In the April issue (on newsstands now): Source Code’s Jake Gyllenhaal takes our writer on a rigorous, revealing bike ride and reflects on his new life as a leading man; Paul Solotaroff reports from Yellowstone National Park, where global warming wreaks havoc on flora and fauna; and we present our annual rundown of the best places to live in the U.S.
In the April issue (on newsstands now): Source Code‘s Jake Gyllenhaal takes our writer on a rigorous, revealing bike ride and reflects on his new life as a leading man; Paul Solotaroff reports from Yellowstone National Park, where global warming wreaks havoc on flora and fauna; and we present our annual rundown of the best places to live in the U.S.
From Kevin Conley’s Jake Gyllenhaal — The Fittest Guy in Hollywood
Jake Gyllenhaal proves to be a man of his word, unfortunately. Yesterday he promised me a “really fucking hard climb,” and that’s what he’s engineering now, up and down Garbage Hill in Griffith Park, then over to the Hollywood Hills for a second round of ascents to Mulholland Drive. It starts out easy enough. As we zip over the flats along the 5 Freeway, portions of the ride spool by in bike-geek chitchat. I ask about his velodrome-style Look frame. “I’m not really a gearhead. With biking, the spirit of it is — whatever you can find. To be honest, I know nothing about my bikes. I know how to change a tire; I know how to fix my bike if need be. I just know none of the names.”
Then he leans left, veering off the park’s perimeter road, at the base of our climb. “From here on, there’s not much traffic,” he yells back, as if I’d been secretly longing to let it rip.
Jake Gyllenhaal is something of a cardio monster. You might not guess this at first glance. At 6 feet and about 180 pounds, the 30-year-old is visibly in shape, but he doesn’t sport the typical road-biker, my-body-fat-is-lower-than-your-mortgage-rate frame. For his past two action roles, as the title character in Prince of Persia last spring, and as Captain Colter Stevens in the new thriller Source Code, he’s cultivated more of a military build. But left to himself, what he likes to do is run or bike. Inevitably, though, he pushes hard, even too hard. He says he suffered shin splints before he started barefoot running. “I’ve had to teach myself to slow down a bit,” he confesses. “Because I get so into it, it becomes a real addiction. But it’s like a New Year’s resolution.”
“To exercise less?”
“To sit down and read a book. Life’s not a bike ride. I wouldn’t say exercise less, but sit with myself.” Good thing there’s the action-star loophole — Jake believes he can “sit with himself” while he’s running. “It’s not: ‘I’m having a shitty day and I’m going to go for a run,’ but ‘I’m having a shitty day and I’m going for a run and I’m going to try to work out what’s going on.’ Not just get my serotonin levels up and feel good. I’m going to think about things. And the only way you can do that is to slow the pace down.”
On this outing he’s got me to slow him down. As we start climbing, we settle into a compromise pace — Gyllenhaal alternately cycling ahead then slowing down to let me catch up. I cheat to the inside on every switchback, trying to catch up.
“If you stick to the yellow lines, it’s easier,” he says, watching me careen from one side to the other while he keeps riding in the center of the closed park road. “It’s steeper if you take the inside.” Partly to distract him, I ask if he has any more climbing advice. “I like to think of my toes as always moving forward,” he says. “Don’t push down. Try to even out the forces between pushing and pulling. Find a cadence and stay in it.” This works almost instantly; I close in on him and feel the way up the road getting easier. “Stay relaxed. You ever see the riders in the Tour de France getting up in the saddle? They’re not rocking from side to side. Their spines are loose, and they look like fish.” He stands on his pedals and turns to me. “When I start getting tense, I breathe out.” One arm at a time, he lets go of his handlebars and flicks his hands. “I carry a lot of tension in my hands, so I do this a lot.” Soon his advice starts to have a positive effect on his pace, too, and he shoots off up the road. I get close enough to ask why this route — three miles and change in distance and 800 vertical feet up to a peak above the Griffith Observatory — is called Garbage Hill. “I don’t know,” Gyllenhaal says. “I’ve heard it called Trash Truck Hill, too. Maybe there’s a dump somewhere around.” He shoots me a Lance-like glance over his shoulder. “Or maybe we just don’t let any garbage in here.” He chuckles and pedals out of sight around the next switchback.
For more from Jake Gyllenhaal, check out our April issue, on newsstands now.
From Paul Solotaroff’s The Ghost Park
Before that heartbreaking night at the end of July, she was a ghost bear tramping the backwoods shade, a scared specter at her wit’s end. She and her three cubs, all woefully thin and eking out a diet from grass and shoots, were so unwell that they wore their winter coats through the full, high heat of summer. In a lean year for grizzlies, they stood last in line, going without a solid meal of deer or elk or the staple of Yellowstone’s bears, whitebark pine seeds. Those seeds, rich and fleshy, had grown for centuries on the crowns of the staunchest trees in North America: gnarled, obdurate pines that survived 50-below winters and laughed off killing winds on western peaks. Nothing could slay those trees, neither fire nor ice, until the region started warming around 1980. Now 80 percent of the Rockies’ whitebark pine groves stand dead or dying in ghost-gray swaths, and the bears who ate their fruit and kept out of harm’s way have bumbled down the hills in search of food. Among their number was the sow with three cubs and teats running dry of milk. With winter two months off, she had to somehow bulk up fast or watch her yearlings starve.
To her credit, she hadn’t become a “problem bear,” the park officials’ term for hundreds of hungry grizzlies who venture into town prowling for food. Though Yellowstone’s 600 bears aren’t confined to the park itself — they’re given free run of the greater ecosystem, an area that stretches from central Wyoming to the forests of northern Montana — there simply wasn’t enough alternative food to see all of them through the summer. And while full-grown males have the brawn and bravado to venture off the range in search of meat, a mother grizzly rarely leaves the safety of her turf, lest a wolf pack or another bear kill her cubs. Timidity had its virtues: She wasn’t one of the 80 or so bears shot last year while picking apples off a tree or nosing through trash in someone’s backyard, or given a lethal injection by U.S. Fish and Wildlife vets for grazing on the bluegrass near a school.
Six weeks before, the first shoe dropped. On June 17, an adult male bear (or boar, as they’re called by biologists) killed a veteran hiker who had the wretched luck to cross his path. Erwin Evert, a botanist and and retired science teacher, had spent most of his career studying Yellowstone’s flora and had just brought out his life’s masterwork, the first comprehensive catalog of plants in the area in more than a hundred years. On his daily hike near Wyoming’s Kitty Creek, the easternmost of the park’s gateways, he wandered into a copse where a team of federal researchers had trapped and sedated a bear. Alas, they hadn’t posted warning signs or waited until the boar was sufficiently roused to pad back into the brush. Dazed and in pain (he’d been darted three times with a chemical cognate of PCP, then had blood, teeth, and hair pulled for study reasons), the bear bit Evert through the skull and skittered off; he was shot two days later by marksmen in a chopper who tracked his radio signal. There hadn’t been a bear-caused fatality in the park in 24 years, though given the grim developments of the prior decade — a 10-year run of extreme drought and heat, and a glut of famished grizzlies — the screw was bound to turn. On July 28, it turned again, and this time it wasn’t about human error or the caprices of nature’s law. This time, it was a taste of things to come.
Read the full story in our April issue.
From our Best Places feature Think Small, Live Big
Put Your Outdoor Life First: Durango, Colorado
In its taste for fleece and proximity to awe-inspiring mountains, Durango often gets compared to Boulder 20 years ago. But with its isolation, modest size and population (16,000), and a down-home, just-folks genuineness, Durango clearly doesn’t aspire to Boulder’s growth, and it will never be a bedroom community for any metropolis.
Tucked down in the southwest corner of Colorado, where the San Juan Mountains meet the arid Colorado Plateau, Durango has plenty of trademark Rocky Mountain beauty. But what distinguishes it from places like Boulder — or dream towns like Aspen and Vail — is how protecting its way of life and defining qualities is built into the town charter as well as its collective zeitgeist. Residents voted years ago to tax themselves to raise funds for parks, open space, and trails, all of which it has in crazy proportions relative to its size — 1,575 protected acres in town alone. Volunteers fervently maintain local trails through a nonprofit called Trails 2000, which boasts 2,000 members — that’s 12 percent of the total population.
The high-desert city, cleaved by the Animas River and perched 6,500 feet high at the stoop of the San Juans, has just enough oil and gas, ranching, and clean tech to support a handful of coffeehouses doing fair-trade brews, four microbreweries (seriously — it’s the water), and fine community arts and theater programs in an Old West downtown. The presence of four-year Fort Lewis College lends an additional cultural boost, but Durango is also decidedly laid-back, the kind of town where a shopkeeper is likely to lock up early and post a gone skiing sign when fresh powder falls at Purgatory, just 24 miles away.
High-paying gigs are scarce, but plenty of locals are happy to work two jobs for the right to live in a place so blessed by geography and sunshine. A mile south of downtown, the RiverGate complex has lofts overlooking the Animas, with views of the La Plata Mountains and hop-on access to the town’s main bike path. Cars are left parked for weeks at a time as kayaking, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking are right out the door, as are millions of acres of Forest Service and BLM land. A Durango ritual that speaks volumes is visible on any summer Friday, about 5 pm — it’s the Animas River clogged with tubers nursing beers and hailing one another as they drift through town — happy hour in a happy place.
For more of the most livable cities and towns in America, check out our April issue.
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