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Stay Wild

Running to save Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

Story by Brooke Jackson // @wandering_trails

Photos by: Johnie Gall // @dirtbagdarling


As a desert sun blares across the unforgiving red-clay landscape, caving to exhaustion seems a welcomed option. Feet pounding against earth with a final destination unseen, the journey is not a simple task. Yet the runner knows: I am a messenger with a story which must be told. 

The tradition of using runners as conduits for communication has been a cultural practice for the Navajo people for centuries. Also known as Messengers, these individuals would sometimes cover hundreds of miles by foot to communicate with other tribes. Len Necefer of Natives Outdoors explains:

“The history of relay runners and messengers extends hundreds of years throughout this landscape. Prior to the introduction of horses by the Spanish, these runners served a critical role in carrying time-sensitive messages between communities and tribes. Today running still serves a critical role in rights-of-passage ceremonies.” 

To communicate their passion, a ragtag group of individuals from various walks of life came together to run 250 miles in two days across Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The reason was not for a race or for glory, but to educate and unite amidst a turbulent political climate. On December 4, 2017, Mr.Trump moved to drastically reduce two protected areas in Utah; Bears Ears will be reduced by about 85 percent or roughly 201,876 acres, while Grand Staircase-Escalante will be reduced from 1.9 million acres to only 1,003,863 acres. Mr. Trump passed these alterations without ever stepping foot into the protected monuments. 


Andy Cochrane, Greg Balkin, and Johnie Gall were not ready to stand idly by as Mr. Trump reduced these lands so drastically. The idea for the Messengers relay originated as the three pondered ways to use their platforms to tell the tales of these threatened public lands. As avid runners and activists, the group quickly formed an adventure. Once the plan was born, the team roster quickly filled. Consisting of everyone from local Navajo tribal members, to data scientists, Olympic athletes, and dirtbags—the crew had their differences. However, they all shared at least one thing in common: a reason to run. 

On February 2nd, 2018, the modern Messengers set off to tell a story. Embodying cultural roots, Necefer explained the connection of the eagles as messengers between humans and the Diyin Dine’é (Navajo Holy People). Therefore, the runners carried a sage and eagle-plumed “baton” to be handed off at transition points to truly strengthen the connection they were trying to deliver. The route traversed through varying climates and geological wonders. From conifer forests to echoing canyon walls, petroglyphs and crumbling spires, the messengers experienced a glimpse into the 200-million-year-old staircase which connects the history of humans and environments which have previously existed there.


The group learned about Navajo culture and experienced the importance of the land. Clare Gallagher reflects on the experience saying, “Without question, I learned more about the Native history of this land than I could ever have from a book or an article. This land is Native land. We are lucky to be able to share it as outdoor enthusiasts.”

As the group successfully finished their 250-mile journey, the message was delivered in bold. As Johnie Gall eloquently states:

 “What brought us together for the relay—some of us with a lifelong love for running, others who have a more ‘tumultuous’ relationship with it—was a collective love for public lands. Finding community through the run gave us a stronger voice than any one of us had on our own. You can accomplish a lot more by finding commonalities than you can by pointing out differences. Love means standing up for what you believe in. Even if that means struggling through a six-mile uphill slog in the desert heat.”


February 2nd, 2018 was the first day which Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante was opened for business to the extractive industries. To learn more and support the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) as well as to see the Messengers documentary, visit MessengersRun.com.

Activist Tinder

Stay Wild

Less Talk & More Action

Words by Justin "Scrappers" Morrison

Photo by Randy P. Martin



I have seen shitstorms of social media outrage. 

I have tapped the trending hashtags. I have read the bumper stickers in traffic. I have sat with people on couches talking about the popular problems. I have only seen these things help people express their concern, but I have never seen these things bring solutions to the problems they are so upset and depressed about.

Surely outreach and education is a big part of finding solutions, but words without action amount to hot breath lost in the cold wind of reality. We need to get off our screens and asses to do the actual work of caring for the environment.

If you’ve done a tree planting or beach clean up you know the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty with a group of people who care about the same issues. It’s a momentary bond between caring people, and sometimes the bond can go deeper than the work and blossom into meaningful relationships. I have seen romance at muddy native plant restoration work parties. To make these meetups easier, Greenpeace, Patagonia, and other organizations have launched activist meetup apps and events. These things connect people to protest things and take action in the name of what they love.

Greenpeace Greenwire is a global social media app offering support to anyone who wants to join Greenpeace activities or organize their own activities. Greenwire wants to help people looking to “Search for support, share information and have fun connecting with others who share your goals. It’s specifically dedicated to helping activists like you get involved in your community.” I’m one of those grumpy rebels who hesitates joining groups, but scrolling down the list of things they have going on, I dropped all my hangups and fell in love with all the good action people have been doing.


Patagonia Action Works connects Patagonia customers with grassroots activism. From their website, people can find out about events, sign petitions, share skills, volunteer, and donate money to help with the environmental issues that they care about most. 

“It’s a digital tool that facilitates human connection.” 

 — Lisa Pike Sheehy, Patagonia’s V.P. of Environmental Activism

“It’s kind of a dating site.”

— Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder

Patagonia has supported grassroots activists working to find solutions to environmental problems for the past 40 years. They’ve given over 90 million dollars to grassroots activists and have helped nurture direct actions and protests. Yvon still asks: “What more can we do?” With the launch of this new site, Yvon leads the charge by saying, “If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed things aren’t going very well for the planet. It’s pretty easy to get depressed about it. I’ve always known that the cure for depression is action.”


Parks Project is another brand that’s all about caring for the environment, specifically national parklands. They organize trail work events and volunteer days. They also make goods that remind people to take pride in the places they love. Parks Project believes that if you love a place, you should work to support it. Here are 10 simple ways they say you can support your parks:

1 // GET EDUCATED // Learn about the history of our parklands to understand the importance of preservation.

2 // TAKE ACTION // Support candidates and vote on issues that protect our parks; write a letter to your local policy makers to keep conservation top of mind.

3 // GET INVOLVED // Join a local park conservation group to stay informed on current issues in your area.

4 // VOLUNTEER // Check out volunteer.gov to participate in cleanups, trail restoration, and invasive species removal.

5 // WATCH YOUR FOOTPRINT // Practice the “Leave No Trace” policy when visiting parks. Use low-impact modes of transportation.

6 // RESPECT HABITAT & WILDLIFE // Leave native plants and artifacts in their natural habitats, and don’t feed the animals.

7 // LIMIT YOUR IMPACT // Be sure to reduce, reuse, and recycle in the parks, and always leave it better than you found it.

8 // BROADCAST // Become an ambassador for responsible outdoor ethics. Use social media to share stories and spread the word.

9 // DONATE // Contribute to nonprofits like the National Park Foundation and the National Park Conservation Association.

10 // WEAR THE PARKS // Celebrate our national parks and their splendor with our goods (of course).


If you love something, you have to work for it. There are a ton of ways we can get involved in the work. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get into action together! 

Mtn. Pursuits

Stay Wild

Our friends at Arbor skateboards should have taken us along for the ride to Portugal. But that's fine. Whatever! We're not bitter. Go ahead and have fun without us at that rad alpine slider. We'll hitch a ride to the next downhill skateboard adventure (fingers crossed).


Desert Angels

Stay Wild

Finding Closure at the Border

By Taliesin Gilkes-Bower // @realms.manifest



It’s easy to die in the Sonoran Desert. Especially if you are alone, dehydrated, and being hunted by the United States Border Patrol. For migrants attempting to enter America through this vast desert, the journey can take up to 10 days and cost nearly five-thousand dollars for a guide. 

Eli Ortiz’s brother went missing here nearly a decade ago. When Border Patrol failed to find him, Ortiz went looking on his own. Thousands have died attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico Border, and those who become separated from their guide rarely survive in the Sonoran, where summer temperatures can reach 120° F. When Ortiz finally located the remains of his brother, he began a lifelong mission to help other families locate their lost and deceased loved ones. His nonprofit organization Aguilas del Desierto now runs as a DIY search and rescue service that uses a team of volunteers to scour the most remote corners of the border to help bring peace to families hoping to bury or know the fate of their relatives. 


About once a month, Ortiz and his crew, mostly working-class Mexicans who live in San Diego, finish work on Friday and drive seven or eight hours east into the desert. They wake up at sunrise and search the brutal and deadly landscape until sunset, utilizing classic wilderness search and rescue tactics and staying in touch on radios. 

When I joined the Aguilas on a recent mission to Cabeza Prieta National Wilderness Area, I was deeply moved by their dedication to this agonizing work. It was humbling to walk alongside these men and women serving their community with such selflessness.

Members of Aguilas Del Desierto dig in the Sonoran Desert where they suspect the body of a migrant has been buried in a shallow grave. Most migrants who die crossing this treacherous desert have been left behind by their guides and quickly succumb to dehydration.

Members of Aguilas Del Desierto dig in the Sonoran Desert where they suspect the body of a migrant has been buried in a shallow grave. Most migrants who die crossing this treacherous desert have been left behind by their guides and quickly succumb to dehydration.

An Aguilas Del Desierto volunteer photographs GPS coordinates of an unidentified bone located in the Sonoran Desert. Because human remains can be the scene of a crime, volunteers photograph and document the locations of any remains and report the information to Border Patrol.

An Aguilas Del Desierto volunteer photographs GPS coordinates of an unidentified bone located in the Sonoran Desert. Because human remains can be the scene of a crime, volunteers photograph and document the locations of any remains and report the information to Border Patrol.

Learn More // realmsmanifest.com