One of my favorite outdoor stories is about the time that Angel and I were running off trail in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado with our friends James Varner and Alicia Woodside, and the mountain goat in the photo at the top of this blog tried to kill us.
One of my least favorite outdoor stories was from the same trip, in July 2014, where a group of us were planning to run the Hardrock 100 course across three days the week before the race. James was going to crew because he was high on the wait list for the event, which is one of the hardest running races in the world - both to get into, and to complete. I started out on the run a little feverish, but by 5 miles in I had to bail because I felt like green death. So, while the group carried on I laid in James' truck trying not to vomit on the upholstery while we wound through the mountains to Telluride and the nearest ridiculously overpriced hotel where I could enjoy a few days of laying on a bathroom floor next to the toilet in a cold sweat while my friends went on one of the most epic runs of their lives.
These days, James is a 5 time Hardrock finisher, but that year he never made it off of the wait list, so the two of us hung out a bit, each trying not to feel too sorry for ourselves. And along the way at some point, he told me about a dream he had to organize a big art, music and outdoor festival with bands at night and trail runs and climbing and biking and hiking and beer during the day. It wasn't just some pipe dream, because for years James had been the owner and race director at Rainshadow Running - a trail running outfit in the Pacific Northwest whose identity centers around creating the toughest, most scenic trail races possible, followed up by the best finish line parties, with bands, food, and often full weekends worth of action. This would be an extension of that same spirit.
The idea took a couple of years to gestate, but I'm excited that next week, the dream's going to become a reality at The Rendezvous, in the Methow Valley, WA. Aside from James being an old friend, and despite the fact that we can't make it ourselves, we're stoked about the event, which happens on May 11 - 13, and wanted to take a minute to give it a plug.
In the time between Hardrock 2014 and now, James co-founded Outdoor Arts and Recreation, a non-profit whose focus is in the name: the intersection of outdoor sports and the arts. They currently organize the nationally touring Trail Running Film Festival and the Steamboat Stringband Jamboree, a music festival in Olympia, WA. The Rendezvous is their latest effort.
The Holy Grail in any artistic endeavor is to form personal experience into something that communicates widely. In that regard, for folks familiar with Rainshadow Running events, it makes sense that they have been pouring a lot of recent energy into the intersection between the arts and the outdoors. Rainshadow races always have a certain planned liturgy that resonates: a mass of people go outside into the most beautiful places they can find, do something really difficult, and then spend time together with music, food and beer celebrating. It's not a complicated formula, but it captures something universal about the spirit of ultrarunning: it's an experience, and celebration of, shared suffering and the human abililty to persevere both individually and in community together.
Angel and I are unapologetically pro-PNW for a lot of reasons, but it's a great place to start an organization like Boldly Went because, like Outdoor Arts and Recreation, there are so many people who are doing like-minded things at the intersection between the outdoors and the arts.
When you pay attention to the outdoors community here, you notice that a lot of people are using their athletic endeavors themselves as performance art, to communicate and inspire the masses. Ras and Kathy Vaughan are a quintessential example in the trail community, putting together "Only Known Times" on new endurance routes (running, hiking, skiing, climbing) that they complete as much for aesthetics and inspirational value as for speed. And a guy like Ken Campbell, who was featured on our podcast, also fits the mold, as he's perhaps best known for having built a kayak out of scrap plastic bottles and paddled it up Puget Sound in order to communicate a message about waste.
The flip side of that is that it's also natural in the PNW for creative types to get involved in the outdoors community. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard is probably the most famous example, and has become a regular part of the local trail running community (you'll also find an interview with him on this episode of our podcast!), but so have Morgan Henderson from the band Fleet Foxes, and Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal. In the PNW, it seems that you can't swing a dead cat at a local indie concert without hitting a trail runner or a rock climber or a mountain biker.
And in our little storytelling patch of the woods, we've been excited to meet people like Dean Burke, Ellen Bayer, and Eric Nachtrieb, who've spoken at our events, and are focused as much on the art of their stories as the gnar of their outdoor experiences. The project has also helped us connect with Megan Myers, the Bend artist who designed our logo, and Yitka Winn, one of our favorite writers about the outdoors, who's been at the Seattle events.
Joshua James, one of The Rendezvous headliners
In that kind of culture, the Pacific Northwest is an ideal place to create a festival combining the arts and the outdoors, and since we've been integrating ourselves a bit into the community of outdoor loving artists (I know it's painfully punny, but you can't stop me, I'm going to say it...the ARTDOORS community!), it's easy to get excited about the possibilities - even if this is just year one. I'm not sure that there's an analogue anywhere in the country, so we're lucky that it's happening in our backyard.
You can buy tickets and get more information about The Rendezvous here.
And if you like what we're doing at Boldly Went, think about joining our amazing community of supporters on Patreon.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.