12 stories from the archives you should read now

A look at our writers' favorite stories of all time, as our 45th anniversary draws to a close.


Updated with one more story, from HCN archivist Marshall Swearingen: The year marks High Country News' 45th year of existence. As it comes to an end, we asked our writers for their all-time favorite stories from the archives and collected them here, from newest to oldest.

Our writers' picks:

1. The unusual occupation at Utah's Book Cliffs, Jan. 19. 2015.

I really like this story because it combined a lot of on-the-ground reporting with some real soul-searching on the part of the writer, Cally Carswell, one of our contributing editors. She really put herself out there to try to understand an extra, emotional dimension to the story, and that really helped me think about these protesters -- and what they were protesting -- in an interesting way. Brian Calvert, managing editor

2. Charles Bowden's fury, Oct. 13, 2014

Charles Bowden along the border fence in the Anapra neighborhood of Juárez, Mexico, where he chronicled maquila workers, the unsolved murders of women and gang violence.
Julián Cardona

Scott Carrier’s profile of Chuck Bowden is my favorite because of the way it takes you deep into a person’s emotional world and how it shines a very different sort of light on the current debate over immigration and border security debate. I also like that it connect the ecology of a place with the human tragedies unfolding there: “There was no getting away from this part of our civilization, it spilled over into the wilderness, it was part of the wilderness.” Sarah Tory, correspondent

3. Ecosystems 101: Hard lessons from the mighty salmon runs of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Dec. 2, 2013.

Bristol Bay salmon.
Jonny Armstrong

Maybe it's my pro-salmon bias, but Ray Ring's "Ecosystems 101" is perhaps my favorite HCN story of all time. A beautiful mix of soft nature and hard science, blending together into an ecological lesson that manages to be both intuitive and somehow surprising. Also, this story came out right after I'd been hired as an intern, and I remember reading it and thinking, damn — I'm going to the right place. Ben Goldfarb, correspondent

4. Young, All-American, Illegal, Aug. 16, 2010.

Young women who came to the U.S. as children and grew up as Coloradans have had to shift to living in the shadows because they lack a good path to U.S. citizenship.
Ted Wood

This was the first story I read that helped me connect with the personal lives and struggles of undocumented immigrants beyond the policies and laws. I lived in Arizona at the time so the U.S.-Mexico border was a big issue, and I loved reading about immigrants from other parts of the world. Brooke Warren, associate designer

5. The desert that breaks Annie Proulx's heart, April 6, 2009.

Hind legs, equine carcass, Carbon/Sweetwater county line, Wyoming, 2002
Martin Stupich, from Red Desert: History of a Place

Emma Brown's beautifully-wrought story of why a "fierce and unsentimental outsider" -- the writer Annie Proulx -- thinks Wyoming's desolate Red Desert is worth saving, and what "saving" even means. Krista Langlois, correspondent

6. Boodog roasting on an open fire, Dec. 24, 2007.

Perhaps my true all time favorite is Kevin Taylor's boo-dog roasting over an open fire, because it makes me pee myself laughing. Sarah Gilman, contributing editor  

7. Disposable workers of the oil and gas fields, April 2, 2007.

Despite sophisticated computers on some rigs, it is ultimately up to the drill operator to take the pulse of the rig and to watch the backs of his fellow roughnecks. “Whatever is going on, we always just move slow,” says one.
JT Thomas

This long and incredibly well-researched piece brought national attention to the workers dying in energy production, and the scant penalties faced by companies who caused those deaths by disregarding safety practices. Ray shone a light on something being ignored, and helped us understand other costs of the energy we use. Jodi Peterson, senior editor

8. The Death of the Super Hopper, Feb. 3, 2003

Grasshopper holdup.
Courtesy of Lyndon Irwin

The cover illustration of a period cartoon of a giant grasshopper holding up a train was just one of my favorite things about this story. University of Wyoming entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood takes us back to the 1870s West: "Picture swirling snow as far as the eye can see — in the middle of summer. Now, imagine this blizzard of flakes transforming into a swarm of locusts. This isn’t just any swarm, but the largest congregation of animal life that the human race has ever known." 30 years later, the species was extinct. The story explores how it happened, and what we can learn from the locusts' demise. Cindy Wehling, art director

9. Wolf at the door, May 27, 2002.

This story by Ray Ring about wolves I admired so much that, when I was at the LA Times, I went out to Idaho to do a version of it myself. Elizabeth Shogren, D.C. correspondent 

10. Beauty and the beast, April 14, 1997.

So many stories I vividly remember. I still like this one I wrote about the Grand Escalante National Monument. Paul Larmer, publisher

11. Raising a ranch from the dead, April 15, 1996.

Former HCN publisher Ed Marston reminded me of this article this spring. It offers a hopeful account of how Sid Goodloe, a New Mexico rancher, uncovered the landscape that used to exist underneath his overworked land. I love the story for the way it untangles the minutiae of what it takes to change course: Goodloe’s work was done in fits and starts, when he could afford to and when he could figure out the next step. And of course, I love it for Ed’s writing. Here’s the first sentence, as a teaser: “For almost four years I have been biting down on Sid Goodloe's story as though it were a suspicious gold coin.” Kate Schimel, assistant editor

12. Without fanciness: Getting by on the plains, Sept. 26. 1988

 "How could I pick just one? Anyhow, here's a little number that's a little different, one that reminds me of all the little gems over the years." Marshall Swearingen, HCN archivist and writer

Tell us what your favorite story from the archives is and it might get featured, as well. Email a link to Kate Schimel, assistant editor, at [email protected], with a few words on why it's your favorite.

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