Taking Flight in Villa Grove

For a week or so this summer, the majestic Sangre De Cristo mountains served as the backdrop for a colorful array of gravity-defying crafts, catching thermals and drifting on the wind.

Dubbed Colorado Fly Week, an event held this past July just east of Villa Grove hosted nearly 130 hang gliders and paragliders from all over the U.S., testing their skills, enjoying the views and raising money to improve access to their launch point. Flyers enjoy the valley view after launching from a nearby bluff, a fifteen-minute drive up from the landing zone (LZ). Along with various festivities, there is a friendly competition based on a number of factors, including total air time and altitude gain. One flyer managed to soar all the way down the Sangre De Cristo range to Taos, New Mexico, where he reportedly spent the night in a homeless shelter due to the fact that he carried no money on his flight.

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About the Cover Artist: Tiffany Hodges Smith

Tiffany Hodges Smith took this month’s cover photograph during Colorado Fly Week, held this past July at her home near Villa Grove, Co. The event, celebrating hang gliding and paragliding in the U.S., was the result of more than a year’s planning and preparation on the part of Tiffany her hang-glider husband, Larry Smith. 

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The Settling of the Old West, Once and For All

By Martha Quillen

The other day someone at the library asked me a history question that I knew Ed could have answered easily. But calling Ed is no longer an option. Every day I find at least half a dozen new reasons for missing Ed, but this was not merely about my sorrow at losing him.

Thankfully, Ed was not the only Colorado history buff around, so I called someone else. But it occurred to me that the regional historians I rely upon are not young anymore, either.

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Tough Month

It’s been an abysmal news cycle in Colorado since our last issue. First, we had one of the worst fires in our state’s history. 346 homes were destroyed on the edge of Colorado Springs in the 18,247-acre Waldo Canyon fire which started on June 23. As of press time, the cause has yet been determined.

Here in Salida, we felt some of the effects: from smoke in the valley to evacuees taking refuge in the cooler climate. At the local farm market I met a couple from Woodland Park who had to evacuate their home and were fortunate to have a second home here to escape to. Another couple were from Manitou Springs, the first area to be evacuated, and were camping out on national forest land. They joked about how they weren’t allowed to have a campfire.

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Lasting Impression of a Cow

By Hal Walter

As cows go, she was an amazing animal, one of the original 14 head of cattle purchased from Virgil Lawson when we started this little venture in natural beef seven years ago. He insisted we had to have her as a “lead cow.” She’d keep the herd together, and was “bucket trained.”

You’re not suppose to name animals you might someday eat, but this solid black cow came with a name and it was Sophie.

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A Technical History of the Two-Wheeler

By Eric Sampson

Since we here in Central Colorado have been singled out as a bicycle mecca, we thought we’d take a closer look at this enigmatic machine. First, consider what life may have been like at the dawn of the 19th century. Most in the community lived and worked on local farms, some distance from the town center. For community events, folks would come to town by horse. After trading for some staples, a meal and perhaps a nip of apple wine, some sport could be had by racing horses around the square. A little money would change hands, along with the entertainment, and the social machinery was oiled for another day. As towns grew, and the square shrank the horse, fine fellow that he is, could become a nuisance – hard to house break, and quite willing to share his flies. Best to leave him at the livery stable.

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Riding the River Home

By Susan Tweit

In July I spent four days on the Green River, floating the canyons of Dinosaur National Park as a “mind guide” for a trip with Colorado Art Ranch.

Let me say right off, I am not a river-girl. Whitewater does not make my heart sing; in fact, the rumble of a river grinding downhill over rapids scares me.

This particular trip came with a boat-load of grief: my writer/bookstore-owner friend Carol drowned three summers ago on the Green, in Triplet Falls, one of the rapids we would be running. Her husband Terry, an experienced boatman, was at the oars when the boat flipped; everyone made it out but Carol. Terry was joining the Art Ranch trip, determined to return to the river he loved.

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Water Update

by John Orr 

Drought and Trout

Back in May, Front Range cities were falling all over themselves telling their customers that there would be no watering restrictions over the summer turf season, despite the fact that a meager snowpack – rivaling the drought year of 2002 – was melting out weeks early.

When the Upper Colorado River, South Platte and Arkansas River basins dried up and melted out during May, Stage 1 restrictions – usually voluntary – suddenly became the name of the game up and down the populated side of Colorado. But with record high temperatures consumption was through the roof, as much as 20% above 2011 for the year in some of the cities around Denver. Mandatory water restrictions are now on the horizon in areas worried about the Water Year 2013 snowpack.

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News from the San Luis Valley

SLV – The Mecca for Solar Energy in Colorado

U.S. Secretary of the Interior and native of the San Luis Valley Ken Salazar released the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on July 24 identifying potential utility-scale solar development on public lands in the west.

All of the solar zones specified in Colorado are targeted for approximately 16,300 acres in the San Luis Valley. They include: Antonito Southeast on the boundary of Colorado/New Mexico, Los Mogotes East in Conejos County, Fourmile East in Alamosa County, and De Tilla Gulch about eight miles outside of Saguache.

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The Railroad Tunnel that Shut Down a U.S. Highway

Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the Leadville Herald-Democrat on July 18. Reprinted with permission.

The collapse of the old Denver & Rio Grande tunnel on U.S. 24 takes readers back to 1890 when the tunnel was first constructed.

According to drgw.net, a website dedicated to preserving the history of the Western D&RG Railroad, the railroad line leading from Salida to Malta, just south of Leadville, was constructed as part of the narrow-gauge extension of the Royal Gorge Route in 1880.

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Regional News

Mutilated Animals Found in Gunnison County

A string of mutilated livestock has been reported in Gunnison County and parts of Saguache County too. A horse and several cows were found dead in the last week of July with parts of their mouths, lips and tongues removed. One cow even had its hindquarters and backstraps removed. The Gunnison Country Times reports a $500 reward has been offered for information in the case.

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Another America

By George Sibley

Earlier this summer a group of around 70 people, mostly from the Upper Gunnison River side of Central Colorado, enjoyed a tour of Blue Mesa Dam as part of a commemoration of the commencement of construction on the dam 50 years ago this summer. Bureau of Reclamation managers and engineers showed us around the dam and its powerplant, and we ended up staying an hour longer than anticipated, it was all so fascinating.

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Motoring the Back Roads

By Phillip Benningfield

So often we are stuck on the paved roads, busy highways, four-way stops; relegated to the same path, or in too much of a hurry to get to the next stop. Here’s an novel idea: sit back, roll down the windows, cruise slowly and play “Lowrider” on the 8-track while your passenger drinks a tasty libation.

Colorado is overflowing with perfectly safe, absolutely serene, and kinda smooth back roads. These well-maintained dirt roads do not require anything more than a passenger car and the will to see all the vast hidden lands at a nice low-rider speed.

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Course Correction

By Slim Wolfe

From the President on down to the economics prof at the local school, they’re all making verbal capital out of the economic crisis and the imminent death of the middle class, but maybe it’s time to define our terms. Economic crisis might be defined easily, as when people are reduced to eating ground tree-bark and scavenged weeds, as, say, in the American south after the Civil War, or in rural China after the cultural revolution. Another example would be during the German siege of Leningrad when boiled wallpaper glue was a staple of many people’s diet. Having to let the cleaning lady go, or downsizing from an oversized house in the suburbs doesn’t seem to me to qualify as a crisis, though it might fit the euphemism “course correction.” According to the high priest of the free market, the gods of capital will occasionally deign to descend to our mortal plane and show us a better way.

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