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April-May 2020 Newsletter

                                                                                Photo by Gigi de Jong

President’s Message

It’s late March 2020. Thanks to some late season showers bringing much-needed snow to the mountains and rain to the foothills and valleys, our lakes and streams are filling quickly. Fields of wildflowers will soon burst with color, luring professional and amateur photographers alike with hopes of capturing brilliant images of their colorful splendor.

 Normally, we would be rejoicing that spring is finally here! Except this year, unlike any other spring in our lifetimes, we are all home and “sheltering in place” under Governor’s orders as the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe. Instead of enjoying California’s full bounty of outdoor treasures and adventures, we’re stuck at home, isolated, as we ride this invisible enemy out.

 I’d hoped with this message to provide some upbeat and positive news regarding the state of OWAC. But alas, everything is on hold right now, including our much-anticipated spring conference which is always a big highlight.

 This “down time” isn’t all bad though. It’s given me time to resurrect some moth-balled stories that I’ve been waiting for time to finish, as well as time to properly edit and catalogue my collections of wildlife and travel photos from the last couple of years. But best of all, there’s time to plan for future travels and adventures. If you love to travel and explore the outdoors like I do, now’s the time to think about booking your next trip. Travel and lodging prices are low, travel booking is easy, and opportunities for new experiences and places to visit are endless!

 I hope you’re all making the best of this bad situation, enjoying family time, staying healthy, and hopefully catching up on a few things that you’ve needed to do but haven’t had time. Most of all, keep looking towards the future when you can once again enjoy the gorgeous California scenes and adventures that await once we’ve all been released from lock down.

 In the meantime, please stay safe. Better days will be here soon!

Carrie Wilson, President, Outdoor Writers Association of California

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (831) 402-6003

Executive Director's Message

Board of Directors

Bob Semerau

Executive Director

Carrie Wilson


Carol Martens


Members at Large

Betsy Crowfoot

John Williamson

Gigi de Jong

Don Vachini

Chris Langley

Peter Schroeder



Tom Martens

John Poimiroo


From OWAC Executive Director, Bob Semerau

In a younger day, we’d spend a few weekends a year rock-hopping somewhere far from the madding crowds. Finding the right footing, choosing the next step, was all important to keep a pace and flow over uneven boulders and slag.

These days’ time is precious. We must choose our footholds more wisely than ever, as if our lives depend on it, as we seek solace over paths we never knew.

Keeping safe in a Covid world requires a keen sense of “station”, knowing where you are and what surrounds you. I know I am preaching to the choir: occasionally getting out there can have long lasting benefits for our well being as we hunker down at home.

A walk in the forest, among the trees and along the rivers, through meadow and over brook, will serve us well for days to follow. The further away the better as “distancing” takes on new meaning.

OWAC survives and continues to build on our strengths with Spring 2021 conference venues established and more than 40-entries in this year’s Excellence in Craft Awards.

Despite school closures, high school students are submitting their work for consideration in the OWAC Pat Vachini Outdoor Writing Scholarship contest. And while the investment portfolio has taken a hit along with everyone else’s around the world, we are still financially sound and solvent. Recovery is simply a matter of time as we adjust for the new paradigm.

Your board will continue its work, and you are invited to participate in any way you would like. We welcome each one of you to assist with committee work or making contributions to the effort in a manner that suits you.

Keep safe, keep “writing”, and keep moving.

It’s what we do.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 949-466-3073


Golden Trout and Golden Trees

By Steven T. Callan


Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo Credit: Steven T. Callan.


The first time I experienced the awesome grandeur of California’s Eastern Sierra was in 1975, when, as a rookie Fish and Game warden, I drove there on assignment to work the Crowley Lake trout-season opener. That spring, the majestic mountains to the west were covered with snow, and the entire scene, from Mount Whitney to Mammoth Lakes, looked like something you’d see on a Christmas card. Over the years I’ve visited again and again, sometimes in the spring, sometimes in the summer, and sometimes in the fall. Whatever the season, the Eastern Sierra always offers an eyepopping display of color and natural beauty.

The view from Lubken Canyon Road. Notice the famous Alabama Hills in the background.  Photo Credit:Steven T. Callan.

This fall, Kathy and I returned with a limited amount of time, so we decided to spend one day checking out the Golden Trout Wilderness https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recarea/?recid=21878  west of Lone Pine and the next morning photographing the annual aspen display near Conway Summit. The motel clerk in Lone Pine directed us to Lubken Canyon Road, a scenic one-lane path through miles of green meadows and awe-inspiring rock formations, leading to Horseshoe Meadows Road and our eventual first-day destination.

OWAC Website Report

By Gigi de Jong


At the last meeting of the OWAC Board of Directors, March 9, 2020, I presented a proposal to redesign and redevelop the OWAC website on the WordPress platform that was unanimously accepted. The proposal included a draft outline of the website structure, a negotiated fee for initial development, and ongoing hosting and maintenance fees.

A company of young web engineers, that I know and respect, agreed to take on this project at a very reduced fee and provide pro-bono hours for technical work. They will also supply the necessary technology to host and maintain the site at a reduced cost to us. In order to do this, I have undertaken to manage the process and do much of the site’s planning and content uploading in a volunteer capacity as an OWAC board member. Our first order of business is to set up a timeline for the roll out and a payment schedule for costs, which will be done early April.

The new site will be developed with the goal of having a fully interactive membership portal where members can create public profiles to showcase work, upload published articles, photography, audio and video files, and post personal blog stories. Through the website we aim to improve member benefits, resources for learning, and access to industry news.

It will also have a centralized event management system to streamline our conferences, awards programs, and foundation and outreach activities. Modules for an online forum, auction site, and webstore are envisaged and the site will be engineered so that these can be easily added in the future.

The design will also bring our organization’s brand in line with current online trends and help us to attract and retain new members, especially within a younger demographic, which is the key to our future growth and influence.

While the current worldwide health crisis is changing how we work and interact on a daily basis at this moment, it may permanently change many aspects of work and life in the near and far future. The priority for us all right now is to do all we can to safeguard the health of our communities, friends, families, and ourselves. And yet, perhaps, the timing of this technological shift for our organization is auspicious. As reporters and commentators of our outdoor world we may be able help in the return to, what is sure to be, a new normal.

I encourage everyone to practice and promote all health and safety guidelines and wish you all the best during this difficult time. Thank you to the members of the board for your trust. 


Coronavirus Closes Mt. Everest

By John Poimiroo

Shutterstock Photo

Even Mt. Everest is not immune from the Coronavirus.

OUTSIDE reports (https://www.outsideonline.com/2410336/everest-china-side-closes-coronavirus) that China has cancelled all permits for the spring climbing season on Mt. Everest, though – at least for now – the Nepal trail (south side) remains open.

Each successive day during the evolution of this pandemic, reports have been received of indoor sporting events being held without spectators. Outdoor sports have been relatively free of such restrictions, but will that last?

Presently, persons 60 years and older are advised to avoid indoor gatherings of 1,000 or more people. A review of governmental edicts shows no restriction against outdoor recreation or activity, though advisories recommend maintaining “social distance” of six feet from others, when possible.

There’s little to suggest that outdoor activity, alone, will lead to Coronavirus exposure. It is human contact, indoors or out, that increases the likelihood of exposure. Precautions such as “social distancing,” washing hands regularly and being aware not to touch one’s face, health officials advise, are what’s needed to moderate the chance of exposure.

It might even be said that recreation in the great outdoors reduces the chance of exposure, by limiting a person’s contact with others and because of the positive effect of air movement.

So, go fishing, hiking, off-roading, backpacking, kayaking or cycling. Just remove climbing Mt. Everest from China’s north trail from your list of outdoor adventures this year. 


By Peter Schroeder

Because the major stock indices have fallen more than 30 percent in recent weeks, questions have come up about what’s happening to OWAC’s investment portfolio. 

The answer: The investments are safe and performing exactly in accord with our investment philosophy.

When the investments were set up in May 2017, we planned the funds would be sustainable and produce an annual steady stream of income. The OWAC Investment Committee (Martens, Semerau, and Schroeder) adopted a high-dividend strategy to invest in well-established, large cap (over $20 billion) companies that have paid regular dividends for many years. Some of our holdings have not missed a dividend payment in over 50 years.

Integral to the investment strategy is never to encroach on principal and not to sell any holdings. Corporate boards of directors establish fixed dollar amounts for their dividends and seldom make downward changes in the payout. Therefore, even if the stock price decreases, the dividend does not change.

Our investments produce an annual income of more than $800 representing a yield over 6 percent. Despite the current market downturn, we still expect this amount to be paid as dividends.

Another benefit of our investment strategy is that high-dividend stocks usually perform better than the general market in a downturn. The dividends tend to buoy the market price. For example, in mid-March the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other major indices had fallen by 31 percent whereas our portfolio was down only 22 percent.

So we have the best of both worlds. We continue to receive a steady stream of income, and our holdings are not as vulnerable as the general market. 

If there are questions, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


A perfect reflection of Donner Lake March 2020 Photo Credit: Mary West

For the Love of Hiking

by Mary West

Telling the story of a trail is a chance to offer the gift of nature to someone new. After years of hiking trails as my career and hobby, I have learned that it’s important to see the trail through the eyes of someone who has never traveled this path before. I must remember to explain the simple elements that can make or break the experience for someone new to hiking.

When I worked for State Parks, the number one question was “Where is the restroom?”. The second question was “Where is the trail head?”. If a hiker is uncomfortable or lost, they are not going to have a good experience. Why do I want them to have a good experience? I do it for the love of hiking. The more people who find hiking and love it, the more attention trails will get and the more trail funding will be approved and more trails will be built. This all adds up to all of us having more trails to saunter on. 


Photo Credit: Carol Martens

My Mental Escape

by Carol Martens

So here we all are confined to our homes with nowhere to go. Many times, my mind has wandered to magnificent places from the past. Having the privilege of being in OWAC for over 20 years has allowed me an abundance of experiences in beautiful California.

               Thinking back to our conference in Morro Bay in October 2016, I always remember the view from our balcony. The view changed many times from morning to dusk and I never could get enough. I had my sister with me at this conference and it was one of the last times she came to visit me from Illinois. All the adventures we had together and with the other OWAC members will always remain in my mind as one of our best times in recent years. 

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