Teton County Library’s copy of Kevin Fedarko’s “The Emerald Mile” is tattered.
There’s sand embedded in the plastic of the cover, and its pages feel like a riverbed from its many treks into the desert and along the river.
“It’s constantly checked out from our collection,” Rebecca Huntington, the library’s communications manager, said of the book that recounts Fedarko’s ride down the Grand Canyon in a handbuilt wooden boat in historically high water.
Fedarko is traveling to Jackson this week for Mountain Story 2017. He will talk about his book, his adventures and the writing process.
The festival aims to combine great adventure and great literature, said Leah Shlachter, adult program coordinator at the library.
From Sunday through Jan. 25 adventure authors, photographers, filmmakers and writers will talk about tricks of the trade during the day at the library. During the evening they will give in-depth presentations and tell exciting stories at the Pink Garter Theatre. The whole program is free of charge.
“I think everyone has a different favorite they’re excited for,” Shlachter said.
Speakers bring their own knowledge and experience to the festival. Matt Hansen is the editor-at-large for Powder Magazine, Dirk Collins a veteran filmmaker, Molly Loomis a writer and mountain guide, Pete McBride a National Geographic photographer, Arden Oksanen a local filmmaker and Fedarko a best-selling author and explorer.
The topics are diverse, too, Huntington said. The festival covers a variety of outdoor pursuits, from skiing to running rivers, hiking and more.
“It kind of has a fun seasonal flow that way,” Huntington said.
Hansen’s Sunday night talk will focus on social media’s influence on the outdoor industry — is what you’re seeing on Instagram reality or just a convincing marketing package? The multimedia presentation will dissect the pros and cons of the digital age as it relates to outdoor adventure.
In the past mountain icons and ambassadors were chosen on their merits in the outdoors, but nowadays it’s often whoever takes the best photo and gets the most exposure, Huntington said.
“Social media is helping shape who gets to go on those eye-catching amazing adventures,” she said.
On Monday afternoon Loomis will lead a writing workshop. The program aims to help writers of all skill levels learn the difference between creating a memorable essay about a tent-bound expedition and the forgettable tale of a first ascent.
Later that evening the popular Cabin Fever Story Slam will get a mountain twist. The theme is “Lost and Found.”
“It isn’t an obvious mountain theme,” Huntington said. “But we thought our mountain crowd could take that theme and make something with it. When things don’t go according to plan it makes a better story.”
At the story slam people are encouraged to throw their names into a hat and, if chosen, tell a true story inspired by the theme.
“It has its own energy and crowd,” Huntington said of the story slam. “It fits with the festival, but it already has a great following.”
Fedarko will start the day off on Tuesday by giving a talk on the making of “The Emerald Mile.” He will show a slideshow of his journey and give tips on how to write your own masterpiece.
On Tuesday evening, Fedarko will be joined by photographer McBride to talk about “The Grandest Journey.” The pair teamed up to hike through the heart of the Grand Canyon, through nearly 750 miles of rugged terrain. The library’s description of the event says the two storytellers tell a tale of adventure and defiance complicated by politics and environmentalism as they relate to the challenges facing the Grand Canyon and our entire national park system.
On Jan. 25 McBride will host a photography workshop focused on chasing light and creating a visual story in remote places. It’s open to photographers of all levels.
Local filmmakers Collins and Oksanen will host the final presentation of Mountain Story. They worked with Teton County Search and Rescue to create the TV series “Backcountry Rescue,” which gives a behind-the-scenes look at what rescuers do. The filmmakers will show clips and talk about the show.
“It’s a great way to understand how rescues work,” Huntington said.
The library is also hosting writing critiques, new to this year’s festival. Nonfiction writers can sign up for free manuscript techniques and get personal, professional feedback. Loomis will give 45-minute, one-on-one critiques. Space is limited and can be reserved by emailing Loomis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The goal of the added workshops is to combat preconceived notions of what it means to be an outdoor adventurer, Shlachter said. There are other ways to enjoy the outdoors and share your story.
“We’re trying to show that there’s more than just an outdoor pursuit,” Shlachter said. “You can add some sort of craft to it.”
The Mountain Story festival is unique, Shlachter said. It’s not just some hotshot athlete coming to town, she said, there’s a tie to literature. All of the speakers have not only done amazing things in the mountains, but also created some form of media from it.
“It’s kind of showing the story behind the story and exposing the scaffolding behind it,” Shlachter said.