Intern send-off

26 May

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What’s a film student and hiker’s dream internship? The Muir Project of course! As a hiker and film student I was excited to get the chance to here over the past 4 months. As part of my internship I did some pretty cool work, learned a lot, and became friends with the John Muir Crew. It has gone by far too fast.

I got to do a lot of creative work with TMP during my time here. I went to Griffith Park with Jen to grab some shots of the JMT shirts. I also got to go out on a hike with Jason to film a PSA for the American Hiking Society. Who wouldn’t want getting out on the trail to be part of their internship?

I’ve also spent a good deal of time working on pre-production for the next project. This has been a big part of my job and I’ve really enjoyed it. I learned important skills including researching companies and how to reach out to them. I’ve been involved in writing cover letters and helping prepare a proposal. All important skills that will carry over into a career.

As a fan of the Mile… Mile and a Half I was super excited to be able to work with people who I admired both as creative individuals and fellow lovers of the outdoors. After meeting them I’m an even bigger fan than I was after just seeing the movie. They have made me part of the family and given me an experience even better than I could have imagined. Interning with TMP was by far the best part of my college experience.


Odessa was such a great part of the team. She spoiled us with just how great an intern can be. Good to know our outdoor media future is in good hands.


10 Mar

This is a call to action to protect our wildernesses. But don’t worry, it’s doing something fun. Like backpacking.

We have a problem in our National Parks. Kids aren’t visiting them. Rather, it’s a problem with their parents, since as we all know, kids shouldn’t drive.

But you can help. Let’s start at the beginning.

All of us have “that” story about our first backpacking trip. Mine was when two Fresno State recreation majors said we should go backpacking. Even though I was a New York boy with no exposure to backpacking, it struck me as a very good idea. The overnight trip ended up being a hot, dusty, four mile walk along an ugly, litter strewn dirt road up a river canyon and I think I took two extra pairs of jeans and enough food for three days — maybe four. Many of you took that same first trip, so you know what I’m talking about.

Later that Summer, Brian Pierce, Director of the Thousand Oaks Recreation Center and stellar human, took me under his wing and transported me off to Miter Basin for my first “real” backpacking trip to the Sierra Nevada. It started a love affair with those mountains that continues unabashedly to this day. It’s hard to understate the value of people like him showing people like us the ropes for the first time. Thank you Brian Pierce, wherever you are.

Fast forward 38 years and I’m sitting in a booth at the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act Event in Red Bluff, California, trying to explain the importance of wilderness to a 14 year old.

How to explain it? Wilderness is important because we need it for watershed protection. We need it as a preserve for native flora and fauna. We need it for that connection we humans innately have with our natural landscape. We need for it to look the same 100 years from now for our grandchildren as it does today, yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. Those are all the things adults tell kids. But how do we connect this generation with wilderness so when it becomes time, they can defend or care about it, not to mention the sheer joy we all know it provides us?

Think about it. When was the last time a kid went an entire day without seeing a road, building, bridge, car, sidewalk or power lines? Many kids have never experienced one of these days. If we don’t get kids involved now there will come a time when wilderness will be threatened and today’s kids will say “It makes no difference to me one way or another, I’ve never been there.”

I have been considering this problem for the past several years. I’m not much good at being a volunteer because I soon start looking at my watch wanting my shift to end. I’ve been looking for some sort of educational project I could call my own. Something I am passionate about. Then, three years ago I was backpacking with a couple of friends in my “home park” — Lassen Volcanic National Park — and we ran into a group of high school students and adults calling themselves the Petaluma Wilderness Team. They take kids backpacking as part of an educational and mentoring project. My friends and I looked at each other and knew right then and there we needed a Wilderness Team for our county.
We came back, hunted down a small grant ($3,000) and bought enough backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, pads, water filters, stoves and cooksets for six kids. It was barely enough money, but sleuthing out the killer deals over several months was part of the fun. It was too late to partner up with a non-profit for that year (for reasons I’ll explain in a minute) so we took Guinea Pigs kids we knew for a shakedown cruise to the Lassen Park backcountry. Contrary to their dire predictions, not a single Guinea Pig kid died from being disconnected from the internet for three days. None of them had ever done anything like it before and despite a little rain, they all had a great time.

Before the end of the year we had partnered up with the Tehama County Police Activities League (PAL.) Our trip added another event to PAL’s activity calendar, which helps keep kids out of trouble by giving them something fun to do and provide adult mentorship. Being part of PAL also allowed us to apply for annual, non-profit educational grants the Lassen Park Foundation gives out to pay for transportation, food and the promised burgers in Chester (just south of Lassen Park) after the backpack trip. Lastly, the PAL partnership gives us the ability to perform background checks on all the adult leaders and liability insurance. There are lots of other organizations out there to partner with, it was simply a matter of asking around until I discovered our project meshed with PAL’s mission.

We just finished up our third year and by anyone’s measure it has been a wild success. We’ve gone from one, all-boys trip to two trips; one co-ed and the other an all-girls trip led by an Amanda Sweeney of the Lassen Park staff. She said of her trip “It couldn’t have turned out better if it was a movie!”

The two women who helped me this year with the co-ed trip were first time backpackers themselves and they are currently forming their own Wilderness Team in an adjacent county. While sitting in that booth at the Wilderness Event, I received a lot of interest from adults in yet another county and I strongly suspect a Team will form there soon. All of this from one grown-up that simply wanted to pass on what he knew about the wonders of backpacking.

You may be saying to yourself “I don’t have the time or energy to form a group.” Fair enough. I’ve got some ideas. Make your kids your project. Make your kid’s friends your project. Make your niece or nephew your project. Make the neighborhood kid your project. Pass on what you know, like Brian Pierce did for me all those years ago. Teach them how to do it the right the first time so they don’t have to unlearn any bad habits later. Show them that incredible feeling you get from living on the trail for multiple days. For those of you that have done the Muir Trail, you likely experienced feelings of withdrawals when you were finished. Get them addicted to THAT.

We need more kids like Danielle Tidd. Last Summer I met the Tidd family, Bill, Melanie, Michael and Danielle on the John Muir Trail. Recently graduated from high school, Danielle wanted to hike the JMT as her graduation present!

You need to help create the next batch of Danielle Tidds. Take what you know and pass it on. Teach them how to live comfortably, happily and safely in the wilderness. Take them to see the expanse of Cascade Valley, Muir Pass and the top of Whitney. Let them soak up the unbelievable vistas of Cathedral Peak, Thousand Island Lake, Evolution Valley, Rae Lakes or in my case, Miter Basin.

Told you it would be something fun. Now start planning a trip.

Visit my website at to learn more about the Wilderness Team. You can contact me through the site and I’ll happily talk with you about forming a Wilderness Team of your own.




Hey There!

3 Feb

Hello everyone, I’m Odessa and I want to introduce myself as the newest member of The Muir Project. I’ll be interning here for the next few months so I’d like to share a little bit about myself. I want to start off by telling you all how I became part of The Muir Project. It started when I heard about Mile… Mile and a Half on the Internet and thought it was something I had to see. After my first time watching it, I’ve watched it a few times now, I was so inspired and it reaffirmed for me all the reasons I love hiking and getting outside with my friends. I had planned on coming to LA this spring for an internship and decided to reach out the creators of the film. Fast-forward about 5 months and here I am interning for the awesome people who made the movie.

While I’m interning at The Muir Project one of my biggest goals is to inspire people to get outside and see what nature and wilderness have to offer. My relationship with nature began when I was just a little girl. I started hiking and skiing when I was three and it all took off from there. As I got older nature became an even bigger part of my life. I started mountain biking, which consumed my time during summer vacations. If I wasn’t at school or work, chances were that I was in the woods or on a mountain. My newest interest is rock climbing and I can’t wait to take it outdoors. There are also small things like taking a short walk in the woods or swimming in the ocean that allow me to connect with nature. Over the years my hiking trips have become longer and I ditched the skis for a board but the one thing that has remained constant for me is that nature is one of the most important things in my life. It defines who I am and has taught me so many things about myself while allowing me to connect with other people. Because I feel so strongly about the way nature has shaped and molded me, I encourage all people to embark on an adventure and find their own personal connection with wilderness and the natural world around them.

Since I am challenging everyone to go out there and explore the world around them, I’m also going to challenge myself to get out more. I’m an east coast native and have just relocated to California. I started a new adventure by moving across the country and will continue by having many amazing times in the mountains out here. I’ll be sharing my experiences and encourage all you other adventurers to get out there and come back with some amazing stories to tell. Nature is full of mystery and has something new to offer every time you get out there so lets hit the trails.

When a hike isn’t just a hike

2 Dec

We’re honored to have a guest post from Haley Maurice, a JMT hiker, and so much more…


This past summer, my brother, Ethan, and I followed in the footsteps of the Muir Project crew, backpacking the John Muir Trail from Yosemite National Park 211 miles south to it’s southern terminus, Mount Whitney. While the Muir Project’s goal was to capture and inspire with the beauty of the Sierra’s, we set out to inspire in a different manner.

You see, I’m sixteen years old, and I have type 1 diabetes. I took to the trail to prove that diabetes can’t hold you back. In a project called Summit Diabetes, my brother and I trekked the JMT to inspire and to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

I think Ethan’s description sums up the experience pretty well:

“Over twenty days we covered the entire 221 miles of the John Muir Trail. It was an epic adventure. We had the highest of highs, standing atop Half Dome on a cloudless morning and laying eyes on some of John Muir’s favorite places like Evolution Lake and LeConte Canyon. We felt the lowest of lows, trudging through days and days of pouring rain and freezing in our insufficient rain jackets. The wilderness is relentless and can be so harsh at points, there were times when I thought I’d found my limit. But Haley… Haley did everything I did while ineffectively attempting to balance her type 1 diabetes. A 3,000 ft climb up a mountain pass would send Haley’s blood sugar low repeatedly forcing us to stop and pull out the liter of honey Haley carried in place of a second water bottle. When we reached the top of a climb and the exertion stopped, her blood sugar would rise to two or three times someone’s normal level. Her continuous glucose monitor was often ineffective as it couldn’t react to how fast her blood glucose was rising and dropping. These highs and lows take a major toll on the human body. It was a diabetic’s hell mixed with an adventurer’s heaven.”

Thus far, we’ve raised about $8,300 for JDRF who puts all their funding into research for type 1 diabetes. JDRF is the reason I have the gear that made it possible for me to hike the John Muir Trail. They’ve got some incredible stuff on in the works. The kind of stuff that could be ending all complications of the disease within the next 5 to 10 years.

If you’d be willing to donate to our cause, please visit On this #GivingTuesday, and any day, every dollar makes a difference, no matter the amount.



28 Oct

A few nights ago it was movie night at the Serena house. Izzy has been prone to requesting documentaries as of late, so we headed to itunes on Apple TV for a search. Low and behold, MILE… MILE AND A HALF was featured in the top ten docs that day. We joked with her, asking if she wanted to watch #9 on the list. Her response? “NOOOOO. I’ve seen that movie too many times.”

Who can blame her? It was enough to be away from us for the month we were on the trail, but we didn’t anticipate the countless hours that would be spent once we decided to pursue making a feature film out of the footage we gathered from the trail. The film was essentially a sibling during her last year of pre-school and first year of Kindergarten. Between the meetings, traveling for screenings, or just discussions between Jen and me around the house, Izzy was impacted by the film.

See the video from our trip to Muir Trail Ranch

However, one of the many advantages to this entire experience has been the relationships she’s formed with all the wonderful people people who’ve either worked on the film or whom we’ve met because of it. Kolby Kirk has hand painted tattoos on her hand. Kazu made her a traditional Japanese dinner during her visit with us. And then there’s Jason, Durand, PB, Bernie, etc. Each of whom have treated Isola not as the kid who’s always around, but as another member of the project.


Last weekend, many of us had the opportunity to regroup for a weekend trip to the Muir Trail Ranch. It is a complete joy to watch your child embrace an experience with zest and appreciation. She loves this group like they’re her family, and she was an incredible addition to the trip. Many times I teared up watching her join Jen in the chilly river water, walk alongside Durand in the large meadow, chatting on a rock with Kit or sitting next to PB & Bernie at the fire, her gaze affixed on their musical instruments in action.


This backpacking documentary film has had a huge impact on our family, and we’re grateful for it.