I know. It’s been a long time since the last audio edition of The Joy Trip Project. But if you’ve been following the blog and the Facebook page you’ll know that I’ve been traveling on an extend Joy Trip. I just got back. Over the past several weeks of summer I’ve been conducting interviews and collecting stories about people and institutions hard at work making the world a better place. I know that sounds like hyperbole or so vague that it sounds almost meaningless. But there’s really no other way for me to describe the athletes, artist and activists who find their way on this show. Yeah I know we talk a lot about climbing mountains or making movies about people who climb mountains or base jumping or kayaking or whatever, the point is these people work at protecting the planet and improving the lives of others by being actively engaged in the world in which they live. Through their stories about their adventures they stand as an example of how each of us can make a difference in the course our own lives and perhaps do some good. A few weeks ago I was at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride. And if you’ve ever been you’ll know this annual celebration of adventure culture through cinema is about a lot more than high altitude thrill rides and adrenaline induced mayhem. The collected speakers, authors, and filmmakers give us a look from their perspective into the many complex questions of life. One of the presenters and judge in the film competition was the actress Anna Deavere Smith. And while she’s not a climber or a skier or any type of outdoor professional through the power of storytelling she has the ability show us a glimpse into the lives others who ponder these same questions.
Swirling high water on the New River in Fayetteville, West Virginia got me pumped for the summer paddling season. Though heavy concentrations of silt churned the rapids a shade of brown like chocolate milk, a daytrip on a dozen miles of fast whitewater was all it took and I was hooked. I just wanted to paddle! My own enthusiasm for the sport was mirrored by an up-tick in sales of paddling equipment and accessories at the local shop in town Ace Adventure Gear. “We’re up remarkably from last year,” said assistant manager Brad Scott. “Some of it might be the economic downturn coming around. People might just want to recreate at something that doesn’t cost so much. It might even be because of the oil spill and people don’t want to go to the coast. Mainly I think it’s people who want to come in to learn a new sport.”
Among the rolling mountains of Southern New Mexico lies Fort Stanton Snowy River National Conservation Area. Once home to Billy the Kid, occupied by both Union and Confederate Armies, the Buffalo Soldiers and the Apache Mescalero tribe, its history and culture are rich. Today it remains largely as it existed 150 years ago, offering new opportunities above and below ground. Directly beneath this postcard New Mexico Landscape is fort Stanton Cave, an obscure recreational caving site since the 1960s. But in 2001 spelunkers investigating signs of additional caves revealed Snowy River Passage, an endless series of tunnels whose floors are lined with white calcite deposits, the longest formation of its kind in the world.