Your uncomfortable Western corners

Readers respond with unique encounters and uneasy revelations in the region.

 

We asked readers: Where in the West have you traveled that helped you understand an uncomfortable truth about the West? Here is a sampling of their answers.

Noisy truth at 14,000 feet
Mount Sherman, Colorado
My husband has been working on Colorado’s Fourteeners since he was about 14. We are nearing 64. One year I decided I needed to climb at least one so I could experience what he held so dear. So we decided to climb Mount Sherman. As I slowly approached the summit, I started to hear the roar of a motor. What was that noise? I struggled to reach the top and looked over at the Henderson molybdenum mine. My heart sank as I realized my effort to achieve what I thought would be an enlightening experience just gave me a bird’s-eye view of a giant machine chewing up a mountain. It was then that I realized that the quaint mines dotting the hills were really just industrial sites in the middle of pristine wilderness. It was my first — and last — Fourteener.
— Kerry Coy

Rian Laub


Heartbreaking abstraction becomes reality
Tucson, Arizona
I lived two hours north of Tucson in 2011 and was in town the day Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot. My husband and I attended the vigil at the hospital later that evening. The fact that someone could so easily get a gun and shoot a group of people in a Safeway parking lot — including a child — had always felt like an abstraction until that day.
— Anna Wilde


From paintings to “progress” in remote places
Santa Barbara, California
I live in Santa Barbara and don’t travel much, but I have sailed and backpacked the remote areas of this county. The Chumash lived here for 15,000 years and left a few rock paintings. The newcomers settled here a little over 200 years ago and have nearly turned the area into a dead zone. That’s progress.
— Thomas Harper

Mike Baird/CC Flickr


A camping trip turned more rugged than planned
Mesa, Arizona
I took my new son-in-law for an overnight hike into the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix. It was October, and the weather in the Phoenix Valley was sublime. This was not a backpacking initiation, as I had both a packhorse and a BLM-adopted wild burro to pack the gear. I put the “comforts of home” (our tent and two warm sleeping bags) in a duffel and securely — I thought — attached it to the horse’s pack saddle. With a late start, we could not reach the destination. It was pitch-dark. But somewhere along the way, the duffel fell off the horse, and we had to set up camp huddled under sweat-saturated saddle blankets at 4,100-foot elevation.
— Tom Taylor

Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/ CC Flickr


Fitting in a little too well post-election
Farmington, Utah
The day after the 2016 presidential election, my friends and I needed some recuperation time in the desert. We packed food, beer, whiskey and guns. A couple of us stopped at Cabela’s on the way to get ammunition and propane. During checkout the employee scanned our propane too many times, and when we pointed it out, his response was, “Oh, whoops, you don’t need that much propane. We won the election; no need to head to the hills now.” Little did he know, that was exactly what we were doing — because we had lost. But we were diesel-truck-driving, gun-toting, public-land-visiting Utahns, so how could we be disappointed with a Trump presidency? The assumption we shared his views was unnerving and uncomfortable. We left the store shaking our heads, bound for The Swell.
— Erin Bragg

Rachel Zurer/CC Flickr


Deep divides
Central Oregon
Seeking solace from the cacophony of the presidential election, my family traveled to our favorite place in our beloved state: central Oregon, with its striking volcanic edifices, ponderosa pine forests and sagebrush steppes. We stayed at our usual cabin in LaPine State Park and explored the Deschutes River with our 3-year-old son, nourishing ourselves in nature. We took a day trip to Christmas Valley, passing myriad election signs en route, predominantly reading “TRUMP / PENCE.” Our new president-elect, and all the moral and ethical bankruptcy he represented, was inescapable. These thoughts lingered as we visited Crack-in-the-Ground, a remarkable 1,000-year-old fissure deep in the earth with jumbles of intimidating boulders and grassy, intimate paths between them. It occurred to us that in descending this cleft we were also navigating a metaphorical divide among our own fellow citizens, one entrenched in the history of this country but now painfully pushed to the foreground.
— Matthew P.

Scott Dietz

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.