Category: Uncategorized

Romania: The Next Frontier

By andreealotak on October 16th 2018

Romania is a rugged, complicated, beautiful place. Its ancient traditions rally in defiant opposition of a blossoming global economy, while the natural landscapes sit steadfast and majestically in peaceful protest of modernization. Here, at the crossroads of globalism and frontier, is where change is taking place.

We arrived in Romania to document the work being done by Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), a local organization dedicated to conserving a vulnerable section of Romania’s vast Carpathian Mountain Range. Created by German-Austrian couple Christoph and Barbara Promberger, their short term goal is to create Europe’s first Wilderness Reserve for the protection of large carnivores in the Fagaras area. Their long term goal: A brand new national park, Fagaras National Park, Europe’s largest forested national park.

The author, FCC Ranger Liviu Bulgaru, and Dan Dinu, photographer, overlooking the valley of the Iezer Lake. Andreea is wearing the Jetlite Crop Pant.

For over a decade they have been buying up forested lands, restoring 1,500 acres of completely destroyed forest, protecting wildlife, and creating an infrastructure for ecotourism. They work closely with local communities to ensure that conservation is mutually beneficial. Like the vast network of trails crisscrossing the Carpathians, the path to protection has been steep, winding and complex. But with each victory FCC establishes a new precedent that inspires more people to get involved and see the immense benefits of protected public land.

Inside one of the bear hides built by the FCC as part of their ecotourism infrastructure in nearby Piatra Craiului National Park. Justin is wearing the Mission Ridge Lean Pant.

In early June we wandered into one of the FCC’s recent acquisitions accompanied by Liviu Bulgaru, a charismatic FCC ranger who knows every twist and turn of the steep, rugged Iezer Mountainside. Patches of snow dotted a pristine valley where the only trace of humans were the worn trails and a sturdy refuge. We were there to witness an early bloom of rhododendron which, due to changes in climate, have started to appear earlier every year. This year, the flowers peeked through snow. Surrounding us were trees, meadows, ridge lines, and an eerily quiet atmosphere. Nothing but wilderness, and a few witnesses to bear it.

After sunset we descended to a local village to deliver a fallen sheep to its shepherds. (Nothing goes to waste in this rugged heartland – even after the wolves have eaten, the shepherds will salvage the rest for pastrami.) The shepherds were young, soft spoken, and unfazed. Surrounded by twelve large, barking dogs, they took the sheep and casually mentioned they’d seen the wolf pack attack. Live and let live.

This type of rhododendron comes out in late June or July, coloring the high meadows of the Southern Carpathians.

 

Up in the mountains, surrounded by clouds, a refreshingly uncomplicated world still exists. The line between human and wild, home and wilderness, continues to blur. It relies on an innate respect that each member shows to one another – human and beast alike. We’ll continue to monitor the work of Foundation Conservation Carpathian and the status of this incredible place.

Conservation Atlas is a 501(c)(3), US-based nonprofit started in 2017 by Andreea & Justin Lotak. Conservation Atlas aims to raise awareness of global conservation causes by appealing to intrepid travelers. Through leading online resources and annual international festivals, CA inspires people to visit unique places and support the mission of grassroots organizations. Through 2018, The Lotaks are touring 14 countries to document successful conservation projects, meet the people who are making these positive changes, and photograph beautiful landscapes and biodiversity.

An Ancient Bond

By andreealotak on October 11th 2018

Bending through the center of the country like a backbone, Romania’s Carpathian Mountains are home to a plethora of gentle beasts. Misty, dense forests of conifers, beech and oak trees. Limestone and granite rocks that soar above the clouds. Dozens of glacial lakes that dot the open spaces. Biodiverse meadows that host hundreds of species of insects. Some of Europe’s largest populations of apex predators (wolves, brown bears, lynx). And an ancient human culture that’s lived alongside for centuries. These are the wild lands of Romania’s Carpathian Mountains.

Piatra Craiului National Park was officially formed in 1990 and covers approximately 37,000 acres. The 15 mile limestone mountain ridge can be hiked from one end to the other.

 

In Romania’s folk culture, the shepherd is as much of a mythical figure as the wolf or the bear – he or she is a part of the brotherhood of wild “beasts.” For centuries the shepherds have traveled the same paths taken by the wolves, bears and lynx, coexisting and respecting the unwritten laws of a shared space. While basking in the quiet glory of a Carpathian sunset, the sound of the shepherd’s flute is a reminder of a time when nature was home, not wilderness

Mircea Eliade, one of Romania’s most famous historians, called the shepherd way “cosmic christianity”: a vision of the world in which humans are not the guardians or the masters of all other beings, but equal and part of the whole. Bears and wolves are kindred spirits, to be revered, celebrated and feared. The strongest kinship to the shepherd is with the dog – the keeper of the balance, a companion, a gift, and the protector of God’s sacred animal, the sheep. And if a wolf took a sheep, the shepherd is forbidden from retaliation, as the sheep was predestined to be taken by God. For centuries the shepherds and peasants of the Carpathian mountains have been guided by the sacred balance between the natural world and human activity. The paramount tenet: Do no harm.

The beautiful Iezer Lake looking toward Piatra Craiului National Park, some of the conservation lands protected by the FCC.

 

But the balance is hard to hold. The old village culture has changed, shepherding has submitted to federal laws, agriculture is big business, and Romania has been racing to catch up to economic development by exploiting its resources. That land itself has changed. Thousands of acres of old forests have disappeared, many from illegal logging and foreign developers. When business is good, it’s hard to go back to a simpler way of life.

But many Romanian, especially the younger generations, are calling for the protection of these wild lands and animals. Living peacefully with predators (animal or economic) has not been erased by modernization, and shepherds and villagers continue to embrace the ancient wisdom of tolerance and good practices. It’s what makes Romania unique amongst its European neighbors.

The shepherds surrounded by some of their dogs after sunset, unloading the sheep that had been attacked by the wolves so that we could take them down to the village.

 

Conservation Atlas is a 501(c)(3), US-based nonprofit started in 2017 by Andreea & Justin Lotak. Conservation Atlas aims to raise awareness of global conservation causes by appealing to intrepid travelers. Through leading online resources and annual international festivals, CA inspires people to visit unique places and support the mission of grassroots organizations. Through 2018, The Lotaks are touring 14 countries to document successful conservation projects, meet the people who are making these positive changes, and photograph beautiful landscapes and biodiversity.

International Dreamweaver: Kevin Leffler

By dweb247 on December 8th 2017

When it comes to manifesting your dreams, you need to dream big and trust that the world’s your oyster. We could all take some pointers from Kevin Leffler. After busting his hump apprenticing everywhere from Pennsylvania to Oregon and stops in between, he decided to firmly plant himself in the mountain town of Lake Tahoe, CA. One doesn’t usually associate ski-towns with exquisite, luxury footwear brands, but when that’s where you “feel most alive, most creative and most inspired,” that is precisely where you hang your hat. Check out Kevin’s artistry at kevinleffler.com.

Featuring Leffler Bespoke Shoes & Leather Goods

This is More Than a Bag

By dweb247 on December 5th 2017

We’re big proponents of recycling. That’s why our shipping bags and boxes are 100% reusable. Sure, use them as bags and boxes, but why not put them to the creative test? Make someone a gift, decorate your house, add some pizzazz to your wardrobe – just don’t throw them away.

This is a practical portfolio.

It’s a clever clutch.

It’s a savvy sun visor.

It’s a wicked wildlife stencil.

It’s a gaggle of groovy glasses.

It’s a mounted moose for a mantle.

It’s a humorous hat.

Tag us in your creations @ToadandCoClothing and Check out what else we’re doing on the sustainability front.

Of Mountains and Beer

By dchulst on August 1st 2017

 

What is it about hoppy beer that makes us feel a certain type of mountainous way? Maybe it’s the similar aroma of hops and pine trees, or maybe it’s the parallels between a good buzz and altitude sickness. Whatever it is, a plethora of breweries are named after mountains. Whether it’s nationwide Sierra Nevada, or Santa Barbara favorite Topa Topa, lots of our favorite suds are branded under the name of a mountain or mountain range. We’re going to start a list of our favorite breweries having to do with mountains, but were going to need your help to make this list complete. Please leave names of breweries we have missed in the comments and we will update the blog as comments come in.

Adirondack Brewery
Altamont Beer Works
Appalachian Mountain Brewery
Big Bear Mountain Brewery
Bitter Root Brewing
Blue Ridge Brewery
Cascade Brewing
Catskill Brewery
Colorado Mountain Brewery
Denali Brewing Company
Figueroa Mountain Brewery
Grand Teton Brewing Co
Green Mountain Beer Co

Lassen Ale Works
Mount St. Helena Brewing Company
Mt. Hood Brewing Co
Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co
Rainier Beer
Rocky Mountain Brewery
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery
Sawtooth Brewery
Sierra Nevada Brewery
Siskiyou Brew Works
Smoky Mountain Brewery
St. Elias Brewing Co
Tioga Sequoia Brewery
Topa Topa Brewery
Uinta Brewing
Wind River Brewing

Featured Image courtesy of Waterline SB.