Dear Friends

  • Elizabeth Manning and Karen McDonald in snowy Paonia

    Cindy Wehling

Spring visitors

Two roving college classes each spent several hours at High Country News listening to talks about the West and asking questions about this nonprofit newspaper. They wanted to know how to cover a vast area with no staff, and in particular, more about Glen Canyon Dam, which both groups had just toured. By chance, this issue focuses on the nation's dam-builder, the Bureau of Reclamation, so we were eager to talk construction and unintended consequences.

There were 14 undergraduates from Earlham College in Ohio, led by Margaret Lechner and Rich Nicholson, and 11 students from Sterling College in Vermont, led by Diane Hackl, a former HCN intern, Sheila Dean, and Jeff Crane. Most of the young people came from the East, with Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania well represented. All seemed happy to be learning on the road instead of being "stuck" in a classroom.

New interns

After an encounter with U.S. immigration that she says "would rival the Spanish Inquisition," new intern Karen McDonald was released from Toronto, Canada, a day later than she expected.

Inspectors insisted that she didn't have the proper documentation and twice escorted her out of their offices. Faced with threats of fines from one inspector after another, she pled her case: She was not a worker but a volunteer.

After finally getting the OK, Karen flew to Denver on the day it switched airports, from Stapleton to the much-delayed Denver International. There she was met by hordes of television camera crews and what seemed like an army of politicians, some of whom even wanted to help find her baggage. According to DIA guides, her suitcases could have been in four different places; she found them after a short but intensive search.

Karen parted last year from Toronto's Ryerson University with a graduate degree in journalism, the equivalent of an American master's degree, and she also holds an undergraduate degree in English. She has worked in television journalism with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CBC Newsworld, the Canadian Cable News Network, and in print journalism with her university paper, the Ryersonian. Karen has lived in Toronto for most of her life and this is her first visit out West, a jump from a city of 3 million people to a town of 1,400.

New intern Elizabeth Manning is used to small town life but not to cold temperatures. Before coming to High Country News, she spent five months writing archaeology reports at Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Molokai, Hawaii.

Kalaupapa, population 140, is the peninsula where Hawaii quarantined people with leprosy from 1866 until 1969. Although a cure was found in the 1940s, the state of Hawaii and the Park Service have promised former patients that they may remain there for the rest of their lives. It's a remote place: The only ways into the village are by a steep switchback trail over 2,000-foot cliffs, by small plane, or by a barge that comes only twice a year.

"I was lucky to be there for barge day," says Elizabeth. "Everyone wakes up at dawn to watch all the new stuff come in - cars, trucks, appliances, and last, hundreds of cases of beer, soda and canned food. Then the town celebrates with a feast."

Elizabeth first went to Hawaii to work for the Park Service in 1990 after completing a degree in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. While there, she realized she wanted to become an environmental reporter, and during her off-hours, Elizabeth will finish her master's thesis. It's the last hurdle in completing a graduate degree in journalism and environmental studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Next is a journalism job here in the West or even farther west - in Hawaii.

Odds and ends

An editorial in the Idaho Mountain Express out of Ketchum proposes an alternative to a new county jail. Since drunken drivers account for a whopping 41 percent of jail occupancy, the weekly paper suggests that the county fund "tipsy taxis." Free rides home, the paper suggests, might keep drunk drivers from careening over roads, saving both lives and jail construction money.

Reader Sarah Spaulding of Boulder, Colo., tells us that in the backcountry, less is better. Spending the night at the newly opened Francie's Cabin, operated in Colorado by the Summit Huts Association, she found "an elegant chalet constructed with old-growth timbers imported from British Columbia. A simple warm structure, a shelter from the elements, is all that a hut should be," she says in a letter she sent to the Summit Huts and Trails Association and to the Forest Service.

A recent copy of the Tucson, Ariz., telephone directory would be much appreciated.

* Betsy Marston, for the staff

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