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Island Foxes

Stay Wild


Exploring One of California’s Forgotten Islands with the Stay Wild Adventure Club

Story by Justin “Scrappers” Morrison // @scrappers

Photos by Sera Lindsey // @portablesera

Julie Pinzur // @mokuyobithreads

Alex Seastrom // @mowglisurf

Renee Lusano // @wrenees

When we got back to shore, my colorful new backpack had been unzipped by island foxes, or Urocyon littoralis if you’re scientific. Using their tiny teeth, they pulled towels and water toys out looking for food, sunblock, or anything they could snack on. The joke was on them though — I left all of our food back on the mainland. Back at the grocery store. Back where I forgot to buy food for everyone on this camping trip to eat. Ha-haw! Take that, you cute snack-sized foxes. Take that joke and eat it!

The island fox, or snack fox if you will, is native to the Channel Islands. Most national parks have big hot geysers, giant waterfalls, thousand-year-old trees, and other majestic things like mountains. The Channel Islands National Park has snack foxes. All day long they roam the beach and campgrounds looking for cute bite-sized trouble to get into. 

The snack fox was standing on the edge of extinction not long ago when their numbers dropped below 100. Even though they are snack-sized, they are the largest native animal on the islands. The only critters bigger than them were the bald eagles who prefer to snack on fish, not foxes. When the island’s bald eagle populations died off due to DDT chemical insecticides, the fox-snacking golden eagle moved in. The golden eagle snacked so hard on the foxes that the foxes were added to the endangered species list in 2004. But hey, cheer up! Hard-working biologists and volunteers cleaned up the DDT, relocated the golden eagles, and reintroduced the bald eagles, restoring the ecological balance of things. By 2016 the snack fox numbers rose back up thanks to a captive breeding program. They became the fastest critter to be added and removed from the endangered species list. 

Today’s snack foxes are just listed as “near threatened,” but I think their legal status should be “damn cute.” Every trail we wandered had a snack fox running along it just teasing you like a sidewalk cat who wants to be picked up. While I got water from the campground spigot, a snack fox licked from the puddle. I could not resist reaching down and petting its soft fur. Sorry, national park rangers. I’m sure it’s illegal to touch them, but I swear we didn’t feed them. We didn’t have any food.

The friends on this trip have all lived in California for most of our lives, but none of us have been to these islands. It’s crazy to think that a national park is so close to Los Angeles. I think most Californians overlook it because you can’t drive to it. We took an hour-long boat ride from Ventura, stopping only to gaze at dolphins and blue whales jumping out of the water. We also stopped to pick up mylar balloons. 

Our campsite was only $15 and we reserved it a week before pitching our tents. Most Southern Californian car campers have to book campsites months in advance and pay up to $60 a night for a site that’s more of an RV parking lot than a camp. 

We hiked and explored the dusty trails snaking their way out of camp and up to epic lookouts. We smelled flowers and climbed trees. We had all kinds of dumb fun. Using collapsible ORU kayaks, Renee and Sera towed me, Julie, and Alex around the bay in a fun train of floaties. My floaty was the size of a toilet seat, so I had to swim along to be the caboose. A sea lion popped up and snarled like a protective dog. I stopped being the caboose and swam the fawk out of the ocean.

Water slapped the brown agates on the beach till they were wet and shiny. The rocks reminded me of those root beer bottle gummy candies. I skipped rocks shaped like perfect York peppermint patties. The vivid California poppies reminded me of that orange crunchy stuff inside a Butterfingers candy bar. Everything in nature can be compared to some kind of candy when you’re hungry enough.

Later on, the Island Packers ferry boat docked and unloaded fresh faces to the island. I smooth-talked my way to the galley and bought all the food I could carry in my tiny hands. Stumbling back down the beach to my hungry friends, I juggled granola bars, bruised bananas, oranges, and candy bars. We snacked hard like snack foxes. 

This adventure was made with help from our friends at Sanuk

Here's To Summer.

Stay Wild

Here’s to letting go of ourselves

and plummeting into the water below. 

Here’s to mosquito bites. 

Here’s to the water trapped in our ears. 

Here’s to looking at ourselves

in the water’s reflection

and truly learning who we are.

Words by Ryan Brower @beansricecheese // Photo by Jeff Luker @jeff_Luker

Totally Blown

Stay Wild

by Megan Freshley // @summertimewitches

Totally Blown co-creator Cody Montgomery knows how to throw a party. We’re not talking some highfalutin affair, just a warm warehouse living room full of local legends taking turns playing their newest material while the disco ball turns slowly above the entryway and foxes screech out in the cold desert night. 

In Joshua Tree, strangers aren’t in a hurry and new friendships can be forged in an instant. There’s also way more cross-pollination between musicians, visual artists, craftspeople, writers, and designers than in the big bustling city. 

Out here in the open space, ideas have room to breathe.

So it’s no surprise that Totally Blown came about organically as well. What started as one mouse-eaten garment that looked pretty rad in all its unplanned quirk developed into a full fashion line of shotgun-punctured and hand-dyed vintage pieces like witchy, ankle-dusting robes and loose, easy tops. 

How is Totally Blown related to Joshua Tree's music and art scene? 

Joshua Tree is the definition of a tight-knit-crew and has a super amazing music and art scene for being such a small place. We host our fair share of events at our studio, and for a while hosted a weekly music jam called Psychedelic Sundays. The people here tend to be totally genuine sweethearts that are unpretentious, incredibly talented, fearless, over city drama, and available to hang out. That influences Totally Blown by giving us a wonderful community of like-minded and supportive friends that we are hugely grateful for. Wide open spaces is what allows Totally Blown to exist. 

What’s the workshop like? 

The indoor workshop is pretty chill. We have a big open studio in the heart of Joshua Tree that is nice and quiet and full of light. The outdoor "studio" is the BLM shooting range where we actually shoot the clothing. That is way more of a wild place. It's on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management so anyone can go there and it tends to be a weird mix of off-roaders, weekend warriors, and marines. It can be super relaxed with no one around for miles or pretty scary depending on the how many guns are strapped to your neighboring marine. 

Did you have other ideas, before shotguns, to replicate the mouse-chewed look? 

Of course bait and more mice was the obvious first solution, but also a gross one. I guess I just let the wheels turn in the old brain-o-rator until something clicked … literally the trigger of the shotgun.

What do you think about when you're shooting the clothes? Is it meditative? Cathartic? Playful? 

One of the things I love the most about the process is the element of chaos. Like no two pieces ever turn out the same, so there's always an element of surprise. Also a huge part of the process is letting go. Like not being attached to material things. At some point you just have to be like fuck it, whatever happens happens — and pull the trigger. 

It's a lot about letting go of control and perfection and embracing chaos. It's a very meditative and cathartic process but it's also a fucking battle. Like I've designed this scheme where every week I'm up against a new army of clothing. The inner warrior definitely comes out and it's also great way to blow off some steam. 

Are there particular albums, movies, or designers that inspire your work? 

If I had to pick something, I would say Totally Blown aligns most closely with the Japanese artistic theory of wabi-sabi. Essentially finding perfection in the imperfect. It's all about letting go of control, appreciating how objects evolve and change over time, and creating items that are reflective of the complexities of reality. 

How would you describe your own personal style? 

I guess my style is that of an artist. You know, like when you see someone and you can just tell they're a creative person because they have their own thing going on. I like to wear lots of different styles in general and have been influenced heavily by my travels overseas. I don't wear or manufacture any synthetics, so that rules out a lot of the ‘80s-esque, bright, ridiculous stuff. The real distinctive and congruous element is of course holes in everything. So in essence, holy world traveling artist. 

How do you want someone to feel when they're wearing one of your pieces?

When someone else is wearing Totally Blown I want them to feel comfortable, empowered, creative, and unique. Like if someone asked them about the clothing, they’d have an interesting story to tell. And they know that they're piece is one of a kind, just like them. A lot of times people put on Totally Blown and get super energized and start dancing. That's always the highest compliment because busting loose ain't always easy these days.