The winner of this year’s Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award specializes in getting away from it all.
Ten years ago, author Philip Connors left his job with the Wall Street Journal in Manhattan and headed for a fire tower on top of a mountain in New Mexico.
The solitude was an inspiration for his book “Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Outlook.” But Connors didn’t expect it’d win the Sigurd Olson writing award, “I was of course pleased, honored, humbled, all the usual ways on feels when one gets the phone call.”
The nature writing award is given out by the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland. The committee compared “Fire Season” to Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” “I laugh when I hear that," he says. "In part, I can understand the reach for the comparison because both books deal with the condition of solitude in the woods.”
Now Connors says he’s hooked. This summer, he spent his 11th year in that New Mexico tower, “Yeah, you definitely don’t go there for the change to mingle, unless you’re hoping to mingle with the birds and the bears. It is a couple hour walk from the nearest road trailhead there. I can go days without seeing people there. Day hikers do show up on occasion and give me a chance to exercise my vocal choirs and reconnect with the human race.”
Otherwise, his mutt, as he calls her, Alice, keeps him company at the tower.
Connors accepted the award Wednesday, and spoke before people and everything at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute.