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A Behind-the-Scenes essay for "Cold Travel"

Gabriel Urza

bonus features:
Some of the things that Jo-Jo grunts (an incomplete glossary) by B. C. Edwards

Appendix 3B, "The Instructive Incident of the Lawn and its Necessary Lessons" by Steve Himmer

Alternate Ending to Shya Scanlon's "Portrait of the Oughtist" by Paula Bomer (with two collages by James J. Williams III)

Joan Enright's pie recipe (as featured in Eliza Tudor's "Person, Place, or Thing"

A Behind-theScenes essay for "Cold Travel" by Gabriel Urza

Camp Conversation: Lydia Conklin and Gabe Durham discuss summer camp

Hello Clone, I Will Say by Gabe Durham (featuring illustration by Lydia Conklin)

photo by Ali Urza

I lifted the physical setting of “Cold Travel” from Marlette Lake, which is located about a mile to the east of Lake Tahoe, but at about a thousand vertical feet higher is away from some of the gambling and other nonsense at Tahoe. My family still maintains about 180 acres of land in an area otherwise surrounded by National Forestland, the last remnants of a sheep grazing range that my great-grandfather had purchased in the early part of the last century. Much of my early summers were spent exploring mountains such as Marlette Peak, Snow Valley Peak, and a rocky ridge we at some point dubbed “Brontosaurus’ Back.” We also swam and boated in the green lake, and after Marlette was opened for seasonal fishing a few years back we fly fish from cumbersome float tubes or spin fish from shores.

My sister and I have, in more recent winters, made a habit of skiing into the small ten-by-twelve cabin that we had helped our father build on the south side of the lake to spend a night or two. It’s a pretty long slog in, and even though we keep the cabin stocked with hot chocolate and red wine and Jim Beam, you still need to haul a lot of equipment up. This last year we climbed the thousand feet from Tahoe up to Marlette with full packs, much like Jose Luis did in the story, and were happy to find the cabin warmed by a fire that the friends we were meeting had started when they reached the cabin a few hours before us.

The bit in the story about the plane crashing in Marlette is true, actually. A local pilot had intentionally crashed his plane onto the lake about six years ago. He succeeded in killing himself, but the ice was so thick that the plane didn’t even go under the surface of the lake. Still, though, I get freaked out even when we’re skirting the edge of the lake on our snowshoes or skis; the thought of being submerged under the ice, with a heavy pack and long sticks lashed to your feet has always just horrified me.

I’ve attached a few pictures of Marlette in both the summer and the winter, and of my sister Ali and I making what to our knowledge is the first ski descent from Snow Valley Peak in December of 2009. Also, I’m attaching a pair of custom skis that I made when I was back home this spring with the expert help of my friend Kam Leang, a mad-scientist engineer and ski maker. The graphics include the silhouette of the Basque Country on the tips of the skis, to pay tribute to my family lineage on both sides of the family (my father was born on the Spanish side of the Basque Country, while my mother’s family is from the French side). The tails include the silhouette of the state of Nevada, my home state.

Strangely, this will be at least the third time that a story will be published that is set at Marlette and written by a member of my family: my grandfather Robert Laxalt wrote Sweet Promised Land (Harper, 1957) and my mother wrote The Deep Blue Memory, (University of Nevada Press, 1993), both of which contain scenes from Marlette.   

excerpt (chapter 1) from Steven Rinella's American Buffalo

Champaign-Urbana Gymnopédie by Scott Garson

Behind the Scenes of "The Fish" by Patrick Somerville

The Singing Fish: Revisited by Peter Markus

Three Different Apocalypses by Lucy Corin

My Eagle Scout Project: A Sidewalk: A List, an extra short by Adam Peterson

Deer Summer Sausage recipe (and illustration) by Mike Alber

The Lake Monster Is Curious: An Alternate Ending in the Monster’s Point of View, by Becky Hagenston