Winter Mist in Idaho

This is right outside my front door.

It’s scenes like this that make me feel I live in a sci-fi story. I read sci-fi to get taken to a place that is vast, inhospitable and severe. Where utilitarian objects, placed against the background of the sky, take on their own heartless beauty. As is the case with this quonset hut.

But let’s zoom in on that band of mist lying just across the road.

Malad Gorge


When I was a student at Boise State University, I didn’t have a car. I lived 4 hours from my parents’ house. (In a Western state, 4 hours away means 4 hours of driving an average of 60 mph on the highway, not 4 hours of sitting in traffic as you go through various urban areas.) So, on holidays, I often found myself ride sharing with other students who were heading towards the eastern part of the state. That meant we took the highway pictured above.

I must have passed over Malad Gorge dozens of times before I noticed it.

As you can see above, the gorge is dramatic and steep, but at the point where it intersects the highway, very narrow. The amount of time the car spends actually crossing the gorge amounts to seconds.

Finally, on one of the car trips I happened to be looking up from my ever-present book (fiction, of course … I wouldn’t be reading a coursebook!) at just the right moment to spot this amazing gorge. After that, I started keeping an eye out for it.

It broadens out to the south.

In the years since, I have learned that you can get off at an exit and find a parking lot, park, and walking trail with a footbridge that takes you across the gorge. It’s from there that we got these pictures.

I’d hate to have been the first person, recklessly galloping along on a horse, who found this thing.

Book Review: Prepper’s Natural Medicine by Cat Ellis

pictured here with leaves of Mullein, which the books says is an analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, and mild sedative (page 100)

I bought this book to use a reference for my character Zillah. She has a built-up knowledge of herbal medicines and of emergency field medical procedures, but I don’t. I used this book to make sure that when she was using a remedy, I had the right plant. (I also had to look up whether the plant in question was native to the region of the world in which she was traveling.)

It turns out that, for almost any over-the-counter medicine and many prescription ones as well, there is a plant that will help with the symptom. God put this stuff in the world for us to find and use. He’s smart that way.

The book is great as a quick look-up reference, but as it turns out, there is also a benefit from reading it front to back. Then you will learn about the methods of collection, storage, and preparation, such as the difference between a tisane (used medicinally) and a tea (just for drinking); an infusion (made by steeping the delicate parts of the plant) and a decoction (made by boiling the hard parts of the plant). There is also basic medical and first-aid information, though obviously, to really know your stuff about that, you will need a much longer volume (such as Where There Is No Doctor), and ideally years of experience and a ton of luck as well.

I am already regretting not reading it front to back before using it as a resource in writing my novels. (It turns out that to make a tincture, you need to steep the herb in alcohol. Where on earth did Zillah get alcohol? She’s full of surprises.)

Speaking of surprises, it might be best not to wait until the apocalypse and then just go out and grab an herb for medicine (although in some cases that might be better than nothing). You’ve got to collect, dry, label, store, and refresh your collection, and also of course you’ve got to know what you’re doing. So, this is a very useful book for understanding the steepness of the learning curve.