Selected magazine writing
“South America’s Otherworldly Seabird: To save a tiny seabird, scientists are venturing to its secret home in the Atacama Desert—and sticking their noses into a lot of stinky holes in the ground.”
The peninsula northwest of the industrial city of Antofagasta, on Chile’s northern desert coast, is haloed with seabirds in flight. Pelicans lumber past wheeling gulls. Flocks of boobies cut the haze around Punta Tetas—Tits Point—like an avian punch line.
Farther from shore, where the inappropriately named Pacific begins its wild pitch and yaw, is the domain of the order Procellariiformes: birds with long, hooked bills and tubular nostrils that spend most of their lives above the open ocean. The largest of these are the albatrosses, soarers with severe brows and stiff, straight wings that span several feet. The smallest—small enough to hold in one hand—are the storm petrels. Most of the storm petrels that ply the air off this coast are brownish black, with crescents of lighter feathers across their shoulders and the erratic flight patterns of a bat. When they drop to the water’s surface to dip mouthfuls of food, they seem to run across it. This habit inspired the name of the birds’ original taxonomic family, recently split into two: Hydrobatidae, meaning “water walkers.” More…
“Go North Young Woman: In a place no one can see you, you can see yourself more clearly.”
An essay about a trip with an all-female canoe collective I’m a part of, which appeared in the print edition of High Country News in March of 2017:
Think of your skin as a map. Its marks inscribe a story of your life. The raggedness of your fingertips from biting your nails. The lines in your cheeks from laughing. The scar from surgery to help knit broken bone. The burn you gave yourself when only pain would calm you. The nick on your wrist that, whenever you touch it, makes you think of the talus field where you stumbled and cut yourself, the mountain lake where you washed the blood away. On this August afternoon, the skin on my calves is tanned dark, crisscrossed with scratches, welted with bugbites, scummed over with beaver pond. On this August afternoon, my skin says that I’ve ventured into the boreal forest, and that it’s kicking my ass. More…
“Avoiding Extinction: Giving Mexico’s rarest porpoise, the vaquita, a fighting chance in the face of poverty, corruption, and greed.”
A feature and original illustrations that ran in Hakai Magazine on Sept. 20, 2017:
In April, Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California is a place of light. Nothing blocks the sun on its arc across the sky. It glares from the green water, and beams off the pale desert and buckled mountain ranges to the west. It foils wide hat brims, burns through shirts, sears the insides of nostrils. It bleaches the very air.
And on this still day, its bright fingers wring the color from several carcasses tangled in a drifting net. More…
“Meet the woman behind Colorado’s highest trails: How trail designer Loretta McEllhiney protects mountains from people.”
A feature that ran in the June 26, 2017 print edition of High Country News:
What do you see when you look at a trail? Dirt and rocks? A line sketched across the landscape by 100,000 footsteps? The adventure of some not-yet-visible lake or summit or cirque?
Master Forest Service trail designer Loretta McEllhiney sees those things, too. But she also believes that a good trail is about controlling two unstoppable forces: People flowing up a mountain, and water flowing down. More…
“Old-growth Logging’s Last Stand: Clearcutting ancient trees in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest makes little sense—ecologically, climatically, even economically. So why is it so hard to stop?”
This feature originally appeared in BioGraphic Dec. 20, 2016:
If you’ve paid attention to the conservation battles fought in the Lower 48 over the past couple of decades, you might have thought nobody in the United States was still cutting down old-growth forests—at least not on public lands. But all of Southeast Alaska’s sawmills survive on a diet of ancient trees from the 16.7-million-acre Tongass National Forest. It’s the last national forest in the country with an industrial old-growth clearcutting program. Now, the Forest Service is trying to dial that back. More…
“This Will Be the Biggest Dam-Removal Project in History: More than 400 miles of the Klamath River system that have been blocked for a century will open up for people and wildlife.”
This article appeared on Nationalgeographic.com on April 11, 2016:
Glen Canyon Dam began its life with an explosion. Congress authorized the dam’s construction on this day in 1956, and about seven months later, then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower pressed a telegraph key in the Oval Office, sending the signal to blast a string of dynamite wedged in the side of a sinuous canyon. Boulders sprayed through the air at Arizona’s northern border, and workers began drilling a tunnel to temporarily redirect the flow of the Colorado River while they built the base of the dam. Monstrous Lake Powell filled in behind the 710-foot dam, drowning Glen Canyon’s otherworldly red-rock amphitheaters and slot canyons under its silty depths. These days, when dams in the U.S. make news, it’s often concrete getting blasted, not bedrock. And last week, the biggest dam-removal project in history got a crucial endorsement. More…
“What a Dead Blue Whale Can Teach Us About Life in the Ocean, and About Ourselves.”
This article appeared on Smithsonian.com in November, 2015:
Standing on the blustery beach, Bruce Mate wears a camo slicker, green bibs, a tidy white beard and a somber expression. While Mate’s getup suggests a typical day in the field for a marine mammalogist, the box of latex gloves and bottle of chainsaw lubricating oil under his arm hint at this morning’s unusual task. Behind Mate and a dozen students from Oregon State and Humboldt State universities, a dead blue whale stretches across southwestern Oregon’s Ophir Beach. More…
“Claustrophilia: Do wide-open lands bring us closer together?”
The cover essay in High Country News’ 2015 Books and Essays issue:
I can see a spark of tired panic in Jo’s eyes as they meet mine. Our narrow Purgon — a Russian-made UAZ van that resembles a jacked-up VW bus — is bursting with people. The rigid seats, which face each other like those in a diner booth, are crammed with butts, and our knees interlock like a human zipper. In the back, where baggage and boxes of supplies serve as yet more seats, two weathered old men hunch below the ceiling. In the front passenger seat, a woman settles on the lap of the standby driver. And yet here we are, picking up another passenger. She looks like she weighs maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, but where will she fit? More…
“Where can we say ‘yes’ to oil and gas?: What we give up in so-called sacrifice zones.”
A feature in the Jan. 19, 2015 issue of High Country News:
Kaye Fissinger collects Don Quixote. I met the diminutive 70-year-old at her home in a quiet subdivision of Longmont, Colorado. Amid memorabilia from her work in musical theater, black-and-white portraits and an eye-popping snapshot of her body-builder daughter, the man of La Mancha stared from prints and paintings, posed in wooden statuettes and porcelain figurines.
“Why Quixote?” I asked
She regarded me over gold-rimmed glasses, a smile quirking her mouth. “Because he tilts at windmills,” she said. More…
“The Blue Window: Journeying from redrock desert to icy wasteland.”
A two-page essay from the of High Country News:
“Buy this book and read it on the plane (!)”
This was David’s advice to me for our upcoming expedition to Alaska’s Harding Icefield, emailed along with a link to Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide to Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue.
I am no stranger to mountains, having grown up in Colorado and spent several seasons building trail, backpacking, doing biological research and writing in the state’s stretch of the Rockies. But glaciers were a mystery to me — and the Harding is the largest icefield in the United States. More…
“The Fossil Record: How my family found a home in the West.”
A 3-page feature from High Country News’ October 16, 2012 Books and Essays issue:
When I was a kid, I sometimes wished that my family went on normal vacations.
Normal was what my elementary and middle-school classmates did over spring and summer break, flying to wave-kissed beaches or hitting flashy amusement parks. Not my family: My parents would load my two half-sisters, my brother and me into a big blue Dodge van with finicky air-conditioning and drive us hundreds of sweaty miles to exciting destinations like Lusk and New Castle, Wyo., Broadus and Miles City, Mont. More…
“Street artist Jetsonorama tries a new kind of healing in Navajoland.”
A two-page profile from the March 23, 2012 issue of High Country News:
In 1991, a young doctor delivered a baby Navajo girl in his backseat. A man had pounded on his door earlier that evening, his girlfriend in labor and his truck too slow for the 50-mile trip to the Tuba City, Ariz., hospital. The doctor loaded the woman into his own car, thinking they could make it. The baby, whom we’ll call Emily, had other ideas. More…
My writing for The Last Word on Nothing can be found here.
My writing for audubon.org can be found here.
More of my writing for High Country News can be found here.
Work picked up by Adventure Journal can be found here.