News from the San Luis Valley

Plane Crash at the Sand Dunes Takes Two Lives

A Piper PA-28 piloted by Monte Vista resident Richard Cutter, 69, crashed in a remote area on Medano Pass at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on June 8. Cutter died in the crash. A passenger, Sandra Fitzgerald, 51, of Alamosa, died June 18 in a Denver hospital, where she had been transported following the crash. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

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The Curious Crystal Ball Inside Mount Princeton

By Jane Koerner

The logistical and technical challenges seemed daunting at times. A drilling site had to be found that met all the specifications of the geologists, who had to take into account the tectonic forces that continually shape Mount Princeton and the rest of the Sawatch Range. Permits had to be obtained from the U.S. Forest Service to fix the washed-out sections of the access road so the heavy equipment could be hauled up by truck. Even after the improvements the road proved too rough and narrow for one truck, which had to be retrieved from the edge of a cliff.

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From the Editor

Fall has definitely arrived in Central Colorado. Most of the aspen trees have shed their golden leaves, pickup trucks full of orange-clad hunters are making their way through town into the high country, numerous political signs are visible in yards throughout the city and the mountains are beginning show evidence of snow.

It’s a shoulder season in Salida, which means the streets are quieter and downtown is more subdued, and it will probably stay that way until the ski season gets under way. It’s also a time for chimney cleaning, rolling up the lawn hoses, getting the snow tires mounted and breaking out the winter clothes.

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Down on the Ground with the NFL

By George Sibley

I went to my first NFL football game this October and am trying to figure out how to fit that into the context of my still-evolving but generally mundane sense of reality.

My partner Maryo and I were again spending October in Wisconsin – her home state and home of much of her soul, as the Colorado mountains are home to much of mine. She grew up in Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, but came to know most of the state through college summers working for her father, Robert Gard, who was employed by the University of Wisconsin to travel the state helping people articulate their lives in story, play and verse.

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Granite Stage Stop and Livery Stable

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

This Granite stage stop and Livery Stable is the fifth property featured from the Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey completed this summer. Granite was spawned by the stampede of prospectors struck by gold fever. The initial gold discovery in 1860 by G.A. Kelley along the Arkansas River – about four miles south of the present day town of Granite – was on a gravel bar later to take the name Kelley’s Bar. Just to the north, Cache Creek became an even more profitable site. Virginia McConnell Simmons in The Upper Arkansas, A Mountain River Valley states it precisely: “Granite’s role in the life of this area went back to 1860, when the entire section along the Arkansas from Kelley’s Bar on the south to Cache Creek on the north was lined with prospectors’ tents. But Granite was simply a suburb of the placer camps, particularly of Cache Creek.”

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The Offering

By Jennifer Welch

I was recently visited by a dear friend – the kind of friend who swoops in with a bottle of whiskey in hand and leaves you feeling more connected with your sense of being than when he arrived. On this particular visit, he happened to be in town the night before my first-ever hunting season opened. We sat long into the night and talked about farming and hunting and various other things. I mentioned that I was a little nervous about walking into the woods and taking a life. And that is when he began to tell me about the Ainu.

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Regional News

By Christopher Kolomitz

Rockslide Tragedy

Dwayne, Dawna and Kiowa-Rain Johnson, all of Buena Vista, plus two other relatives visiting from out of state, died in a rockslide Sept. 30 while they were hiking at Agnes Vaille Falls. Gracie Johnson, 13, was seriously injured after being trapped in the rubble. The deaths were a big blow to the community, Dwayne was an electrician, landscaper and football coach, Dawna was a popular waitress in town and Kiowa-Rain was a senior at the high school.

More than $50,000 has been raised for the Johnson Family Fund and an additional $10,000 was raised for a scholarship by Gracie’s fellow middle school students, reports The Chaffee County Times. The popular hike to the falls has been closed by the U.S. Forest Service and no timetable has been set for its re-opening.

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Breaking the Shackles of Time

By Abby Quillen

As many know, my dad died last summer, and I’ve been compiling an anthology of his work. By November 1, Deeper into the Heart of the Rockies will be available on and at select bookstores.

Occasionally, over the months of anthologizing, I’ve needed to access my dad’s email account to retrieve an address. It’s creepy to see press releases, pitches, newsletters and advertorials still piling up there, five or six of them a day with cheerful salutations – “Hello Mr. Quillen!” “Congratulations!” I haven’t read much of my dad’s actual correspondence, because it still feels like I’d be violating his privacy. But occasionally I’ll click on a message, and there’s my dad’s voice on the screen – unpolished, off-the-cuff, typos and all.

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Book Reviews

A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography
By Kayann Short

Torrey House Press, paperback 215 pp $14.95

 Reviewed by Annie Dawid


Thus must it be, when willingly you strive

throughout a long and uncomplaining life

committed to one goal: to give yourself!

And silently to grow and to bear fruit.

Rainier Maria Rilke, “The Apple Orchard”

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A Warning from Venus

By Jim Costello

Beautiful Venus, striking and bright in the western evening sky, brought wonder and awe to human imaginations before the concept of a planet existed. Today, knowing what we do about Venus, those thoughts are stretched even further with critically important questions for Earth and life itself.

When Venus is close to Earth, passing on an inside lane around the sun, it is by far the brightest star-like object in the sky. Then she follows the setting sun, first getting farther from the sun as days pass, and then getting closer to the sun. Finally, Venus disappears for a few days only to reappear and lead the sun in the eastern morning sky.

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Bruce Hayes – Colorado Mountain Music

By Ericka Kastner

Some say Howard resident Bruce Hayes is the hardest working musician in Central Colorado. He sees himself as more of an opportunist, performing his rhythm and Celtgrass harmonies for a live audience whenever he gets the chance.

Hayes has proven himself to be both hardworking and opportunistic. Songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Hayes has been on the live music scene since his college days in the late 1970s. He produced both of his own albums and has recorded collections and singles for more than a dozen artists, including the first recorded single for the internationally known band String Cheese Incident.

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Cancelled – How the Government Shutdown Affected a Group of Area Boaters

By Elisha McArthur

Permits to run the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon are acquired by a weighted lottery system and are not easy to get. What used to be a ten-year waiting list switched to a lottery in 2006. The weighted system means that you have a certain number of points, giving you so many chances to win. My better half, Alan, and I put in for a permit in January of 2012, and even with my dad on our permit (who had priority lottery points from being on the waiting list for nine years before it switched to the lottery) did not win the primary lottery on Feb. 22. We did, however, win a permit from a secondary drawing held in March. Our launch date was Oct. 2, 2013, and we were elated! We spent the next year and a half planning the perfect trip and rallying the perfect crew.

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Treasure of the Sierra Sangres

By Hal Walter

Largely because of geology, the Sangre de Cristo range was not heavily mined or prospected, though ironically, the town of Silver Cliff in the valley below was founded on minerals extraction. Still, over the decades, many have sought out other resources in the “Big Mountains” – timber, game, grazing, water. Some of the stories behind these exploits and even some artifacts and landmarks remain. We hear of the old-timer who waited for the wind to be right before setting fire to the timber in order to develop meadows and improve the hunting. Sheepherders had trails following the finger ridges to the high slopes, where the grass was lush in the summer months. The imprints of wagon roads tell the story of where timber was dragged out.

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