The new editorial calendar does indeed look wonderful... just the kind of good mix of stories that I have been hoping for.
Perhaps to clarify my original post about throwing in the towel: I am not an expert on anything outdoors (well, perhaps in a discussion about long-distance bicycle touring might I might be able to hold my own. I've done a lot of it around the world for over 30 years), and always feel that I have more to learn. One of the original joys of finding BPL was that I was learning so much from people who had exciting new ideas to share with me. It's why I subscribed. BPL, as much as Ray Jardine's two early books "The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook" and "Beyond Backpacking", and more recently Ed Speer's "Hammock Camping", more than any other source of information, taught me to rethink my entire backpacking equipment list and how I used it when out in the mountains. And the "how I used it" was in the end much more important and challenging than any amount of gear I might buy. It's taken me about three years to make a complete change, to understand the equipment, try it out, see what works and what doesn't, test my own limitations, rethink my gear lists again and again, teach myself to refrain from snatching up every new fangled wonder gear that popped up in favor of training, as Ryan has written so often, my mind, and then returning here for more lessons and tips and stories from the field from others who went out and actually learned something from the experiences they had. When these tutorial-like stories stopped appearing it was as if I had been cut off from learning more. Suddenly it seemed only the gear mattered and none of the wisdom gleaned from people with more experience and skills than I have. But that is what I still hunger for most.
The recent discussion about how to dress for constant wet-weather hiking was of deep interest to me because conditions in the mountains in Japan are very similar to those of the western Cascades in the States or of the Alps in New Zealand... rain, rain, and more rain. How do others deal with that? What kinds of techniques do they use for camping in muddy conditions? How do they keep reasonably dry and life-saving warm in constant drenching conditions? What kind of footwear do they use to deal with hours of slogging through mud? How does one train for the extreme vertical ups and downs that places like the mountains in Japan present? And so on. Articles like that would be both educational and fascinating for me, the way so many of the early Ryan Jordan, Alan Dixon, and others' articles were for me. I can still very vividly recall reading the account of Ryan, Alan, and Glen's late season walk in the Winds. i remember every photograph and how I took hours to peruse the way the shelters were set up and the clothing was worn. Ryan and Alan, (and Glen through our e-mails), you have literally changed my life. It may not be anything spiritually bound or earth-shaking, but for me personally the great old stories and articles were what kept me coming here day after day. And I still want that level of fascination and learning.
That's why I wrote what I did. I'm not cavalier about money and can't afford to just throw it away on a whim, but it was not about the $25 that I was talking. It was about the loss of what I felt was a great publication and what I gleaned from it. So with the new calendar and propect of being reengaged with great topics and challenging information, in a word, with further growing as a mountain walker, I'm really looking forward to what BPL has to offer. I most definitely will renew my subscription.
If my bringing the original criticisms up left a bad taste in any people's mouths, then please know that I did not do it casually or without regret. I do not like to publicly criticise people. I do not like to make people feel bad. But I do believe in high standards and voicing one's opinion when those standards don't seem to be measuring up. As a member I believe I have a right to say something, even if it is not popular. I hope that all the people who did chime in and voice their opinions on the magazine are respected for having the courage to say something, at the risk of getting publicly chastised. I believe that people voicing their opinions here made a difference for everyone in how the publication was developing. In the end I hope this is of benefit to everyone, including the BPL staff.
Isn't public debate just wonderful? Especially when it can make a real, measurable difference and can get so many different kinds of people together without rancor?
As to the speculation about Ryan's cult status... I have rarely believed that the cult figure him/ herself is the usual cause of the cult status... it is the followers who put someone into that position. I never meant to suggest that Ryan was placing himself into any position; he has always seemed friendly, accessible, and quite humble. He never gainsays anyone, replies when he has time, defers to those with more experience in something, and actively asks advice.
Personally I never call anyone "Dr." or any other honorific, not even doctors, and most certainly not presidents. All people are equal and deserve to be looked upon with equal measure. I will bow to no one and don't want anyone to bow to me. When someone expects me to give them some kind of loftier-than-me status then my opinion of them goes down. When they expect no praise but show by their actions their skill or knowledge or leadership, then I will gladly defer to them.
There are a lot of people here who get no fanfare who have immense amounts of knowledge, skills, imagination, and experience. It is the accumulation of it all here that I value so much. I just see BPL as a conduit for presenting and clarifying it all in one place. May the Force be with all of us!