Paddling the Inferno

By Erik Dahl

Raft guides are commonly faced with diverse situations: rescuing a swimmer, cleaning up after a flip or coordinating the evacuation of a customer. As a guide, you expect these situations to arise and are ready for them. The afternoon of June 10, 2013 brought a situation that had not been considered as a threat to rafting – a wildfire consuming a large portion of the Royal Gorge.

This is my third season as a raft guide at the River Runners office out of Cañon City. During my short time here I have experienced multiple high- stress situations, but nothing so catastrophic or uncontrollable as a raging wildfire. Fortunately, for some reason I decided to bring along my phone to capture the moment through its mediocre camera.

As the water continued to rise, so did our motivation to be on the river. Three friends from Colorado Springs made the short trip to Cañon City to do some private trips or “play boating” through the Gorge. We went on a play trip with other staff and friends after they arrived Monday evening, a routine trip that went without any surprises. Our trip the next afternoon was different.

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Walking in Ben’s Footsteps – Leadville’s Guggenheim Home

By Carolyn Coleman White

For nearly 30 years, the decaying building at 134 West 6th Street in Leadville, Colorado was a party place, its windows kicked out and graffiti sprayed on the walls. Neighborhood teens used to gather there, leaving beer cans, cigarette butts and other paraphernalia scattered on the once-glossy hardwood floors. During the 1950s and 60s, before it was abandoned, it was a boarding facility, with six apartments (outlines of the numbers can still be seen on certain doors) and two shared bathrooms, one upstairs and another down. “I made a baby in the bedroom right there,” claimed a frail, stooped great-grandmother named Lydia, who now lives across the street, as she pointed toward an upper left window. “My husband had a job at the Climax mine after we moved here from New Mexico. We liked the house, but when the baby came our rented space was just too small.”

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Dispatch from the Edge

By Peter Anderson

How do you know when a place has become a part of you and you a part of that place?

Thirty-five years ago, I lived in a small cabin under a very big sky. Like Crestone, it was at the end of the road. Well, not exactly at the end. You could drive a jeep over the Divide in the summer months, and many people came up there to do just that. But come winter, this all-but-abandoned mining town was the last stop for the county snowplow. For a few years, I was the only full-time resident there during the winter months.

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A Rare Arrastra Near Buena Vista, Colorado

By Kenneth Jessen

In its simplest terms, an arrastra is a grinder and dates back thousands of years. The grinding surface is typically flat bedrock situated near a stream. A vertical pocket is drilled into the rock, and a perpendicular pole is placed in the pocket. Attached to the pole near its base is a horizontal beam and attached to the beam, usually by chains, is a heavy stone that does the grinding. Farther up the pole is a long horizontal beam that is used to turn the arrastra. As the pole is rotated, ore is placed in the path of the stone and the ore is crushed against the bedrock. Eventually, this process creates a groove in the bedrock that is telltale evidence that an arrastra once existed.

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Coming soon: A New Ed Quillen Anthology

A daughter compiles a collection of her late father’s columns.

Popular Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen died suddenly last June, leaving behind a lifetime of writing, including thousands of weekly columns.

Abby Quillen, his daughter, is compiling his later columns into a sequel to his 1998 collection, Deep in the Heart of the Rockies. The new anthology will be entitled Deeper into the Heart of the Rockies, and the release date is scheduled for November 1. The book will include 120 of Quillen’s best columns published between 1999 and 2012.

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Hot Springs City, Colorado

By Christopher Kolomitz

Easing the car off the highway and into the dirt parking lot at Joyful Journey Hot Springs, visitors gaze east out across the landscape which is nearly free of obstruction.

Few trees, even fewer buildings and a steadily blowing breeze greet them as they hustle into the warmth of the now modern and popular hot springs facility just south of Villa Grove in Saguache County.

It’s hard to imagine that more than 100 years ago, a city once formed here with great hopes of becoming a tourist destination and prosperous site. However, the brutal climate, the Great Depression, a floundering agriculture economy with poor soil, and life’s hardships ended that hope.

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Rocky Mountain Livestock Sales

One of Chaffee County’s Historic Resources

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

“Although farming preceded ranching in Colorado and has long since surpassed it in importance, the great cattle ranches of the seventies and eighties first gave agriculture any considerable weight in the State’s economy,” according Colorado, A Guide to the Highest State by Federal Writers’ Project, first published in 1941. This refers to the 1870s and 1880s.

In 1858 the idea of raising livestock in Colorado began when a prospector discovered his loose oxen could survive on the grassy plains where the city of Denver now stands. The oxen not only survived on the grasses but put weight on doing so. With this discovery, Texas cattle were driven northward to the lower Arkansas River Valley and into other sections of the state. The advance of the railroads soon opened new grazing land in the mountain parks and on the Western Slope.

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Down on the Ground with the Patriot Dream

By George Sibley

I started writing this a couple days after Memorial Day – the beginning of “the patriot season.” Memorial Day, followed by Flag Day which is now past, with Independence Day on the horizon; the patriot season.

The patriot season began for me this year a couple days before Memorial Day. Every Friday afternoon, a group of musicians and singers assembles in random combinations down at Gunnison’s “living care center,” where we do an unrehearsed combination concert and group sing with the old folk biding their final time there. Many of the folks, unfortunately, no longer know who they are, but they still remember the words to the kinds of songs people used to sing to and for each other around the family piano, before capitalist entrepreneurs took over the task of entertaining us more professionally.

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Regional News

Early Fires Keep Crews Busy

Fire season is underway in Colorado, and judging by the damage done in June alone, it could turn out to be one of the worst on record. First, a fire which began June 11 at the Royal Gorge, west of Cañon City, burned at least 3,218 acres and destroyed 48 structures.

The Royal Gorge Bridge, the world’s second highest suspension bridge, suffered some minor damage but remained intact. The fire also caused the evacuation of nearly 1,000 inmates from Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. The blaze was fully contained by June 21 and no deaths were reported. The cause of the fire had not been determined by press time.

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Rocky Mountain High – Colorado’s Other State Song

By Mike Rosso

In our October 2012 issue, #223, we wrote about Colorado’s first official state song “Where the Columbines Grow” by A.J. Fynn, which was adopted in 1915 by the General Assembly.

In March of 2007, “Rocky Mountain High,” by singer songwriter John Denver, was named the second official state song by the Colorado State Assembly.

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An Interview with Area Native Billie Love

Conducted by Tyler Grimes

Billie Love’s grandfather fought with, and fell behind, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s regiment and lived to tell the tale. Her father was a brick mason who worked on notable Chaffee County buildings such as the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, the Smeltertown smokestack, and Salida Middle School. When Franklin D. Roosevelt came through Salida by train, she – and most of the town – saw her father, dressed in his work attire, meet the President. For Love, it’s easier than most to see the Arkansas Valley through the lens of history.

Love works at the Chamber of Commerce in Buena Vista, where she met me to share some of her stories.

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A Point Of Diversion or: A Fluid Curiosity

By John Mattingly
This is the first in a series of articles about “fluid curiosities” of Colorado water laws as they may apply to the San Luis Valley, where water users and attorneys are in the process of forming subdistricts to achieve sustainability in use of the Valley’s rechargeable aquifers. This series comes, of course, with a wide disclaimer that these are my personal opinions, not those of Colorado Central, any state agency, or other individual.

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A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

 By Jennifer Welch

There is a certain amount of romance associated with farming; I can’t deny that this is true. Maybe it’s the idea of marrying a piece of land with a herd of livestock, or consummating that marriage with the careful placement of a seed deep inside a fold of the earth. There has to be some grand idea that makes the long hours and countless sacrifices mean something. The money makes you want to cry. The hours, and the losses, and the desolation make you want to cry. So why do farmers do it? No matter how certain farmers sound when they tell you the answer to this question, I can guarantee that they ask themselves the exact same thing every day: Why do I do this? For me, the answer is simple: it is love.

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The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman

Ramblin’ Jack Talks Booze Trains

It’s time to head down to the Vic in Salida and drink rye whiskey in honor of Ramblin’ Jack Snyder. When he passed away two years ago, we lost a repository of Colorado rail history. The story is that he drove his aging Cadillac to a Denver hospital and died before he could check in. He was in his upper nineties. Each time Jack took me riding in his vintage Cadillac convertible he’d tell train tales. We’d stop at some railroad yard, and he’d point out where whiskey was stored and loaded at night. Sometimes we’d even find old barrel staves and broken bottles.

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Smoke on the Horizon

By Mike Rosso

Forest fires are on most everyone’s minds in Colorado’s mountain communities right now. When thick, acrid clouds of smoke settled on Salida this past week, it reminded us all how volatile these mountains have become, and it only seems to be getting worse.

Our neighbors in Westcliffe, Cañon City and the San Luis Valley are all suffering from the effects of multiple fires in the region, the worst of which, the West Fork complex – nearly 160 miles from here – has already consumed 70,000 acres of beetle-kill spruce forests in the Weminuche Wilderness and is creating billowing clouds of smoke reaching as far as Colorado Springs.

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Book review

 Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey

By Christina Nealson
Wildwords/CreateSpace: Paperback, 220 pp, $14.00

 Reviewed by Annie Dawid

“Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had a special relationship with trees. The one time I ran away I ventured two blocks (it felt like miles at the time) and curled into the fetal position between the protruding roots of a giant oak. Now I joined the spirit of Buddha, who meditated under a tree and sought wisdom.”

Finalist for the Colorado Book Awards, Drive Me Wild, Christina Nealson’s memoir, offers the reader a chance to join the author on a mind/body journey across the great West. Other reviewers liken Nealson’s story to William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways and John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.

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