Outpost 2012

About Outpost

Fishtrap’s Outpost workshop promotes writing in and about the natural environment of Wallowa County and northeastern Oregon by placing writers close to nature. Surrounded by cricket songs and slender lupine that nod in the warm prairie wind, participants’ senses come alive to the tangible world easy to miss in our indoor lives. The gathering is intimate, the setting remote. The work that emerges paints a complex beautiful landscape, true writing of place. Ann Werner, a former wilderness ranger in the Wallowa country underwrites the Outpost Workshop, in the hope of encouraging writing about the wild landscapes she dearly loves.

Outpost takes place on the Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, a rolling grassland that stretches from the Wallowa Mountains to Hells Canyon and the Snake River. In the midst of the prairie, the Nature Conservancy has a small “Summer Camp” facility, consisting of three small ranch houses with kitchens and meeting spaces downstairs and sparse bunkrooms upstairs. There is room for about 8 people to sleep inside, although most participants choose to sleep out in tents under the stars.

GaryFerguson2014 Outpost Faculty – Gary Ferguson

For the 2014 Program we are excited to welcome Gary Ferguson. He is the author of twenty-two books on nature and science. Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone was the first nonfiction book in history to win both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers and Mountains and Plains Booksellers awards. He was a visiting distinguished writer at both the University of Montana and University of Idaho Masters of Fine Arts programs, and is currently on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University. Gary is a frequent speaker and writing instructor at universities and workshops across the country.

2014 Outpost Workshop – Description

Steeped in the stirring landscapes of northeast Oregon, the 2014 Outpost workshop is dedicated to helping you master the personal creative nonfiction essay. Our morning sessions will be filled with a hearty mix of discussion, exercises, and readings – all meant to increase your understanding of important issues like setting, tone, transition, and character. Afternoons, then, will be spent in the field, contemplating this wild country in ways meant to help you cultivate your unique writing voice, the core of your storytelling authority, authenticity and dynamism. (This voice, by the way, is what ultimately brings both authority and authenticity to your writing, allowing you to become a more dynamic, more effective storyteller.) Finally, a portion of each evening will be reserved for practical, supportive feedback on your emerging essays.

Dates for Outpost 2014 are July 6-11 with the option of also signing up for the weekend at Summer Fishtrap, which runs July 11-13 and includes a keynote by Naomi Shihab Nye, panel discussions and the always-entertaining “Fishtrap Live” show on Saturday night.

Registration for Outpost opens February 20, 2014 online.  The Outpost workshop fee is $825  The fee includes meals, tent site/bunkhouse lodging and transportation to site from Enterprise. The Summer Fishtrap Weekend program is an additional $215 (Friday-Sunday, includes meals). Registration, and more details available on our registration page.

2014 Outpost is SOLD OUT.

Outpost 2012

Outpost Overview

The intent of Outpost is to offer an inspirational setting for people to connect with the natural environment of northeastern Oregon and to write about their experience, as well as creating an opportunity for personal growth and learning far from civilizations distractions. Outpost is a week-long writing workshop during Summer Fishtrap, facilitated by an accomplished writer and teacher, that provides an intensely reflective atmosphere for writers. Participants and faculty retreat to a scenic, remote location for five days of instruction, writing, solitude, day trips, nature study, camping, and sharing. Many in the group sign up for the Summer Fishtrap Weekend option and join the gathering at Wallowa Lake.
At the Gathering Outpost participants can enjoy panel discussions, a keynote address and breakout-sessions. Outpost is led by writing faculty who are inspired by, and have published work about the relationship between civilization and wildness. Past faculty include Ellen Waterston, Robert Michael Pyle, Charles Goodrich and Kim Stafford. An experienced naturalist leads some interpretive walks.

Outpost 2012

Outpost Setting

Outpost began at an historic Forest Service facility called Billy Meadows Guard Station, about 40 miles north of Enterprise.  In 2012, the program was moved to the Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. The Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Summer Camp boasts three bunk houses and a beautiful old barn, tucked away at the head of Camp Creek between grassy buttes pocked with badger and ground squirrel burrows. Hiking up and around the camp offers views of the Seven Devils mountain range in Idaho, as well as the Wallowa mountains and a wide expanse of the Zumwalt Prairie itself. Far from city lights, the open prairie skies offer a spectacular view of the stars. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, please click here.

Outpost 2012

Camp Life

Participants are strongly encouraged to sleep outside, in tents, under the stars. However, the buildings include indoor bunk beds if you do not feel comfortable sleeping outside, or require a real bed. Meals are served camp style, outside, and are prepared by local cooks experienced in this type of cooking. Some meals are cooked in cast iron dutch ovens. Special dietary needs can usually be accommodated, just let us know beforehand, and you are free to bring some of your own food with the understanding that there is limited room in the refrigerator. The general daily routine includes structured times for participants to respond to writing prompts in the morning; time to discuss their writing with the faculty; opportunities for quiet, solitude, and solo writing in the afternoon; and group sharing and discussions of participants’ writing in the evening. A few mornings, educational walks and lectures about the area are offered. Participants are requested to use paper and pen for their writing at Outpost and to leave electronics behind since there is limited electricity. At the Zumwalt Summer Camp there are lights and limited running water for showers and bathrooms. On Friday, the group packs up camp and moves to Wallowa Lake to join the main Summer Fishtrap Gathering for a weekend of speakers, panels and fun! Participants can either camp there, or arrange a hotel room or cabin ahead of time. Bunkhouses may be available at the camp if you contact Fishtrap. Past Outposters have seen elk, deer, cougars, owls, bluebirds and many other creatures, and have gone to sleep serenaded by coyotes. Wildflowers are bright and abundant, and the night skies overflow with stars. The weather can be capricious, anything from high summer heat to cold rain. Past years have been in the nineties out on the Zumwalt Prairie and there is limited shade and no air conditioning, so please come prepared and check the weather forecast!

Janie's Pancakes on a PlankOutpost wildflowers


“Shouldn’t someone say, ’Beware Pilgrim, you’ll come back changed. You’ll see things differently, things like tree tops and pot roasts, pine-paneled walls and wildflowers. They should say, ‘A fire is just a fire, but a campfire with voices and plucked guitar notes rising above it…well, that’s different.’ Why wouldn’t someone warn us, ‘Staying in the meadow even for short periods may involve losing your identity, or gaining it back.’?”
– Donald Witten, Outpost 2010 participant

 Past Outpost Faculty include:

2009: Kim Stafford

2010: Charles Goodrich

2011: Robert Michael Pyle

2012: Ellen Waterston

2013: Scott Russell Sanders

2014: Gary Ferguson