Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seeking a BIG YEAR...

There are not many true outdoor movies to review in what is essentially a hiking and backpacking gear blog, but I think  THE BIG YEAR qualifies.  Released on DVD seven weeks ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend adding it to your movie queue.   I'll admit to being skeptical about a movie focused on "birding" and the reviews are mixed with true birders skewing the reviews in the positive direction.  (Although some got hung up by the artistic license necessary to recreate the recording breaking events of 1998.)  But I figured any movie with Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson couldn't be that bad. 

If you've been out in the wild long enough you've surely stumbled across one of the congregations of birders the movie portrays.  The movie merits watching as a window into the world of birders and the lengths they go in pursuit of the holy grail: the Big Year.  (One site I came across says birders can spend up to 270 days/year and travel 270,000 miles to view the 700 plus species needed to put them among the Big Year elite.)  It also merits watching for the beautiful scenery and locations birders encounter along the way.  What I loved about the Big Year was ultimately its inspirational message about the value (and costs) in pursuing something truly out of the ordinary in the outdoors...say a thru-hike of the AT or a summer of visiting as many National Parks as possible.  I left wanting--and planning--another year off to do some serious backpacking and exploring.  If you're interested in what serious birder watchers thought of THE BIG YEAR you'll want to read this article from Audubon Magazine.

Another great benefit for you hikers and backpackers out there is that you'll be reminded of those great wild places you've been: Alaska, the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, Canyonlands, etc.  And you'll remember your great bird sighting stories.  In my case it was the Ptarmigan that scared the bejesus out of me when it flew right at my face in the mountains outside of Juneau when I failed to yield to it on the trail. 

It would sure be interesting to know how many hard-core backpackers are also serious birders.  Maybe someone will write a story about this one day.  (Or share a link here to info on this.) 

And one other note...this movie is truly PG and appropriate for the whole family.  Other than one quick use of "the bird",  the movie is profanity free and tamer than your typical Super Bowl Half-Time show. 

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