S02|E04: There's No "i" in Team

When you walk a trail in the woods, have you ever wondered, how did this get here? Who carved this path? Chances are a team of hardscrabble men and women worked tirelessly to make sure the paths you follow blend right into the landscape. This week we find out why one such trail crew, known as the 'TFC', is the stuff of legend. Also, running and completing a marathon is an amazing achievement that is the culmination of many hours of hard mental and physical training. But can you really claim you finished when you collapse just a few yards from the finish, or is that cheating. And we'll finish it off with a heartwarming story of the ultimate gesture of sportsmanship from a place called Ushuaia, Argentina known as the "End of the World". 

Note: This is an hour-long broadcast version of our show made especially for the radio. This show is made up of stories subscribers to the podcast have already heard so it won't show up in your podcast feed. If you'd like to hear us on the airwaves instead of just in your earbuds, consider asking your local public radio station to air the show! We're currently offering up our seasons for FREE! And if you'd like to support the work that we do, consider supporting NHPR, the NPR member station for the great state of New Hampshire, and the entity that pays our bills. Thanks!

Click on the individual segment titles to see photos, videos, and more!

Part 1

Anothah Boston Cheat

Ari Ofsevit is a guy from Boston fueled by an intense, nerdy love for sports. The day after running this year’s Boston Marathon, his face was all over the cover of the Boston Globe and on all of the network news channels, but on the internet, people were accusing him of cheating. This is Ari’s story.


Part 2

WTF is TFC?

When you walk a trail in the woods, have you ever wondered, how did this get here? Who carved this path? Was this stone staircase always like this? Nope. Chances are a team of hardscrabble men and women worked tirelessly to make sure the paths you follow blend right into the landscape. In this story, we find out why one such trail crew, known as the 'TFC', is the stuff of legend.


Part 3

Don't Cheer For Me Argentina

In 2008, our host, Sam Evans-Brown, won the biggest ski race in Argentina, the Marchablanca. For him that was the whole story, but for the skier on the second step of the podiuma former Olympian named Martin Bianchithat race marked a major turning point in his life. 

Check out the highlights from the 2016 Marchablanca: 


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to Martin Bianchi for giving Sam the big win and the opportunity to be a bus graphic celebrity in Argentina. Also thanks to Luis Antonio Perez for playing the part of Martin in our story; Weldon Johnson, former Yale runner and the co-founder of Let's Run; and former TFC members Kyle Peckham, Natalie Beittel, who are assembling a book of stories from the crew, and Barbara Whiton of the Trail Crew Association. Thanks as well to Rob Burbank of the AMC and Cristine Bailey of the National Forest Service, for setting up our day out on the trail.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

This week’s episode includes tracks from Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, and Tyler Gibbon. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Episode 22: Always Wear Earth Tones

Tony Bosco hid in plain sight for more than two decades in the most densely populated state in the nation. How did he do it? And what makes someone exchange all of the comforts of their home for the simplicity of a shed in the woods? 

Back toward the end of the summer, I teamed up with a local New Hampshire filmmaker, named Nick Czerula, who was headed down to New Jersey to do a profile of a guy named Tony Bosco.

Tony Bosco hid in plain sight for more than two decades in the most densely populated state in the nation. Exchanging the comforts of his home for the simplicity of a camp in the woods. I heard Tony's story over dinner over three years ago. A story of a woodsman chasing herds deer, on foot, as if he was living hundreds of years ago. I was told he had an intimate knowledge of the woods and area he lived. The punch line or what grabbed me was how moments before the hunt would begin, he would just appear before sunrise, out of the woods, ready. Turned out it was because these were his woods, his camp, his home. After three years of searching I found Tony, this video is his story and why he chose the path less traveled. Film by Nick Czerula | First AC - Ryan Mcbride | Boom operator - Sam Evans Brown | Music: Icelanders - Shimmer | Dustin Lau - We'll Leave Our Names Behind | Dustin Lau - A Love Language | Shot on Canon cameras. C300ii S120 powershot

Tony had lived in the woods in central New Jersey for more than twenty years, building secret shelters on private property, and camping just out of view of society.

Tony grew up in Piscataway, New Jersey. And he grew up in a pretty standard New Jersey way. He played football on the state champion team, chased girls, raised hell and got kind of lousy grades. But he also fished and camped and read books, like My Side of the Mountain.

He graduated high school, worked odd-jobs for a number of years and eventually moved to Florida where he drove a limo and worked for AT&T. But after around a decade in the rat-race Tony got fed up.

“You gotta work all the time,” he told us, “Too much work and no play.”

So, Tony moved back home, and just decided to walk away from it all. He walked into the woods. He had many different shelters, scattered about in a lot of spaces on the margins of towns in Middlesex and Somerset counties in New Jersey, but the patch of forest that Tony spent most of his years camping in was a piece of land owned by Rutgers University called Kilmer Woods.

Kilmer woods is about 370 acres. To put that in perspective, if you set up camp in the deepest part of this forest, you’re never more than a quarter mile from a paved road. Tony’s shelter was maybe a couple hundred yards from the nearest apartment building, and just a few hundred feet from the nearest trail.  

Maybe you read about the hermit who lived in the woods of central Maine for 27 years, stealing food and supplies from second homes and summer camps that whole time, until he was finally caught. That was a crazy story, but it was also Maine, where there are huge tracts of forest that you can hide out in. This is a tiny island of second growth forest in the middle of a sprawling suburban center.

So, how does someone live un-noticed, on university property for years? Here’s how Tony said he pulled it off.

Seclusion

“Don’t put down foot-paths, don’t disturb the foliage, you got to be able to blend, and always wear earth tones,” Tony explains, “Not black, black stands out like white in the woods, you got to wear the earth tones, the browns, the greys, greens.”

Photo courtesy of Nick Czerula - nickcz.com

Photo courtesy of Nick Czerula - nickcz.com

Tony’s shelter was tall enough so you can sit up in it, but not stand. That made itharder to spot through the scrub. It had screens to keep the bugs out, windows and doors. It was made of leftover construction materials, and painted to blend in. There were branches and pine-boughs strewn all around it, and it was covered with branches from plastic Christmas trees. The brush in Kilmer woods is thick, and Tony would strategically weave saplings together, arrange dead fallen branches, even haul in old christmas trees that people threw out each year. He would thicken the woods up in certain places to subtly redirect anyone who had decided to leave the trail.

Nick Czerula, who grew up nearby, used to ride his bike through Kilmer woods when he was a kid. “Honestly, my mind is blown because we weren’t only riding there, we were digging there. We were building stuff maybe we shouldn’t like jump trails and stuff. And we never ran into anybody,” he says.

He says when he and Tony met the first time, they had lunch “and I said to him I thought I had almost found him once because I found a deer path or a tunnel, and he laughed, and he said ‘well where’d you end up’ and I said ‘nowhere’ and he said ‘exactly because that’s where I wanted you to end up.’”

Tony calls seclusion A number 1” in terms of the most important priority for someone who is sleeping outdoors on property they don’t have permission to use “so you don’t have to count on people being honest.”

Keep Clean

Photo courtesy of Nick Czerula - nickcz.com

Tony’s camp was right near a little brook, which he would wash off in year round.

“I would wash every single night, icicles come off my hair, I didn’t care,” he says, “You’ve gotta sleep clean, you’ve gotta stay clean.

This has the obvious benefit of helping him to stay kempt, which helped him to hold jobs, but in speaking to healthcare professionals who work with populations of homeless people, it also helps ward off the dermatological infestations -- scabies, lice, crabs -- that plague people who sleep outside night after night without changing their clothes.

The mantra of keeping clean hold true for your feet as well. Often-times people who are living outdoors will come into a clinic with cases of trenchfoot.

“Rotating your shoes is important, because you want to use them, let them air out, use another pair, let them air out, use another pair… I myself have never had foot issues,” Tony says.

Keep Warm

Tony slept on futon mattresses. (“You get the nice six-inch ones because the nine-inch ones are hard to carry out into the woods.”) His shelters were just wide enough that they could accommodate the futons as long as they folded up on the edges, so when he slept he became “Tony the Hotdog.”

In the winter he found he had to up his calorie intake, because “If you don’t eat enough … 3 o’clock in the morning, your eyes pop open, and you’re freezing.” Tony kept his shelters stocked with provisions from grocery stores (which included many products from Little Debbie, judging by the detritus he showed us), and by hunting deer.

“In New Jersey, you’re allowed, per person, legally, like 100 deer!” he says.

Steer Clear of Trouble

But the truth is, when we get down to it, surviving the elements of a New Jersey winter is not incredibly hard. Even up here in Northern New England there are people who spend the whole winter outside. Generally, it’s not exposure that kills homeless people. It’s usually a combination of addiction and ignorance,” says Tony, “And there are people who just plain give up. They get to the point of desperation, and they just just plain give up!”

A recent study in Boston found the top cause of death among its homeless population was drug overdose. After that came cancer, mostly lung cancer and liver cancer. (Think smoking and drinking combined with then not going to the doctor for years.) Violence causes some deaths, and doctors say violence is a big cause of injury among their patients.

The kinds of deaths you might associate with survival situations: freezing to death, starvation, dehydration… didn’t even make the list.

So if we ask ourselves, how did Tony survive all of those years sleeping outside… sure his secrecy, his hygiene, his systems for keeping warm and employed, they were important. But most of all he survived because he avoided the worst parts of the human condition: he never grappled with mental illness. He steered clear of addiction.

Tony Lives Inside Now

Eventually, the Rutgers police department found his campsite, and confiscated his stuff, and left him a note that he could come collect it from them. When he did, they charged him with defiant trespassing.

He moved on, found some other camping spots that he would rotate between, but not too much later, about three years ago, he got into a car accident. He was driving his van when he says another car blew through an intersection, leaving him with eleven damaged vertebrae and unable to work. So he had to come inside. These days he’s living with a high school friend, named Joe.

Being in his late fifties, Tony already outlived most people who spend decades sleeping outside.

When you ask Tony what the future holds for him, it’s hard to know what to make of his answer. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with society. I’m kind of looking forward to growing up one day and joining. I’m getting older now, physically,” he says… but then you can see him check himself and reconsider, “I don’t feel like it’s time... but I’ll move back out to the woods, and be happy.”

Photo by Ryan McBride for Nick Czerula courtesy of Nick Czerula - nickcz.com

Photo by Ryan McBride for Nick Czerula courtesy of Nick Czerula - nickcz.com


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown with help from Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to Nick Czerula for hooking us up with Tony Bosco. Also we'd like to thank the numerous health care professionals we talked to for this story: Marianne Savarese, Jennifer Chisholm, and Paula Mann with Healthcare for the Homeless of Manchester, and Dave Munson and Travis Bagget with Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

This week’s episode featured tracks from Blue Dot Sessions, Spinning Merkaba, and Broke for Free. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists. 

S02|E03: Fighting the Odds

In this week's episode, we have two stories about people fighting and overcoming tough odds: First, the tale of Tony Bosco, who camped in the woods around Rutgers University for more than two decades. Second, the life and work of Dr. Percy Julian, a pioneering chemist who helped unlock the secrets of the soybean and change the face of modern medicine.

Note: This is an hour-long broadcast version of our show made especially for the radio. This show is partially made up of stories subscribers to the podcast have already heard, or will hear, so it won't show up in your podcast feed. If you'd like to hear us on the airwaves instead of just in your earbuds, consider asking your local public radio station to air the show! We're currently offering up our seasons for FREE! And if you'd like to support the work that we do, consider supporting NHPR, the NPR member station for the great state of New Hampshire, and the entity that pays our bills. Thanks!

Click on the individual segment titles to see photos, videos, and more!

Part 1

Tony Bosco | Photo courtesy of Nick Czerula | nickcz.com

Tony Bosco | Photo courtesy of Nick Czerula | nickcz.com

Always Wear Earth Tones

Tony Bosco hid in plain sight for more than two decades in the most densely populated state in the nation. How did he do it? And what makes someone exchange all of the comforts of their home for the simplicity of a shed in the woods? 


Part 2

Dr. Percy & the Magic Soybean

It’s not surprising that many of the medicines we use today are derived from plants. The surprising part is how similar the molecular components of plants are to the building blocks of our own human, mammalian bodies. This week we dive head first into a vat of soybean oil with Dr. Percy Julian who, against all odds, became one of the most prominent chemists of his time and whose work paved the way for the birth control pill. Plus, why the cone snail and its deadly neurotoxin just might be the key to a pain free future.


Outside/In was produced this week by:

Sam Evans-Brown, Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, Jimmy Gutierrez, and Logan Shannon.

Special thanks to: Nick Czerula for the story tip and for the beautiful photography and videography. Also we'd like to thank the numerous health care professionals we talked to for this story: Marianne SavareseJennifer Chisholm, and Paula Mann with Healthcare for the Homeless of Manchester, and Dave Munson and Travis Bagget with Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.

We'd also like to thank Joan Coyle and Keith Lindblom at the American Chemical Society, and to the Julian family for speaking with us as well as letting us use the incredible tape of Dr. Percy Julian himself. 

If you’ve got a question for our Ask Sam hotline, give us a call! We’re always looking for rabbit holes to dive down into. Leave us a voicemail at: 1-603-223-2448. Don’t forget to leave a number so we can call you back.

Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder

This week’s episode includes tracks from Blue Dot Sessions, David Szesztay, Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra, Podington Bear, Ty Gibbon, Spinning Merkaba, and Broke for Free. Check out the Free Music Archive for more tracks from these artists.

Episode 16: WTF is TFC?

When you walk a trail in the woods, have you ever wondered, how did this get here? Who carved this path? Was this stone staircase always like this? Nope. Chances are a team of hardscrabble men and women worked tirelessly to make sure the paths you follow blend right into the landscape. In this story, we find out why one such trail crew, known as the 'TFC', is the stuff of legend.

“People think these staircases occur naturally,” says Nova.

During the rest of the year Nova is known as Alex Milde.  Alex is a clean-cut student at Cornell and a member of its varsity rowing team. But out here, in the wilderness of the White Mountains, he’s the leader of a trail crew and he goes by his woods name: Nova.

“We’ve had people do that. They’ve been walking down our work, talking to their kid, and we’re rolling around in the dirt, clearly putting in a staircase, and they’re like: ‘Yes, honey, these steps were put here by God.’” But they weren’t. They were put there by a crew of people -- mostly college students, working mainly with hand tools -- who labor in obscurity all summer long.

Officially, this is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s professional White Mountain trail crew. Unofficially, it's known as: the TFC.

“It came around in the '70s sometime. It stands for Trail Fucking Crew,” explains Aesop, a second-year member of the TFC, who declines to provide his real name, “We like to say, if your grandma asks what it stands for, you say Trail Fixing Crew.”

The History of AMC's Trail Crew

AMC’s White Mountain trail crew has been around for a long time. In the 1800s, hiking trails were largely cut by the owners of inns and hotels in the White Mountains. In the early 20th century some of the area’s more dedicated hikers, often faculty members of the region’s universities, started to connect these trails. The result was a trail network that was too big to be maintained by volunteer labor alone.

In 1919, the Appalachian Mountain Club formed its first professional trail crew, led by former New Hampshire Governor Sherman Adams, who was fresh out of boot camp and ran the crew accordingly. “He had a reputation,” says Bob Watts who served on the crew from 1952 to 1955 and now serves as the crew's unofficial historian.  Watts says Adams once hiked from Littleton to Hanover in something like 43 hours.

1924 Crew at the Flume Gorge

L to R:  Harland P. Sisk 1923-26(TM), Leonard B. Beach 1923-25, William J. Henrich 1924-27(TM), William L. Starr 1922-25(TM), Frederick Fish 1923-25, Harold D. Miller 1920-23(TM) & 24(TM), Dana C. Backus 1923, 24 & 26.

That superhuman trek was somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy miles, and Adams did it without Gore-Tex® gear, lightweight boots, or a CamelBak®. The culture that Adams created on the trail crew--hard living, hard working, hard charging--remains today. And in the intervening years, the crew has cultivated a mystique that surrounds them still.

Why is the TFC so legendary?

 

Pure physicality

Crew members are expected to do “patrols” for two to three weeks each summer. "Patrols" involve hiking between eight to twenty-two miles a day, clearing every fallen tree from the trail, and a year’s worth of accumulated leaves and dirt out of every water bar.

Once patrolling is done, the crew then gets to work on projects. In order to reach the project site, often set deep in the woods, they must pack and carry a week's worth of equipment and food. Their backpacks, which are technically pack boards, usually weigh more than 100 pounds. The TFC boasts that particularly burly crew members will carry 200+ pound loads. There's even a story of an unfortunate crew member who became momentarily trapped under river water after being toppled by the weight of his packboard.

These brutal workdays are accompanied by some equally punishing days off. Bob Watts reminisced about an impressive, but perhaps ill-advised, hike that he and his crew mate embarked on one summer. It took them 27 miles to the next project site and over Mount Washington (one of the most inhospitable peaks in the country) in the middle of the night. Every year, crew members take part in the fabled, 49-mile “hut traverse”.

 

Shenanigans

The trail crew is legendary for being composed of spirited college kids with a penchant for pranks. The most notorious example went down in the '50s when some trail crew members caught wind that President Eisenhower was coming to visit New Hampshire. They decided to put a goatee on one of the state's more notable icons, the Old Man of the Mountain. To do this, they managed to tie some bushes to his rocky chin, which was located forty feet below a cliff edge; all of this just to give him a funny little beard. “So these guys really, for almost a half a century went into hiding and never would admit their participation in this shenanigan,” says Watts.

Ben English, another crew member from the '50s, remembers the time he and his crew mates constructed an over-sized birds nest with sticks and moss. They hard-boiled some eggs, drew spots on them with a magic marker, and tossed them into the faux-nest. When curious hikers passed by and asked about the nest, they responded, “Why, that’s the nest of the alpine duck.”

This tomfoolery is harmless, but I’m also fairly certain they are some of the more PG stories. If you asked me to guess, the most legendary tales, the kind that attract new crew members from college campuses all around the country, don’t get told to a reporter carrying a microphone.

The Look

To match the mystique they’ve cultivated over the years, the crew has adopted a certain style. Members of the crew don’t look like earth-loving hippies, or tech-fabric wearing ultra-athletes. They’re more like filthy, muscled punk rockers, wearing heavy work boots and stained t-shirts. Many of them sport mohawks, which they say optimizes their aerodynamics for hiking fast.

“My theory is it’s also a radiator,” Nova explains, “So shave the hair on the sides so that allows a lot of heat to radiate out and you evaporate, and then you have the vein of hair coming down the center and that condenses the sweat coming off your head and recirculates it.”

Getting grimy is expected; this is pretty much a one shower a week kind of group. John Lamanna, who was on the crew in the '70s, explains the ethos this way: “Any trail crew guy worth his shit, he would rather have mushrooms growing out of his underwear--if in fact he wore underwear--than [...] ever be caught with his axe dull or not ready to go.”

What’s it like to be on the TFC?

Joan Chevalier was the first woman to be on the trail crew back in 1978. She had worked in the huts, but was always envious of the trail crew. “I wasn’t really a people person, per se,” she says. She started in the huts, and eventually became the caretaker of Guyot shelter the summer it was being rebuilt by the the trail crew, so she worked closely with them. Afterwards, the head of the crew invited her to join the team.

“AMC was one of the places where finally...that women and men were equal,” she says. “It didn’t matter, everybody did what they could do and made a contribution.”

Anna Malvin, a current crew member whose woods name is 10-Gauge, agrees, “The only time I really notice I’m a girl is when like, hikers will pass and make [...] sexist comments. Like, ‘Oh, why don’t you get the guys up there to help you and stuff like that.”

But, “it was almost like a fraternity,” says Chevalier. “They just really had a lot of fun, working very very hard and doing amazing things to keep the trails up.”

2012 Crew

There are echoes of fraternity culture in the TFC’s traditions.

“You don’t really get hazed,” says Malvin. She points to traditions like delegating more menial chores--like having to carry a week’s worth of trash out of the woods--to first year crew members. And then there was this: “We had to take a test at the beginning, just as a joke. Like ‘what color are this person’s tighty-whitey’s?’ While getting little balls thrown at us,” she says, laughing. “But it’s all in good fun.”

“It is sort of difficult, sometimes, to see the line between what’s hazing and what’s bonding,” says Peenesh Shah, who was on the crew in 2001 and 2002. He says an example is the tradition of always keeping your axe close at hand. Ben English explains this tradition stems from a tendency of porcupines to gnaw through the “salty handles” of the axes. Shah once left his axe on a workbench while eating dinner, and some senior members of the crew took it and hid it from him. "You know I think there’s some element of hazing there, but there’s at least some purpose to that.”

“Ultimately it’s pretty harmless right,” he says, but these traditions create a sense of cohesion. “I don’t think you’d be able to get that quality of work product, or just the amount of labor the crew puts in for the amount they get paid, unless there was some other benefit and that benefit is pride.”

“This trail crew job, this is not something that they just drop in out of the sky and work for a summer in the woods in the White Mountains,” says Ben English. “They might think that way when they plan to get here but they find out quite soon that it's different.”

But when it comes to telling the best stories of fun and fellowship in the woods, the ones that bring in new trail crew members year after year. Ben English and John Lamanna demure.

I ask, “Are these stories too good for radio?”John Lamanna responds “We have to maintain a certain mystique around us. We don’t want the whole friggin’ world knowing how good this is, because they’ll all want to do it.”

So there you have it. If you want to know what it’s really like to be on the TFC--the heavy loads, the long-days, the shenanigans in the woods and the life-long friendships -- you’ll just have to join up yourself.

 
 

Historic photos courtesy of Trail Crew Association archives.

**Correction: An earlier version of this article quoted Bob Watts saying Sherman Adams once hiked from Whitefield to Hanover in 43 hours. Watts later amended his statement to say this hike actually was between Littleton and Hanover**


Robert Moor - On Trails

Robert Moor is the author of a book called On TrailsRobert started thinking about trails while walking the Appalachian Trail in 2009, and decided to write about trails generally when he realized that no-one was interested in another story about a middle-class white guy walking the AT.

"[He] began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet: How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others devolve? What makes us follow or strike off on our own? Over the course of the next seven years, Moor traveled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds, from the minuscule to the massive. He learned the tricks of master trail-builders, hunted down long-lost Cherokee trails, and traced the origins of our road networks and the Internet." (Source: robertmoor.com)

Walking the AT does have a profound effect on people, it certainly changed Robert,  as you can see from the photo below.

 
 

Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Sam Evans-Brown, Logan Shannon, and Cordelia Zars. With help from Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Molly Donahue, & Jimmy Gutierrez.

Special thanks to former TFC members Kyle Peckham and Natalie Beittel who are assembling a book of stories of people from the crew. Also Barbara Whiton of the Trail Crew Association who helped Sam track down old crew members. Thanks as well to Rob Burbank of the AMC and Cristina Bailey of the National Forest Service for setting up the day out on the trail. 

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder 

Photos of Sam are by Greta Rybus unless otherwise noted.

S01|E01: Let's Take This Outside

How do you define wilderness? Why are humans drawn to summits? Will the cold-hardy kiwi save a struggling local economy, or will it destroy a native eco-system? What is nutria, and why does it taste so good? Meet Outside/In. A brand new radio show and podcast that takes a look at the natural world and how we use it.

Listen to the full episode:


Champagne on the Rocks

This past summer, Scott Jurek set a new record for running the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail. But on his triumphant day atop the last mountain in Northern Maine, his 21st century campaign for the trail's record ran afoul of a park founded on ideas about wilderness from a decidedly earlier time.


Why We Summit

Mariagrazia Portera's post-doctoral research focuses on evolutionary aesthetics, specifically Darwin's aesthetics. Essentially--using anthropology, philosophy, literature, biology,  genetics--she tries to understand why humans appreciate certain things that are not key to our survival. Things like going to the opera, admiring paintings, reading fictional stories, and climbing mountains. We asked her why humans feel compelled to summit mountains.


10x10: Vernal Pools

A little introduction to 10x10: Occasionally, we're going to be looking very closely at certain really cool spots. We're calling these types of segments 10x10, because--hey--we've got to draw the line somewhere. But it could be a 10x10 plot anywhere: in the woods, on a mountain, in the water, in the air. And really, it could be 10 anything by 10 anything: feet, inches, miles, FATHOMS...we're not big on making any hard and fast rules. 

For this first foray out into the woods, we're checking out something called vernal pools. Vernal, meaning springtime, and pools as in...pools. These are little (and sometimes not so little!) pools that form when spring rains combine with winter snow-melt to make some really wet spots. These puddles might look a little gross, especially after they've been sitting there for a few weeks--and are full of all sorts of sliminess--but they are absolutely essential to all sorts of bizarre critters.

Trust us, you'll never listen to the spring peepers the same way again.


The Cold Hardy Kiwi

Iago Hale has a vision: it’s one where the economy of the North Country is revitalized by local farmers selling delicious, cold hardy kiwi berries to the masses. Meanwhile, Tom Lautzenheiser has been battling a hardy kiwi infestation in Massachusetts for years, and is afraid that this fight will soon be coming to the rest of New England.

Should we worry about the cold hardy kiwi and what does the quest to bring it to market tell us about what an invasive species is?


Eat the Invaders!

So, like everything, there’s a lot of grey area in the definition of what’s “invasive”. But there are also plenty of things that are just straight up a problem. 

The American Chestnut--which was a super valuable tree for both lumber and food--was wiped out by an imported blight.

Rabbits introduced to Australia were so prolific that the Aussies were killing 2 million a year without putting a dent in the population.

And, Burmese pythons are currently in the process of feasting on the endangered birds and small mammals of the Florida Everglades.

Which is why we are going to be doing our part, here at Outside in, by eating some invasive species.

We ate Nutria Stew and Periwinkle Fritters and lived to tell the tale. Watch the videos of us making some culinary magic in the kitchen.

If you'd like to try out an invasive dish for your next party, here are the recipes we used.

Plus a couple hot tips: When you order your nutria meat, make sure it's actually boneless and if you're making Periwinkle Fritters for a crowd, ask the crowd to come early to help you pick out the periwinkles. 

You can find many more invasive species recipes at: Eat The Invaders. Happy eating!

 
 

Outside/In was produced this week by: 

Sam Evans-Brown

With help from: Maureen McMurray, Taylor Quimby, Logan Shannon, Molly Donahue, and Megan Tan.

Photos of Sam are by Greta Rybus unless otherwise noted.