Don Usner was born in 1957 in Embudo, New Mexico, he grew up in Los Alamos and Chimayó, New Mexico. He earned a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz and went on to manage the ecological reserve Big Creek in Big Sur, California, where he co-authored and took photographs for his first book, The Natural History of Big Sur, published by the University of California Press.
Don returned to New Mexico in 1988 to complete an M.A. in Geography at the University of New Mexico, then produced his second book, Sabino’s Map: Life in Chimayó’s Old Plaza, published in 1995 by the Museum of New Mexico Press. He has since written and provided photographs for several more books, including, Chasing Dichos through Chimayó (2014), Valles Caldera: A Vision for New Mexico’s National Preserve (1996) (winner of a Southwest Book Award in 1996); Ambassador Frank Ortiz: Lessons from a Life of Service (2004); A History of Estaca: Plaza at an Ancient Crossroads (2003); New Mexico Route 66 On Tour: Legendary Architecture from Glenrio to Gallup (2001); and Benigna’s Chimayó: Cuentos from the Old Plaza (2001). Don also contributed a chapter and photographs to The Plazas of New Mexico. San Antonio: Trinity University Press (2011) (winner of Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association). The interview of Don took place in Santa Fe in the month of November. Below is 2 small parts of a wonderful conversation. (the full interview will be posted soon)
Note: Don questions if the Highway closing for a year was in 1982 or 83. It was in fact 1983. A series of storms in the winter of 1983 caused four major road-closing slides between January and April. The March slide north of Big Sur closed the road between Big Sur and Monterey for approximately two months. Another major March slide, occurring south of Big Sur near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, was at the time the largest slide to affect a state highway; it took over a year to completely clear that slide and reopen the road between Big Sur and San Simeon. See full history here!