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Grown in Guatemala

Stay Wild

Story and Photography by Laura Goldenberger

Estralla and Aura took us to their medicinal garden where they grow rosemary, aloe, chamomile, oregano, purple basil, red Texas sage, juanilama, meliza, bretonica, ixbut (mother’s milk), orozus, comfrey, wormwood, echinacea, etc. Ruda/rue, a sacred plant that is good for your heart, also helps with nervousness and aches. The women grow and use natural remedies to help the people of their community. 

They also grow plants for natural dyes. They carefully explained the uses of each and every plant. To dye fabric, they first soak it in banana tree stock water. That prepares the fabric to be able to absorb the natural dye without ever washing out. When they demonstrated later, I touched the freshly-dyed fabric and no dye was left on my hands. They use the leaves of coffee plants to make shades of brown. One plant could yield many different colors depending on the method. They used bark, stems, carrots, and even bugs (which make a bright pink color). How the colors set can vary by so many elements and details — if it’s dried in the sun or shade, if it’s cool that day, or if there is a breeze. It can be very difficult to have a consistent result, but that’s what makes each piece so beautiful and unique. 

The women from the weaving group put their beautiful woven blankets on display and it created an open, airy, colorful space. We sat together and they demonstrated each step from dying the fabric to separating it, balling, threading, and weaving. We tried our hand along the way and it was no easy task! 

We learned that many of these women have huge families to provide for. Some are widows, some are not able to count or measure — simply going off of memory and practice. They are strong and crafty mamas! The work is impressive and intricate, bringing so much pride, empowerment, income, and art into their town. 

We each bought a piece and will treasure it always. We said our goodbyes and left feeling grateful. There is no better way to learn than by experience. 

Packrafting Patagonia

Stay Wild

Story & Photos by Kevin Barthelemy

“Cuantos pingüinos en tu mochila?” the man asks me at the ship’s luggage check. With my newly-acquired Spanish, I try to crack a joke: “There are ten penguins in my backpack. Please feed them.” Getting a laugh from the crowd, I figure my Spanish is improving. My friends later inform me that I had actually said, “There are ten penguins in my backpack, and they are my food.” Communication is not my strong point.  

Most of what I knew about Patagonia was from watching other climbers’ slideshows and that it’s a remote place. This would be my first time out of the States and my passport application needed to be expedited. I had to Google packrafting to see how it worked, but I was already hooked. 

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, I’ve got three gringos here who need a ride down Valle Exploradores and they will pay.”

“I’ll be there in five.”

We rumble down the dirt road that traces the top of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. At our planned launching off point in the river, the rapids are way too much for our packrafting abilities. So we walk ten miles down the lonely dirt road with full packs. We are carrying eight jars of peanut butter that we bought at the local supermercado. 

 

Two days of paddling our inflatable boats and the river brings us to the fjords of Bahia Exploradores. The scenery changes slowly at the delta from vegetated mountains to sheer cliff walls with the narrow passages offered by the fjord. The weather is uncharacteristically nice, and around 5 p.m. we see a flat beach to camp on. Naive to how steep the fjord walls are further ahead, we pass on the site. Three hours and one storm later, we are all singing “Amazing Grace” while navigating our inflatable rafts through whitecaps. I’m worked, mentally and physically. My world narrows to a seven-pound inflatable boat, my tired arms, and the horizon I have been staring at for hours. 

Finally, Adam finds a small rocky ledge on a point. The ledge isn’t big enough for our tent but we can sit. We bust out the peanut butter in need of some comfort food. There is talk of spending the night out in the open. We decide that the cliff around the other side of the point can’t be any worse. Leaving our small ledge, we paddle around the point to find a white sandy beach.

After a few more days on the fjord, we find ourselves in a river valley that will take us inland towards the ice field. I attempt to improvise new shoes by duct taping flip flops to my neoprene surf booties. My new shoes don’t work out too well and I fall in the freezing river. We spend the rest of the day bushwhacking up the valley away from the fjord. 

The glacial lakes at the end of the valley connect us to the Rio Sur, and we paddle down this river back to Rio Exploradores. This creates a loop and we are back in “familiar” territory. We walk down the dirt road back to town trying to thumb a ride. Eventually, a truck full of Chileans stops and they let us ride in the bed.  

“Keep in the truck bed or you will die,” the driver tells us in broken English. We bundle up for the cold ride and try to get as comfortable as possible for the next few hours. I ride in the truck bed facing backward and watch the mountains disappear with the setting sun.

That night we pitch our tent and sleep in the backyard of the driver’s girlfriend. This is what I came here for. I needed to get away from the sprawling, cookie-cutter life of Southern California. When I boarded the plane to fly down here, I thought the second I landed in Santiago I would be in grave danger. I’m starting to learn the comfort in just going with the flow and trusting what happens next. This stop wasn’t planned. There wasn’t a TripAdvisor report for the backyard. It just happened. 

Invited North

Stay Wild

 

Vans hikes to Canada with the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational

Story & Photos by Evan Schell evanschell.com // @theslipperysaltwaterchronicles

Two hundred miles west of Vancouver, Canada is a small, coastal town called Tofino. Situated on the northern region of the Esowista Peninsula, Tofino’s natural beauty is absolutely mesmerizing. Temperate rainforests made up of spruce, cedar, and hemlock trees line the Pacific Rim Highway that ends in downtown Tofino. Made up of equal parts tourists and friendly locals, downtown Tofino is a surf-centric locale full of great restaurants, shops, and a beautiful view of the neighboring islands to the north that make up the Clayoquot Sound.

Over the last two decades Tofino has steadily become a popular cold-water surf destination. A handful of local surfers have gained global notoriety in the surfing world, which in turn has helped spotlight this small region of British Columbia. This has led to a number of professional surfing contests taking place at local breaks like Cox Bay. Last year was the first time that Vans held the Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational event at Cox Bay, where sixteen surfers from all over the world competed for a cash prize and bragging rights. When Vans and Joel Tudor returned this year, they decided to change up the event format to make it more inclusive and fun for the local surfers of Tofino. Vans team riders Dane Reynolds, Alex Knost, Tanner Gudauskas, and Joel Tudor each shaped two surfboards that anyone at the beach could ride. The Duct Tape Festival was the epitome of a perfect beach day. Sunny skies, fun waves, and great people lined the beach for a full day of good times.

Well-known local photographer, Jeremy Koreski, began documenting surfing, skating, and Tofino’s unique natural landscapes as a teenager. Over the years Jeremy and his photography have not only helped local surfers gain more exposure outside of Tofino, but he has also teamed up with environmental NGOs like Central Westcoast Forest Society to help protect and educate people about sustainable forestry management in Tofino and the surrounding islands.

Surfers are inherently interconnected with the natural world, whether they realize it or not. In Tofino, it’s obvious that the locals have a heightened understanding of the importance of preserving and protecting the beautiful coastline that they rely on.