by Sam TranumThe boy’s hands shook slightly as he stood in front of the blackboard holding a sheet of white paper. A bead of sweat ran down his left temple. A fly buzzed around his head. He waved it away, took a deep breath, planted his feet wide on the worn wood-plank floor, and began to speak.It was summer in Turkmenistan and the temperature was well over 100 degrees. A breeze blew desert dust into the room through the classroom’s open windows. The two dozen or so men and women seated at the room’s child-sized desks picked at plates of cookies and grapes as they listened to the boy recite a poem.“Vaht khappens to a dream deferred?” he began with a thick Russian accent. “Does it dry up like a raisin in zee sun?”I was stunned. In a battered old schoolhouse in a tiny industrial city in a Muslim former Soviet republic on Iran’s northern border in Central Asia, a skinny 15-year-old was demonstrating his English skills by reciting a Langston … [Read more...] about From Turkmenistan to America: How I Found Langston Hughes
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Unlike some modern myths, frequent flyer programs did not begin in a garage, they weren’t scribbled out on a napkin in Bob Crandall’s kitchen, nor are they a dot-com wonder. The fact is that frequent flyer programs, which are celebrating their 25th Anniversary on May 1, aren’t anything they started out to be except one thing — successful.The roots of these programs can be traced back to 1979 when Bill Bernbach, CEO of Doyle Dane Bernbach — the advertising agency for American Airlines — proposed that American do something special for its best customers. At that time, Bernbach was watching with wonder as banks were offering toasters and electric blankets to their best customers and to new customers for opening up accounts. They were having great success with the idea. The agency’s idea was to offer American’s best customers a special “loyalty fare.” Following deregulation in 1978, the airline industry was afloat with ideas that … [Read more...] about The Big 2-5 — Celebrating 25 Years of Frequent Flyer Programs
Something curious is happening in evangelical churches and colleges across the country. Beneath the media radar, thousands of deeply conservative Christian youth are reimagining Jesus as a Leatherman-toting, wilderness-tramping eco-crusader. They’re hitting the trail, joining anti-coal marches, and professing a green theology that breaks with centuries of church dogma. But can this fledgling movement succeed? Tracy Ross examines the odds, and tells us why the next great environmental leader might be a backpacking fundamentalist who believes the true path to personal salvation lies in nature—and in the actions one takes after encountering God there. ------------------------------------ There’s a bend in a trail in a forest in West Virginia where a hiker can gaze out over Eden—miles of lush, green mountains thrumming with black bears and bobcats, lungless salamanders and limb-regenerating newts. There’s another view, just beyond the bend, that opens up on … [Read more...] about Hike. Pray. Protest.
The kid limps into Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital out of the late-September night. His pack is worn and dusty, his face cloaked in a beard that grew out rather than down. It’s the first time he’s been inside a hospital in 23 months. The last time, his doctor gave him 24 months to live. He walks up to the admitting nurse. “Can I help you?” she asks.“I think I need some help. I’ve been on the trail and I keep falling down.”She directs him to have a seat, then asks him his name.“Astro,” he says.“Your name is Astro?”“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. My name is Andy. Andy Lyon. I’ve been walking the trail for a while and everyone calls me Astro.”“Where do you live?”“Well,” he says. “I live on the trail.”“You live on the trail?”“Yeah.”“Do you have a mailing address?”“Yeah, my parents live in Laguna Beach, … [Read more...] about Gone Hiking
It isn't the ugliest rut I've seen.It's maybe a foot deep, and it arcs across the dirt surface of Piute Mountain Road. It might be a washout from the monsoon rains that hit California's southern Sierra in spring. A small boulder juts from one end, and a loose, lumpy swale of a shoulder rises from the other. It's the kind of obstruction that, if you're driving a high-clearance vehicle, might cause you to dip below 5 mph, until you ka-thunk over it, and then you would be on your way without another thought. If, on the other hand, you're driving a lime-green, vegetable-oil-powered Volkswagen Beetle with nearly tread-free tires and 6 inches of clearance, then you'd be forced to do what John and I are doing. Namely: Pace around, study the rut from various angles, and ponder the immutable fact that the road to planetary change is almost always winding and bumpy.We had our warnings. First was the guy back at the Twin Oaks General Store wearing a chef's coat and a David Carradine kung fu … [Read more...] about Can a Lime-Green Vegetable-Oil-Powered Beetle Save the Earth?
Liquor shotguns his first beer at 10:29 a.m.We've been hiking up a steep trail in southwestern China's Guizhou province, a place that looks a lot like Kentucky with bamboo. Fir, pine, and rhododendron also thrive here, at an elevation of 900 feet and roughly the latitude of Orlando, Florida. But there's nothing gentle about Guizhou's chaotic canyon topography–the result of India pushing into Asia, and dozens of rivers cutting through soft sandstone and limestone. Where the hillside isn't dead vertical, it's covered with dense, pack-grabbing vegetation. The temperature has climbed into the upper 80s, and the next ridge disappears into white-cotton humidity.Liquor is a 20-year-old Chinese university student with a protruding stomach and soft, round features. This is his first backpacking trip, and it took only a few minutes on the trail before he questioned the wisdom of packing six cans of beer, especially since he's also carrying several large bags of fried rice, a jar of pickled … [Read more...] about China: The People’s Hiking Revolution
Our campsite in West Baltimore’s notorious Leakin Park marks the point between the city’s mottled past and a bright future. That’s the theory, anyway. Nearby, fog clings to cracked buildings like dryer lint, but I’m looking at the brilliant yellows and reds of oaks and poplars lining ridges of rolling hills. It’s November and campfire smoke rises past my tent and blends with a film of clouds oranged by city lights. Behind a few naked trees, a helicopter cuts the night with a spotlight.“That’s Foxtrot One or Two—police choppers clearing corners,” says Jared Lyles, referring to the police practice of using choppers to scatter people, including drug dealers. Lyles is a former staffer with the city’s parks program and has come out tonight to help me see that Baltimore, beyond its rough reputation, is on the vanguard of cities offering up a new type of outdoor experience to its children—a local one. Just then, another chopper … [Read more...] about Bringing Hiking to the City
The puppies didn't know they were being hunted. On a hillside above the Teklanika River, they pounced on their mother, nuzzled their father, and wrestled each other, chewing on snouts and tails. Through the heat of the day, they slept in the forest, curled up in the filtered light. When evening came, they edged out of the tree wells, skimming the roots with their bellies, and played on the brown grass. It was June, and silver-gray clouds hung over the wide green valleys of Denali National Park. Beneath Sable, Polychrome, and Eielson Peaks, waves of tundra fanned out like carpet. Beyond the tundra, no people. Only mountains, anchored in glaciers, tearing into the sky. Pups born into the world-famous Toklat pack cavort without fear in the safety of the 6-million-acre park. Protected since 1952, they roam Denali boldly, brushing up against tourist buses, stealing backpackers' shoes. But when food is scarce, they follow the Denali caribou herd past the park's northeastern boundary and … [Read more...] about Dogs of War
My second thoughts about the wisdom of embarking on a four-day, father-daughter paddling trip start at the Magalloway River put-in outside of Errol, New Hampshire, before our canoe even gets wet. I set my water bottle in the stern and throw Dad’s in the bow. He walks over immediately and looks at his bottle. “That’s the front,” he says. “You’re right.” I stand closer to the stern. Dad shakes his head. “But that’s the, the… girl place.” In the silence that follows I debate my options. This trip, timed for July, the state’s best month, is an attempt to win my dad over to New Hampshire—rugged, rural New Hampshire, where I have just decided to live. The campaign started on the wrong foot: On what was supposed to be a proud tour of the home my fiancé and I are buying in North Conway, Dad almost passed out from the mold-remediation chemicals. And now, calling him a chauvinistic jerk (or telling him the weaker … [Read more...] about Testing the Waters
We camped on a high pass, mountains as far as we could see.To the north, glacier-crusted, 24,790-foot Minya Konka cut into the horizon like a diamond. To the west, the endless mountains of the peak-spiked, 12,000-foot Tibetan plateau broke the skyline. To the east, a wet mattress of white clouds floated over the rice fields of central Sichuan, China. And to the south: uncountable unclimbed peaks.Our 14,100-foot pass, Tsemed Kha La, was cold, windy, and scabbed with snow. We erected our tent at dusk and within minutes a fog of ice closed in. By morning, two inches of rime coated the Tibetan prayer flag poles atop the pass. We drank hot milk from titanium cups and stared south at the closest series of peaks. Just a couple of miles away, they looked about 16,000 feet high. My partner, Joel Charles, could see the serrated ridgeline I was eyeing and wanted nothing to do with it. “That’s all yours,” he said, nodding at the arête. “I’ll take the S-shaped … [Read more...] about The Path to Shangri-La: Eastern Tibet’s Unclimbed Peaks