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The Last Best Place

More than three decades ago, a tiny band of California hikers discovered a magical valley in the Sierra Nevada. They possessed a rough map, but told no one. Now, the truth comes out.

Roger would say that no one owns anything, that the universe belongs to us all, and that those lucky enough to know this secret need no other knowledge, because they are rich beyond measure. Roger said that to me once. Roger said lots of things, and they sounded goofy to my young ears, and I didn’t—and don’t—know how anyone could live according to them in a world that seems so hard, and often so mean.

The rope across the river wasn’t the only path to the place where magic lives. Roger found the other way in, and he showed me. I’m not sure why. Maybe he thought that someday, I might need to return.

Eddie Oglander taught creative writing at Stanford University from 1981 to 1983, which is when he submitted this story, and the magazine— mistakenly we now believe—declined to publish it. According to Steve Friedman, who played basketball with Oglander in a Menlo Park rec league and to whom Oglander gave his map (p. 88), the young man struggled with mental-health issues, off and on, until 1987, when he disappeared on a solo camping trip near Mammoth Lakes, California. His body was never found.

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