We are thrilled to feature the work of Montana-based writer, photographer, activist, and long-distance mountain runner, Nicholas Triolo. This inspiring soul talks to us of home-leaving and homecoming.
Words and Photos: Nicholas Triolo
For the past decade, I’ve been chasing revolution. I’ve traveled around the world investigating the relevance of this word, its sentiment, movement, and shape as manifested in the ecological, the political, and the personal. I wanted to know one thing: might revolution be some universal inertia that drives me, you, us, all forward?
It took me seven major experiences to find some answers:
1) Round the World (2006)
It all started in college, where I became obsessed with round-the-world travel. After working tirelessly for several months, I left home for a year on the road, alone, flinging west around the planet with a small pack: California to Fiji to New Zealand to Australia to Hong Kong to China to Vietnam to Nepal to Thailand-Cambodia-Laos to Oman to England to Ireland to California.
Little did I know, this 25,000-mile planetary pilgrimage would begin a long-term affair with circuitous travel.
2) Running Volcanoes, Oregon (2009)
I moved to Portland, Oregon, and was introduced to the practice of long-distance mountain running, and promptly circumnavigated all the major volcanoes on foot in the Pacific Northwest. This more localized form of travel attuned me to cyclical patterns of ecology, while bringing me closer to the rhythms of my bio-region. This courting of the local, naturally made me interested in conservation efforts and advocacy work. I found that kinesthetic revolution had somehow spun me into an orbit of socio-political revolution.
3) Mount Kailash, Tibet (2014)
After circling the globe, running around volcanoes and budding as an activist, in 2014 I traveled 7,000 miles to Western Tibet, to walk around 21,778-foot Mount Kailash, known by billions as the most sacred mountain on the planet. This was to better understand the pan-cultural practice of circumambulation—intentional pilgrimage revolving the sacred. Here, I found this type of movement stacked functions: both a spiritual practice and cultural survival.
4) Mount Tamalpais, California (2015)
This inquiry into the crossover of physical and political revolution eventually brought me back home, to Northern California, to my birthplace. After several months of planning, I organized a fifty-year anniversary circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais (largest mountain near San Francisco, CA), a tradition famously completed in 1965 by one of my literary heroes, poet-activist Gary Snyder.
5) Climate Demonstration, Paris COP21 (2015)
The aperture of my personal revolution continued focusing progressively inward. In my new home in Missoula, Montana, on the opening day of the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, I held an all-day protest sit, fasting in silence in the middle of the University of Montana campus. It was below zero Fahrenheit most of the day. Every hour, I incorporated six circumambulations to represent our planet’s six mass extinctions, the current being caused by—yes—humans.
6) Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru (2016)
After several years of long-distance running, I met close friends Willie McBride and Brian Donnelly in Peru to circumnavigate the Cordillera Huayhuash. Three days, 80 miles, all above 11,000 feet, some passes reaching 16,650 ft. Route-finding, relentless climbs, glacial river crossings, snow, fire, and cranking wind. The circuit passed through the most impressive and treacherous mountain landscapes I’ve ever experienced.
7) Berkeley Pit, Montana (2016)
My final circuit brought me back home, following the edge of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history—The Berkeley Pit, Butte, Montana. This open-pit copper mine was one of the largest extraction sites on the planet, and it’s the biggest Superfund site in the U.S. I joined a legendary hydro-geologist for a ten hour, twenty-mile walk around its circumference. We spent the entire day bushwhacking, trespassing, and route-finding around this man-made gash on the planet, viewable from satellites, something that will never be entirely healed.
This devastation was forever.
Leaving Home, Coming Home.
“There are two types of trips: leaving home and coming home. Circumnavigation is the only voyage that is both at the same time.” – Nicholas Kulish
In the end, after a decade of circuitous travel, I found that each lap brought me closer to home, closer to myself, and closer to some universal desire for rootedness. At the same time, however, it drew me into an aquiferic curiosity for the whole. I discovered that transformation—personal, political, planetary—moves in sweeps, in arcs, in seasons and in cycles. It requires both home-leaving and homecoming.
Currently, I’m working on a book project that renders this revolutionary heritage we all carry with us, not just as humans but as expressions of a planet ever-revolving, ever-renewing, and constantly requiring overthrow to thrive onwards.
Revolution, I found, was everywhere.
Nicholas Triolo is a writer, photographer, activist, and long-distance mountain runner living in Missoula, Montana. He holds a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. Nick’s writing, images, and films have been featured in Orion Magazine, Terrain.org, Trail Runner Magazine, Whitefish Review, Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Patagonia’s Podcast “The Dirtbag Diaries,” and others.
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