The middle of nowhere is surprisingly hard to find

By Matt Crossman

Seven vultures squawked from atop trees lining the shore. Their black bodies stood stark against the deep blue sky. As my guide, Ryan Fagan, and I paddled our canoe toward them, they loped from treetop to treetop, vying for the best seats, an avian version of musical chairs.

I dug my paddle into Boze Lake and pulled. The sheathed machete latched to my belt rustled against my hip. We were deep in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The slightest misstep — a flipped canoe, a twisted ankle, a kidney stone — would turn this exciting adventure into a dangerous disaster, a thought I couldn’t unthink beneath those vultures. …


The benefits — and stomach-twisting challenges — of nature in a headset

By Hannah Thomasy

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The benefits — and stomach-twisting challenges — of nature in a headset

Recently, I took a trip to the Hoh Rainforest in western Washington state, which I last visited with my parents as a child. It was much as I remembered it. The sun filtered delicately through the dense canopy, curtains of moss dripped from the tree branches, and the ground under my feet was covered with a thick carpet of ferns and leaf litter. Familiar birdsongs filled my ears. …


This AI forecasts where wildfires will go next

By Tony Rehagen

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Of all the deadly ramifications of climate change, wildfires might be the most immediate. Though humans start most fires, hotter and drier conditions have led to longer “fire seasons” and a higher number of blazes that spread farther and faster. The area affected by wildfires in the U.S. has doubled over the last three decades, swallowing billions of dollars in property damage and more than 3,000 lives each year.

It’s impossible to predict when and where a brushfire will break out. But what if there were a way to use technology and monitoring to predict where a current fire will move, enabling firefighters to clear its path and contain it? That’s the thinking behind WIFIRE, a system that was deployed as part of a fire-intelligence pilot program in September 2019 and used to fight all Southern California fires last fall. …


Bernie Krause is recording glaciers’ groans and ravens’ wingbeats before nature’s music changes forever

By Tony Rehagen

Bernie Krause has spent more than half a century capturing and preserving the music of nature. From the groans of glaciers shifting in the Arctic to the screams of gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda, he has compiled more than 5,000 hours of field recordings. But there is one sound that Krause will never need to have played back, an alarm that is cut into his brain. It’s the blare of climate change arriving at his front door.

On October 9, 2017, Krause and his wife, Kat, were awake at 2:30 a.m. waiting to see if the wildfire that had already ravaged much of Sonoma County — one of several devastating Northern California fires that fall — would turn their way. Suddenly the wooded hillside outside their home, which they had named Wild Sanctuary, burst into flame. …


They rarely make Instagram, but vast national monuments offer spectacular beauty and wilderness adventure.

By Andrew Collins

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Well into the pandemic, many people are seeking solitude in nature. What could be lovelier, after months of isolation at home, than setting out along a rugged conifer-shaded trail, breathing in the fresh alpine air, and listening to a chorus of songbirds?

There’s just one catch: if everybody’s getting outside, it’s hard to find a spot all to yourself. That’s true even at many of the 419 destinations in the U.S. National Park System, which continues to grapple with how to manage growing crowds.

Even before this year, many of the country’s most famous parks, such as Zion and the Grand Canyon, restricted access to busy areas by requiring visitors to use free shuttle buses. On summer weekends, finding a parking space at the top trailheads in Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains has proved nearly impossible. Once you actually reach an overlook with a breathtaking view — think Yosemite’s El Capitan or Oregon’s Crater Lake — securing a patch of solitude to contemplate the panorama can require jockeying nimbly amid clamoring crowds and jousting selfie sticks. …


‘That wave is still going to crash on your head’

By Matt Crossman

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I paddled out to catch my third wave of the day and found my surfing instructor, Rocky Canon, sitting on his board, staring off into the great blue infinity. He rose and fell with each wave, lost in an oceanic reverie, and he didn’t realize I had returned until I asked what he was doing.

Canon, a former pro and long-time instructor, has spent much of his life on Hawaii’s beaches. He is well-known as a surfing commentator and personality, a surfing expert among experts. And yet here he was, studying the waves in a spare few minutes on a Tuesday afternoon in February. These were baby waves, suitable for beginners, on a beach he has been to hundreds of times. …


Virtual-reality tours are the new ‘travel’

By Stav Dimitropoulos

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In the past week, I have floated inside the International Space Station, kept calm on glass suspension bridges in China, looked three-feet-tall Mini Lili in the eye onstage at Cirque du Soleil, and swum with sharks off the coast of Hawaii. By the laws of nature, it’d be impossible to squeeze all these trips into one week. But not by the laws of the virtual reality headset I’ve used, from my couch, to explore the great outdoors and beyond.

I am fairly convinced that, should there be life after death, future VR technology that taps all five senses will be how it feels. Until then, I am headed to Laguna Sucia, a desolate, stunning lake at the base of Monte Fitz Roy, Patagonia’s most famous mountain landmark, on the border of Chile and Argentina. …


Meet the ‘grinders,’ who embed tech devices inside themselves

By Alex Pearlman

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In April 2018, veterinary medicine experts at Utah State University, working in a part-barn, part-lab, implanted an electronic device under the skin of a white-and-black-spotted cow. The cow was nicknamed Top Hat, for the tuft of hair that stood straight up on top of his head. The device was called the EmbediVet. The size of a pack of gum, it would collect data about Top Hat’s heart rate, temperature, and activity level. The information would be passed to a server, then to an app, and, finally, to a farmer.

The EmbediVet’s creators say their device could transform agriculture and protect the food supply by turning herds of cows into monitored cyborgs. A trackable implant, they say, would allow experienced farmers to make immediate decisions about their cows at the first sign of health trouble, before a major problem occurs — such as whether to change a cow’s diet, decrease activity for an animal about to give birth, or quarantine an animal who might become sick. …


Maybe the imperfection is the point.

By Heather Kapplow

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Have you ever been to a dinner where the host kicked everyone out before they could say goodbye? What about one where no one ate, but a bearish man wearing a silver toga sang the Jewish Exodus story at the top of his lungs?

I have. It was my virtual Seder.

Though I didn’t grow up regularly going to Seders, I felt compelled to host one this year, for the first time, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This April, everyone close to me was scared, isolated, and needing ritual and community. …


Fighting big agribusiness’ patents, these renegade growers want the freedom to plant

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by Léonard Dupond

By Veronique Greenwood

Irwin Goldman has an extremely rare job: He’s one of only two public-university carrot breeders in the United States. A horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Goldman does the sort of work that helped build the United States’ farming economy.

Day to day, carrot breeding looks a lot like farming: tending to rows of plants, cultivated in fields or greenhouses. But while farmers dig up the roots to sell as food, Goldman and his colleagues allow the plants to send up their lacy white flowers and then pollinate them using precisely selected pollen.

What Goldman has decided to do with some seeds from his carrots is a bit of a renegade act in the world of American agriculture — the result of a conflict between the freedom to plant and the new realities of the market economy. The seeds are released into the world bearing a tag, which states guidelines that explicitly mimic the rules of open-source software. Essentially, anyone can use them, as long as they promise not to restrict the use of descendant seeds down the line. …

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Experience Magazine

The world is changing. Experience guides you through. Published by Northeastern University at expmag.com

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