VOLUME 1: ISSUE 2: EXCERPTS AND IMAGES
FULL ARTICLES AVAILABLE IN THE PHYSICAL EDITION
Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau
Around the back of a water tower, the trail dips several degrees, crossing a stream that runs with fervor in the spring and summer. On a Thanksgiving-weekend night in November the idea for potential highway-hits was formed. The flanks of the Forestry trail off the defunct Tenney Mountain had tree-jibs, tree-gaps, and ledge sections waiting to be figured out. The proper amount of snow would turn the track into a winter snake-run. Smaller storms had rolled through over the mild December and bitter January, leaving a curious taste for what a true Nor'easter could provide. Two storms brought in the necessary depth. Hot dogs, buns, matches, knives, snowshoes, and water are packed. There is little else to bring. Jacques Beriau pauses at what would later be deemed a relative halfway marker for a section that had no identifiable end. Few orienting markers exist other than a border of new growth trees on either side of the eight-foot wide path. Banks, hip-sections, and slash zones are noted, none are utilized. The “What else is there?” motto takes form.
The snow that had dropped earlier in the week added another twelve to fifteen inches to the base. Born in Western America, Gypsy demonstrates her natural-born ability to mush through the fresh crop. She leads us over the small passes of river, past several hits, and attempts to play fetch with every loose limb that happens across her path. Stick in mouth, she runs ahead, knocking Jacques below the back of his knee with impeccable accuracy every time. I wait for it, laughing harder with each repeated whack. He is patient with her want to play, pulling the stick from her mouth, telling her “no,” and advising me on how to avoid her incessant desire to have a stick thrown aimlessly into the snow. Gypsy bounds between us, intent on one of us giving in. I crank back my elbow, stick in hand, and am warned, “She’s going to go for it, man.” I drop it. She still picks it up. Success comes by ignoring her. For the duration of the hike, she treks back and forth, though her stick game comes to a close earlier than expected - a welcomed event when finally noticed. We stop to session a hip that is tracked out sooner than the time it had taken to shape. Jacques works out a distraction system to prevent Gypsy from running in front of us or through the take off. Call her name. Throw a stick. Drop in. She changes direction halfway through her chasing game to follow either of us at full sprint. This back and forth does little to tire her. On the way home she will stay close to him, waiting for help over difficult sections. Legs tired now, she walks behind us, weary and wanting rest.
One slash. There is only this opportunity. Along the hike there were few spots as adequate for a proper frontside slash as this one. The corner is close to the top of the trail, and is preceded by a backside turn further up. Jacques finds his point of entry, and I walk a few steps below to find my point of view. An instance like this, Jacques strapping in, and myself providing the “all clear cue” make me time travel twenty-years. A different piece of equipment, a different set of woods, and a different perspective. Two decades back it would have been a Black Snow with a lime green base, a dirt road gap, and a jump over a patch of crocus flowers - long dead and buried under lake-effect snow. What separates us most from then and now is trying to find the time to get back there. Jacques shouts down, and I give him a count. He comes into focus past the elbow of the middle section. Three frames black out the viewfinder in rapid succession. I back off the path as Jacques straightens out before colliding with the edge of the trail. We are back on that hill, staying out until our father’s shop lights replace the sun and illuminate the take-off and landing.
Dug into the side of the mountain, someone, or some people have built a roughshod lean-to. The roof is covered in corrugated zinc-metal, the type that makes a light rain sound like a shower of change filtering through a Coinstar machine. A crude assemblage of pots, pans, storm lanterns and tree-cutting supplies are scattered across the dirt and moss floor. Whoever was here had sense enough to shape out a fire pit and back it with an excess piece of metal. Jacques collects sticks and kindling, and I get to work with a plastic bag to light the fire. He doubts my technique, and later mistrusts my advice on building a fire too quickly in the snow. Hot flames. Frozen water. No fire. We work together to coerce it to life again - swearing and cursing each other with every breath blown. Over the fire we begin to roast our lunch. There are few moments in my life when I have seen my brother laugh from the bottom of his gut - to the point that he places both his hands on his knees and doubles over in unabridged, authentic cackling. I’ve seen it once in the laundry room of the house we were raised after I told him something about an experience on the camp bus. I witnessed it again in a parking lot in Lake Tahoe, California on the tailgate of his 1996 Ford Escort. In the woods on this February afternoon he can’t hold back. Looking at the hot dog stick I chose - drooping into the pit of flames - he asks what I am doing - a smile already leaking out, “Hot dog fishing. What, you’ve never seen this?” It begins, so strong that he has to stand up and step back. I proceed to roast another. He gathers more loose kindling, watching me fish the flames. It drops straight through the cavern of sticks and into what coals exist below. I barely have his stick in hand, attempting to rescue my lunch before he is half over. “Hot dog fishing! What the…”
"TWO DECADES BACK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A BLACK SNOW WITH A LIME GREEN BASE, A DIRT ROAD GAP, AND A JUMP OVER A PATCH OF CROCUS FLOWERS - LONG DEAD AND BURIED UNDER LAKE-EFFECT SNOW."
FIRE ON FORMOSA
Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range, as its name suggests, runs lengthwise down the middle of the country, creating a natural divide between the east and west coasts. Compliant with its uninspiring moniker, the range’s history as both a physical and ideological barrier is likewise understated. Over the centuries, as European and Asian powers encroached upon the island dubbed Formosa, they comfortably laid roots in western settlements which have since grown into the country’s largest cities. Though such invasive cultures eventually diffused their way across the divide, Taiwan’s eastern shore remains drastically less affected, at least aesthetically, by the economic bustle of its other half.
A city of just over 100,000 inhabitants, Taitung City constitutes one of the larger concentrations of people along the island’s right-hand side. Though not remote by definition, a blanket of lush vegetation draped over hilltops abutted by coal-grey beaches provides a deceptive backdrop for such an accessible town. In sharp contrast to western cities like Kaohsiung and Taipei, which remind visitors of close ties to mainland Asia, Taitung gives off an air that is distinctly Pacific Island. Despite its proximity to more archetypal locales, the city feels distant from its brethren. Accordingly, it is the perfect setting for a ritual that seems nothing short of otherworldly.
Somewhat of an afterthought in my circumnavigation of the island, Taitung served primarily as a convenient stopping point en route to the more popular destinations of Haulien and Taroko Gorge. I set out on foot with few expectations on my first morning in the city, slowly making my way toward the ocean; a concrete ceiling of clouds shielding me from excessive sun and heat. With only a vague destination in mind, I was open to whatever diversions might present themselves. The pace of the city felt slow, a fact that would have been more striking had this not been within the final days of the Lunar New Year celebration, a time in which most businesses shut down and all movement outside the home is limited if any.
Story and Photographs by: Kevin Bicknell
"THE YOUNG MAN WAS POSITIONED ON A SEDAN OF SORTS, SUPPORTED BY MEN OF ALL AGES, EACH WIELDING AN ARSENAL OF FIRECRACKERS. "
Shortly into my walk I heard the machine-gun crack of a strip of fireworks erupt nearby. This, too, was not alarming. One does not require a great deal of experience with Lunar New Year festivities to learn that minor explosions play a large role in the celebration. I had always thought such measures possessed a characteristically American flare, but have since revised my assumption. What struck me as unusual in this instance, however, was that the sound did not cease for quite some time. From what I could tell, this promised to be the largest fireworks display I had yet to encounter. Naturally, my interest was piqued. As I rounded a block of buildings and made my way across a near empty parking lot toward the origin of the commotion, my eyes were met with a cloud of smoke consuming a seemingly unfazed crowd. As I drew within coughing distance, the shape of a masked man, naked to the waist in red athletic shorts, holding a single leafy bow, emerged at head height from the haze. He seemed calm despite the situation, his tattooed torso dotted with a leopard print pattern of char. The pandemonium died down momentarily and more of the scene came into view. The young man was positioned on a sedan of sorts, supported by men of all ages, each wielding an arsenal of firecrackers. Unlike the exposed participant, these pallbearers all wore protective clothing. Their hands were set securely in workingman’s gloves, the cuffs tucked into uniform track jackets, each emblazoned with the word “Handan” across the shoulders. I watched, my mouth agape, as the young man was let down from his perch and another equally underdressed peer took his place. Without delay, fuses were lit and the procession resumed, the new idol being paraded around while the surrounding mob pelted his bare skin with an assault of fireworks. Fighting suffocation and resisting simultaneous urges to plug my ears and shield my eyes, I defied the reflex to step back for fear of missing something entirely foreign to my worldview.
Though the event itself is well documented, definitive explanations as to the origins of the “Bombarding Handan” tradition are less readily available. By some accounts, Handan is a God represented by the eager, albeit reckless young man, and the pyrotechnics with which he is blasted are the offering of warmth. Some claim Handan was a military officer of Godlike wealth, and by throwing firecrackers in his direction citizens increase their own chances of fiscal improvement. Other versions attest that Handan was a gangster and gambler, and the fireworks a method of repentance for his sinister actions. There are even rumors that the smoke from the celebration once curbed the spread of infectious disease, contributing to its acceptance and promotion amongst local officials. Though justification for the ritual varies, there is a consensus surrounding the notion that, like pretty much everything else around New Year’s, the ultimate result is good fortune for all involved.
I have since discovered that the popularity and shock value of this once unique festival have caught the eyes of Taitung’s western neighbors, and it is now replicated amidst the contrasting cities along the country’s other coast. In this way, Taitung and Handan, whoever he may have been, have sparked a reverse cultural diffusion, sending their celebration across the Central Mountain Range in the direction of cities in which modernity threatens to overshadow tradition.
We were awake early and snuck by throngs of tourists to steal breakfast from the hotel we didn't stay at. With at least a bit of Skyr and some pickled herring in our stomachs we got in the car to find the fabled hot spring swimming pool, Iceland's oldest, Seljavallalaug.
The dirt road we decided would bring us to the trailhead ended up being the right one on our too small map and when we got out of the car there was still a bite to the air as the sun hadn't made it around to where we were yet. The scenery was a construction site, rocky with a bit of water flowing through and a seemingly uncaring man wearing an Icelandic wool sweater operating a frontend loader, still this had to be the spot. There were two guys on enduro bikes, who had come from the same place we wanted to head to. They assured us we were in the right spot but that the pool was having some maintenance done by a few local volunteers that pressure wash it once a year.
We made our decision to walk in and check it out regardless of construction, or not; after all those guys could be lying, trying to keep tourists like us away from their local swim spot, hope is a curious thing. As we turned to find the path in, an old Black Lab came up to say hi, she was greying around the mouth and friendly as can be with quite a bit of slobber to go around. Immediately after introducing herself, she was on the trail beckoning us to follow and so we were off following our doggy guide to the oldest pool in Iceland.
Rocky black construction gave way to rich, vibrant green hillsides and cliffs surrounding the valley we were walking through, and the trickle of water we had seen in the flat before the trail turned into a river. The morning was still and the air still had a bite, but this place was almost spiritual, calm and borderline solemn, justifying Icelandic folklore of fairies and trolls. Our four-legged tour guide took us up and down hillsides, knowing every which way to get around obstacles and as we approached a medium sized creek crossing, noticed our struggle and brought us lower to an easier place to get across.
Growing closer, the ground emitting the scent of sulfur and steam that only comes from the geothermal, we rounded a corner to see the old pool; built into the hillside, some of the concrete crumbling but still there, and three men in oil gear pressure washing as we'd been told. The pool was empty and we both felt the pang of disappointment despite knowing this prior to our walk in. We took a photo or two, gave the guys a wave and with that we followed our friend back to the car, over obstacles, creek crossings, and appreciating every bit of the sun now warming our cold faces and the glowing green hillside behind us.
Story and Photographs by: Ty Beck & Camille Ives
SOLTEROS EN BAJA
Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau
Coyotes howl in the cold desert air. Their calls reach through the chaparral and sage, invading the false security of a thin-walled, single tent. Dogs bark nearby in the hostel of Quatro Casas and the few surrounding homes, derelict and seemingly abandoned as they are. Feathering winds flutter off shore, the smell of campfire smoke wisps through the mesh. The combination of sound and smell is at once alarming and reassuring. Sleeping on my back, I slide my left arm up to check my watch - 1:30am. My head is towards the coast, my feet point back to the two entering roads. From the point to the nearest village off Highway 1 is 8 miles of burnt out roads. I turn over and fall back asleep.
Yowls from the coyotes pick up in a metallic ring over the hollow night. A slow, steady rhythm is drummed out from somewhere east of the camp. Stirred from sleep, my ears and mind work together to isolate the noise – its direction, its cause. Cadenced in its consistency, the roar builds in the darkness. Levels of light pollution measure zero on this stretch of sand boxed in by the Pacific Ocean and low-rolling hills. Crisp, clear skies reveal stretches of the Milky Way. Stars, in their numerous and infinite constellations, appear so close as to be candles in a colander reflecting off a ceiling. Outside of our campsite, dogs begin to increase the ferocity of their barks. Twin headlights bounce north and south over the tired washboard road, an indecipherable Morse code signaling in the distance. I close my eyes, rolling onto my stomach.
My knife is already being gripped when I peer over the edge of the tent. What purpose it will serve, lying prostrate on the ground, I have no answer for. Everyone else is asleep. Coals from the fire behind me glow faintly; beer and bean cans are stuffed into an empty box of Tecate. On one shoulder I squint, trying to adjust my eyes to the vague shapes that form around the campsite. The outhouses appear in offset rectangles, an RV, a mix of skiffs, low, bushy trees – all black silhouettes against a darker night. I’m positive it’s nothing, a crew of surfers who’ve finally found their way out to the coast, or locals heading back after the bars in nearby Villa Hidalgo close. Earlier in the day my brother mentioned that Baja is not the place where someone goes and looks around town when the surf if flat. No, it is the place people get supplies for as many days as they need, mind their own business, and head off to a campsite. Alert to the fact that several surfers had been held at gunpoint in this spot, on different occasions, I debate my choices. No one else wakes. I sit by, stunned...