John: I’ve been an avid reader and collector of MG from issue #9 through #183. A few months ago when MG revised its appearance to more closely reflect that of the classic MG of the past, I sent you a letter commenting on MG going “Back to the Future.” Now I learn that MG has stopped publishing. I did not intend for you to back to the Great Hiatus in publication. What’s the story here? Will I ever see issue #194 yet alone #200?
I understand some effort is being made to return to publication. Without knowing the nature of the current problem, I think that, if all else fails, you consider the following radical proposal. Turn MG into a quarterly, subscription publication that retains the irreverent character and history of the rag we all have grown to love. I realize this is a long way from the newspaper-like, intermittent publication that existed in the 1970s, but maybe it will allow MG to continue to exist. Just avoid modeling Outside, Mountain and local stuff like Outside Bozeman, and continue to be the iconoclast publication MG has always been. I’d really prefer to see MG stay pretty much as it is, but if it comes to a choice between death and life, I’ll choose life.
Mr. Fayhee: Good evening. It is with somewhat heavy heart that I type this letter. Finally today, after a few weeks of searching for supportable snow, and sussing out the finer points of mountain bike tires and snowy trails, I made it down to the post office and received an unfortunate letter explaining the hiatus of MG. I wanted to pass along my condolences and support. I hope that you and the whole crew can enjoy a little time off and get out and enjoy and adventure, find inspiration perhaps, for a rejuvenated MG somewhere down the line.
Also, I would like to offer my help in any way. I hope there is a way you can forward this email onto a list somewhere for possible subscribers, street-team helpers and overall supporters of a new(old) improved (still the same old, odd) MG for when it might resume and resurrect. If this list exists, please add my name to it.
Lastly, thank you for the last ten years. I have always cherished the Gazette. It always seems to show up about the time I remember to pay rent, and certainly helps ease that pain, and many others.
I wish you and all the staff and contributing writers the best, and look forward to hearing from you all soon in some form.
John: I am in receipt of your recent letter of “transition” for Mountain Gazette. I have been down this road with you before and have no doubt that your publication will rise like phoenix from the ashes and once again purvey thoughtful writing and images to a receptive audience. I only hope there is something left on my subscription. If so, please cash out the dough and purchase a bottle of scotch (these days I am currently enjoying both Old Pulteney and Glen Rothes) and set the bottle in the middle of the table at your next visioning and strategy session. I suspect the scotch will help grease the mind to look toward Mountain Gazette’s future. After all, we need Mountain Gazette. Too much of what is written today about outdoor pursuits is sanitized and unemotional. A lot of today’s outdoor literature lacks connection. Since its inception, your mag has transcended the ages (a couple generations?) with writings from the heart about the joys, foibles and trials and tribulations of pursuits in mountains, on rivers and just living in the Intermountain West. We need the writing with the sweat and dirt on it that you have published.
Keep it going if you can. In the meantime have a ruckus New Year.
Hi John: Mighty sad to learn that the Gazette is going out of print … again. Sure will miss reading something new on paper from you each month. Your piece on the Inca trail was captivating. I’ll have to get online and read the whole thing. It reminds me of the stories in your book on backpacking in the Copper Canyons. Now there’s a scarcely known gem of yours. At first, I didn’t know what I had as my friend passed the book along to me. I began by reading the “Nuts and Bolts” section and I recall thinking, “Who the hell is writing this?” I was delighted when I looked at the front cover to see your name. I should have known it was you. The book offers great advice, but I think Mexico had changed a bit since then. Have you read “God’s Middle Finger?” That book makes me think I better bring along a strong man who speaks fluent Spanish if I want to drive my ’91 Civic all the way to Creel and back. It sucks how few rights women have down there. Anyway, after nearly 15 years of dreaming, I hope to go there this spring (I’m substantially younger than you and did not even know the Copper Canyons existed until 1998). Your book is coming with me.
Best of luck to you on your future endeavors. I’m sure you know that, when one door closes, other doors open. I’ll drink a beer (or 3) in honor of your achievements.
John: I was really disappointed that the story “The Hermit Trail” by Anonymous somehow made it to print in MG #193. The fact that the writer refers to the “two girlfriends” by not two but four different names shows that this caliber of writing should stay in the file cabinet (or circular file). Anonymous refers to these two girlfriends at various points throughout the story as [Molly, Polly] and [Susan, Sarah]. How an author cannot manage to keep track of the names he gives his characters is beyond my comprehension!
Santa Fe, NM
Hello Sir, I have been listening to your interview on KBUT from a few months back
and have to tell you that the fact that you are NOT so hip on new gear, people and trends (such as you mentioned in reference to Elevation Outdoors), makes you a much more valuable editor for a mountain culture monthly. To me, most current mountain lifestyle publications read more like a “you will be sicker if you had this…” purchase catalog. My reason for keeping with the Mountain Gazette is in its dedication to people experiencing the outdoors, and their communities, as they are. Please continue.
Hello, John: I recently read “The lost art of making fire” from your collection, “Bottoms Up,” after an afternoon of building up the firewood supply for my family for the winter. I was raised gathering firewood and heating my home with a woodstove in addition to having gatherings centered around campfires, whether in the backyard or out in the bush, and I am amazed when I end up camping in close proximity to newcomers to fire. I tend to take people at their word, but the foundation of that trust started to crack when I would watch people who were self-proclaimed experts in camp-craft struggle to start a fire while blaming everything from the brand of lighter or matches to the type of kindling and air currents. Building fire is a finer art than talking loudly.
That being stated, I also spend as much time as possible in the wilderness and, as a consequence, I often wonder about backcountry fires and the attitudes toward them. Dead and downed wood does provide housing for birds, rodents and bugs, who do provide fertilizer for the sagebrush and even riparian areas in the High Country, but they do not bring the same benefits as naturally occurring fire does when the ashes are left to fix the soil and spur growth of flora, and in turn, fauna. Things do not exactly decay quickly in the High Country; trees and bones alike bake and wither in the sun as the moisture is drawn out of them leaving suspended nutrients above the earth. Fires are suppressed to protect property, leaving bone-piles of readily ignitable fuel dotting the public lands.
I am a wildland firefighter; firefighting is in large part made up of countercultural folks, working hard to save up enough money to camp and surf couches during the off-season, living as cheaply as possible to keep seeing amazing places that no one else does (mostly when they are on fire- but backpacking in and out to fires is part of the job as well). The wildland fire community is comprised of strange personalities, peripatetic types that do not fit into any part of a corporate “culture”; and it takes pride in the fact that it is one form of enjoyable, tough work that allows a person to be outside the majority of the time earning a living while not dependent on the tourism “industry.” Firefighters also see the regeneration and benefits of wildfire firsthand. We return to the places that we put in 100-plus-hourhour workweeks to see if what we did mattered. Fire does matter. There is a reason it is the foundation of civilization; it is also the foundation of life. As has been said — we humans are fiery people living on a fiery planet; to ignore that is to go through life with a blurry view of things at best. Are North American humans now in the stage of civilization where we can begin to deny where we came from — to alter our past history?
I was raised to spread the ashes from my campfires and woodstove so the soil could absorb it, something that I have continued to do and will continue to do until it becomes a felony to procure my own source of heat, light and cooking fuel from the land. Tree farms might not be pretty, but I prefer looking at them to looking at strip malls, and, with population increases, I would much rather see water diverted for tree farms than to water lawns with while leaching chemical fertilizers into the ground. I cringe when I see ashes and pieces of wood in dumpsters; heck, sticks provide light and heat too. I also keep ashes for backpacking trips and sprinkle them along the trails and places I camp; it is probably as close to spirituality as I get, but I have always been fascinated by trees and treat them reverently, using all parts of the animal, to borrow a phrase.
A fire is a sacred event, providing heat and light; it is a mesmerizing, hallucinogenic conversation carrier. A fire is a connection to the sky, to the clouds, to the stars, to the earth, to growth and death. A fire is a gift from the gods.
In an age of plastic everything, bottled water, bottled oxygen, air conditioning, air cleaners, gas heating and on and on, it is sad that woodstoves are banned.
Perhaps I should add the disclaimer that I grew up poor, in a rural area, with even the nearest town, one lacking stop signs, a safe distance away, so I might be considered a redneck, therefore, what I write does not matter.
Joseph Van Nurden
John: I just read your Inca Trail piece and it’s funny as hell. I’ve always wanted to do that trail myself, now I want to even more. I thought the Dorworth piece about us cat skiing in Canada came out very nice in the magazine. Hope I didn’t permanently scar him with my driving. Keep up the good work with the Gazette.