Haunting in the Hills (by Matthew Hendrickson)

 
The author taking photos at the Angel Falls Overlook in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

The author taking photos at the Angel Falls Overlook in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

The end of summer and the start of fall is a wonderful time to visit the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. 

The cool nights make for great, roaring bonfires, and what bonfire would be complete without a campfire tale as the smoke rises into the sky and the flickering light bounces off the surrounding woods?

On our recent trip to film a public service announcement for the park's annual storytelling festival, we got just that. We had the unique privilege to play host to some of the country's best oral storytellers and learn how they're keeping the tradition alive. After setting up camp and building our fire, we let them do the rest. 

Even as they repeated their tale tales over and over for our camera (and always in good humor), the story was never told the same way twice.

The storytellers were in town for the 21st annual Haunting in the Hills Storytelling Festival. To these folks, spinning a yarn around a campfire means reaching deep into their family and cultural history in the same way it has been done for centuries. The tales serve as a way to convey important messages to the community about their history, some life lessons, or just to serve as good old fashioned entertainment. 

Canon C100, Dana Dolly, Red Bull

Canon C100, Dana Dolly, Red Bull

In typical southern style, our hosts at Big South Fork were wonderfully hospitable and made our two-night stay about as comfortable as you can get sleeping on the ground. 

If you live in the region, keep an eye out for our work when the festival comes around next year, or get an early look on our Vimeo account when it's posted. 

  

On the set

On the set

Back to Olympic (by James Andrews)

I first met Don O’Brien out here in the Pacific Northwest wilderness three summers ago. We were both fresh college graduates working among the mossy trees and misted mountains of the region’s National Parks -- he as a nature documentarian and I as a science writing intern.

Don has revisited the area plenty of times since then, predominantly to film projects in Olympic National Park. Since I’m in Seattle and little more than a ferry ride away, he always asks me to come back out, but I have never been able to take him up on the invitation until this time.

Don working at our first camp along the Olympic coastline.

Don working at our first camp along the Olympic coastline.

We’re just finishing up a five-day tour of Olympic to complete some remaining work for Silver Fir Media’s upcoming film, Tide. The film showcases the work of Dr. Steve Fradkin and his team of coastal ecologists who monitor the conditions of Olympic’s intertidal zone, the small strip of land that the oceans cover and reveal as the tide advances and recedes twice a day.

Low tide reveals the rocky landscape of the intertidal zone.

Low tide reveals the rocky landscape of the intertidal zone.

The intertidal zone is home to the smattering of organisms you’d likely find in a city aquarium’s petting tank: seastars, anemones, hermit crabs, barnacles and mussels, and even the occasional nudibranch. But however much touching they might sustain from aquarium visitors, in the wild intertidal zone, these organisms can be incredibly sensitive indicators of climate change and oceanic acidification.

Mussels & Green Anemones near Sokol Point

Mussels & Green Anemones near Sokol Point

Steve’s work at the National Park Service revolves around studying this delicate ecosystem, and the film provides a first-hand account of the lengths some scientists go to in order to understand the human impact on the environment on a measurable scale. (I’ve seen the rough cut, so you can trust me on this. My journalistic integrity is on the line here.)

Our tent and the night sky at Hole in the Wall.

Our tent and the night sky at Hole in the Wall.

But we’re all human, too, and the film captures some of Steve off the clock. He’s an avid salmon fisherman, and we were fortunate enough to go out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in his boat one evening. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch anything but some Rainier tallboys and a dozen glimpses of cocky Coho jumping a few yards away. Salmon-on-hook or not, the experience was a bright highlight of the trip.

Steve preparing a rod while salmon fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Steve preparing a rod while salmon fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Sunset on the boat.

Sunset on the boat.

It’s been a real privilege to return to Olympic with my friend Don and see some of the same wonderful people out here with whom we first worked three years ago. These are some of the last remaining wild landscapes in the country, and they are under very mindful watch

Don and I at the second campsite, with Hole in the Wall behind us.

Don and I at the second campsite, with Hole in the Wall behind us.

Obeders for Life

After a year of quarterly trips to Wartburg TN to film at the Obed Wild and Scenic River, production has drawn to a close. While it's exciting to finally begin editing and see how our film will come together, leaving this place is bittersweet.

Breakaway Bluff overlook in Winter

Breakaway Bluff overlook in Winter

We've hiked, rafted, fished, and climbed our way through the gorge's steep canyon walls. We've sat for hours and listened to the sounds of the Obed, reflecting on our much more hectic lives in the city; sometimes dreading the time when we would have to leave the solitude of this place and rush back to phone calls, emails, and traffic.

Yasmeen Fowler climbs Rumors of War on North Clear Creek

Yasmeen Fowler climbs Rumors of War on North Clear Creek

Jamin mimicking his fresh catch; a rock bass

Jamin mimicking his fresh catch; a rock bass

The Obed is an amazingly beautiful place. The sheer amount of plants and animals is astounding. On our latest hike to Breakaway Bluff we saw more spiders, millipedes, and insects than I've ever seen in my life. You see few people out here, but the ones that you do, the locals, are some of the most welcoming and kind people I have ever met. They love this place, their home, in a way that few people love anything. While their names are too many to list, they and the National Park Service are an inspirational group caring for an inspirational place.

We will be back. 

The Obed Wild and Scenic River film crew (Jamin Townsley, Brit Hayford, & Don O'Brien) at Breakaway Bluff

The Obed Wild and Scenic River film crew (Jamin Townsley, Brit Hayford, & Don O'Brien) at Breakaway Bluff

To find out more about the Obed Wild and Scenic River National Park vist nps.gov/obed

Captains Log

In the past decade SFM has been many places and met many people. Our journey is a story in itself. The chronicles of our adventures have found a permanent home on our new Road Warriors blog. Check back periodically to see where we've been, where we're going, and a behind the scenes look at our filmmakers in action.

You can see some of our previous blog posts at thepnw.wordpress.comsantafetrailmix.wordpress.com, & thegreatnorthern.wordpress.com.

 

Gotta keep stuff dry on a rafting trip!

Gotta keep stuff dry on a rafting trip!

Jamin and our good friend Brett Painter. This guy rowed us and all of our gear for two full days without complaints; He's a powerhouse.

Jamin and our good friend Brett Painter. This guy rowed us and all of our gear for two full days without complaints; He's a powerhouse.

Brit and Don enjoying some coffee by the river before a hard days work. 

Brit and Don enjoying some coffee by the river before a hard days work. 

Camp on the Obed

Camp on the Obed

Haggard rafting crew after 48hrs and 30 miles of river.

Haggard rafting crew after 48hrs and 30 miles of river.

North Cascades NP 

North Cascades NP 

Our seasoned chopper pilot Tony Reese 

Our seasoned chopper pilot Tony Reese 

Don and Eric on the Nisqually Glacier at Mt. Rainier

Don and Eric on the Nisqually Glacier at Mt. Rainier

Mussels galore!

Mussels galore!

Steve Fradkin, coastal ecologist, examines mussel communities in the intertidal zone.

Steve Fradkin, coastal ecologist, examines mussel communities in the intertidal zone.

Sea stacks on the Olympic Coast

Sea stacks on the Olympic Coast

photos by Eric Rejman, Jamin Townsley, & Donald O'Brien