Each of us, at some point in our lives, will come to realize that most of the ordinary things we take for granted are, in fact, almost never permanent and, in fact, often fragile. The unraveling of my confidence came in 1973. That year, I realized that the seemingly perfect wild nature in which we had been climbing, skiing and hiking for years was actually in big trouble. By then I’d been working for Yvon and Malinda Chouinard at Chouinard Equipment for three years. Patagonia clothing, as we know it today, was just a big idea with not much meat on its bones. We were very cramped for working space at that time, but Yvon and Malinda handed over one of our scarce offices to someone who was trying to recover the polluted and overly impacted Ventura River in hopes of allowing steelhead to run once again up its waters.
I was taken aback by this gesture. It was the early ’70s and the Vietnam War was still raging, but besides that, life was good. I couldn’t imagine why on earth the Chouinards would give up needed office space for such a project. I had crossed that river thousands of times in the course of my daily life.
What needed fixing?