Home after the holidays, with bittersweet tidings

  • Doug Walker, who was president of the American Alpine Club, climbing in Washington. Doug perished in the mountains he loved on Jan. 1.

    Courtesy American Alpine Club

After a nice holiday break (with some of us taking more time than others), the High Country News editorial staff is finally back to work. Our first order of business involves correcting an error that squeaked into the last issue of 2015. A neighborhood struggling with an expansion of Interstate 70 in Denver (“Eastbound and Down,” HCN 12/21/15) was misidentified; it was Elyria, not Elysia. We regret the error. 

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of gift-wrapping news for our readers, we enjoyed a visit from Taya Jae, who grew up here in Paonia, Colorado, and is currently going to college in Vermont. Josh Banyard, a filmmaker who lives in Portland, also came by HCN headquarters to get a glimpse behind the pages of a magazine his father has subscribed to for decades. Thanks for stopping by, Taya and Josh!

While many of us were buried in snow out West, editor Betsy Marston was basking in the sun of Cuba, where she learned how to buy black-market wireless Internet access and edit stories from a park bench. This issue’s Heard Around the West was filed from the tropics. Betsy has returned, but no, she did not bring back any Cuban cigars to hand out to new subscribers. Sorry.

Speaking of hotspots, we received an ode to fire lookouts from Canton, New York, reader Tom Vandewater, inspired by our Dec. 7 story “Fire lookouts burning out:” “We lookouts may be a dying breed,” Tom writes, “with new high-tech cameras ready to take over our jobs, but nothing will replace real eyes and a real heart to greet visitors at the top of the mountain, not to mention finding fires.  My friend John (Henry) Crawford has been a lookout since the ’70s and still works as an Idaho lookout.” Tom even wrote a song for his friend, inspired by the folk classic, “John Henry”:

The man who invented that tech-camera

He thought he was mighty fine,

But Johnny spotted 14 lightning fires

While the camera only spotted  nine, Lord, Lord

The camera only spotted nine.

Sadly, we recently lost a couple of remarkable friends. Jay Kirkpatrick, 75, who generously shared his knowledge of wild horses with HCN reporters over the years, passed away in December. Jay helped pioneer the use of a contraceptive vaccine for wild horses, bison and urban deer. We were also sorry to hear about the passing of legendary Northwest alpinist and environmentalist Doug Walker. Doug, 64, was trying to summit Granite Mountain near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, when he was likely caught in an avalanche on Jan. 1, authorities said. Throughout his life, Doug helped preserve access to wild places for climbers and hikers.

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