From the soft glow of television sets, people across the world have watched timber and meadowland in Yosemite National Park go up in flames. As of press time, the Yosemite Wildfire had consumed 108 structures and more than 385 square miles, making it third-largest wildfire in California history.
"Sometimes you don't realize what you have until you're losing it," says Kia Kiso, co-producer of the documentary Mile ... Mile and a Half, "or until somebody reminds you how great it is."
To remind you is what Colorado Springs native Kiso hopes her film achieves.
Mile follows a group of artists — photographers, videographers, painters, musicians — as they not only hike the 211-mile John Muir Trail, which cuts through Yosemite National Park and ends at the summit of Mount Whitney, but also document and interpret the natural world through their respective media. The adventure started with five friends setting out on July 10, 2011, aiming to capture their trip and then maybe do something bigger with it afterward. Along their 25-day trek, they encountered 76 hikers, some of whom wound up tagging along for a while, including a sibling pair of painters and two musicians from the band Opus Orange.
"Each of them were inspired by the landscape," Kiso says, "and it informed their artwork."
There were struggles. One of the original five returned home on the third day, feeling he was slowing the group down. Two weeks were spent trudging through snow. Rivers had to be crossed despite strong currents. Parents were away from children. Jobs were left behind.
Short clips and music videos generated public interest, and a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 helped bring the film to fruition. It raised $85,405, exceeding the original goal by $7,305.
The cast and crew of Mile have been touring the United States to showcase the film, which premiered in June. At their first festival showing in Los Angeles, where Kiso currently lives, tickets sold out in four days. A quickly added second showing sold out in three.
The Colorado Springs showing Monday will be the last "big event" featuring some of the cast and crew, Kiso says. Opus Orange, the band that composed the film's soundtrack, will perform before and after the screening. A Q&A with Kiso and Jason Fitzpatrick, a key player in the film as well as co-director, will take place at the documentary's conclusion.
"Mile is about getting out there and having your adventure — whatever and wherever it might be," Kiso says. "You might have to plan it for four months, and put your life aside, and deal with blisters and snowfields, but the benefits are amazing, and you'll learn more about yourself, and you might make new friends."