Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have come to defend myself against charges of crimes committed against the Creed of the Outdoor Author (I barely qualify, but apparently I’m still held liable.) The charges leveled against me is that not every one of my weekends is spent in the wilderness; that I watch too many movies, and my Netflix queue is far too long. My defense is that these movies reignite my love of the outdoors, make me want to explore places I’ve never been before, and try things that are dangerous and make my mother worry. I have prepared Exhibits A-D to prove my case.
Exhibit A-“Asiemut.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it has a funny name, and it involves French-Canadians on bicycles. However, this couple’s journey of 8000Km across China, Mongolia, Tibet, and India is one of the most inspiring movies ever made. The hardship they endure on their epic bike ride, filming themselves as they go, is one of the few films that has ever inspired me to see the world and the people in it. The section of the film dedicated to the Mongolian family that took them in, even though they shared no common language and had no money to give them, shows that even in the wildest parts of the world, humanity still has kindness.
Exhibit B- Okay adrenaline junkies…..I’ve got a triple feature for you. First up is “Roam” by a film group known as The Collective. From the very start, your jaw drops from the sheer athleticism of these mountain bikers as they tear down the mountainside with insane jumps, elevated single-track, and steep downhill action. Next they move to the city of Prague, and quite frankly boggle your mind with what is possible on a bicycle. Climbing trees on two wheels is not something to be missed.
Part 2 is “The Sharp End” for climbers, or those interested in the crazy cult of climbing. Filled with some of the most outrageous climbing ever (the section with the climbers in the Czech republic comes to mind) it provides an insight into what drives these people to push the limits human strength…..or it’s just really fun to watch. I can’t remember which. Highlighting the entire film though, is one of the special features which is “The Story of Hank”: a montage about a climber named Hank Caylors exploits which involve him crashing through a hotel window in Vegas while wrapped in a parachute. If laughter is the best medicine, I’ve discovered the cure for Bird Flu.
Finally, I bring you adrenaline on the water. Kayaking movies changed drastically when Young Gun productions burst onto the scene. “Dynasty” is perhaps one of their greatest films. If you’ve never seen a whitewater kayaking film before, let me explain: people in tiny, plastic boats, either throw themselves off large waterfalls, surf large waves and perform tricks, or avoid giant maelstroms of water that could kill them; again and again and again. You’d think it eventually gets repetitive, but just watching the movie makes you as energized as if you had just chugged a 2L of Mountain Dew.
Exhibit C is for the intellectuals in the crowd. Kens Burns “The National Parks” which debuted on PBS is an extensive look at our National Park system, the heroes that pushed so aggressively for the parks to come into existence, and the sheer beauty of these wild places. Most memorably, Ranger Johnson describing a snowmobile trip through Yellowstone literally stopped my breath the first time I watched it; his storytelling ability is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it he makes the Park come to life. Don’t expect to see the entire 6 episode series in one sitting; runtime is 720 minutes long, but worth every minute of it.
Finally, Exhibit D, is “180 Degrees South”; a haphazard adventure with a protagonist that doesn’t have a clue what he’s getting into. He sets sail trying to get to Patagonia to climb a mountain……even though he doesn’t have sailing or climbing experience. He starts his adventure by working on a sailing ship leaving from Ventura California, visits the Galápagos, has to dock at Easter Island to repair a broken mast, and finally makes it on shore in Patagonia. What this movie does is instill the passion for adventure inside of you. The simple fact that this guy isn’t superman, doesn’t have a freakish physique or loads of money makes you realize that adventure is only limited by your doubts. Climbing Everest is not something that is possible for most people, but finding a way to work on a boat, to sail to South America, to explore the Chilean highlands is doable; only fear of failure stops anyone from attempting it. And kids…and spouses…..and, in my case, my mom.
So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. Yes, on many weekends, I have sat at home and watched movies when I could have rafted the Yangtze. But in the end, it makes me more excited to get back out there and explore!! Wait, no, those 8 seasons of “Top Gear” aren’t mine. NO I didn’t watch every single episode of the “X-Files” just to count how many sunflower seeds Mulder ate…ok, well maybe I did. But what’s you’re point?