The Times' Outdoors columnist pens his final piece in Tuesday's section. It's an ode to the West and talks about what you learn being out on the road, striving to be lyrical in thousand-word bites every week:
Sure, it's a letdown to descend upon some obscure spot, then find that Mark Twain and Huell Howser have both been there ahead of me — yet again — but I've come to consider them forces of nature in themselves. A sane man can't complain about this job. It's put me in the forest at midnight, on a Death Valley dune at dawn, in the Sonoran Desert under wet thunder. The other day, up here in the Sierra, it put me in a meadow amid a potent snowstorm: a billion flakes thickening the air, flocking the pines and junipers, obscuring my fresh footprints. How do they tell the difference up here between epic events and everyday winter weather?
Anyway, I wouldn't be giving this gig up, except that you're probably ready to hear some new voices on this page (that, for the record, was the fifth time I've used the word "epic" in 17 months), and I'm ready to stay a little closer to home, my home, where the population is expected to rise significantly soon.
If you missed it, Reynolds' column two weeks ago is a keeper. The subject was Tony Alvis, a Ventura County mule packer who offered to be his guide to the Sespe Creek backcountry up behind Ojai. They never got there.
On the phone in November, he was sharp, funny, eager to feed my curiosity. We could go looking for bighorn sheep, he said. Or steelhead. Or condors. Or we could head for a hot spring. We didn't make any concrete plans, but I was encouraged: In the 21st century, within 100 miles of Los Angeles City Hall, there was at least one guy still practicing an Old West profession. Two Old West professions, if you count the ironwork.
He told me he'd been hiking the Sespe for 35 years, since he was 18. He had 36 horses and mules, some of which he kept in a pasture just south of his house. His house in La Conchita.
Now you know where this is going.
As we told you about ten days ago, Reynolds is moving back to Calendar to write about the arts.