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Friends of a Long Year is a private mailing list bringing stories to your inbox like it's still 1995. It's written in the spirit of Mary Austin. It was originally called Place Without a Postcard, which does a better job of summarizing what I like to write about. Friends is delivered roughly twice a month.


The Shadow of Lassen

Shasta National Forest, California, U.S. From my uncle's house we headed northwest, up into the Shasta National Forest where there's more free camping than you can shake a stick at. We liked it so much we stayed an extra night. Why not? It's not like we have anywhere we have to be.

Dialed In

Carson City/Washoe Lake, Nevada, U.S. With my uncle's help the bus gets some much needed work done. It's now running about 1000X better than it was and more importantly I know a lot more.

Trains, Hot Springs and Broken Buses

Bishop, California, U.S. After a night in the middle of Gold Point we hit the road, continuing our somewhat random plan. I came up with something I thought was pretty good: take highway 266 west from Gold Point, grab highway 168, go over the White Mountains, drop down into Big Pine and follow 395 up to my aunt and uncle's house up in Wellington. It seems simple when you type it out. I bet it made the gods chuckle anyway.

Ghost Town

Gold Point, Nevada, U.S. Gold Point Nevada has been through several boom and bust cycles, today it's a very lightly inhabited, largely abandoned ghost town. What better place to spend a night or two?

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire, Nevada, U.S. The forecast for Zion turned cold about half way through Corrinne's parents visit. Since our guest room is a tent, and since Zion wasn't to our taste anyway, we decamped for Valley of Fire, a strange collection of red rock piles an hour outside of Las Vegas. A few thousand feet lower Valley of Fire was warmer and, as it turned out, a whole lot more fun.


Zion National Park, Utah, U.S. After moving pretty fast for a few days we were ready for a break. While it's not exactly secluded, quiet or anything of things we generally like, the logical place to stop in this area is Zion National Park.

On The Road, Again

Castle Rock, Utah, U.S. The Honda minivan dies and we move on with just the big blue bus.


Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, U.S. Our camp in the Aspen trees was not far from one of my favorite national parks, Canyonlands. The portion near us is known as the Needles District is home to, among other things, Newspaper Rock, a huge collection of Petrogylphs.


Abajo (Blue) Mountains, Utah, U.S. A stand of Aspen is considerably different than most trees in a forest. Aspens are rarely individual trees. Instead they grow like rhizomes, like giant white asparagus. Aspens are not really trees, the trunks we see are not the soul of the plant. The truth of Aspens is under the ground. They are massive root systems, some as large as twenty acres, that send up white trunks, which then sprout leaves. All of this means that some Aspen groves have been around a very long time, one is said to be 80,000 years old.


Ridgway State Park, Colorado, U.S. The universe gives me a lesson in humility. And a fever of 103. And a burnt toe. Because nothing makes the gods laugh like a human making a plan.

Ridgway State Park

Ridgway State Park, Colorado, U.S. After our adventures in the canyon country we headed north, through the hordes of Moab and back east toward Grand Junction, where we did a bit of resupplying before heading up the valley to the town of Ridgway.


Nowhere, Utah, U.S. Unmarked, hard to find roads, cliff dwellings new and old, petroglyphs, and a kiva you can climb down into.

Dolores River

Dolores River, Colorado, U.S. How a happy series of of breakdowns and detours got us to the Dolores River.

Canyon of the Ancients

Canyon of the Ancients, Colorado, U.S. I like maps, especially blank spots on maps. One of the relatively blank spots I kept staring at was something called Canyon of the Ancients. After our disappoint experience with Mesa Verde we were anxious to get back to some ruins that were less crowded and this sounded good.

Mancos Days

Mancos Camp, Colorado, U.S. One day I drove down to the coffee shop in Mancos and instead of the quiet little town I'd been expecting, streets were shut down and there were cars and people everywhere. It turned out to be something called Mancos Days.

Time and Placement

Durango, Colorado, U.S. Every evening around 5 the thunder starts in. You could set your watch by it. Except that there's no need for a watch up here.

Mancos and Mesa Verde

Mancos Camp, Colorado, U.S. Stay anywhere to long and things start to settle in too much. The bus was made to move, its fluids pool, metal rusts, wood decays, the windows smear with dirt and rain, the tires lose air. And the chipmunks will come for the avocados. I'm from California, messing with my avocados is messing with my emotions, I don't care if you're cute and striped.

Happy 5th Birthday

Durango, Colorado, U.S. For their birthday we took the girls (and their brother) on the narrow gauge steam engine railway from Durango to Silverton.

Junction Creek

Durango, Colorado, U.S. While tourist-filled and mountain-kitschy to some degree, Durango nevertheless has some cool stuff to do -- a wonderful public library where the kids got to see the U.S. National Yoyo champion (yes, really), a really cool indoor water park masquerading as a rec center, complete with a three story water slide, a science museum, and a host of other fun stuff -- as one of the camp hosts we befriended put it, in Durango they really know how to do it.

Arc of Time

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, U.S. I have only one note from Chaco Canyon: the wind gusts, a light whistling sound through the thin curled leaves of creosote; in the interludes the stillness is filled with raven calls reverberating across the canyon, a conversation bouncing around sandstone, echoing in arroyos until, like everything else here, they fade into the darkness of the past.


Sangre de Christo Mountains, Colorado, U.S. We celebrated the Solstice by heading back up into the Sangre de Christo Mountains, to Bear Lake. We had to see it, even if we couldn't get the bus to it.

The High Country

Trinidad, Colorado, U.S. Inside my head there are tons of voices, but one dominates the rest most of the time, it's the voice that always says, sure, let's try it, what's the worst that could happen? Most of the time the answer to that question is very tame. Once you get past your prejudices and irrational fears, you'll find the worst is not that bad and it's pretty unlikely to happen in the first place. That said...

Escaping Texas

Trinidad, Colorado, U.S. That night was our first in the wide open big sky of the west. The sunset reflected on the clouds for hours. I let the fire burn down and watched the sky instead. Later on thunderheads rolled in over the peaks of the Sangre de Christo range. Arcing flashes of lightening bounced around the clouds like streaking silver pinballs. Just as the last light faded away coyotes began to bark and sing. Finally, the west.


Fort Parker State Park, Texas, U.S. From Austin we drifted north, toward Dallas, stopping in at Fort Parker State Park. Even now that it's summer, during the week we still have the campgrounds to ourselves.