Photographer Ben Moon spent much of his twenties living in a van and climbing by the ocean, but at 29, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. In The Lucky Ones, from filmmaker Jeff Johnson, Moon explains how the disease altered his perspective on life.
It’s an established fact that outdoorsy people have the best stories about dating. Getting to know a potential partner while climbing, paddling, or otherwise exploring an unpredictable environment just offers more opportunities for memorable surprises. Usually, these experiences are shared with friends over beers. Sometimes they make their way into wedding toasts. And then there are the incidents that make headlines. So it was with Kayleigh Davis and Kyler Bourgeous’s encounters with some ornery bison on an island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. This episode comes from the award-wining team at This is Love, a show that investigates life’s most persistent mystery.
This episode of the Outside Podcast is brought to you by Visit Florida, one of the country’s great adventure destinations. Have you met a manatee? Airboated in the Everglades? Snorkeled the coral reef? Plan your next Florida adventure at visitflorida.com/outside
The nonprofit Surfers Against Sewage sets out to end plastic pollution on England’s beaches. Hydro Flask’s donation though its Parks for All program helps support Surfers Against Sewage in their organization of 600 beach-cleaning events and 30,000 volunteers across England annually. They’re making ocean activists everywhere—and turning the garbage and data they collect into legislation.
While many gyms across the country are still closed, athletes and trainers are getting creative. Kathleen Stabler, a certified Gym Jones instructor and the owner of True North Performance Coaching in Albuquerque, New Mexico, put together this full-body routine using nothing but a pull-up bar and a bedsheet. “You can target everything in your body, head to toe, front and back, with this routine,” she says. “You can give yourself an excellent workout with little to no equipment—and sometimes a far better one than what you might get by mindlessly moving around weights that are too heavy for you to maneuver properly.”
Perform the following routine, which incorporates a mix of bodyweight moves and pull-ups, twice a week for a combination of strength training and conditioning. Don’t skip the warm-up (outlined below), and stick to the exercise order. “Paying attention to form is the key to making these effective,” Stabler says. “It doesn’t look like a lot, but this is a hard workout.”
Begin with this circuit to get your blood flowing and your muscles warm: 30 seconds of jumping jacks, 30 seconds of jogging in place or high knees, and 30 seconds of mountain climbers. Do the exercises back-to-back or with 30 seconds of rest in between if needed. Complete three to five rounds, gradually increasing the pace and intensity each time.
What they do: Strengthen the lats, biceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, and core.
How to do them: Grip the pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away. Hang with straight arms, and engage your shoulders and core. Slowly pull up until your chin is over your hands, then lower yourself with control back to the starting position for one repetition. Continue to engage your core and back to keep your body as still as possible throughout the movement. If you can’t complete ten reps in a row, do as many as you can unassisted, then use the jump-and-lower technique outlined in the next paragraph to finish out the set.
Negatives are a great way to build up to pull-ups: grab the bar, jump up until your chin is over your hands, then lower yourself as slowly as possible to work the eccentric phase of the movement. You may have to place a chair or box beneath the bar to get the height you need.
Volume: Five sets of ten reps. Rest for one to two minutes between sets.
Bodyweight-Row and Push-Up Ladders
What they do: The inverted bodyweight row strengthens the back, shoulders, biceps, forearms (grip), and core. The push-up strengthens the chest, triceps, shoulders, back, and core.
How to do them: The idea here is to perform these exercises together, going down the rep ladder for the rows (start with ten reps, and decrease by one rep each round until you work down to one) and doing the opposite for the push-ups (start with one rep, and add one each round until you reach ten). Do ten rows and one push-up, then nine rows and two push-ups, then eight rows and three push-ups, and so forth, all back-to-back.
If you have a fixed pull-up bar (i.e., it’s wall mounted or on a power tower), loop a bedsheet over the top of the bar so that both ends hang evenly to each side. Or just use a closed door for your setup (see photos): tie a big overhand knot at one end of the bedsheet, place the knot over the top of the door, then close the door to jam the knot on the other side.
To do the bodyweight row, stand facing the door, grip the edges of the bedsheet, then walk your feet toward the door to adjust the inclination of your body (the more horizontal you are, the more difficult the exercise will be). Engage your core and back, and hold your body in a straight line from heels to head. Start with your arms fully extended, then bend your elbows and retract your shoulder blades to pull your chest all the way to the bedsheet. Pause for a second, then slowly reverse the movement for one repetition.
To do the push-up, start in a standard push-up position on the floor, with your arms straight, your hands below your shoulders, and your feet together or no more than 12 inches apart. Bend your elbows to lower your chest until it’s an inch or two from the ground. Then push back up to the starting position for one repetition. Maintain a rigid plank from your head to your heels throughout the movement (no lifting, sagging, or twisting the hips). For an added challenge, instead of placing your palms on the floor, wrap them in the ends of the bedsheet and perform push-ups like you would using TRX or suspension straps.
Volume: Decrease ladder rows from ten to one, and increase ladder push-ups from one to ten.
Complete the next four exercises as a mini circuit, cycling from one to the next in the given order, for five rounds total. For example, do 15 squats, 15 frog jumps, 15 lunges (with each leg), 15 sit-ups, and repeat.
What they do: Primarily strengthen the quads and glutes and engage the hamstrings, inner thighs, calves, and core.
How to do them: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Hold your chest and head high, pull your shoulders back and down, and keep your spine stacked in a neutral position. Then bend your knees to lower into a squat until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor (or as low as you can go with good form). Come up halfway, lower yourself back down until your thighs are once again parallel (or to your low point), then finally stand all the way up for one repetition.
Add weight to make it harder. You can hold a gallon jug of water in front of your chest like you’re doing a goblet squat, or use or wear a loaded backpack, holding it in front of your chest or wearing it backward to better center the load.
Volume: Five sets of 15 reps.
Frog Jumps (Touch-Jump-Touch)
What they do: Strengthen the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core while training explosive power in the legs. The wider stance also puts more emphasis on the hip adductors.
How to do them: Start beneath the pull-up bar and just outside the doorframe, in a wide stance with your toes angled out slightly. Squat as described above, and touch the floor with your fingertips. Keep your back straight and your torso as upright as possible. Then jump vertically to touch the bar (if you’re using a doorframe pull-up bar and have a low doorframe, aim for the ceiling so you can jump as high as possible). Land softly, immediately lower into another squat, and repeat.
Volume: Five sets of 15 reps.
What they do: Primarily strengthen the glutes, quads, and adductores magni (inner thighs) while working the hamstrings, calves, hip stabilizers, and core.
How to do them: Take a large step backward to enter a stationary lunge stance. Square your hips and engage your core. Then bend your knees to lower your hips until your front thigh is roughly parallel to the ground and your back knee is hovering just an inch or two off the floor. Reverse the movement to the starting position, switch leg positions, and repeat. Alternate legs each rep. Keep your chest high, your pelvis neutral, and your back straight throughout the movement. Wear a weighted backpack to make it harder.
Volume: Five sets of 15 reps per leg.
Sit-Up Pillow Toss
What it does: Primarily strengthens the abs and engages the rest of the core while training forward-flexion power.
How to do it: Grab a pillow, and lie on your back beneath the pull-up bar, with your knees bent between 70 and 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Hold the pillow with straight or slightly-bent arms above your head. Sit up quickly, and throw the pillow at the pull-up bar. Then catch the pillow and reverse the movement for one repetition. Focus on getting this to flow smoothly, which is more challenging than it sounds.
Volume: Five sets of 15 reps.
What it does: Primarily trains grip strength and works the shoulders, back, and core.
How to do it: Grab the pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing forward. Hang with straight arms until failure. Keep your shoulders and back engaged. Think of squeezing your shoulder blades together, tilting your chest slightly up toward the bar, and lifting your ears up and away from your shoulders. Wear a weighted backpack to make it harder.
For the climbers out there, this will feel ridiculously easy. If you have a hang board, complete the dead hangs on the edges of a hang board, or substitute in your favorite hang-board routine.
Volume: Five hangs until failure. Rest for one to two minutes between efforts.
As a travel editor with perennially itchy feet, staying within a three-mile radius of my house has been tough. Since canceling planned trips to Italy, Alaska, and Hawaii, with no indication of when I’ll be able to reschedule them, I’ve tried to find different ways of tricking my brain into thinking I’m traveling again: watching YouTube videos of the grizzlies I was hoping to see at Katmai National Park this summer, changing my Zoom background to a shot of me on a sailboat in the South Pacific, and tuning into 40-plus hours of thru-hiking vlogs. But despite working at Outside and not Bon Appétit, I’ve realized that while I miss the adventures, I miss the food just as much.
So my latest lockdown hobby has been recreating some of my favorite meals I’ve enjoyed while traveling. Here are nine recipes that have managed to satisfy those cravings. And I’ve included some ingredient suggestions that substitute in common pantry staples, to spare you multiple, risky trips to the grocery store. Give these dishes a try, close your eyes, and you might just believe you’re at a beach in Mexico or a food stall in Asia. At the very least, you’ll no longer be hungry.
Indonesia: Peanut Sauce
This adaptation of a classic Asian peanut sauce, or satay sauce, comes from the mother of fellow editor (and my roommate) Maren Larsen. The first time Annie made it for me, I almost cried and said, “I want to eat this every day, every meal, for the rest of my life.” It was the closest thing I’ve had to the copious amounts I consumed during my year in Indonesia. I now always have at least one jar in the fridge and one in the freezer, and I throw it on everything from stir-fry to chicken and rice. You can even dip raw carrots into it like hummus.
½ cup peanut butter (the natural, no-sugar-added chunky kind is better, but in a pinch, Skippy will work)
2 tablespoons sriracha or other hot sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup fresh basil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 can coconut milk
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 small scallion (optional)
Throw everything in a pot, and simmer until fragrant and combined. Put it on whatever you want, and hold back tears of joy.
Mexico: Slow-Cooker Carnitas
Since my favorite local taco stand has shut down, my mouth has been watering for carnitas, the Mexican version of pulled pork. The traditional process involves a deep copper pot and lots of lard, but because I am in possession of neither, I’ve tried to replicate the flavors and texture with my Crock-Pot and oven. I modified this recipe, using pork instead of chicken (though with the shortages, I imagine chicken thighs would be easier to find) and skipping the chipotle sauce—I found that by using the slow cooker, the meat exuded enough delicious juice to use instead.
1 tablepoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon Mexican oregano (regular oregano will also work)
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
Zest and juice of one medium orange (about ¼ cup)
2 freshly squeezed limes (about ¼ cup)
2 pounds pork butt, shoulder, or loin
5 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup chicken stock
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Combine seasonings, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, orange juice, and lime juice in a bowl, and whisk together until combined. Put your pork cut in a Crock-Pot, and pour the seaoning mixture over it, flipping the meat to make sure it’s coated on all sides. Add the garlic, onion, chicken stock, cilantro, and bay leaf. Cook on low for six to eight hours (the longer, the better) until the pork pulls apart easily.
Once the meat is done, shred it and spread it on a baking dish, add salt and pepper, drizzle two tablespoons of cooking liquid on top, and toss to coat. Put the tray on the middle rack in the oven under the broil setting for about 15 minutes, and cook it until the pork is crisped but not dry. Pull it out at the halfway mark to drizzle another two more tablespoons of cooking liquid over it.
Serve in warmed corn tortillas topped with more fresh lime juice, cilantro, and pickled onions; over rice and beans; in a burrito; or devour it straight from the pan.
New Zealand: Pavlova
Aussies will claim this dessert as their own invention, but any self-respecting Kiwi will tell you who it really belongs to. This recipe comes from a Kiwi grandmother I stayed with near Wellington (thanks, Nana Jackie!), and it’s still a mystery to me how something with so few ingredients can taste so damn delicious. It’s especially ideal for the current food-shortage situation, as it requires no flour or yeast, just lots of sugar, eggs, and a decent mixer.
For the Meringue:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh fruit of your choice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
With a standing mixer (or a handheld mixer if you want an arm workout), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, about five to ten minutes at high speed. Add half the sugar, beat for another 30 seconds, then add the remaining half. Continue beating until stiff peaks form like little snowy mountains (you should be able to hold the whisk upright). When in doubt, beat some more. Add the vanilla extract, and beat for another minute. Fold in the cornstarch and cream of tartar using a spatula.
Spread the mixture in a roughly eight- or nine-inch circle on the baking sheet, making sure the outer edge is relatively tall. Pop in the oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 200 degrees. Bake for about 90 minutes, until it appears firm and dry. Try to not open the oven at all during the baking process.
While the meringue is baking, pour the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until medium peaks form or the cream has a nice, thick texture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Turn off the oven, and let the meringue completely cool inside it (this could take several hours). It’s important that you don’t skip this last step: if you do, the nice golden crust formed by the caramelized sugar will crack—not that I know from experience or anything.
Top with cream and fruit.
Asia: Wahyu’s Special Ramen
My friend Wahyu, a ranger who I worked with doing forest conservation in Borneo, Indonesia, showed me how to take an ordinary pack of instant ramen and turn it into something I’d constantly crave long after returning to the U.S. I’ve since added some other ingredients and adopted a new egg-cooking technique from another friend. But just a few basic foods, including tomatoes, onion, and garlic, make a world of difference.
1 cup water
1 onion, diced
1 fresh tomato, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 package instant ramen noodles and its flavor packet (or, if you’re a purist, use fresh ramen noodles and chicken broth, altering the cooking instructions accordingly)
1 tablespoon oil (preferably sesame)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (substitute soy sauce if you can’t find it)
Additional vegetables (bok choy and mushrooms work particularly well)
1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger or powdered ginger
Sriracha or other chili sauce to taste
Boil water in a kettle or pot. In a separate pot, sauté the onion, tomato, garlic, and ramen flavor packet together in sesame oil until the tomatoes are soft and have broken down completely and the onions are translucent. Add the boiling water to the pot with the sautéed veggies, along with the fish sauce and any additional vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, then add the noodles. Let them soften for two minutes.
Crack one egg into the mixture, whipping it until the egg has almost dissolved into the broth. Separate the yolk and white of the second egg, setting the yolk aside to use shortly. Add the egg white, whipping it until the broth becomes creamy.
Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the hot burner. Add the egg yolk into the still boiling liquid, cover, and wait about 30 seconds, until the yolk is set but still runny. Pour out the contents of the pot into a bowl, carefully scooping out the intact yolk last.
Turkey: Chicken Hot Pot
Senior travel editor Erin Riley kindly brought me a tray of this when I was having a rough week recently, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about—or making it—since. The original recipe calls for rooster, but because I’m not yet living my best life as a full-blown homesteader, I’ve been using chicken. While the more authentic version calls for Turkish red bell pepper paste, which uses sun-dried peppers, this recipe works just as well with the regular paste found at most grocery stores.
1 pound chicken breast, cubed
1 pound potatoes, cubed
4 to 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons red bell pepper paste
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until fully combined and your chicken pieces are thoroughly coated. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish or Dutch oven, and bake for an hour and ten minutes.
This goes especially well over rice and with some homemade cacik, or Turkish yogurt sauce.
North Africa/Middle East: Shakshuka
Outside director of event marketing Nicole Barker (my other roommate—Santa Fe is a small town) spent a few months in the Middle East eating this deliciously eggy concoction, and it’s been in her breakfast rotation ever since. But in our house, we have it for dinner, because it’s quarantine and the rules no longer matter.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne (or to taste)
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes with their juices, coarsely chopped
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
5 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1¼ cups)
6 large eggs
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Warm oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over a medium-low flame. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender, one to two minutes, then stir in the cumin, paprika, and cayenne, and cook for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes, and season with the salt and pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about ten minutes. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the crumbled feta.
Crack your eggs into the skillet over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the skillet to the oven, and bake until the eggs are just set, seven to ten minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and hot sauce, and serve.
This can be made without the feta, but I wouldn’t skip it—the cheese turns into nuggets of ooey goodness in the oven. While the dish can be eaten on its own, it goes especially well over some sort of flatbread or regular toast.
Yes, you could just buy frozen pizza. But since visiting Sicily last September, my now spoiled taste buds refuse to accept it as even a less than worthy substitute. Why go with DiGiorno when you can make a big batch of dough and sauce ahead of time, stick the dough in the freezer, and essentially have pizza on demand for the duration of quarantine? This recipe came from my mom, who got it from the Italian owner of her local pizza place in New York. It was also approved by my Sicilian grandmother, who has gotten us kicked out of multiple restaurants for arguing with the chef. Inside tip: Having trouble finding yeast or flour? Check with your local pizza place. To make extra cash, many of them are selling their stock.
For the Dough (makes two to three large thin-crust pies):
1 package dry instant yeast (or 1.5 ounces fresh yeast)
1½ cups warm—not boiling—water (about 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit—just turn your sink faucet up to full heat)
3 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating
4 cups flour
For the Sauce:
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 16-ounce can tomato puree
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon oregano
Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
Combine the yeast and warm water in a large bowl with a pinch of sugar to activate. Stir together until yeast is dissolved. Add the rest of the sugar, salt, garlic and onion powders, and olive oil. Stir some more. Add the first two cups of flour, mix with a spoon, then toss in the third cup and mix with the spoon.
Add the last cup of flour. But this time, knead the dough with your hands until it’s adequately infused with all of your pent-up stress and no longer sticky. Pour a good amount of olive oil (don’t skimp) all over the sides of the bowl, and coat the ball of dough thoroughly. Cover the bowl with three or four dish towels, and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, make the sauce. Sauté the onion until translucent, add the garlic, and cook one to two minutes more. Then add the tomato puree, salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, and let it sit for the flavors to meld.
After the dough has risen, punch it down, and plop it on a well-floured work surface. Form the dough into a log, and slice it in half or into thirds, depending on how big you want your pies.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, letting your pan or pizza stone heat up within it. Take one piece of dough, and flatten it out on your work surface. Working from the middle outward, use your fingers to stretch it while flipping it over from time to time to work the opposite side. For a thin crust, stretch the dough until it’s just about translucent; it will seem almost too thin. If you get holes, simply pinch the edges of the hole together and fold some more dough over it.
Transfer the dough to your preheated pan or pizza stone. Ladle the sauce over the top from the middle outward in that fancy way you see pizza chefs do it on TV. Add cheese (fresh mozzarella and a bit of Parmesan are my favorite) and any toppings you’d like—as long as it’s not pineapple, lest you risk being haunted by the ghosts of 10,000 Italian nonnas. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven until the crust is golden brown and the bottom is crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Any extra dough can be saved in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer just about indefinitely. If you do make a pie out of the premade dough, first bring it to room temperature before you start stretching.
India: Masala Chai
There are few things I miss about the year I spent living in Boulder, Colorado. But the one thing I’m really hankering for is the chai at Dushanbe Tea House, which was within walking distance of my apartment. My cravings for its spicy, flavor-packed conconction have only gotten stronger since lockdown; in my most desperate moments, I have dreamed of making the six-hour, totally irresponsible drive there just for a cup. Then, while scrolling through social media one night to quell my existential dread, I saw someone prepare homemade chai, and my world changed.
1 fresh gingerroot, peeled
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup water
½ cup half-and-half, milk, or whatever your preferred dairy substitute is—just make sure it’s creamy
1 tablespoon loose-leaf black tea
Sugar to taste
Crush up your ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, you can use the back of a wooden spoon and a small bowl.
Bring the water to boil in a pot, and add the ground spices (or stick them whole into a strainer and seep it in the water). Simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, and add in the black-tea leaves. Let it seep for five to ten minutes, depending on the desired strength.
Put the pot back on the stove over low-medium heat, and add your milk, cream, or bougie substitute and sugar. Stir occasionally, making sure the mixture doesn’t boil. Once the top of this becomes frothy, remove the pot from the heat, and let it sit for another minute or two before pouring through a strainer into a mug. If you’re less of a klutz than I am, pour the mixture from a height above the mug to help aerate it. Enter chai heaven.
Carribean: Cuban-ish Rice and Beans
If you’re like me and always have a ten-pound bag of rice and approximately 18 cans of beans in your pantry, you know, just in case a global pandemic hits, you should be well equipped for this dish. I ate some version of it virtually every day as a broke college student in Florida—and regularly now as an only slightly less broke editor during quarantine—and it’s a wonder what some simple additions can do to break up the starchy monotony. Breakfast? Put an egg on top. Extra hungry? Throw in some slow-cooked carnitas (see above). I cook everything together in the same pot, because the rice absorbs the bean and tomato-juice flavors and… who am I kidding? It’s so that I have fewer dishes to do.
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jalapeño or other hot pepper, chopped (optional)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
½ cup chicken stock (or water)
1 cup white rice, rinsed in a colander until the water runs clear
1 16-ounce can black beans, or soaked and cooked dried beans
1 can diced tomatoes
Heat oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, then add the chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, jalapeño and bell peppers, and garlic, and cook two to three minutes more. Add the chicken stock and rice, and turn the stove’s flame up to medium heat. Add the beans and tomatoes, without draining. Stir, bring the whole mixture to a soft boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed—what you want left is a nice, thick sauce.
Serve with some freshly chopped tomatoes, hot sauce, avocado, egg, cilantro, cheese, sour cream—whatever you want. You’ll never regret making a double batch and having it in your freezer for days when you’re between grocery runs.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s phone started ringing at all hours the third week of March, soon after his adopted hometown of Breckenridge, Colorado, shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A native of Brockton, Massachusetts, on Boston’s gritty South Shore, Bergeron moved to Breckenridge in 1975 when he was 20. He’s represented the town’s 5,000 residents as a councilman for more than a decade. Known by his nom de plume, Biff America, the 66-year-old media personality describes himself as “kind of a freak,” which makes him a man of the ski-town people in a way that most elected officials are not.
Breckenridge was founded as a mining town in 1859. It existed for more than a century before a tiny ski resort opened there in 1961 on 12,998-foot Peak 8. Now Breckenridge Ski Resort is among the biggest and busiest in the country, routinely notching more than 1.6 million skier visits as one of the most popular destinations on Vail Resorts’ vaunted Epic Pass. Last year the town recorded $658 million in taxable sales by local businesses. Multimillion-dollar homes are in vogue the way two-room cabins once were. Bergeron has accepted the growth like ski bums accept summer—begrudgingly—while always striving to defend the easygoing vibe he fell in love with 45 years ago, when he and a friend puttered down Main Street in their 1962 VW Squareback.
So this March, when nearly a dozen longtime residents called Bergeron, on the verge of sobbing, unsure what they were going to do or if they would be able to stay, the pandemic hit home in a way that no bottom line could. “In many cases, these were dudes in their forties who I ski with or lift weights with, and they were fighting to maintain their composure,” Bergeron told me. “They thought they were taking the next step to their future—they finally had a business and property. Then, within five days, everything was tenuous.”
Anyone living in a ski town like Breckenridge, the place I have called home for 18 years, knows how drastic this economic and lifestyle crash has been. Take Downstairs at Eric’s, a popular family restaurant on Main Street owned by the town mayor, Eric Mamula. Eric’s had set revenue records for seven straight years entering 2020. It appeared primed to do that again, with unprecedented sales in January and February and a booming start to March, typically the richest month of the year for Breckenridge’s local businesses. Just up Ski Hill Road, at the base of Peak 8, Breckenridge Grand Vacations (BGV), which sells luxury time-shares and manages nearly 900 lodging units, was on pace to notch the highest sales total in its 32-year history.
Then the ski resort closed on Saturday, March 14. Two days later, the town shut down its restaurants and bars, and all tourists were asked to leave by the end of the week. Their departure left much of the community out of work. BGV, the largest year-round employer in Summit County, furloughed more than 500 staff, or 85 percent of its workforce. Vail Resorts laid off or furloughed almost all of its local employees for up to six months. It was as if an ice age had arrived while everyone was sleeping, and we woke up to a place frozen in time. Retail shops that had been short-staffed all winter replaced their “Help Wanted” signs with COVID-19 closure notices. I walked down the double yellow line on Main Street for blocks without seeing a car—or a person.
Breckenridge has endured its share of local and global calamities, from rampant mine closures to 9/11 to the Great Recession. But the last real threat to the town’s identity was the 1980–81 winter, when the resort only opened for brief stretches and closed for the season in March, after recording just 86 inches of snow (an average season sees around 350 inches). The population exodus was so dramatic that someone posted a sign on Main Street that read “Last One to Leave, Turn Out the Lights.” Twentieth Century Fox, which owned the resort at the time, made sure that never happened again, investing in snowmaking and installing the world’s first high-speed quad chairlift the following year. “That event was not even in the same galaxy as this pandemic, as far as fostering insecurity about the future of our town,” Bergeron says.
Over the past two months, mountain towns around the world have adjusted to an uncomfortable, indefinite standstill. March and April are typically economic windfalls, and some resorts stay open through May, including Breckenridge. After the pandemic hit, businesses small and large, as well as nonprofits and municipal governments, slashed their budgets, anticipating annual revenue losses of 40 to 50 percent. Locals hunkered down like marmots in a blizzard. The Summit Daily News (where I worked before starting a freelance career) published 12-page newspapers when they’d normally be four times as thick, and it solicited donations from readers. The only companies hiring in the classifieds were Waste Management, the hospital, and Wendy’s.
According to an Oxford Economics survey released on March 24, we can expect to see a $400 billion decrease in U.S. travel spending this year, including $350 billion in domestic travel, which is Breckenridge’s bread and butter. “This is seven times the impact of 9/11,” the report stated. Local property manager Toby Babich, who serves as president of the international Vacation Rental Management Association, told me that bookings from May through August were down 80 percent from the previous year in traditionally powerhouse destinations like Florida and the Gulf Coast, and down 40 to 60 percent in mountain towns. Bergeron says he wouldn’t be surprised if Breckenridge loses 15 percent of its population. (In addition to the 5,000 year-round residents, there are also hundreds of seasonal winter workers.) Aside from those who move back in with their parents to escape the area’s high cost of living, it’s unclear where they would go.
To help locals get by, in late March, the town dipped into its $20 million rainy-day fund and established rent-assistance pools for small businesses and those who work in town. Nearly 210 business owners applied for April aid, receiving an average of $3,000 from a $1 million fund, while 900 residents’ rent handouts were drawn from a pool of $500,000. The point was to spread out the body blows. “Before the town chips in, we’ve been going to landlords and saying, ‘Hey, you’re owed this much, what will you take?’” Bergeron says. If the landlord doesn’t cooperate, neither does the government. Other ski towns, like Truckee, California, have done similar things, while in Jackson, Wyoming, local nonprofits are filling the benefactor role. Still, not every ski bum is protected. In Stowe, Vermont, the only rent assistance available is what people can procure from the feds, says town planning director Tom Jackman.
Everyone has feared a mental-health crisis as part of the pandemic, and for a while, it appeared Breckenridge might avoid that fate. Testing for the virus ramped up in mid-April (as of this writing, 243 people had tested positive in Summit County, with 47 hospitalizations and one death), and talk of reopening began. Then two local teenagers committed suicide eight days apart in late April, sending the community into shock. “I think we can say confidently that the isolation was a factor in the emotional rawness of these kids,” says Jen McAtamney, executive director of Building Hope, a local mental-health nonprofit. “Because they’re supposed to be socializing, and their brains are developing right now, so it’s hard for them to see the other side of this—the future.” Building Hope funds up to 12 therapy sessions for anyone in need, often starting as soon as a person applies. “We’ve been getting as many calls in a day as we usually get in a week,” McAtamney says.
What does the future look like for Breckenridge and other ski towns? Much depends, of course, on how long the pandemic lasts. “I describe it, frankly, as unrolling a snowball,” says Robin Theobald, a fifth-generation Breckenridge resident and prominent local businessman. “A snowball will roll down the hill on its own, but how do you put that back on the hill? You can’t unroll it.” Town manager Rick Holman says he expects to see a $190 million decrease in sales this year, compared with 2019. Already at least one Main Street shop has gone under, with more likely to follow. Many businesses received federal assistance to cover payroll and overhead, but that doesn’t solve the biggest problem: a lack of visitors spending money.
All lodging properties were shut down through May but were allowed to reopen June 1. The Breckenridge Tourism Office was targeting July 4 as its official summer kickoff, then changed course and decided not to stage any major events, to prevent large crowds. Main Street, typically clogged by traffic, is being turned into a pedestrian throughway, giving people more room to avoid each other. BGV plans to have its guests sign a pledge to abide by public-health orders upon their arrival—a provision many locals support, given their wariness of letting outsiders back in without treatment or a vaccine for the virus. The “BGV Promise” requires guests to cover their faces anytime they’re outside their rooms at the resort, unless they’re eating, drinking, or playing in the pool. “We’re trying to avoid conflict among our guests,” says company CEO Mike Dudick. If visitors refuse to wear masks inside a retail shop or a restaurant downtown, as mandated by government officials, the town’s delicate dependence on tourism could come to a head.
“I think there’s going to be a philosophical discussion for locals to have,” Dudick says. “Because those who were in the camp of We have way too many tourists, now they’ve gotten to look squarely down the barrel of what it looks like with zero. So what kind of economy do we really need to live in this community? Where’s the balance point?”
Mayor Mamula, who was reelected in early April, and whose father was the mayor 20 years ago, envisions one potential silver lining that could extend to ski towns everywhere. With many service workers earning between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, homeownership is often out of reach, a major reason why locals leave to raise their families elsewhere. “Maybe some housing goes on the market when we come out of this, and people who have lived here for a long time are actually able to afford it,” Mamula says. “That’s what I’m hoping for: we get a shake-up in the economy, where some of the people who have used this as strictly a place to make money and not a place to live will get replaced by people who want to live here.” It’s an attractive prospect on paper, but April Norton, director of Wyoming’s Teton County Affordable Housing program, says early signs in Jackson Hole leave her worried. “I see it going the other way for us, which is really scary,” she told me.
Ironically, two bases that have been assailed by locals who feel Breckenridge is too busy—day-trippers from the Front Range and time-share occupants—are likely to play a crucial role in kick-starting the economy. But how many destination travelers join them, and when, is the wild card. Breckenridge Tourism Office CEO Lucy Kay told me the organization has spent “very little” of its $1.2 million summer advertising budget, which is used to attract visitors from out of state. “We don’t want to bring in too many people too fast,” she says. “We want to see how much fills organically.” The long-term prognosis remains unpredictable, like the virus. “You could take this out to a worst-case scenario, where we lose part of next winter, and that could be devastating,” says Mamula, whose restaurant employs 48 people, four of whom tested positive for COVID-19 in May. “Then I don’t know what happens. I don’t even want to think about that right now.”
Theobald believes there is too much money invested in Breckenridge by wealthy vacationers for its economy not to recover. Urban residents still pine for mountain escapes, perhaps now more than before. But if you ask Bergeron, the biggest threat is qualitative, not quantitative.
“The people who have called me in a state of panic really reflect what this place is about, and yet they might have to leave,” Bergeron says. “They’d be replaced eventually by people with the same occupation but who don’t have the historical understanding of what our town is. And that could really change what I think is the best part about Breckenridge—the character. It’s forgiving, freewheeling, and a remarkable place to live.”
Last year, mountaineers Adrian Ballinger and Carla Perez reached the top of the world’s second-highest peak without supplemental oxygen. Breathtaking, a film from Eddie Bauer, chronicles what it took to make that happen.
I am writing this review from a camp chair in my backyard. Three months ago, that sentence might have read like a thinly veiled humble brag about the flexibility of my long-standing work-from-home schedule—but that is no longer the case as the world continues to be locked down by the pandemic. I’m here out of fear of annoying my swamped wife in our shared office or stepping on a creaky board in our hall and waking up our napping daughter, which would torpedo productivity for the both of us the rest of the afternoon. I can’t complain, though, because I’m thankful for work, the weather is lovely, and the Coleman Aluminum Deck Chair with Swivel Table ($66) that I’m sitting in is awesome.
I first reviewed this straightforward deck seat two years ago at the advice of my old friend Tommy Fallon. Fallon is an expert in all things, including Chevy Suburbans, car-camping equipment, and how to cook perfect bratwurst. When I told him I was testing camp chairs, he said I would be blowing it if I didn’t try one of these Coleman ones. I scoffed. What would I, the Gear Guy, testing a $300 Yeti chair at the time, get from a clunky $60 Coleman chair with a plastic swiveling table? But I tested the chair to appease him and, it turns out, not only was I a snob but an incorrect snob.
I’ve gotten so much use out of this Coleman since that review. It lives on our deck and is an excellent stage for mini-snowman builds after winter storms. Even after eight seasons outdoors amid the elements, taking beatings from rain, wind, ice, and snow, it’s still a perfectly functional chair, which speaks volumes to its durability.
Thanks to COVID-19, I’ve spent a portion of every single nice day since mid-March on this chair. Its rigid canvas back and seat haven’t sagged at all and support my back so it isn’t sore after extended writing sessions there. The swivel table accommodates my MacBook, so I don’t have to lurch over my lap to type. I do get stiff after working in it for a while, but it’s still by far my best backyard desk.
As Fallon promised, the table is also a fantastic companion for burgers and beer and has been my seat for dozens of picnics with my daughter and wife since we’ve been quarantined at home. And it is my backyard-happy-hour chair of choice because of its cup holder.
The Coleman has helped me be at peace with, and even enjoy, sheltering in place the past few months. I have a garage full of fancy chairs loaded in bins for camping trips, but this one is what I use every day.
Jackson County, where we live in Oregon, recently began its phase-one reopening. Thanks in part to this chair, I was getting pretty comfortable rarely leaving my house. Frankly, I’m not sure how to start socializing again. One of the options we’ve been discussing with friends is meeting up on public lands and enjoying socially distanced beers. A key element of this plan is the BYOC (bring your own chair) rule. I know which one I’ll be lounging in.
I was listening to the audiobook of Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women—I’d just gotten to the part where Aidan is giving Lina multiple orgasms—when I saw a woman hiking toward me on my neighborhood trail in Roosevelt National Forest, near my home in Nederland, Colorado.
When I hike, I play books out loud instead of listening through headphones. There are mountain lions out there, and I’ve convinced myself that they shy away from the sound of “voice artists” reading novels and nonfiction. Taddeo’s book offers another reason to listen outside. I wouldn’t want my husband or children walking in on me while I’m blushing from passages that might qualify as porn. I’m like that. I try to be thoughtful.
But on this particular day, I’d left my house without wearing a surgical mask or even sliding a Buff around my neck. Recently, my state’s governor, Jared Polis, had changed Colorado’s COVID-19-flattening rules from shelter in place to the less strict safer at home, and I was feeling carefree. I was also hiking a trail that starts less than 30 yards from my home. The route I planned was a 6.5-mile loop; I run, hike, or bike it five times a week and rarely see another human. And to be honest, I forgot.
I was moving along at a fast clip, blissfully unaware of anything but the trail, the lodgepole pines, and the raptor riding a thermal above me. Then I saw a woman coming my way with a fluffy black dog. I fumbled to pause my audiobook when I heard her say, “Winston! Winston! Stop!” Winston was unleashed, which is permitted in this forest, and when the woman commanded him to halt, she reached out as if to grab his collar. It might have been for show. But I trusted that she had him under voice control.
I love dogs, I love hiking with dogs, and I love the fact that where I live—halfway between Boulder and Nederland, amid Rocky Mountain foothills—people have the freedom to let pets run off leash. I try to hike with my Chesapeake Bay retriever, Boone, mostly on leash, so he doesn’t chase after a fox or a herd of elk or people. That is, even though I’ve lived in these parts for 16 years, I still think of others. Which is why what the woman did next was so provoking.
As I fumbled with my phone, she stopped a few yards away from me. I noticed that she was wearing a red bandana, and I still hadn’t remembered that I was maskless. We walked toward one another in what I thought was a spirit of harmony. She came so close that I could’ve reached out to pet Winston; we made eye contact as we passed. And then I gave it no more thought.
But once she was a few feet past me, she called out, “So you’re not wearing a mask?”
Thrown off guard, I turned and said, “What?”
“So you’re not wearing a mask. For others’ protection?”
Suddenly defensive, I said, “No, I’m not.” After a pause, I said, “I live here, I hike here all the time, and you’re the third person I’ve seen in weeks.
“And,” I added, “we’re outside.”
Masks draw all your attention to the wearer’s eyes, and when I looked at hers, they were glaring. Beneath her cloth, she said, “It doesn’t matter. We’re supposed to wear them even out here.”
We disengaged and went our separate ways, and before long, I could feel the elation of hiking squeeze out of me like air escaping from a punctured tire. I was upset, guilty, and sad. After a mile or so, I thought about why the interaction had made me so angry.
I understand that wearing a mask is about protecting and respecting others. And I know our experiences with the coronavirus might be very different. But I also think safety comes down to communication.
For starters, Winston’s mom had shamed me for not wearing a mask in the same way a parent shames a kid when they’re found with a vape sticking out of their pocket. She also assumed I was insensitive—that I purposely chose not to wear protection. The way she poured it on made it seem like I didn’t give a damn about anyone but me. But that’s not true. Exhibit A: I was paying enough attention to turn off my audiobook.
Exhibit B: I wear a mask anytime I go into places where I know I’ll find crowds, and I carry my own isopropyl alcohol wipes for use on everything from opening the door at my local grocery store to swiping my debit card.
Moreover, COVID-19 had been around for weeks, and the safety protocols were constantly evolving. At first it was: don’t wear a mask—it makes you touch your eyes! Next came: a Buff is enough! Then: if you can see light through your Buff, it’s not protecting you or others. Finally, most experts seemed to agree that masks make sense indoors, but if you’re out in the woods, suitably distanced, you’re not likely to get coronavirus from other people.
Scientists say that shame doesn’t always produce the results we want. During an interview with a local TV station in Seattle last month, clinical psychologist Roseann Fish Getchell said that admonishment isn’t likely to work between strangers—there needs to be a relationship and a foundation of trust.
And in some instances, shoving your mask awareness in another person’s face can have damaging effects. Recently, a friend of mine was at a grocery store with her seven-year-old daughter when a man bent down and addressed the child at eye level. Removing his mask—to make sure he was heard—he said, “I’m going to need you to cover your whole face with your mask or you’ll get sick.”
The girl was simply letting her glasses defog, and she started crying when the man walked off.
“It’s a weird time, and we are all doing our best to create some normalcy while also educating our kids,” her mom told me later. “Fear or shame doesn’t have to be a part of either of those things. The worst part is that, now, all three of my girls are wondering if they’re going to get sick.”
The sting of my mask-shaming incident dulled as I hiked down the trail, feeling the strength of my legs, the vastness of outdoor freedom, and the air that I knew was safe to breathe. Soon I had a thought I wish I had shared with the woman.
I understand that wearing a mask is about protecting and respecting others. And I know our experiences with the coronavirus might be very different. But I also think safety comes down to communication.
You didn’t know where I was coming from any more than I knew that about you. But I didn’t assume the worst of you, while you did assume the worst of me. We had an unobstructed view of each other on the trail, so why didn’t you just ask me if I had a mask? I would have remembered that I had a perfectly acceptable replacement in my pack, a long-sleeved midlayer that I could have tied securely around my head. I would have dug it out, put it on, and protected us both.
So here’s a recommendation as we continue to do the best thing we can to weather the ongoing craziness of COVID-19. If you encounter someone on the trail who isn’t wearing a mask, consider giving them the benefit of the doubt. Shaming others can be powerful, but there are more effective ways for us to keep each other safe.
Outside’s 2020 bike test took place in October on the roads and trails of northwest Arkansas. For those unfamiliar with the region, it is quickly making a name for itself as a biking paradise, thanks to a variety of destinations and rapidly expanding trail development. With so much terrain to choose from, we sampled singletrack in Bentonville, Bella Vista, Rogers, Eureka Springs, Springdale, and Hot Springs, as well as many miles of winding country roads outside Fayetteville. In addition to trails, we also pedaled dirt roads surrounding Bentonville. There is something for everyone in this corner of the state, whether you’re a road rider, mountain biker, or gravel grinder.