches.” In fact, it was hard to find a single friend or family member who was troubled by Lee Lafferty’s previous life as a pot smuggler; it even seemed to have made him a legend. “Some people were asking does it change my opinion of him,” Mick Casey, a river guide who worked for him, told me. “It makes me admire the bastard even more.” People in Far North Queensland often talk about Lee as someone who found redemption: a man running away from a troubled past who transformed himself into a protector of one of the world’s most pristine natural habitats. “Reflecting on it now, it’s just what Australia’s all about,” said Norman Duke. “It’s all about redemption. All about finding a new life.” Spend long enough in Daintree, and you might also hear another story. Sometime in the early 1980s, Lee and a doctor friend were driving along the road that links Daintree and Mossman. As they neared a small bridge, they spotted a car in the crocodile-infested creek below. A couple of guys were just standing around looking at it. Lee burst from his vehicle and quickly realized that someone was still in the floating car. He dove into the creek, pulled out the unconscious man, and dragged him onto the bank. By the time the O police arrived, Lee was long gone. RICH SCHAPIRO IS A STAFF WRITER AT THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. THIS IS HIS FIRST STORY FOR OUTSIDE.
PSYCHEDELICS continued from page 77
to housewives to therapists. Also as before, our leader was a Caucasian who’d spent a significant amount of time in the jungle learning his trade. If drinking ayahuasca on hundreds of occasions has deleterious side effects, he showed no obvious signs of feeblemindedness. Thirty people were arrayed around the room on camping mats, each with the now obligatory painter’s bucket. The leader said prayers, whistled and sang to the medicine, then poured it into small paper cups. We drank the strong liquid and turned out the lights, and the singing began. This group had many practitioners who perform various “healings.” Feeling nothing after an hour, I got up and went to see one. The woman blew tobacco onto me and sang songs. It seemed a little woo-woo, but something about the ritual made the medicine kick in all at once. I started sweating profusely, and I was suddenly aware of a bright light shining through me and an open window with neatly illustrated children’s balloons rising against a blue sky. I spent the next hour in a semilucid stupor, racing around sky-based freeways of a futuristic city in hovering spaceships. The ships gave me motion sickness, and I threw up into my bucket. Alternately, I was shown scenes of humans with jaguar faces. I’ve had no experience with jaguars or spaceships, which makes me wonder whether pre-Columbian tribesmen might have seen figments of cultures that weren’t theirs, either. The more you try to think about it, the more you realize that there’s nothing in your logic toolkit that can explain what you’re seeing. When I came to, Emma was annoyed. The medicine hadn’t worked for her at all. “I want to go sleep in the car,” she said. “There are just a bunch of white people in here shaking rattles and singing off-key. I forgot my earplugs.” It was a valid complaint from one of the few sober people in the room. But on night two, it finally clicked for Emma. Half an hour after drinking, she sat up, purged, and then lay back. “Are you feeling the plants?” I asked, trying to sound serious.
“This is awesome!” she said, her eyes closed but clearly staring intently at something going on behind her lids. I waited and waited, drank a second cup, and went up for a healing with a woman who told me I’d been an apprentice to a powerful shaman in a previous life (bonus!) but had my powers curtailed because I hadn’t used them responsibly (dammit!). Convinced that I needed to purge, I went back to my mat and willed the room to spin. Nothing. And then, when I gave up, this incredible weight lifted from me, and my breathing became clear, focused, and circular. There was no hallucination at all but the purest sense of being present that I’d ever experienced. It was like reaching a warp level in meditation. Then the vibe in the room went from a solemn ceremony to something like an acoustic rave. It was well after midnight. A woman in her early twenties who’d been road-tripping across Colorado took a guitar down from the wall and launched fiercely into a familiar sounding song. “Is this—?” “The theme song to Pocahontas,” finished Emma. “I should be snarking right now, but— this. Is. Amazing!” I whispered. And it was. Twenty-nine tripping adults sat glued to their camping mats, barf buckets at the ready, right through the very last chorus of “paint with all the colors of the wind.” Somewhere near the end, I noticed that the room, just as Pluma Blanco had promised my first time, seemed like a gentle and loving container. I’m still not certain what cosmological awareness means exactly, but I’m pretty sure I experienced it. If ayahuasca can be the brutal enforcer of conscience, I haven’t seen that side yet. Maybe I’ve been lucky, or maybe the message is that I’m not as messed up as I’d hoped or feared. Will I keep going back to ayahuasca? It’s hard to say. One thing other people tell me is that the experience produces more questions than answers. It’s not a truth serum so much as a way to shake up the snow globe or throw your wagon out of an old rut. To friends I’ve described the effects of DMT as like having my brain deposited into Roger Federer’s body to play a few sets of tennis. When the experience was over, I still couldn’t play like him. But I did have an understanding of the level of mindful focus that’s possible. And having seen that changes the way you play the game. Or it could just be frying my brain. Drugs O are bad, right? GRAYSON SCHAFFER ( @GRAYSON SCHAFFER) IS AN OUTSIDE EDITOR AT LARGE.
NOISE continued from page 65
“Data so far has been very inconsistent,” she says. “I think we all believe the jury is still out on that because of the inconsistency of the current evidence.” I WENT INTO this process seeking clarity—
than 1,800 studies. Exposure to a given source of radiation varies depending on how far away you are, and Messinger appears to have peppered the chart with a few examples (“Microwave oven at 4 ft.,” “Cell phone at 30 ft.”), benchmarks for predicting exposure levels herself. According to the studies in the BioInitiative report, adverse conditions connected with exposure to a power density of 100 µW/m² include headaches, sleep loss, and concentration problems. At 10,000 µW/m², studies indicate emotional and behavioral changes, weakened immune systems, and a doubled leukemia risk in adults. At 100,000 µW/m² and up, you’re looking at DNA damage, loss of critical cell functions, and learning problems in children. There are just two entries at the 10,000,000 mark on the top of Messinger’s chart: “DNA damage exceeds repair ability” and “FCC Limit.” “The FCC is ridiculous,” Messinger says, laughing hard when I bring up my attempts to talk with someone there. “There’s going to be major fallout from all this wireless,” she adds. “We can’t feel what it’s doing to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.” Messinger seems like a grounded person, but a lot of people will tell you that the scare science is dubious. She shows me a 2013 Swedish study linking cordless and cellular phones with increased risk of brain tumors. It includes spooky MRI scans of microwave-absorption damage in brains, particularly among children. When I call Dr. Jill Barnholtz-Sloan, a lead epidemiologist at the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, she’s more equivocal. “In the past 12 to 15 years, the incidence of malignant brain tumors in the U.S. has not increased,” she says from her cell phone while riding in a car between Cleveland and Detroit. Recent increases in reports of nonmalignant brain tumors are attributable to changes in ways that information is being collected and recorded, she says. But what about studies linking brain tumors to radiation emitted by cell phones and wireless gadgets?
or at least some assurance that bringing Golden Smog into the woods didn’t mean I was actually polluting the place. What emerged instead were passionate responses from people with clashing agendas that played out like a Taylor Swift–Kanye West feud—which is tough for me, because I like them both. The problem with my fretting all along, however, has been the spectral understanding that none of it really matters. No matter how much malignant data we keep amassing, does anyone really ever expect the clock to be turned back on wireless technology? “Having a little bit of wireless connectivity does not necessarily compromise the wilderness experience. It doesn’t mean Pokémon Go,” Congressman Huffman has assured me. “It’s not a sinister plot, it’s not a conspiracy.” However you feel about that statement, it’s happening. So what does it matter that I stop hiking with my electronics if people like Huffman and Tom Wheeler are determined to “enhance” the wilderness with wireless waves? Of course, leaving gadgets at home doesn’t have to mean leaving music at home. Maybe on my next hike, before it’s too late, I’ll place my iPod on the kitchen counter, lace up my boots, and walk out into the country, as far as I can get from the wireless cage. Another kind of jailbreak. I’ll imagine Tom Wheeler hiking alongside me. Maybe, just after we’ve started down that dusty trail, I’ll turn to him and, invoking yet another classic, let him know that, even without digital support, we can still be men in harmony with the wilderness. “You do know how to whistle, don’t you, Tom?” I’ll say. “You just put your lips together O and blow.” CHUCK THOMPSON IS THE AUTHOR OF FIVE BOOKS, INCLUDING BETTER OFF WITHOUT ’EM: A NORTHERN MANIFESTO FOR SOUTHERN SECESSION. Volume XLII, Number 1. OUTSIDE (ISSN 0278-1433) is published monthly by Mariah Media Network LLC, 400 Market St., Santa Fe, NM 87501. Periodical postage paid at Santa Fe, NM, and additional mailing offices. Canadian Goods and Services Tax Registration No. R126291723. Canada Post International Publications Mail Sales Agreement No. 40015979. Subscription rates: U.S. and possessions, $24; Canada, $35 (includes GST); foreign, $45. Washington residents add sales tax. POSTMASTER: Send U.S. and international address changes to OUTSIDE, P.O. Box 6228, Harlan, IA 51593-1728. Send Canadian address changes to OUTSIDE, P.O. Box 877 Stn Main, Markham, ON L3P-9Z9.
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be managed locally. Why is that a bad idea? The reality is that state budgets are not in great shape. One Republican western governor, and I won’t name names, said to me, “Sally, I don’t want to take over control of the lands you manage. You spend more on firefighting in my state than I spend on education and criminal justice combined.” So the people making that case are ignoring the fact that the firefighting and the invasive-species management and the permitting—that doesn’t come for free. Without federal funds, it leaves states with lands that you’re going to have to support either through increased taxation or by selling the land to the highest bidder, and we think that’s dead wrong.
10/19/16 3:02 PM
You’ve stressed the need to expose more youth and minorities to our public land. Why is this so important? We have got to create an environment where children feel welcome and safe in the outdoors. I’m Caucasian. I grew up playing in the outdoors, and that’s generally who I see there. That is not a reflection of the American population. When I moved to Washington, D.C., it was very evident to me that we have a lot of Civil War heroes, most of them male, most of them on horseback, at many of the intersections, but I saw very few women, almost no people of color. I’m really proud of the fact that [this administration] created the César E. Chávez National Monument, created the Harriet Tubman National Monument, and the Stonewall National Monument in New York City that talks about the struggle for LGBT rights. We’ve also done a lot of work to help kids become comfortable in the outdoors, which starts with just getting out there. We launched Every Kid in a Park, enabling four million fourth-graders to go to all of America’s lands and waters for free. Will that continue? My daughter is in fourth grade next year. It will get funded. The incremental cost of the program is relatively minor, and it’s a
program that makes so much sense. When you take that nine- or ten-year-old child and you remove that one barrier, and you say you can take a whole carful of people, that instills a great sense of pride. But then there is the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, our modern version of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It’s not funded by the federal government in total, but in the course of the time I will have been here, we will see 100,000 young people out doing volunteer service or paid service on public land. It’s connecting them to a place that will never leave them. When your term comes up in January, you and your husband plan to get in your Prius for a long road trip back to Washington State. What will you miss about this role as you drive away? Well, one slight correction. We did actually trade in our Prius for a Subaru Outback. The kind of public lands I want to get out in require more ground clearance! You know, this is an intense job, a job that has meant the world to me. I don’t know yet how to put this incredible knowledge to good use. I’m getting a break, but I’m not done. What does not done look like? There is no better place to figure that out, to get clarity, than Mother Nature. O
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