"The western heritage is really connected to the land. The people shape the land for their use, and the land shapes the people. The more rugged the land, the more rugged the people."
-Mike Glick, New Meadows, Idaho
"Trout don't live in ugly places."
-Charlie Kennedy, Lexington, Kentucky
Kennedy was fly-fishing Buffalo River near Pond's Lodge in Island Park, Idaho in early August. It was the first day of his first visit to Idaho.
"I'm not just a westerner, but a northwesterner where we have an appreciation for the arts, an appreciation for the outdoors and a love of good coffee. People really cherish the idea of wilderness and nature. They like to have salmon and deer and wildlife. There's a real sense of pride in preserving the outdoors; we still have a bit of that pioneering spirit."
-Chandra Johnson, Bellingham, Washington (Photographed near Odell, Oregon, on the northeast flank of Mount Hood.)
Johnson, a graduate of Western Washington University, plays violin and viola with artists like Mary Lambert, the Seattle Rock Orchestra, Maiah Manser and Hot Damn Scandal. She's recorded on an array of albums, with a variety of artists and has performed at Carnegie Hall, Key Arena and The Jay Leno Show, among numerous additional notable venues and festivals.
"People rarely end up in the wilderness by chance. That's one of the things I like about it."
-Mike Purcell, Boise, Idaho
Purcell, photographed above 10,000 feet in the Pioneer Mountains of central Idaho, moved to Boise in 2000 from Milwaukee. In addition to backcountry skiing, he's an avid boater who's explored hundreds of miles of Idaho's abundant wild rivers.
"I feel spoiled to live in a place with spectacular mountains and rivers, and among people who value these places as much as I do. Some of these spots are deep in the backcountry and difficult to get to, and all of them are difficult to leave."
-Gabe Millar, Missoula, Montana (photographed in the Swan River valley, Montana)
"I did 18 years in the Utah state prison due to meth. I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Salt Lake City. I met a cook and ended up slamming dope. I was raised pretty much by a bunch of bikers and started doing meth at probably 15 years old. I been through a lot of crazy shit in my life. I been in gangs, four different gangs. All of 'em white supremacist. In prison, you got a whole `nother world. Either you run with the white boys, the Mexicans or the niggers. I run with four different crews. Think about it like wolves. If you don't have a pack to protect you you're gonna get ate alive. That's the way it is in prison these days. I watched a lot of brothers get taken out.
"I'm a nomad. I got a 1987 Pontiac. When that breaks down maybe I'll get a 1997 Pontiac. Who knows? But the West is so different from the East--their ideals and beliefs. This was the last of the frontier."
-Leonard Miller, homeless (Photographed in Idaho City, Idaho)
Miller is a proud Vietnam veteran who joined the military at 17 to fight for the United States in Asia. Despite his involvement with white supremacist groups he expressed pride at having fought for all. "Americans fight for freedom, democracy and their fellow man. It doesn't matter where you're from or whether you're black, yellow or green," he said.
"I moved onto the Indian reservation at Fort Hall in '62. I noticed the cowboys would hang their hats, and I noticed I could tell the person by the size of their hat. You can tell where people are from based on what kind of hat they wear. Up here they wear mountain western hats. In Elmore County they wear ash tray or duck pond hats. They have a lot of uses: sun protection, weather, rain, beating flies away, fanning the fire. If you find a huckleberry patch you can turn your hat upside down and collect berries."
-Randy Priest, Donnelly, Idaho
(Priest owns the Silver Tip Hat Company on the main drag in Donnelly. He's been making and selling hats since 1973 when he opened his first shop in Challis, Idaho.)
“I was in a tennis tournament today, but I forfeit my last match because I needed to get out here and surf.”
-Kiley Zanecki, Boise, Idaho (Photographed at the Boise Whitewater Park on the Boise River.)
"I don't think I would ever live anywhere there's not a high percentage of public ground to recreate on. It's such an asset that I don't think many Idahoans appreciate that."
-Roger Olson, Hailey, Idaho (Photographed near Richardson Summit west of Hailey)
Olson worked for 30 years as a conservation officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He retired in June 2007. During this outing in fall 2006, Olson was looking for hunters during an early-season elk hunt. "I like to get to prominent areas and let the binoculars do the walking," he said.)
"We are the EhCapa bareback riders. I'm what you call an EhCapa papa. It's a youth riding group ages 8 to 19, basically a drill team, and they ride bare back and bridleless. The real secret is the bond between a horse and rider. A lot of these girls ride every day."
-Todd Larson, Middleton, Idaho
(Photographed at the Valley County Fair in Cascade, Idaho. Larson explained that EhCapa is Apache spelled backward. Learn more at ehcapa.com.)
"I think this tenkara (fly fishing with a fixed line and no reel) is kind of a metaphor for society where we don't need all of this technology to fix all of our problems. It's so effective you can't believe it. I rarely go out when I don't catch 50 to 60 fish...
"The challenge for a lot of people is that you've got to fish where the fish are. It's like the rule of being a burglar. You burgle where the money is. You've got to fish where the fish are, and that's what takes the longest to learn."
-Yvon Chouinard, Jackson, Wyoming
(Photographed on the Big Wood River in Hailey, Idaho. Chouinard is founder of the outdoor clothing and equipment company Patagonia. An avid tenkara fly angler, Chouinard also leads Patagonia in a fashion that promotes planetary sustainability over the bottom line. "I never even wanted to be in business," he said for an April 26, 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal. "But I hang onto Patagonia because it's my resource to do something good. It's a way to demonstrate that corporations can lead examined lives."
"That's one of the things about westerners. You help out. People are neighborly. It was the same thing with the deer where all these neighbors saw an animal that needed help and pulled together. It's just what we do."
-Remy Newcombe, Liberty Lake, Washington
"Born and raised here and lived here my whole life. I drove logging truck, just retired, but I'd get up at one in the morning and work till four or five in the afternoon, make two or three trips to Missoula in a day. Work hard, live hard, love a lot, laugh a lot. This isn't a wealthy area, but this was a great place to grow up. I wouldn't have traded it for anywhere. My dad was born here, my grandma came here right after the 1910 fire. They bought 80 acres for two dollars an acre. They had seven children, six boys and one girl. She lived to be 103. She never left the ranch."
-Larry Moles, Thompson Falls, Montana
“I’ve always put my lifestyle ahead of a job. I want to try to be as happy and fulfilled as possible, both with my career and life. Being a teacher affords lots of fulfillment, opportunity to have the lifestyle I desire and am able to pay my bills at the end of the month. Will I ever make a lot of money? No. As with all things in life, one needs to find balance. Whether you are talking about eating habits, exercise or money, you need to find your balance. I have never understood people who are willing to move to Nebraska or Mississippi for a job. To me, relatively no amount of money is worth giving up the things that I love. Time off and living where I want are huge.”
-Andrew Post, Denver, Colorado (Photographed on Trail 401 above Gothic, Colorado)
“My interpretation of a westerner is someone with a fiercely independent spirit. That’s what built this country, and that’s what westerners still have. It’s a state of mind. I’m from Missouri, and there are lots of corporate jobs back there. Out here, I don’t know anybody with a corporate job.”
-David Morehead, fresh produce supplier from Nampa, Idaho
"Our elders always teach us that we're part of creation, all of creation. It's all connected. We're all connected."
-Ted Howard, Owyhee, Nevada
(Pictured at Bruneau Canyon, Idaho. Howard is the Cultural Resources Director for the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of northern Nevada and southern Idaho. For more about the tribes, visit shopaitribes.org/culture.)
“I was raised in Idaho on an irrigated farm. A lot of my life was around farms and farmers. So for me a westerner is somebody who has to fight for water their whole life. The history of Utah and Idaho are bound up in fighting for water.”
-Larry Christensen, Moab, Utah
Christensen holds a BA and MFA in painting from Brigham Young University, where he now teaches classes in drawing and painting. The farms of his southern Idaho youth figure prominently in his work, which can be viewed at farmersart.blogspot.com.
"We have a really strong sense of community here. Everyone knows everyone, and we stick together. Buena Vista is Spanish, but it's pronounced byoo-nuh VIS-tuh. It was named by a German-speaking woman, and that was her accent."
-Chantell Miller, Buena Vista, Colorado
Miller, 22, was born and raised in Buena Vista and works at the Brown Dog Coffee Co. near the south edge of town. She is photographed with Mount Princeton, the most dominant of the Collegiate Peaks from town, in the background.
"This place used to be an ocean; you can still find shark's' teeth in Capitol Reef. This place also feels like home. My connection to this rich landscape has supported me on a journey of self-exploration and acceptance and professional aspirations of helping others find this connection, too. I feel strong, independent and whole even when I'm questioning my directions and choices. When I come out here I feel peace and tranquility among my internal chaos of thoughts and feelings. The vastness of the desert seems to humble me and help me find my place in the world when I feel adrift."
-Amanda Thomas, Lyman, Utah (photographed in Capitol Reef National Park)
"I moved up here to go to Western State (college), and 30 years later I'm still here. We have some of the most educated dishwashers anywhere."
-Mary Ellen Brady, Crested Butte, Colorado
Brady works at Paradise Cafe in Crested Butte.
"Cold-water species happen to be very valuable to economies, not to mention their natural role as a cog in the ecosystem. But they're high-value assets for a state, for the economy, for tourism, for sport fishing, for commercial fishing. And they also happen to be some of the more sensitive fish species."
-Bryan Huskey, Boise, Idaho
Born and raised in Oregon, Huskey has been "crawling along the riverbanks since I can remember." He moved to Boise in 2000.
"When you go to the city and you see all the people—telephones everywhere. They think they’re connected, but what are they connected to? They’re connected to another telephone somewhere, and the voice they hear on the other end, it’s not like you and me talking. You can smell each other, you can see the nuances in the facial expressions and things. That’s a connection. With all the technology—I guess it’s a nature deficit disorder."
-Gary Lane, Riggins, Idaho
"Even our cities in the West have a slower pace to them. It almost seems like there's more time. For me as a musician, it takes that much more effort to travel, whether to Seattle, Portland, the Bay area or wherever. Because of this distance the bands have distinctive flavors based on their regions. The music, culture, fashion, cuisine--it's localized, or at least regionalized.
"I have a classical background, and I play a lot of jazz. Those are definitely outside influences, but there are a lot of songs I've learned just from being a westerner. The Rocky Mountain honky tonk scene--if anything, they're the ones tying a lot of these local places and musical flavors together."
-Dan Costello, Boise, Idaho (photographed in Stanley, Idaho)
Read more about Costello at hearcostello.com.
Westerners include "everyone who journeys in the steps of our brave forefathers who left Europe on ships and who left Independence, Missouri in covered wagons to seek their dream of freedom and property. My wife and I came west just two years ago following a dream to be near family and willing to embrace arid sage-covered plains and snow covered peaks--leaving behind verdant forests and communities where our families have lived for generations. The West means adventure, new friends and new discoveries around every bend in the trail."
-Richard Stahl, Hailey, Idaho (Photographed at Miracle Hot Springs in southern Idaho. Stahl moved to to the West from his native Pennsylvania in 2013.)
"I think people back east have no freaking idea what they're looking at out here. I'm one of those whack jobs you hear about on the news who don't like this place being run by the east coast. I feel like it's disappearing, the ability to go out and have fun. You can see by my shirt that I ride motorcycles. We seem to be the group over the years that give, give, give to the other group. And they just take, take, take. And we always seem to get the bad name."
-Joe McGlone, Boise, Idaho
"Beer is like art, and Colorado is like the Hollywood of beer for me. It's the place to be for beer. They're better educated about beer here than other places."
-Nate Sitterud, Fruita, Colorado
Sitterud is Director of Brewing Operations for Suds Brothers Brewery, with locations in Fruita and Evanston, Wyoming.
"I was always horse crazy, and I was lucky to have a horse crazy mom who got me a horse. The bond between a horse and a person is so unique. I don't think you can get it with another animal. Being able to ride at liberty with nothing but voice cues, breathing and the weight of the rider is incredible. You have to trust each other, the horse and you. It takes time, lots of time and experiences."
-Brandi Horsley, Nampa, Idaho
(For the past 12 years Horsley has been an instructor for the bare-back horse riding team called EhCapa. Prior to that she spent eight years on the team as a rider and has been with the group since 1985. She is pictured here with her horse, Shimmy. Learn more about EhCapa at ehcapa.com.)
"Like-spirited people gather under blue skies and Rocky Mountains to enjoy a life like no other. We work and play together to form the bonds of a chosen family. Winter, spring, summer and fall. Always an adventure around every corner. This is the life I have carved out in the West. These are the things that make my heart sing."
-Ann Champigny, Vail, Colorado
"I grew up hunting in Yosemite. The whole family got pulled out of school for hunting season. My mom and the women would be frying up deer meat for the men and children to eat. And then the men would be playing poker. Being a kid you have that desire to explore and learn and be a little wild out in the wild. That builds strong bonds with your family and with the land, and it teaches you something about yourself. With all our technology and advances I think we've lost a little something--like what it means to be social and family."
-Sabrina Johnson, Idaho City, Idaho (Johnson was raised in Reading, California)
"The second best day of my life was getting a job that brought me out here from Wisconsin. The best day was marrying the right lady and having kids--and being able to raise them out here."
-Joe Hagman, Boise, Idaho
(Photographed at Loveridge Bridge on the Snake River in southern Idaho.)