“The outdoors can be a source of escape, of freedom from all the stresses of our lives,” says New York Times best-selling author and podcaster Baratunde Thurston. “It determines how we work, where we live, and ultimately who we are.”
Thurston is an outdoor enthusiast and he has been traveling all around the country, meeting people who live and play in the outdoors, and to also find out how climate change is impacting some of our favorite places.
“I’m all about exploring the outdoors that shape us as Americans. This country is wild. And its natural landscapes are as diverse as its people,” says Thurston.
He has documented his travels in a new series on PBS. It’s called America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston.
“We think we invent things and create things and define ourselves by ourselves. But that’s not the whole story. The truth is, we are co-authors with the world around us,” says Thurston.
I was shocked by how astoundingly beautiful Idaho is.
Tuesday, the second episode, Idaho Tied to the Land, will air on Idaho Public Television.
“Idaho was like the shocker episode for me. And if I had to pick one where I’m like, well, this just blew me away the most, it was your state because you’ve got everything and you’re hiding it, you know, you’re tucked away in between these mountains and squeezed between some other states,” he says.
He traveled all over the state for his program.
“I also spend time with the Shoshone Bannock tribe, the Salmon People, as they refer to themselves up on the South Fork of the Salmon River, who’ve been here even longer than any of us. And being able to tap into their relationship with nature, even the language they use Brother Salmon, Father Tree, witnessing the beauty and some of the sadness, you know, of what’s happening to our environment,” says Thurston.
He was planning on hunting salmon with tribe members but it never happened.
“They called off because the water levels were too low, because the temperature was too high, the salmon too scarce, and the ones they found too soft,” Thurston says, “They were kind of being slowly cooked in their own home, which is a pretty literal metaphor for what’s happening to a lot of our species as the planet heats up.”
Thurston met ranchers, hikers, and one wilderness pilot who showed him more than just Idaho’s beautiful landscape.
Spending time on the ground in Idaho teaches you a lot about people from Idaho.
Lori McNichol is a backcountry pilot and the owner of McCall Mountain Canyon Flying Seminars.
“You know, I just feel blessed that I have this wonderful opportunity to be a pilot and have access to the uncrowded wilderness in the backcountry, fly in and land on an airstrip of sorts, and enjoy being unplugged off the grid in this wonderful environment,” says McNichol.
Before this experience, Thurston had only been to Idaho once, while driving through to somewhere else. So he was intrigued to spend some time here and in the other states he visited for America Outdoors.
“I wanted to do this show to reconnect with the little kid in me that grew up doing a lot outdoors and being very connected as a Boy Scout, as my mother’s son, who took me and my friends out to the wilderness to escape a declining Washington, D.C. in the 1980s during the crack wars,” Thurston says.
And there’s another big reason he wanted to do this show.
“This country feels extremely divided right now, and it’s because it is in many ways. However, all the people that we put on this show share this love of the common ground that we literally share. And so this show is a great way to see the beauty of the country literally and also metaphorically and kind of celebrate the diverse landscapes as well as the diverse people and our common bond to nature,” says Thurston.
I want to thank everyone in Idaho for preserving as much as the state you have so I could experience it.
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