I’m working on feature story for Outside magazine right now. It’s my first feature for Outside — I started as an intern and an assistant editor there, but the most I ever wrote for them was a front-of-the-book blurb here and there. So the fact that it’s a feature (and potentially a 6,500-word one) is a big deal for me. It’s also a big deal because of the nature of the story. I won’t give too much away here (you’ll have to wait till it’s in print! In Outside’s February 2011 issue), but it’s a story of a very personal nature. When I was 13 years old, my stepdad, Jerry, was shot and killed at Otter Bar Lodge, a kayak school in northern California. He was killed by a caretaker of the lodge named JD. That was 15 years ago. This past summer, I decided to go back to Otter Bar with my mom and find out exactly what happened the night Jerry died. It was an intense week - definitely the toughest reporting mission I’ve ever done (far more difficult than, say, skiing in Iceland during a volcanic eruption).
My mom and I paddled sections of the Salmon River, right from the front porch of the cabin she and Jerry built together in the late 1980s. I interviewed everyone I could who knew about the incident in 1995: my mom, the owner of Otter Bar, JD’s lawyer, a raft friend of Jerry’s. And then, on the last day, I found JD. What do you say to the guy who killed your loved one by shooting him in the eyes with a .357 magnum? I started by saying hello.