My Story

A fourth-generation Californian, I grew up in the north county of San Diego, where I spent my childhood on a surfboard and, for one year, as a professional skateboard rider. In addition to wandering the coastlines of California and Baja surfing, I spent summers with my family camping throughout California, the intermountain West, and British Columbia. In 1973 I spent a year traveling with my family in Europe.

Riding the coping, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, summer 1979

Before finding my way to college in my late twenties, I spent nearly a decade living and working on the Eastern slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains—as a professional athlete, teacher, amateur naturalist and mountaineer.

With skiing buddy KB, in the Lakes Basin, near Mammoth Lakes, California, 1982

For many years I ranked among the top three nordic skiers in the Far West Division and was competitive in the Great American Ski Chase marathon series, the US National Championships and the North American Championships.  I was also a fully certified nordic instructor, backcountry guide, as well as clinician and examiner for the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).

Mammoth Marathon, Lakes Basin, Mammoth Lakes, California

In 1986 I left California for upstate New York where I completed a BA in English at Ithaca College, coached Division I NCAA cross-country skiing at Cornell University, and taught beginning, intermediate and advanced skiing, basic and advanced rock climbing and mountaineering, and wilderness skills, for the Cornell University Outdoor Education Program.

My work in environmental and outdoor education included field courses in Wyoming, New York, Washington, Montana, California, Canada, and Alaska. In 1990 I enrolled in the graduate school at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, where I studied American literature, modern poetry and intellectual history.

Karhu comps, three-pin bindings, smiles all the way: powder day in Telemark Bowl on the Sherwin Crest

When not in my office, the library, or a classroom, I spent my time in the remote regions of Washington’s North Cascades on rock and ice climbs, ski descents, alpine traverses, and ski descents of the Northwest volcanoes.  After completing my Ph.D. in 1996, I taught for two years in the department of English at the University of Washington, Seattle.


Since the fall of 1998 I have made a home in the Connecticut River watershed with my family. When not teaching, reading, or writing as a professor of English and American Studies at Keene State College, I spend my time with my family at work and at play in the fields, woods, and gardens of Water Run Farm, or at our summer camp on Sand Pond near the headwaters of the Asheulot River.

4 thoughts on “My Story

  1. Pingback: John Muir « Earth’s Eye

  2. Marie Christine Duggan

    Of course, the opening line about being a fourth generation Californian immediately grabs my heart. How come I feel that way, being only a second generation Californian? How came it to be that my roots to that one place run so deep that even 18 years in NH cannot shake them? Though the 18 years of NH feel like roots, too.

  3. Mary Beth

    Mark, I think we were friends in the Tahoe area long ago. How old would you have been in 1978-1980??
    MBeth (my last name is different now) I live in Southern ADKS now.

    1. thefarfield Post author

      Hi, Mary Beth, I would have been 19-21. I began XC ski racing in the Tahoe basin around 1980, if memory serves. Remind me of our connection. . . .


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