September 1, 2013: Speed Hiking From Mexico to Canada, Coming Face to Face With a Grizzly and More

Kevin Van Tighem says that bear spray can be the difference between a story-worthy encounter with a grizzly bear and a potentially deadly run-in. (photo by Karen Kasmauski)
Kevin Van Tighem says that bear spray can be the difference between a story-worthy encounter with a grizzly bear and a potentially deadly run-in. (Photo by Karen Kasmauski)

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend, or listen below!

Hour 1

Through-hiking the 2,663 mile Pacific Crest Trail is regarded as a major achievement in American hiking, along with its eastern cousin, the 2,200 mile-long Appalachian Trail. Speed records stand for years, as few people attempt to hike the routes with much more than completion in mind. But this summer, Heather Anderson set to hike the Mexico-to-Canada trail in 60 days – an arbitrary number that she picked when she was first through-hiking the trail. She has been working her way up to setting this record through her 20’s, having dropped 70 pounds from her time as a “non-outdoorsy” teen. Listen here.

Alexander Graham Bell is best known for pioneering the telephone. But the inventor was much more prolific and provided many advancements to metal detection, aviation and magazine publishing. News anchor and playwright Jim Lehrer tells Boyd that he didn’t know much about Bell until National Geographic approached him to write the play that would become BELL, a celebration of National Geographic’s history and homage to one of its most famous founders, which runs from September 12 to 21 at National Geographic’s Headquarters. Listen here.

In cultures that pass traditions and rituals down from one generation to the next, it is possible that if a keeper of a specific tradition were to meet with an unexpected illness, that tradition could be lost. National Geographic Young Explorer Will Meadows has spent the last year living with remote indigenous groups in Africa and South America, compiling knowledge and learning to make canoes from local trees or reeds, in an effort to recover some of the knowledge lost when a culture loses its boat-building history. Listen here.

Humans carry with them a lifetime of experience, earned from interactions with people and the world around them. Kevin Van Tighem says that bears learn in the exact same way. Any bear that has had positive, peaceful interactions with humans are likely to avoid people and saunter into the woods without conflict. But bears who have had encounters with people where we forced the bear to act out of fear are likely to have negative encounters with humans in the future. He writes in his book, Bears: Without Fear, that the key to peaceful man-bear relations is careful use of bear spray. Listen here.

Back for a second edition of the This Weekend in History segment, National Geographic library research head, Margaret Turqman shares milestones in the history of communication and locomotion: a Cold War understanding between the Soviets and the Americans on August 31st, a September 1st milestone in American rapid transit history, as well as a sad day for passenger pigeons. Listen here.

Hour 2

Historically, sixty-fifth birthdays have been for retirement parties and relaxation. But as older generations live active lifestyles for a longer portion of their lives, what was once an occasion to sit back is now a celebration of vitality. John O’Loughlin celebrated his youth by hopping on his bike and riding 3,356.7 miles across the United States in just 42 days. Because of his professorial duties, he was on a tight schedule and had to ride as many as 120 miles in a day, while heading from Oregon to New Jersey. His chat with Boyd happened just hours after he finished the demanding ride. Listen here.

For those who value daily variety and  a love of interpersonal relationships, there are as few jobs like working in a hotel. But, Jacob Tomsky, a lifelong hotel worker and author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality cautions all travelers: the hotel staff knows everything that happens behind closed doors. His book is a celebration of the industry: he spills some celebrity secrets, but also offers tipping tips and a secret to avoid minibar charges. Listen here.

Long distance hikers need to have the fitness to carry a twenty-five to thirty-five pound pack, walk dozens of miles, all while not losing their way in the woods. National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, hiker and authorAndrew Skurka shares his tips on how not to get lost while wandering woods unfamiliar, the most important of which might seem obvious: “Don’t get lost.” Listen here.

Around the world, fishing trawlers roam the oceans, illegally pulling fish from the oceans that are either targeted for conservation efforts, or the fishermen violate international boundaries. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Shah Selbe says illegal fishing can be hard to stop because they often have to be caught in the act, which is nearly impossible to do. Until now. The engineer created a platform that allows conservation, coast guards and governments to work together to track those fishing illegally. Listen here.

In his Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares some tips and a personal “worst case” scenario of his own cycling experience. Listen here.


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Meet the Author
Justin O'Neill produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Check it out on on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or stream it directly to your smartphone with Stitcher Radio.