Fresh off a week-long road trip, Teva Explorers Johnie Gall and Andy Cochrane take a moment to reflect on their shared passion for conservation, who has the best Spotify playlist, and the National Parks that have played the third wheel to their friendship. Words and photos by Teva Explorers Andy Cochrane and Johnie Gall.
Despite living in an increasingly connected world, maintaining a long-distance friendship can be daunting. Not quite wait-two-weeks-for-a-letter-by-post daunting, but a challenge nonetheless. For Andy Cochrane and Johnie Gall, the secret to making their “best friendship” work can be distilled down to two things: National Parks and open-ended questions.
“The first trip we took together was to Death Valley National Park in California,” says Johnie. “It was a half-day drive from the airport, and from the minute I climbed into Andy’s truck, we started grilling each other with ‘Would You Rather’ questions. Even after two years and more than 10,000 miles logged on the road together for various projects, we haven’t stopped yet!”
Flashback to one of Johnie and Andy’s first trips to the Eureka Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.
After instantly hitting it off a few years ago, the Teva Explorers — both writers, photographers, and producers — have gone on to collaborate on a series of projects focused on sharing stories about conservation and other global issues connected to the environment. There was the 250-mile run across Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments they organized to raise awareness about the political issues facing public lands. A trip to a remote corner of British Columbia to photograph ice climbing and advocate for responsible tourism. A photo essay showcasing all of the public lands accessible within a day’s drive of San Francisco. And in 2018, when Andy decided to attempt to kayak across the Florida Straits, Johnie came on board as the trip’s photographer. The duo is in the final stages of creating a film juxtaposing the paddle with stories of the Cuban refugee experience.
Between all of this, the trick to preserving a close friendship has been penciling in time just for fun. And where better to get off the grid and dream up new ideas than the national parks? Fresh off their week-long road trip through the American Southwest to test out the Grand Canyon Collection, we caught up with the co-conspirators to let them do what they do best: ask some questions.
Andy: Do you remember how we met?
Johnie: You had friended me on Facebook for one reason or another (even though you’re convinced it was the other way around), and one day you posted a photo of you and some friends posed in Hiker Trash Vogue-style. I commented with a link to Bros Being Basic, and I guess our shared love of snark made for an instant bond! We met IRL soon after at Outdoor Retailer, a big biannual trade show for the outdoor industry. We spent the rest of the evening eating pizza and bouncing ideas back and forth. Later that night, I got a prophetic text from you saying, “We’re going to be best friends!” You weren’t wrong; we’ve been inseparable ever since.
A: Which is funny, because we do live thousands of miles apart. What are some of your favorite places we’ve been together?
J: Since we have a long-distance friendship, we try to make plans to see each other once a month or so. Those meetups typically take place in national parks and monuments, because those public lands are easily accessible, affordable and, obviously, so unique and beautiful. Our first trip together was in Death Valley National Park, and something about its vastness and wildness keeps drawing us back there. We’ve also spent time in Everglades National Park, Cascades National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Lassen National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and others. I’d have to say my favorite place we’ve been together is still Death Valley. From the sand dunes to the hot springs to all the time I get to spend spotting you as you maneuver your truck down its terrifying roads, it’s always an adventure.
J: Speaking of National Parks, we have another shared love: Teva. We’ve both been fans of the brand for a long time, and you can see that in a lot of our photos. What’s special about the Grand Canyon Collection to you?
A: It’s always good to pay homage to the places, people, and cultures that came before us. We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, right? I think that’s what Teva is trying to do with their new collection, which makes me proud to be a part of the brand. While the GC100 designs call out just one park specifically, I think they also speak more broadly to all of them and the importance of protecting public lands for everyone to use, explore, and enjoy.
A: What’s my favorite road trip snack?
J: Easy. Ranch Corn Nuts.
Inside Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.
Johnie scouts the best view at Bandelier National Monument in the Women’s Hurricane XLT2 in GC100 Boomerang.
Pictured: Women’s Hurricane XLT2 in GC100 Boomerang.
Exploring the ancestral Pueblo dwellings at Bandelier National Monument.
J: Where did we go on our recent road trip?
A: The two of us ventured from Denver to Salt Lake City, taking what we’ll call the “long way.” In search of warmer weather, fewer people, and odd cultural experiences, we drove the truck south to New Mexico, spending our time visiting museums and an Earthship community, exploring Native cultural sites and hiking in protected areas like Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, and Bandelier National Monument. Each night we camped, cooked simple meals on the tailgate, and schemed stops for the next day. When we travel together it’s very ad-lib.
A: What role does conservation play in our friendship and work partnership?
J: Our mutual passion for telling stories that might activate people to protect wild places has been something we’ve shared since day one. So much of our friendship is built upon our knack for rallying people together for a cause, and that energy has been pivotal to our personal and professional bond. The National Park system has served as an anchor for our time together as friends, but it’s also given us purpose as collaborators. We want to see these places protected as much as we want to keep adventuring within them together.
Pictured: Hurricane XLT2 in GC100 Boomerang.
Passing through Utah.
On the camp menu: pasta and fresh ideas. Pictured: Hurricane XLT2 in GC100 Boomerang.
J: We’ve done projects in Cuba, Hawaii, Mexico and British Columbia together. What’s your favorite part of teaming up?
A: You push me more than anyone I know. Take, for example, a film we’re co-producing called The Crossing. It’s a story about immigrants and the refugee experience – an issue we both care deeply about – but that doesn’t mean we always agree on how to share a message. We aren’t afraid to voice our disagreements; I love that about our friendship. It means that we’re both willing to stand up for what we believe in, and also truly listen to what the other has to say.
J: Who’s the better DJ?
A: You, by a long shot. Your Spotify playlists always hit the spot. We often go hours belting out rap songs together. A better question would be who’s the better singer. We’ll have to leave that one up for debate.
J: Well, clearly you. So, what’s next for us?
A: We’re working on plans for a horse packing trip this summer, a canoeing trip this fall focused on conservation in the Boundary Waters, a cross-country Amtrak trip later this spring, and of course, we’d love to get to the Grand Canyon together for the centennial. About every third day one of us dreams up another major project we could collaborate on. It’s always fun when we’re bouncing ideas back and forth.
A: Would you rather have a dog with a cat’s personality or a cat with a dog’s personality?
J: A cat with a dog’s personality. You just can’t beat an animal who thinks every single day is the best day ever.