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Will Reese Witherspoon spur a backpacking boom?

HIKING — Industry insiders are wondering whether the soon-to-be-released movie "Wild" featuring Reese Witherspoon will provide the boost for backpacking that A River Runs Through It, featuring Brad Pitt, bestowed on fly fishing.

The buzz is already buzzing.

“The movie follows the book by Cheryl Strayed, a woman who traversed more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself.

Media outlets already are hyping backpacking destinations as they spin-off news about the book and movie.

Pacific Northwest writer Craig Romano, my co-author for the guidebook Day Hiking Eastern Washington, is quoted in a Fox News piece on hiking along with a list of "best hikes"  most of which I agree with, except I hate "best hikes" lists.

Here are Romano's recommendations for top North American hikes to add to your bucket list.

1. The John Muir Trail - Pacific Crest Loop
This 211 mile long section of Pacific Crest Trail features stunning cliffs, lakes, granite peaks and canyons. The trails pass through some of America's most stunning backdrops, including Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Hikers can take the trail going North or South but travel during the winter months is not advised.

2. Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah National Park
Described as one of the most beautiful and "most dangerous" hikes in the country by the National Park Service, this nine-mile loop contains many rocky paths and a significant change in elevation. For this reason, the park discourages young children and shorter adults from attempting the seven to eight hour trek. Despite the difficult terrain, this trail can be very crowded on weekends so if you have some free time during the week, head over the Shenandoah and be the king or queen or your own mountain for the day.

3. Lincoln Woods Trail - New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest is home to over 1,200 miles of non-motorized trails for all levels of hikers. But for novice hikers, Lincoln Woods Trail affords great views on a popular route with relatively stable terrain. Summer hikers can take bait and tackle gar along to fish in the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. In the Fall, enjoy spectacular Northeastern leaf foliage colors, a favorite time of year for Romano.

4.Devils Garden Primitive Loop - Arches National Park

This difficult trek traverses over seven miles of rocky terrain but hikers are sure to witness some of the most breathtaking views Arches has to offer. The National Park Service estimates this hike will take between three to five hours to bring plenty of water. Not recommended when rock is wet or snowy.

5. Florida National Scenic Trail
While hiking usually brings to mind mountainous terrain, Romano says there are great hikes to be find anywhere nature exists. "The Florida Trail is almost 1,400 miles and it has great sections for long distance hikers." If you're just starting, it might be better to stay out of the Everglades unless you're with an experienced hiker. Whether you're looking for wildlife, interesting marine species or a better understanding of the Florida ecosystem, the Florida Trail has something for everyone.

6. Forest Park - Portland
"People living in urban area have great hiking networks right in their backyards. Especially Portland," says Romano. He recommends Forest Park with its more than 80 miles of scenic Northwest wildlife. For hikers young and old, Forest Park Conservancy even has its own app with maps of hiking trails, weather updates and other details.

7. Mount Rainier National Park - Washington

"I've hiked all over the U.S. but some of my all time favorite trails are in Washington— I just love the diversity of mountains, wildlife, forested scenery and even wildflowers," says Romano. Among his favorites in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades. All National Parks are popular tourist destinations. Rainier is the smallest of three making it a great destination for new hikers; Olympic is the largest and features more diverse terrain.

8. Porcupine Mountain State Park - Michigan

While most hikers tend to gravitate to the East or West Coasts, great trails can be found everywhere. On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, take a walk along Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountain State Park. This scenic trail has high peaks, sparkling rivers, waterfalls and more. Campers will also find a fully loaded RV amenities area for over night adventures.

9. Appalachian Trail - Fitzgerald Falls near Greenwood Lake, NY

This scenic section of the Appalachian Trail is a perfect spot for city-dwellers. Just an hour and a half from New York City, Greenwood Lake is known for its pristine waters and summer aquatic activities. This 4.6 mile loop involves moderate climbing ability to reach the summit of Mombasha High Point. History buffs will enjoy exploring an abandoned settlement along the trail and on a clear day, views of New York City can be seen on the Southern horizon.

Read more of the buzz about the movie Wild:
—“Wild” stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who takes on an arduous solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail
—Reese Witherspoon Sounds Like A Feminist In 'Wild' Because She Is One

—'Wild' writer says actress Reese Witherspoon 'honored' her story

—Behind the scenes of Wild

Why are we surprised by ‘Guardians’ success?

An unlikely hero, robbed of his parents and an identity, rises from obscurity to lead an intergalactic band of misfits to save the universe. Wise-cracking sidekicks, inspired by money, fame and revenge, join our reluctant hero against seemingly insurmountable odds. All of this occurs to an ass-kicking score and the perfect blend of action, comedy and adventure to make the science fiction tale behind it all immediately accessible to members of all demographics.

Should it surprise anyone that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ Marvel’s latest massively successful foray into the world of cinema, posted George Lucas-like numbers this weekend?

This is not to take away from the creative storytelling of James Gunn and his co-writers. But the prevailing wisdom entering last weekend’s record-breaking haul was that digging deep into Marvel’s stable of characters and pulling out a talking raccoon and tree amounted to a massive gamble by the studio that can seemingly do no wrong.

You can attribute the success of the film to brilliant marketing, the unbridled charisma of Hollywood’s latest “it” action/comedy actor in Chris Pratt (whose portrayal of Peter “Star Lord” Quill is already drawing comparisons to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo) or the name recognition of the greatest thing going in comic book movies right now. Understand, that’s tough for me to say as a DC Comics fanboy ever since I first picked up Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” in the early 1990s.

But really, why were we all so blown away by Guardians’ success? We’ve seen the template before. Throw some fresh paint on it, add in the deep Marvel cosmic mythos that has only been tapped at the most shallow level by ‘Guardians,’ and make sure your ensemble cast is rounded out by likeable character actors like Bradley Cooper, John C. Reilly and Glenn freakin’ Close, and is it any wonder this movie turned out to be the sleeper hit of the summer?

Disdaining others’ tastes in movies

Which is more fun?

Disdaining relatives' film-watching preferences or disdaining co-workers' tastes?

Or maybe simply snorting about box-office numbers?

The blockbuster is back

Hollywood’s studios have some good news as the summer movie season kicks into high gear: Business is up.

The movie industry is on track to beat last year’s box-office record. The Memorial Day weekend’s blockbuster opening of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” grossed an impressive $111 million, and studios hope upcoming flicks on giant fighting robots, animated dragons and hyper-intelligent apes can keep that momentum going.

Box office revenue is up 3.3 percent so far this year compared with the same period in 2013, and that’s a strong sign given that ticket sales have generally been trending lower for the last decade. Audiences have thinned out amid heightened competition from video games, TV and other forms of entertainment.

What's the last movie you saw in a theater?

Scenes from Spokane Dept.


OK, not really. You can tell because several in this group appear to not have guns.

“Shelly Dubinsky on 514 in 10 minutes”

Ever had a friend who called or texted you when a certain movie was on or when a certain scene was coming up?

The movie in question doesn't have to be a fine film. And the particular scene might not be morally uplifting. But this friend wanted to alert you nonetheless. 

The Butler

Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, left, and Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in a scene from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

“You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve.” Such are the instructions Cecil Gaines receives as he embarks on his daunting new job at the Eisenhower White House in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

But of course Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker in a moving, grounded performance that anchors the film and blunts its riskier excesses, hears and sees everything.

And that means that over more than three decades on the job, he has a Forrest Gump-like view not only of the White House under seven presidents, but of the long arc of the civil rights struggle in 20th-century America. More here.

I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie. Do you have a favorite movie you've seen this summer?


Favorite reunion scene in a movie?

On second thought, maybe there aren't really all that many.

Let's see, there's "Romy and Michele" and, uh, OK, let's move on.


Annual recommendation

You don't have to give a rip about Apollo 11 to enjoy this set-in-Australia story.


If you organized a Cold War film festival

What movies would you include?

Did you know Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for "Seven Days in May"?

Ever been a good Spring Break movie?

I can't think of one.


When was the last time you characterized a vacation as rip-roaring?

Australian movies were all the rage

A) 10 years ago. B) About 35 years ago. C) 70 years ago  D) Last year. E) Other.


You’ve seen too many movies if…

You are almost surprised to discover, upon walking into a convenience store, that it is not being held up at that moment.

True or false

WSU Coug and longtime national sports broadcaster Keith Jackson was in a movie with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

Who was your favorite movie president?


That's Henry Fonda in 1964's "Fail-Safe."

No one could say he was incapable of making a tough decision.

In what movie bar would you hang out?

I think I'd pick "Butch's" from "The Best Years of Our Lives."

Of course, seeing as how it is set in the 1940s, cigarette smoke would be an issue.

Same goes for the place in "Harvey," which would be another possibility.

Two that would not be high on my list are the bars in "Star Wars" and "Flashdance."

And the George-Bailey-was-never-born version of the tavern in "It's a Wonderful Life" seemed to attract a pretty easily amused clientele. I'd steer clear of that place, too.


Did you know there’s a connection?




At the movies

We went to the movies the other night – “Hope Springs” – and noticed the security measures now in place (post-Colorado movie massacre):  cops patrolling the parking lot as the evening sky grew dark and the “may I see the inside of your purse, ma’am, for a safety check?”  question by the ticket taker are new measures.  The guy was a young adult with a  sweet smile and so I answered, “Yes, of course! How thoughtful that you want my purse to be safe.” He glanced in at the usual purse contents (wallet, comb, lipstick, too many pens, lost paper clip, grocery list, list of family/friends’ addresses, napkin from Starbucks…) and said, “OK.  

Last time I was inspected at a movie theatre was in Jerusalem in 1975. Women in one line, men in another and then the full pat down. And the ushers walked the aisles, carrying flashlights, admonishing anyone chatting while the film (Pink Panther) played.

 Hope Springs was poignant and entertaining. Meryl Streep and Tommie Lee Jones make for an interesting chemistry - as did the new security measures mixed with the usual expensive popcorn.

(S-R photo: Meryl Streep as Kay Soames, left, and Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold Soames in a scene from “Hope Springs.”)

Can you name a better movie title?


Remember, I didn't say "better movie." I said "better movie title."

Battle of the movie battle scenes

Where would you rank the opening battle scene in 2000's "Gladiator" on your list of all-time best movie depictions of large-scale combat?

‘American Pie’ inspired teens’ naked run

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Four Utah teens armed with a BB gun told deputies they were inspired by a scene from an "American Pie" movie when they went running naked through an Ogden-area neighborhood.

Authorities said Wednesday the teens were spotted streaking in the residential community about 45 minutes north of Salt Lake City at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

When a deputy responded, a 17-year-old girl ducked behind a tree, while the three teenage boys kept running and were found shortly after.

The teens said they brought the BB gun because they feared they would be attacked by deer during the jog.

Deputies notified the teens' parents and let them off with a warning.

The 2006 film "American Pie: The Naked Mile" features a high school student who wants to join a college campus' tradition of running a mile naked.

Today’s obscure NCAA reference


Something tells me Ron Patimkin would not have made this year's OSU team.

True or false

This is a scene from the locally filmed movie, "The Basket."


Wildlife refuges play roles on silver screen

PUBLIC LANDS — This year’s Academy Awards holds special interest for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Some critics are listing “Meeks Cutoff,” with scenes from Malheur National Wildlife Refugein Oregon, as a possible Oscar contender. 

“Meeks Cutoff,” starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood and Paul Dano, is about pioneers stranded on the Oregon Trail and was filmed from federal lands adjacent to the wildlife refuge. 

Malheur Refuge manager Tim Bodeen knows why director Kelly Reichardt wanted to capture scenes of the refuge:

“We’re one of the nation’s great wild places where you can get wide open views of the natural environment,” he says. “And we have bountiful wildlife [including coyotes and mule deer] that people associate with historic America.” Today’s visitors can hike, bike, fish and hunt on the refuge as well as see wildlife and tour the 19th-century Sod House Ranch. 

Read on for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observations on some of the better known refuge-linked movies:

Gentlemen of England

There are any number of good reasons why I am not a drama teacher.

But if I did have influence with theater students, I would make sure their homework included watching this astonishly rich and layered 1999 movie.

It takes its time and shines a bright, penetrating light on the creative process.