The Dirtbag Diaries

The Dirtbag Diaries

United States

This is what adventure sounds like. Writer Fitz Cahall presents stories from unclimbed cliff faces, wind-swept ridges and the people who call the mountains their home.

Episodes

Leaving the Races Behind  

If you travel down to Ushuaia, Argentina, you might just find a bus plastered with a massive photograph of Sam Evans-Brown. In that photo, he's sprinting, shoulder to shoulder, with Olympic cross-country ski-racer Martin Bianchi in the final stretch of the 2008 national ski championship of Argentina. 

Today, Sam brings us the backstory to that photograph--a story about a split-second act of kindness that altered the course of Martin's life, and about figuring out when it's time to leave the races behind. 

 

Sam hosts the podcast 'Outside In', a show from New Hampshire Public Radio about the natural world and how we use it. 

A version of this story originally aired on 'Outside In'. You can find "Don't Cheer for Me Argentina" here.

The Shorts--The Chute  

"'Oh, shoot', my dad muttered for the tenth or fifteenth time in the last five minutes. Then, he burst into exhausted chuckles," remembers Deron Daugherty. "I looked up the chute that we were trying to march out of: thirty degrees of slop, several hundred feet to go. 'Shoot', I agreed, and laughed, the dark laugh of those initiated to the secrets of redlined exertion. Type 2 fun before I knew its name. 

When Deron's uncle coerced him and his father on a trip to Vasey's Paradise, an oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, they had no idea what they'd find down there. They didn't know about the chute. They also had no idea what truths they would uncover about one another, the bonds that would form between the three of them or how long those bonds would last. 

The Year of Big Ideas 2017  

No matter who they voted for, right now, a lot of people in this country would agree that things could be better. In the long term, if want thing to go well or if we want to move forward or to grow, then two, almost evenly divided, sides of the country can't remain at intellectual war. 

So, this year, we bring you our annual Year of Big Ideas, but with a twist. With the current state of our country, asking people about their personal goals to get rad outside didn't quite feel right. Instead, we went out the simple/utterly confounding question: How do we move forward? 

Today, our friends, contributors and listeners weigh in with their thoughts and goals on what we do in 2017 and in the years to come. Happy New Year!

The Shorts--Vanlife  

"I have now officially sold out," writes Chris Kalman. "I work more than I climb. I pay rent and sleep in a house I'm getting rich off of writing--so rich, in fact, that I do my grocery shopping inside the store now." 

Today, we bring you the story of Chris's life through the eras of three vans, "Ford," "Chevy" and "Van," to his current, nameless fancypants car. How do you reconcile a dirtbag soul with changing goals and dreams? 

 

You can find more of Chris's writing at FringesFolly.com

To Infinity  

Chad Kellogg. September 22nd, 1971 to February 14th, 2014. Seattle climbing community legend. Dear friend to many. And the toughest guy around. 

"For Chad, not eating and shivering on ledges--that was like skiing powder for him. It was just that fun," remembers Jens Holsten. 

Today, we take a look at what gets left behind when someone like Chad leaves us, and what grows in that vacant space. 

In part one, we hear from Jens, Chad's climbing partner, good friend and mentee during the final years of his life. 

In part two, we follow Ras Vaughan and Gavin Woody as they pick up the torch on a project Chad dreamed up, but never completed: the Rainier Infinity Loop. An idea so grand, it seemed almost inhuman. 

The Shorts--The Skin Track  

With a professional ski guide for a dad and a skin instructor for a mom, Nina Hance learned early how to set a steep skin track and charge hard. At 20, she started to work toward her ski guide certification and got a job as an apprentice guide for a heli operation in Alaska. Imagine her delight when, her first week of college, she met Olivia, climber skier and aspiring avalanche forecaster: the ultimate female adventure companion. 

"She taught me how to party hard, and I made her wake up early for powder days," says Nina. "Whether in deep conversation over a bottle of wine, swapping leads on a multi-pitch, or giggling in the skin track, we couldn't get enough of each other." 

Then, one morning, Nina awoke to a phone full of missed calls from mutual friends, and the terrible realization that she would have to find a new way to love the mountains. 

coMOMdo  

"As a mom, you have no book that tells you the right way to take care of your kids through bad times," says Bonnie Elozory, mother of four. 

For seven-years, the Elozory family weathered a relentless streak of bad luck. With no instructions on how to pull her family out of the muck, Bonnie got creative. When her husband nudged Bonnie to rekindle her dream to hike the Appalachian Trail, she latched on to the idea. And decided to take the kids. 

"Oh my gosh," Bonnie remembers thinking, "this is going to save our lives."

 

*This episode contains discussions about assault. If you're listening with young ears, or have sensitive ears, you may want to skip this one. 

 

Click here to read Bonnie's blog from the trail.

What's Next?  

"This is the part that I never anticipated: the boots have taken on a life of their own. They've just worked magic with people," says M'Lynn. "I'd like to see Paul's boots continue to be an inspiration, continue to get people off the couch and out into the fresh air and paying attention to what they're doing with their lives."

Paul's boots have now covered all 2,189-miles of the AT. All three pairs have summited Katahdin. Now, we've got quite the collection of size 13 hiking boots at the office. And we agree with M'Lynn: we think it would be a shame to let them sit in the corner and collect dust. 

For our third and final episode on the Paul's Boots project, we bring you the story of thru-hiker Alex Newlon, who carried a pair of boots the entire length of the AT, and we have one last ask for you: 

Where do these boots go next? 

Email ideas to boots@ducttapethenbeer.com

 

Watch the full Paul's Boots film.

Listen to the first Paul's Boots episode and the Update from the Trail episode

Tales of Terror Vol. 7  

This is our seventh annual Tales of Terror episode. Over the past seven years, we've read a lot of scary stories about things that happen out in the woods. We've discovered that there are all kinds of frightening things that can happen out there, but there are two ingredients that, mixed together, seem to lead to a terrifying experience more often than anything else: 

1. Going out alone

2. Trying to go to sleep

Today, we bring you three stories of what happens when you try to go to sleep alone in the woods. First, we'll hear from Ryan Taylor, then from Jason Prinster and then from Duct Tape Then Beer's very own Isaiah Branch-Boyle. Happy Halloween, everyone. Maybe go camping with a buddy. 

Mileposts--Greater than the Sum of its Parts  

In the fall of 2015, photographer Pete McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko embarked upon a journey to rally support to protect one of our most awe-inspiring national treasures: the Grand Canyon. Their method? A 700+ mile sectional thru-hike of the wilderness that lies between the rim and the river. They knew the trek would challenge them, but they had no idea how quickly and completely the canyon would leave them demoralized and physically destroyed.

The two of them were contemplating giving up when, as Kevin puts it, 'A miracle happened'. 

Today, a story about three people who have dedicated the better part of their lives to developing a unique skill--and a project so complicated and important that it required their cumulative experience to pull it off. It's also a story about friendship, and how friends working toward a common goal can lead to something greater than the sum of its parts. 

 

You can find Pete's photography and film at: www.petemcbride.com/

To hear more from Kevin, pick up a copy of his book, The Emerald Mile, or listen to the Diaries episode, "The Threshold Moment."

To learn more about Pete and Kevin's journey, check out these two articles: "6 Painful Lessons I Learned by Hiking the Grand Canyon" and "Are We Losing the Grand Canyon?"

To learn more about the current threats to the Grand Canyon and what you can do to help, visit: savetheconfluence.com

The Shorts--The Dirtbag Ministry Co-Op  

"The days and months on the road had unspooled before us and we'd simply followed the thread. But the bobbin was empty now," writes Dave McAllister. "Fine Jade would be the last cumulative "now" we shared, the final adventure we'd have as a group. At least on this trip. Maybe ever." 

Last spring, Dave and his band of dirtbag travelers celebrated their last moments together and helped their friends get hitched in style--atop a desert tower. Today, we bring you a story of gumby ingenuity, spring in the desert, feather boas and a little tale of 'dirtbag theology' in motion. 

 

You can find more of Dave's writing at: Thundercling.com

Paul's Boots--An Update from the Trail  

Last winter, we received an email from M'Lynn Markel. Her late husband, Paul, had a dream to hike the Appalachian Trail. He never made it to the AT--but, M'Lynn thought, maybe his boots could? 

Maybe they could serve as a reminder for all of us to live our dreams while we can. Maybe they could go one step further and literally pull someone off the couch and onto the trail.

We asked you, our community, to help us make that dream a reality. More than 400 emails poured in, from seasoned thru-hikers to first-time backpackers. We heard a resounding, 'Let me know how I can help'. We knew we were part of an incredible community, but damn. We're floored. 

Today, we bring you an update on the journey Paul's boots have made over the past nine months, introduce you to some of the hikers who carried Paul's boots and hear M'Lynn's reaction. 

 

Listen to the first Paul's Boots episode. Learn more about the Paul's Boots Project.

Mothers Have It Hardest - Kyle Dempster Tribute  

"Maybe you and I would have the same recommendation--from my standpoint to the climbers out there, and from your standpoint to the mother's of those climbers out there," Kyle Dempster said to his mother. "Talk about the worst case scenario. Don't pretend that it doesn't exist. Express the love that you have for each other, and also the insurance that, in the event of worst case scenario, life will go on." 

On August 22nd, 2016, Kyle and his climbing partner Scott Adamson went missing on Pakistan's Ogre II. After days of bad weather, friends and family, with incredible help from the Pakistani government, were able to conduct a search, but found no trace of the two climbers. 

Our hearts go out to Terry and to all of Kyle's friends and loved ones. We know that he understood the risks involved in the activities he did, and we know that still doesn't it any easier for the people close to him to live with the hole he's left in their lives. Kyle was one in a billion. 

We originally aired a version of this episode in 2014--a story from Kyle and his mother, Terry, about the struggle of loving an adventurer. The struggle between loving them so much that you don't want to see them hurt, and loving them so much that you want to support them in pursuing their dreams and doing the things that make them tick.

Last year, we reworked this piece to submit to the Third Coast Audio Festival. We have never aired this version publicly. It seemed like the right moment. 

No Way Around It  

Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic are the expedition kayakers. Over the past decade, the duo have made first descents of over 120 rivers in wildly remote locations across 36 countries and 6 continents. In 2016, Ben and Chris traveled to Myanmar to complete a source to sea descent of the Irrawaddy River. 

The both say it was the first time they failed completely to accomplish their objective--and also one of the richest experiences they've ever had. 

"Had we floated freely down the Irrawaddy, I don't know that we would've learned nearly as much about what actually was going on," says Ben. "The corruption that's occurring in that area stopped us from running the river. It wasn't just a side note. It was directly in front of us." 

Today we, bring you a story about the intersection of politics and adventure, and about the richness in failure. 

 

You can read more about Ben and Chris's trip to Myanmar here

Mileposts--Calling Home  

"I think all of us -- dad, me, my brother -- recognized a window of opportunity in which our flexibility as freelancers overlapped with dad's entrance into the golden years of being both retired and fit," says David Hanson. "Plus, it felt like dad and I had some things to figure out. Our differences weren't just that he liked park lodges and I preferred remote bivy sites." 

For the past five years, David's father, Scott, has visited a cluster of National Parks. And every year, David and his brother take turns accompanying him. Today, we travel with David and his father to Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend in search of two of the greatest gifts our public lands give us: family time and common ground. 

You can find David's writing, photos and video at: davidhandson3.com

Start Saying Yes  

"Over two weeks I went from pretty 'fine'--I have to say 'fine' with air quotes and an eye roll because it's that kind of fine--so, I went from 'fine' to 'I'm out'! I just needed a life restart," says Katie Crafts. 

For her thirtieth birthday, Katie gave herself a trip on a cruise to Antarctica. In the other, older passengers on the ship, she caught a glimpse of her future if she continued on the path she was on. In the ship's crew, she saw something else: a superwoman equivalent of herself. Today, we bring you the story of a journey to the far reaches of our planet, and of what it takes to see the person you want to be, and then become that person. It starts with saying 'yes'. 

Mileposts--The Grit to Make it Happen  

"If you go on some really big, really ambitious trip or you have some enormous goal, if you look at the big picture all the time, it's too intimidating, it's too big, it seems too insurmountable," says Jim Harris. "If you break it down into the next move, or the next pitch, or the next day of hiking, or the next rapid or whatever it is, those chunks are manageable. And there's a lot of aspects to spine injuries that are that same way." 

A year and a half ago, Jim traveled to Patagonia to attempt a 350-mile traverse of the Patagonian ice cap via kite-ski and packraft. But before the team even made it out of town, Jim was practicing with his kite when an errant gust of wind pulled him into the air and the slammed him back into the ground, breaking seven vertebrae and rendering him paralyzed. 

For the fifth installment of our Mileposts series, we travel to Grand Teton National Park to bring you a story of how much these places we love can take away from us, and about how, sometimes, those same places can teach us the skills we need to come back. 

 

You can find Jim's photography at: http://www.perpetualweekend.com/

The Suffer Vest  

"I'm not what you'd call a 'runner.' I prefer it to getting fat, but not by a lot," writes Brendan Leonard. "The most I'd run in the past fews years was probably close to 12 kn. I ran a marathon once, and although it felt pretty recent, it was nine years ago." So what's a non-runner to do? Sign up for a 50K trail race with less than 25 days to train, of course. Ready, set, race.

 

You can find more of Brendan's writing at semi-rad.com

The Ultimate Weekend Warrior  

Jim Herson and Anne Smith live in the Bay Area. They're in their fifties. Jim has worked the same computer science job since he graduated college in 1982, and he and Anne have been together nearly that long. They have two kids, a 17 year old daughter and a 13 year old son, who they shuttle around the city in a maroon Subaru wagon. An all-around American family. 

Except for one thing-- Jim and his kids get their family bonding time a thousand feet off the deck on Yosemite's classic routes. 

 

Little Explorers Club  

"Tommy grew up in Estes, but you notice that so many families and so many kids just don't go into the the National Park," says Becca Caldwell. While Rocky Mountain National Park is just a short drive from Estes Park, CO., Becca found parents gravitated to the local playground and coffee shops for playdates. "Why aren't we going out on the trails and letting the kids run loose? How can we change that for my sons's generation?" she asked. It's a question that many experts have been asking too. 

Today, for the fourth episode of our Mileposts series, we hike with the Little Explorers in Rocky Mountain National Park, and see how Becca's simple act is forming a community of kids and parents out on the trails. 

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