This issue is an exploration by Elizabeth Manning and other writers of the state of outdoor education in the West. It's a subject some approach with awe, particularly if we're the one who admits: "That (course, teacher, backpacking expedition, river trip) changed my life." Perhaps because so many of us come to the vast spaces of the West with an equally vast ignorance, we're grateful to learn from experts on the ground what that pottery shard might mean, why that hillside seems to stand on end. A mostly self-taught river guide, we've come to believe, can impart more context to visitors about ancient Anasazi culture or the formation of mountain ranges than many dense texts, with this added bonus: A guide is quick to confess not knowing an answer.
This special issue reminds us that learning about the West is a life work, and we thank the many outdoor teachers for passing on their love of the land and their honed guesses about its history.
High Country News board and staff met recently in Grand Junction, Colo., a fast-growing town that feels more like desert-hot Utah than mountainous Colorado. At this second of the newspaper's three annual meetings, the board agreed to beef up the Paonia-based editorial staff and also approved a long-range plan that emphasizes continued circulation growth (the paper now goes to some 17,500 subscribers). The lively meeting was followed by a combined potluck dinner with board and staff from the Colorado Environmental Coalition, where HCN staff relished the chance to talk face to face with people only known by voice and willingness to help interns, such as Lori Potter, who works for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in Denver.
The following day some 100 people from all over western Colorado mingled for a float-in down the Gunnison River, with boats provided by Greg Trainor, who works for the city of Grand Junction, and CEC West Slope organizer Norm Mullen. Mullen said afterward that it felt more like a Dunkirk massing of boats than a rafting expedition.
As part of the trip, many boaters hiked into the BLM's Dominguez wilderness study area - amazing at this time of year for its ephemeral waterfalls - which would be flooded if developers succeed in building a proposed hydroelectric dam. We are grateful to the board members who took part in what seemed the most spirited get-together in some time; they included Diane Peavey of Idaho, Maggie Coon of Washington, Michael Ehlers, Dan Luecke, Tom Huerkamp and Andy Wiessner of Colorado, Farwell Smith of Montana, Luis Torres of New Mexico, Doc Hatfield of Oregon, and Suzanne Van Gytenbeek of Utah.
Fleeing the dusty and smoky air of Espaûola, N.M., for relatively cleaner Colorado were readers Mike and Pat Boring. He is a former physicist and she is a former editor at Los Alamos National Labs. Subscriber Steve Dayney of Denver came by with his two young children. Steve is with Public Service of Colorado. From Crested Butte, Colo., Crested Butte ski resort executives Edward Callaway and Thom Cox stopped in on their way from Aspen to Montrose, Colo. Wayne McCormack in Salt Lake City dropped in by E-mail to tell us he'd let his subscription lapse a few years back but rediscovered us on the World Wide Web; welcome back.
Odds and ends
We hear from Albuquerque novelist and subscriber Judith Van Gieson that Hotshots, her new mystery novel revolving around deadly wildland fires, gained in versimilitude from stories in this paper. Hotshots debuts this August. From Bend, Ore., friends told us about the battle being waged by forest watch activist Steve Willer, who was recently diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Willer, 39, and a single parent of 10-year-old Crystal, just underwent a bone marrow transplant; now he must be monitored closely for 100 days while his immune system rallies. "This is our opportunity to support an environmental activist," says his good friend Tonia Wolf, who adds that his propsects for recovery are good. Donations may be sent to the Steve Willer Leukemia Fund, 1353 NE 7th St., Bend, OR 97701.
For lovers of Yosemite National Park in California - despite its crowds and relentless vehicles - there's a new book dedicated to ranger-naturalist Carl Sharsmith, whose seasonal work began in 1931 and continued almost without surcease through 1994. In Climb Every Mountain: A Portrait of Carl Sharsmith, 50 friends and colleagues recall his research in Tuolumne Meadows, his incredible fall from the peak of Yosemite's Mount Maclure in 1935, as well as other stories. The authors are John Sharsmith and Allan Shields; the publisher is Jerseydale Ranch Press, 209/742-7972.
Congratulations to Susan Tixier, a longtime wilderness advocate and now field organizer with the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, for winning the Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy, given by the Tides Foundation in San Francisco. And congratulations to former HCN staffer Florence Williams of Steamboat Springs, Colo., for placing first in the American Society of Journalists and Authors essay contest for her essay, "Polygamy in America." Last but not least, best wishes for continued success to Paul Koberstein, editor of the year-old regional monthly, Cascadia Times, in Portland, Ore. He'll send a free sample copy or a one-year subscription for $20; write the paper at 25-6 Northwest 23rd Place, No. 406, Portland, OR 97210 (503/235-2531).
" Betsy Marston, for the staff