Dear Friends

  • TROLLING FOR SIGNS: Photographer Chris Montgomery with his rig

    Cindy Wehling photo

Visitors of late summer

Chip Blake, managing editor of Orion magazine, stopped by after taking part in a floating reunion of river guides at Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. Chip, who has been with the Massachusetts-based quarterly for six years, shared his expertise about reaching potential new readers. In a nutshell, Chip says, anything is better than sending expensive direct (otherwise known as junk) mail into the void.

Jeff Sky of Rockville, Utah, and Penny Walker of Hurricane, Utah, shared their conclusions about jet skiers on Lake Powell: "They zip around so fast they almost try to get hurt." Jeff, a physician's assistant, says he's begun a newspaper recycling program by leaving back issues of High Country News in the waiting room of a Page, Ariz., clinic.

Sunday is not a good day for visitors to High Country News, but Juergen and Helma Cords of Malibu, Calif., found one of us stirring. They needed water for their mobile home and staffer Marion Stewart was just leaving the office when they drove up. Thanks to our outdoor spigot, they got their water and extra copies of the paper.

From Portland, Ore., came Walter and Sylvie Larson, longtime subscribers. They were visiting their daughter Pam and her husband, Rob, who'd recently moved to Paonia. And from Denver, Colo., came Jody Kennedy, who just started a job with Colorado Environmental Coalition. She was helping organize a "Celebrating Wilderness" get-together Oct. 2-4 at the Mad Dog Cafe in nearby Crawford.

Hard on the kidneys

We'd worked with photographer Chris V. Montgomery for a couple of years - you can see his quirky sign shots on pages 8 and 9 - but we'd never met him. That's not unusual. We haven't met most of our freelancers. It's a treat when a name takes on a face, or in the person of Chris, a home, too, which is a Ford F-150 pickup truck with camper that's gone a couple of hundred thousand miles backcountry.

To really discover obscure places with peculiar signposts, though, Chris rides a trusty 1978 Honda dirt bike, which does to his body what a cement truck does to sand and lime. Recently, Chris explored the uranium-rich and rugged West End of Montrose County in western Colorado. Still smarting, he told us: "My kidneys never want to go there again." Chris lives simply, or as he puts it, dirt-poor, to indulge his photographic passion. But his only regrets are for the photos he didn't get. That's happened when a camera jammed or a security person barred him entry. He says he's looking forward to developing a recent photo taken near a closed uranium mine. The sign, posted by the Umetco Company, said: "ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING except for recreational uses." "I'm still figuring out what that means," he says.

In other news ...

We were saddened to hear of the death of Liz Caile, freelance writer and environmentalist in Nederland, Colo. She was a longtime reader of this paper, occasional correspondent and a provider of tips to stories she thought worthy of telling.

Congratulations to Michael Frome, who has another book to his credit, this one combining two loves: journalism and environmentalism. The book is Green Ink: An Introduction to Environmental Journalism, published by the University of Utah Press, 1795 E. South Campus Drive, #101, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

What you told us

More than 3,700 readers responded to our annual survey sent out last April. This is the largest response we've ever received and twice as many as last year. It's good to hear from old friends, since almost half of you who responded had subscribed to High Country News before 1994. Here's a small portion of what we learned: Over 90 percent said you read the paper because it explains the complex issues facing the West. About 85 percent of you said the lead article's length and the paper's every-other-week schedule was about right. Eleven percent, however, told us that lead stories ran on too long. And a third of those responding urged us to expand our coverage to Alaska.

Suggestions for potential stories were greatly appreciated, and we thank you for the words of encouragement and support. We continue browsing through the surveys, post provocative ones in communal places ranging from the coffeepot to the mail room, and cannot thank you enough for the 1,500 names of potential subscribers. We'll be sending out sample HCNs later this month to those you suggested. Thank you again for your help.

* Betsy Marston for the staff

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