Arts & Entertainment

America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston Visits Utah in Oct. 4 episode on PBS

UTAH — Outdoor enthusiast and New York Times bestselling author Baratunde Thurston embarks on a captivating adventure across the United States in the second season of AMERICA OUTDOORS WITH BARATUNDE THURSTON. This exciting six-part series explores how nature influences the American way of life, work, and play.

“Making this show has been a really great way to connect with the country, to see a lot that we have in common, and to reconnect myself with nature, which is such an essential part of our own definition of self,” said Thurston.

In the forthcoming episode airing on Oct. 4, 8 p.m. ET, Thurston takes viewers on a journey through the landscapes of Utah. In this episode, Thurston embarks on an adventure filled with diverse characters and discovers the profound healing power of nature. First, he visits the Bonneville Salt Flats to meet Eugene Tapahe, a Navajo photographer and the visionary behind the inspiring Jingle Dress Project. His family’s Covid-related loss moved Tapahe to travel to National Parks and Monuments with his daughters, capturing the beauty and reclaiming indigenous spaces.

Later in the episode, Thurston joins paraplegic photographer Louis Arevalo and Iraq War veteran Stacy Bare for a mountain biking session at Corner Canyon. Their stories reveal how the great outdoors helped them conquer unimaginable challenges and maintain their overall wellness and mental health.

The Utah adventure continues as Thurston learns the art of rock climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon from rock climbing legend Nikki Smith, who shares her wisdom as a photographer and writer.

“I didn’t know that the word ‘heck’ is as popular as it is there,” Thurston joked. “I had been to Utah before, but I learned there is this constant pioneering and newness that I wasn’t as fully aware of. I saw more bike racks in Utah than anywhere else; people are ready. I so enjoyed rock climbing, I had never done it before. It was the most joyful experience I had; I was giddy like a little kid learning how to walk for the first time. I got really good guidance from Nikki Smith, who is a great teacher.”

Baratunde Thurston / Nikki Smith/ PBS

Through Thurston’s journey, viewers will witness the profound connection between Utah residents and the outdoors. This season, the series delves into compelling evidence linking overall health and wellness to spending time outdoors. It also explores innovative approaches to making nature accessible to all, even in the face of our changing climate, as seen and discussed regarding the Great Salt Lake.

“If you are going out to explore the outdoors, be open to the whole experience, even the unpleasant parts, and just know that this is all a cycle and that stuff comes back around,” Thurston added. “I found that really powerful with Nikki and the rock climbing. Nikki is someone who used the outdoors to escape a part of herself and now has a different relationship with the outdoors. Wherever we are, there is more to uncover.”

Thurston has some valuable advice for those seeking outdoor recreation: start by borrowing equipment and avoid over-commitment. It’s also helpful to find a companion, even if they have no experience, and embark on the learning journey together.

Tune in every Wednesday through Oct. 11, 2023, at 8 p.m. ET for a remarkable exploration of America’s great outdoors.

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