Tour and training from Grand Teton National Park to Black Thunder Coal Mine

Mark has officially taken his training to the next level.  On June 24th he traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he trained for four days at the base of the Tetons.  The trip had beautiful weather, though Mark is quick to point out, “Anything is better than Laramie wind.  That has definitely been tough stuff to train in.”  The trip was packed with a mix of training activities that centered on exploring the incredible natural features of the area.  To start things off, Mark rode his bike 30 miles from the southern tip to the northern end of the park, the magnificent Tetons towering over his left shoulder the entire way.  But training wasn’t limited to bike riding, it also included hiking, swimming in Jackson Lake, and weight training. Though admittedly impromptu, the weight training ended up being a great workout for a few hours.

Mark explained, “I had this idea to work on carrying a heavy log through waist deep water. This type of training technique works the shoulders, arms, and also the legs as they push through the water.”  Mark has been working on full-body training in order to be in the best possible shape for his adventure. “You never know when something might block your path when you’re on a bicycle.  There is a very real possibility that I might have to carry my bike and gear over ditches, rock fields or through rivers.”

After Mark finished his training at Teton National Park, he made his way towards Gillette, Wyoming where he toured the Black Thunder Coal Mine. Not just any mine, Black Thunder is the largest surface coal mine in the United States. Mark gained a huge amount of background information and insight into the coal mining industry, but the most exciting part of this tour was the opportunity to see a blast in person. What an amazing example of the energy behind getting energy. One of the main energy resources that the film Energy, Oh Energy will be investigating is coal. In the United States, coal is the largest fuel source for electricity generation; about 45% of all electricity is generated from coal-fired plants (the next closest source is natural gas at 23%).

After his coal mine tour at Black Thunder, Mark stopped by a dam just outside the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming. Even though this dam was much smaller than the Flaming Gorge dam, Mark said that it was still very interesting to see the water turbines producing hydroelectricity. This spring has been a wet one in Wyoming, and the dams have definitely had their work cut out for them.

If all Mark had to do was tour energy sites things would be easy, but when you’re preparing for everything that goes into making an adventure documentary things can get pretty hectic. “My days are filled with trying to organize the send-off event in Pinedale and the welcome back party in Laramie, finalizing the route, interviewing professionals and training every day,” Mark explains.  Half chuckling, half sighing he admits, “I’m looking forward to departing on my journey.  I am so busy right now that it is going to feel like a break.”  The long days, late nights, and early mornings have been taxing on Mark, but he certainly hasn’t lost his focus yet. We hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July weekend.

Burning Torch Productions will be traveling to the western part of the state for more meetings and hopefully finalize the interviews for the journey.  Check back on Tuesday for a special blog on one of Mark’s largest struggles, energy storage, or, more specifically, “How to keep the cameras rolling while out in the middle of nowhere without hauling around 50 pounds of batteries.”


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