Connections in Oregon’s tallest town


One of many of Lakeview’s welcoming tall cowboys. 

Renee and I felt honored to be invited to present the Basin and Range Project to the Northwest Basin and Range Synthesis Ecosystem Symposium the past couple of days in Lakeview, Oregon (which has the distinction of being Oregon’s highest elevation town) hosted by the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative. It was really interesting to participate in the symposium’s panels and activities, which focused on the connectivity of landscape and ecological processes. We really believe that the Basin and Range Project has a lot of opportunity to contribute to making people fall in love with these areas that we love so much and to inspire them to champion them.


Also doesn’t hurt that our motel has a natural hot springs pool!

There have been so many really interesting and informed conversations at the symposium and I feel like were lucky to be able to take part in them with a lot of people, representing a really wide spectrum of people charged with and active in preservation of wild spaces and public land. It is really refreshing to take part in this symposium in the northern part of the basin and range, which is near and dear to us in a lot of ways, but also is one of the largest pieces of intact ecosystem in the lower forty-eight of the United States.


Driving up along 395 along the Warner Mountains.

I was lucky enough to talk to Jen Ballard of the Great Basin Bird Observatory, who presented a really fascinating presentation on bird transects she had done in the Pine Forest and Black Rock Ranges, which featured pictures from Leonard and Chicken creeks and even had a thank you to the Montero family! She shared her love for birds with us and really deep knowledge and I really hope that we have a chance to volunteer with them in the future!

Last night we had dinner with the symposium’s keynote speaker, Michael Branch, writer and UNR English professor, aside from turning out that we know a lot of people in common (not least, his former student and our friend Paul Bogard whose second book, The Ground beneath Us is high on my reading list right now), we also really connected about writing, life, our feelings about the environment and more. Then Michael read from his book Raising Wild, which I have to confess I did not know about before, but after hearing the stories from his great reading will also soon be in my hands as well as his forthcoming book, Rants from the Hill. 

After the reading a group of us continued the conversation on all sort of topics into the night. We got home around 11 just still full of a great day. As I was drifting off to sleep I remembered something that we had joked about with Michael at dinner, that, sharing friends, working at the same university, and being interested in so many of things, it had taken going to Lakeview, Oregon to actually meet and talk. But it seemed fitting, in a way, that of all places, these connections came in the tallest town in Oregon.

Gettin’ started on NaNoWriMo


Well, “that happens in November,” you say. But one of my strongest impetuses to get start writing again, and to starting this iteration of the “dan blog,” was my being in National Novel Writing Month this past November. And, so, as part of returning to the writing life, I am going to occasionally update Overland Passages on my fiction writing progress.

Get on with the story, Dan! I have participated in NaNoWriMo four times and am 2-2. Only once was a crash and burn though, but really 2-2 only means nothing if they just sit around and do nothing. But the future is the key. So here are my NaNoWriMo entries in order from oldest to latest:

Landing. Two sisters take their demented father for a last visit back to the long lost family ranch. Along the way they run into a cyclist who is just slowly pedaling into the future.


Nano Reno. A picaresque in the style of Cervantes’s El colloquio de los perros, in which a small dog a la Coco is launched on a picaresque journey that brings her to Reno.


The Ballad of Ray Gone. Ray Gone is living a quiet life, stealth camping in the Carson Range and watching the jets go by, when a backpack of money and a pistol fall in his lap and things start to get hairy.


Where I Am. A man decides to begin walking through a landscape that is entwined in him.

So what happened above. Well, with Landing, the idea was from a dream, and I am very unsure that I treated dealing with a demented parent the way I would want to write it. But it has material for sure, and my first project needs to be to get back to reading it again. Nano Reno, this could have been a winner, but I had a file problem that took the wind out of its sales (and it’s still missing text). But I will always love this story. The title is unfortunate though, trying to make a play on NaNoWriMo is a not a good idea, but I love this story (and I have to say I like its “cover” the best). I don’t know if anyone else would, but that doesn’t matter because I do. On The Ballad of Ray Gone, things were going OK until he got down into town where he was supposed to meet the noir femme fatale, but she was so flat and stilted that the whole thing fell apart. And on Where I Am, never really got a title, but I really enjoyed writing it and I feel that when I do get back to it, at the very least it will have some material. But overall, I don’t know, it’s just too soon.

So I’m gonna read Landing and I’m gonna go back to Currently-Untitled-Formerly-Nano-Reno. To sweeten the pot a bit for my readers, here’s an excerpt from Landinga_brother_comes_home. I made the PDF when I was just learning InDesign, so that’s why it looks as “official” as it does, it really is just a draft. If you read it and want to make comments, I would love that (well, most likely). Please leave them in the comments section.

So if these are just drafts, that I haven’t even mostly read, why do they have covers, you ask. Well, NaNoWriMo says that your chances of winning go way up if you make a cover, and I enjoy designing them, so that’s where they come from. They were all designed on my iPhone with a program called Typic.