Just before he turned 30, Hayden Peters was forced into the terrifying position of confronting his own mortality because of a health issue. The experience came with a seismic shift in perspective, priorities and the way he approaches life. Trading city life for cold saltwater, Peters finds balance, inspiration and solace in the Oregon coastline — a place of crashing waves, elegant sea stacks and blunt, breathtaking, uncaring beauty. This short film by Skip Armstrong is a meditation on the power of the ocean and the lessons it can impart about what truly matters in life.
In the middle of the vast watery stretch that is Lake Superior sits Rabbit Island, 91 acres of rocks, earth, trees and wild habitat. Rabbit Island has never been divided or cut. Nor will it ever be. In collaboration with a land trust, a conservation easement has been placed on the island, ensuring that it will remain protected forever. This place offers a new kind of wild experience, where the point is to do nothing to an ecosystem and see what it teaches us.
An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia. The massive size of the mines, coupled with their proximity to the headwaters of major salmon rivers, has neighbors in Alaska concerned about pollution risks. Those concerns become all too real in August 2014 with the catastrophic failure of a tailings dam near Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.
Frank and the Tower
The first time Frank Sanders saw Devils Tower was in the violent brilliance of a lightning strike. It sent a wave of dread through him, but, the next day, he climbed the iconic formation. Forty years later, he’s repeated that act more than 2,000 times, as both a climber and guide, and learned a few things about life along the way.
What happens when you meet your limit? In this short cinepoem, filmmaker Suzan Beraza and poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer bring a shovel to a perfect winter blizzard and let their muses take over. As snow falls, lessons are revealed.
River of Eden
Raised in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, where he still lives, frequent Mountainfilm guest Pete McBride is an accomplished photographer and filmmaker with a strong affinity for rivers. His portrait of the Colorado River in distress, Chasing Water, made a strong impression at Mountainfilm in 2011. This year, he tells a story of hope by way of preservation of a far less famous river: the upper Navua in Fiji, sometimes known as the River of Eden or the tropical Grand Canyon. While McBride says in his narration that the river’s beauty is “indescribable,” he provides a powerful testimonial for it on film and shows that sometimes conservation does win out over resource extraction.
Many people have taken river trips down the Colorado River, but few know the final miles of the river like Pete McBride. His short film Chasing Water (Mountainfilm 2011) chronicled his hearty attempt to follow the river to the Mexican delta, where he found a hard, barren landscape that hadn't seen water in more than two decades.
In the spring of 2014, U.S. authorities released a "pulse" of water that temporarily brought the river back into Mexico and, of course, the inveterate McBride followed the water to its end, this time on a standup paddleboard. On this strenuous SUP expedition, he finds ecosystems returning to life and people partying along the shore because, as McBride puts it, “It’s been a long time since the river kissed the sea.”
The Important Places
When Forest Woodward was born, his father wrote a poem for him about the secret places of sublime beauty that he would find in life. “May you always remember the path that leads back, back to the important places,” it concluded.
Nearly three decades later, Forest came across the poem in a box of family books and was propelled by the words to challenge his father to recreate a 1970 trip down the Grand Canyon. Together they set off on a 28-day journey down the Colorado River, where, surrounded by towering canyon walls and powerful whitewater, Forest watches his father “not just alive, but living again.”
This poignant short about the father-son bond teaches us that although we may sometimes go astray — stuck in eddies and in life — the path back to the important places is never too far away.
The Story of Place
Edward Abbey, the revered defender of the wilds of the American Southwest, called Canyonlands “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth — there is nothing else like it anywhere.” Yet there are 1.8 million acres of hoodoos, buttes and red-rock walls of the greater canyonlands that are threatened by oil and gas development, proposed tar sands extraction and uranium mining.
In this short film, author Craig Childs, adventure photographer (and former Telluride resident) Ace Kvale, and community leader and National Geographic Society Explorer Jim Enote delve into the spaces, at once intimate and expansive, that make up a proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument. They walk through ancient cliff dwellings of Ancestral Puebloans and explore narrow slot canyons, where trickles of thunderstorm-born rainwater eventually flow into the Colorado River. The threats against this awe-inspiring land lead Childs to ask: “What is this place worth in oil? Where do we want to steer our civilization? What do we want left when we’re done?”