The desert has an almost indescribable, vaguely intimidating and utterly inescapable pull. It’s vast stillness and unflinching harshness can mask a land whose fabric is actually sewn with an abundance of life, stories, and memories; a place where reflection and understanding comes readily and freely without the complexities that may dilute and obscure clarity elsewhere. These spaces can render an individual as tiny and insignificant as few other places on earth, while at the same time imbuing the courageous with an empowered agency–in the desert, your fate is entirely in your own hands.
It is to this unbordered isolation that Tanner Stephens and Drew Boxold threw themselves late last summer, to create Long Way Gone. In a year where confinement and loneliness were the norm and daily priorities shifted from those that perhaps really matter to each of us, this trip along the Eastern Sierra was both an embrace of solitude on their own terms, and an escape from the rest of the world. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the desert’s magic.
“When I was at the top of the big scree line I thought to myself, ‘I better not mess this up because we only have one take and if I crash, it’s a long way out’. It gave me those race run jitters and reminded me of why I love riding bikes. Nothing else in the world matters when you are about to do something that scares you. The fact we drove two hours on dirt roads and jeep trails to get out to a mountain littered with cinder block-sized rocks, not even knowing if there would be anything rideable, made this trip special. It’s not always about how sick the riding is or hanging with your buds. Sometimes you need to be alone atop a mountain, ready to drop in on a line you’ve only scouted from a mile across the valley, not even knowing what the runout looks like in order to feel completely present in the moment.” – Tanner Stephens
Long Way Gone
Isolation and escape in the Eastern Sierra.
Featuring Tanner Stephens
Created by Drew Boxold
Shot on a Bolex H16 Rex 5 with Kodak 7213/200t stock.
For me the trip was about getting away, being alone, and reconnecting with riding. I work a normal full time desk job, and during that time I was insanely busy with work. I had been busy for months, so I needed a break from technology, screens, people, and the overall sense of everyday life. The desert holds a special place to me for that. - TS
Sometimes you need to be alone atop a mountain, ready to drop in on a line you’ve only scouted from a mile across the valley, not even knowing what the runout looks like in order to feel completely present in the moment." - TS
“Filming the scree lines was definitely memorable. I shuttled Tanner and then had to hustle down the hill to set up the camera before he dropped. The camera can only do 30 second takes and the line was longer than that so I had to wind it back up quickly before he got to the very bottom. When we were filming the less steep lines we had probably 15 minutes left of light and I forgot the light meter in the truck at the top of the hill, so I had to guess on exposure while swapping between frame rates. To cap off filming we had to get down the mountain on a very technical wheeling road in a stock truck at night. Safe to say we slept very, very well that night after the tension-filled evening.” – Drew Boxold