About Outpost

Outpost 2012

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.


2015 Outpost Faculty – Robert Michael Pylerobertmichaelpyle

For the 2015 Program we are excited to welcome Robert Michael Pyle. Pyle writes essay, poetry, and fiction from an historic Swedish farmstead, eight miles up a tributary of the Lower Columbia River. His eighteen books have received the John Burroughs Medal (Wintergreen), the National Outdoor Book Award (Sky Time in Gray’s River), a Guggenheim Fellowship (Where Bigfoot Walks), three Washington Book awards, and a PNBA book Award. His most recent titles are The Tangled Bank: Writings from Orion; new editions of Chasing Monarchs and Mariposa Road; and his latest, Evolution of the Genus Iris: Poems. Pyle, who founded the Xerces Society, is a widely respected lepidopterist and author of several standard butterfly books including The Butterflies of Cascadia. A recent Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana, he has taught placed-based writing from Tasmania to Tajikistan, Fishtrap to Outpost, and was Werner Writing Resident at Billy Meadows in 2010.

2015 Outpost Workshop – Description

Between Literature and Land: Writing From Within

There is nothing like becoming a prairie-dweller yourself to awaken your own writer’s response to grassland, nothing like living in the lap of the Wallowas and the Blues to heighten your sense of life in concert with mountains, waters, and words.  As denizens here, we will explore the ecotone between literature and the land, and write from within that blend. Each morning we will make words in response to short invitations and the place itself, then share and respond to the results. Forenoons will see instruction and discussion of both techniques and concepts for strong place-based writing, in all forms: essay, fiction, and poetry. Afternoons are for individual writing, solitude, field forays, and tutorial consultation. Evenings, we’ll sing, read aloud, and on the last night, share our fully worked pieces.

Dates for Outpost July 5-10, 2015 with the option of also signing up for the weekend at Summer Fishtrap, which runs July 10-12 and includes a keynote by Timothy Egan, panel discussions, the always-entertaining “Fishtrap Live” show on Saturday night, and Sunday’s closing address by Winona LaDuke.

Online registration for Outpost opens February 24, 2015.  The Outpost workshop fee is $850.  The fee includes meals, tent site/bunkhouse lodging and transportation to the site from Enterprise. The Summer Fishtrap Weekend program is an additional $220 (Friday-Sunday, includes meals). More details available here.


Outpost Overview

Outpost 2012

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 Setting

Outpost 2012

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.

Camp Life

Outpost 2012

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