Category Archives: Essay

“America is wasted on a lot of Americans.”

Earlier this week Kirsten and I were on our way from Cooke City, MT to Red Lodge via the incomparable Bear Tooth highway. A cold front had come through several days before and clouds were still hanging low and cold over the peaks. For two days, in the second week in June, the just opened high mountain road was closed again for blowing snow and ice.


Sudden drop from the top

I was in line waiting to use a Forest Service restroom when I asked a woman waiting in line with me if she had come from over the summit. With abundant animation she replied in the affirmative. “I am from Manitoba where it is so flat you can watch your dog run away from home for three days,” she said. “I know flat and let me tell you, this place is NOT flat! Add to that you can’t see twenty feet in the fog up there and I mean it when I tell you I need to use a rest room.” Continue reading


“Local input” sounds good if you say it fast

No sooner had the Bears Ears National Monument been proclaimed than local Utah politicians launched a concerted effort to undo it. Kirsten Allen and her gang at Torrey House Press have gone to great lengths to help support the making of the Monument and may indeed have played a role in its creation by the President Obama and the Department of the Interior. They created and published Red Rock Testimony and took hundreds of copies to Washington D.C. They simultaneously came out with Edge of Morning, a book of all Native voices in support of the Bears Ears. These are very nice people, why would they promote an outcome that local people don’t want? Continue reading

Bridges in the dark

Salt Lake City | Torrey, February 2017

Last August I received a call from my 83 year old mother. “Your father wants to speak with you,” she told me. It is like that with Dad and me, not a lot of direct communication.  I told Mom I would come over the next day after dinner. When the time came I was surprised to see my wife, Kirsten, grab her purse and head for the door with me. My father has a reputation for being difficult and there are rarely volunteers to join me in seeing him. Dad is in his mid-eighties and as his oldest offspring I am to be the executor of his will. I thought he might want to talk about some details or arrangements, but when we all sat down around the table together, including Kirsten and Mom, he asked me if I wanted his observatory. I thought he was asking if I coveted his belongings, which I surely do not. But in my own advancing years I may have gained adequate wisdom so that when Kirsten kicked me under the table I ceased my objections and turned to see her silently mouth, eyebrows raised, “This is an honor.”


Dad at his Alpenglow Observatory in Salt Lake City, August 2016

Continue reading

My three legged plan to defy Trump

12/30/2016. The country is in a deep kind of trouble that requires a response from every thinking citizen. For the sake of my posterity I am jotting down my personal plan.

We have a Republican president-elect who is unfit to serve. I don’t say this just because my candidate lost in a normal election. I do not feel about Trump like I felt about George W. Bush. Certainly I do not feel about Trump like I felt about Romney. In fact, I have thought that it would have been better if Romney had won in 2012 so that white backlash would not have produced Trump. I proudly voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the most qualified person to ever run for the office. That we would be electing a woman after electing a black man amazed me, and I was thrilled at my country’s ability to continue to mature and progress socially. But instead of electing the most qualified person possible, we elected the least. Misogyny, bigotry, and racism are constantly espoused by Trump, ripped out from our darkest closets and made to seem as acceptable. Ignorance and intolerance are praised. An anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-environment cabinet is being put in place. The GOP, drunk on the prospects of unlimited power, continues to put party before country and will not provide check and balance.

The country is in deep shit. Continue reading

Why Torrey House Press

I was so smitten by the red rock canyons and high country of the central Colorado Plateau that in the late 1990’s I built a home there near Torrey, Utah.  With the house underway and drawn to the landscape around it, I went for day hike on nearby Boulder Mountain. I hoped to spend a little time writing near Meeks Lake which I anticipated would be a pristine natural alpine lake perched on 11,000 foot high Boulder top. On the way up the mountain I noticed there were a lot of cows and that the grass was hammered everywhere. I hiked around barbed wire fences and cattle guards, all on U.S. National Forest lands. I was surprised that there were always cows on both sides of the cattle guards and that livestock gates were always open. When I arrived at the lake I found it inundated by cows. It looked and smelled like a stockyard. Continue reading

Review: All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found

All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found
All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a hero’s journey and the story of the emergence of one of the best of the West’s new writers.

I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Connors at an Association for the Study of Literature and Environment writer’s conference where he was a speaker. Dave Foreman was there too and the three of us had lunch along with my wife and publisher at Torrey House Press, Kirsten Allen. Kirsten ended up sitting with three men who had lost their brothers by their brother’s own hand. It was a moving experience for me, one I still feel and am grateful for. Continue reading

San Juan River minus two

That's funny, when we went to bed last night there were four boats.

That’s funny, when we went to bed last night there were four boats.

It is not an adventure until something you would rather not happen happens. And you always want a good adventure. So it was good of two of our boat owners to oblige.

On a Thursday in mid June Kirsten and I drove from Torrey to the Sand Island campground in Bluff to meet up with a gang of pals from Durango. We arrived in the evening before the others and happily found plenty of camp sites available. Kirsten had her usual picnic feast ready and we sat at a table by the river noticing above all else a lot of water. Everything was damp and the river was swollen above its banks. We have had a wet May and June in the Southwest and the San Juan Mountains still had a lot of snow. Add the recent unseasonal rains and the river that in mid May had been running at 1800 cubic feet per second was now at 8,000 cfs. In fact we had experienced two separate pulses of moisture from tropical storms already by mid June, an unprecedented event for so early in the year. Global weirding.

Ronni and Mark

Ronni and Mark

Not wanting to take any chances I brought our camp stove and coffee pot for the first morning even though it was planned that a grab and go breakfast would be ready. The grab and go food was great but our coffee pot was mysteriously popular. I went with Ronni, our venerable boat captain, down to her camper to get her crew sized coffee pot but we seemed a tad slow in getting coffee going in it. We never did.

With the river high it was also fast. We only floated five miles the first day but stopped often to visit several terrific petroglyph panels including Butler Wash and another massive wall near our camp site. During the day the two adult sons, Sean and Casey, joked with their dad Mark about his paranoia about losing his boat. The next morning on the river Sean woke us up early saying we needed to get going. Their dad’s boat had disappeared during the night, “no joke.”  Minus one.

Breezy camp dinner.

Breezy camp dinner.

Rose and Sean

Rose and Sean

We hustled to get going but still lined up eagerly for coffee at the well stocked camp kitchen. Tristen offered Kirsten some tea. Kirsten said no thanks, I’ll have coffee. Without missing a beat Tristen said, “The coffee went down the river. Would you like some tea?” Ah, missing a boat is no problem, kinda fun in fact, assuming we find it. But no coffee? Minus two.
Casey, a young man born for action and endurance was already headed downstream on a paddle-board by 6:30AM when we got up. We were on the river by nine and floated the remaining 22 miles to our planned takeout for the next day at Mexican Hat. It was a fast and beautiful trip. When we got to Mexican Hat Casey was there waiting for us. Besides one oar tangled in the flooded brush there had been no sign of the boat. We pulled all but one of the boats out while Mark and Casey took that boat on down the next 55 miles to the next and last takeout before the river runs a waterfall and meets its doom at Lake Powell.

Jeff and Tristen

Jeff and Tristen

Back in Torrey we learned they found the boat tied up another seven miles down the river. We had Ronni, who coincidentally has recently moved to Teasdale, over for dinner in Torrey. We only found out then from Ronni that the chief menu planner, who’s name I omit to protect the guilty, had forgotten to pack the coffee. Totally minus two. Adventure indeed. A regular bullet past the head. Was the lost boat a mere ruse to cover up? Be careful what you wish for. Good times. Thanks to all who made it happen.

Admiring the empty beach.

Admiring the empty beach.



The Caineville Wash west of Hanksville on our way back to Torrey. The wash is normally dry. More signs of weird weather.

The Caineville Wash west of Hanksville on the way back to Torrey, normally dry. More signs of weird weather.