sustainableplay ...
Long-form storytelling at the confluence of people, planet, and play.
  • Ashes into the Shadow of Arrows

    “There is a Paiute proverb to the effect that no man should attempt the country east of the Sierras until he has learned to sleep in the shade of his arrows. This is a picturesque way of saying that he must be able to reduce his wants to the limit of necessity. Those who have […]

    Brad Rassler September 11, 2017
  • Hells Canyon Revival

    And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless. – Linda K. Hogan Our task is to enter the dream of Nature and interpret the symbols. – E.L. Grant Watson THIS CANYON does […]

    Cindy Fuhrman August 23, 2017
  • Winging it in the Russian Far East

    BEYOND THE WING of the Aeroflot twin-engine plane unfolds a tapestry of green tundra and mottled muskeg, the wetlands sliced into crescents by dark arcs of old river channels. Timbered strips of spruce and fir fringe these waterways. A village of perhaps a couple hundred ethnic Russian and native Udehe people looms in the crook […]

    Doug Peacock August 1, 2017
  • Time for a Tree House

    ACTUALLY, HANNAH AND CAROLINE never really asked me to build them a tree house. I came up with that idea myself, got them attached to it, and then pretended that my efforts were strictly for their benefit. But their spontaneous enthusiasm provided the necessary cover for me to do what every grown man secretly wants to […]

    Michael P. Branch May 10, 2017
  • Into the Gloaming

    The very word ‘gloaming’ reverberates, echoes—the gloaming, the glimmer, the glisten, the glamour—carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grasslined rivers slipping through the shadows.—Joan Didion, Blue Nights, 2011 ON A WINTER’S EVENING, at the crest of an icefall, I stop climbing and look north: beyond the narrow, wooded cleft of […]

    Katie Ives October 27, 2016
  • The Ascent of the Riffelberg

    OUR GUIDES, HIRED ON THE GEMMI, were already at Zermatt when we reached there. So there was nothing to interfere with our getting up an adventure whenever we should choose the time and the object. I resolved to devote my first evening in Zermatt to studying up the subject of Alpine climbing, by way of […]

    Mark Twain August 26, 2016
  • The Science of Awe

    This story originally appeared in the November/December 2014 edition of SIERRA, the national publication of the Sierra Club. A FEW YEARS AGO, I RAN Utah’s Green River with a group of 13-year-olds. Our first day was a grueling, 26-mile slog through mostly flat water, with a few Class I and II rapids as our prize. […]

    Jake Abrahamson July 13, 2016
  • Finding Flow

    I CAME INTO FISH from my mother’s side of the family. Every Sunday the matrilineal clan would gather to nosh on lox, red as a California sunset, herring, both kippered and creamed, and whitefish. It was the whitefish that proved my undoing. The sight of those wrinkled silver corpses with dumb eyes dull as coal gave […]

    Brad Rassler June 19, 2016
  • Figures on a Landscape

    IN AN OBSCURE WASH in the high Mojave stand two domes, their north faces steeped in shadows. Four friends scrutinize the rune-like creases on the northeast face of the northernmost monolith, searching for a path up the steep wall. They are young, in that boggling interval between adolescence and manhood. Much later, they’ll remember the time as a golden age, […]

    Brad Rassler June 9, 2016
  • The Natural

    IN THE PREDAWN hours of a recent midsummer day, Peter Mayfield walked through the skeletal remains of the Manzanar National Historic Site, the mothballed World War II Japanese internment camp located hard by Highway 395, in California’s Eastern Sierra. Seven miles distant, in serpentine repose, lay Mayfield’s objective: the Himalayan-scaled northeast ridge of Mt. Williamson, its […]

    Brad Rassler June 3, 2016
  • It Started With a Pile of Stones

    THE JOB SOUNDED AGREEABLE: film the Cliff Diving World Championships in Lana’i, Hawaii, for a network sports show. I didn’t know Lana’i from Louisiana, but someone in the office had honeymooned there and called it heaven. Lana’i, just a stone’s throw across the Auʻau Channel from Maui, is so small that in 1779 Captain Cook […]

    John Long May 17, 2016
  • That House of Happiness

    IN 2012, I JOURNEYED with several climbing partners to an area of the Karakoram known only on satellite maps, arguably the last unexplored corner of the range. Our trek began at 11,000 feet from a lone village and ascended a canyon cut by a torrent of meltwater that told of glaciated mountains above. As we climbed higher, our eyes opened wider—to churning and sacred waterfalls, a mysterious […]

    Andy Selters April 25, 2016
  • Climbing to Freedom

    IN THE SUMMER OF 1972, I was living the simple life of a normal dirtbag, disaffected, counter to the mainstream-culture, climber of the time. The mainstream of the time, exemplified by Viet Nam, conspicuous consumption, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, ran counter to the values, dreams and humanity of many but certainly not all American climbers […]

    Dick Dorworth March 23, 2016
  • The Majesty Polarity

    IN THE LAST DECADE OF THE LAST CENTURY, the videographer, writer and bon vivant Michael Strassman spied a line on a certain Minaret in the High Sierra, a slab-to-knife-edge buttress so obvious in its stegosaurus-like sweep from snowfield to summit that he double-checked the usual sources to ensure that his efforts would result in a first ascent. […]

    Brad Rassler February 22, 2016
  • Life on the Divide

    “YOU AREN’T GONNA BUILD NO HOUSE OF STRAW IN MY COUNTY!” my wife Leslie and I were told by a small-town bureaucrat in our rural corner of California. After dogged persuasion, the county relented and granted us a permit for Mono County’s first bale home. We built it on a small divide above the brilliant green […]

    John Dittli February 16, 2016
  • Like Surfers Gone Alpine

    “WHAT is alpinism, anyway?” Terry Kearney was starting to rave as we burned through the last of our fuel. It was the morning after our second bivy. The sun played coy with our perch on the north face of Birch Mountain, in the outer orbit of the Palisades. “Is it all speed-aided 72-hour push up some […]

    Doug Robinson December 30, 2015
  • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

    THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS isn’t merely a children’s tale about the escapades of  the hapless Toad. Far from it. Just below the surface is a tale about the sanctity of the wild, and perhaps even the blessedness of an active outdoor life with trusted companions. And entombed in the text lies a deeper tale about […]

    Kenneth Grahame November 25, 2015
  • The Greening of Alex Honnold

    GO AHEAD: ASK ALEX HONNOLD about his unprecedented solo ascents, and watch how he reflexively flips the toggle switch to autopilot. He’ll rhapsodize about climbing – sure he will – he loves scaling walls — but he’s painfully aware of how these conversations swirl into dialogues about his putative dance with death. In a recent interview on the main stage of the […]

    Brad Rassler November 7, 2015