From the Editor: The Cost of Shelter

By Mike Rosso

It’s a pattern repeated throughout Colorado; a small town gets “discovered,” thus becoming a magnet for retirees, lone eagles, trust funders and those simply looking for a quiet place in the mountains.
Naturally, these folks need someplace to live, so the demand for housing goes up. But what if the supply does not keep up with the demand? This usually leads to inflated prices for real estate and rental properties.

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Sheep’s Gulch Trail

by Ericka Kastner

Some might call it “the trail that gets forgotten.” Most wilderness lovers traveling down County Road 390 near Granite are likely headed towards one of the many 14,000-foot peaks in the area. They’ve possibly never heard of Sheep’s Gulch Trail.

At least I hadn’t until yesterday, literally. A friend and I were on a quest for a gorgeous fall hike that would be rich with color and take us above tree line. He suggested Sheep’s Gulch and I was immediately intrigued, as I love discovering new trails.

Sheep’s Gulch trailhead is on the north side of CR 390, about 8.9 miles from its intersection with U.S. Highway 24. Even the two-wheel-drive accessible route to the trailhead is spectacular, and worth the drive alone, as it includes stunning views of Clear Creek Reservoir, historic cabin sightings along the way (check out Dawson Cabin about 5.8 miles along the road or the Vicksburg Museum at mile 7.2) and glorious valley vistas in the distance.

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Salida’s Housing Crunch: A Firsthand Look

By Jessica Wierzbinski

It can’t really be that hard to find a place to house your family, right? Not even in a little mountain town that has in recent years become a veritable Mecca for mountain biking, river sporting, alternatively medicating, retiring and any number of other activities folks come here for. Even amid this influx, one can always cover the basics like housing, right?

I can say from personal experience what the recently published housing needs assessment reports in numbers: families have it hard here, and many are being forced to move away.

Beginning in January, 2015, I spent well over a year proactively scouring the housing market in Salida – both the rental and the sale markets – for a way to house myself and my sons. Having lived in our beloved S-Town for over five years, we’d already thrown down roots. Good, deep roots. We didn’t want to leave. But who knew simply staying put would prove so tooth-and-nail difficult? 

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The Art and Science of Showing Up

I wrote in my book, Full Tilt Boogie, that for sure no burro gets up in the morning and thinks, “Dang, I think I’ll run up a 13,000-foot mountain pass today.” And likewise, no autistic kid gets up in the morning and thinks, “I think I’ll conform to societal norms today.”

I go on to explain that the real key to success with either burros or autistic children is extreme patience and allowing them to find their own way.

This past summer I entered the pack-burro racing season with a 7-year-old jack named Teddy that I’d literally liberated less than a year ago from a small corral in the middle of a San Luis Valley junk yard. Colorado’s pack-burro races are 9-29 miles in length, at high altitude, and since no riding is allowed, we run, jog and power-hike the entire distance alongside our animals, which are loaded with 33 pounds of gear. Despite my relative lack of natural ability, over the years I’ve been fortunate to have had some great success at this sport, including seven world championships, mostly by consistently showing up.

Also this past summer, my son Harrison entered his second season of running on the Custer County Middle School cross-country team. His first season I journaled in my short book, Endurance – A season in cross country with my autistic son.

The parallels between the neurodiverse mind and the animal world never cease to amaze me, and my belief in sport as a metaphor for life seems to be strengthened with age and with the challenges of raising a neurodiverse child.

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Pursuing Uranium in Fremont County


By Joe Stone

The Tallahassee Creek area in western Fremont County offers a degree of serenity conducive to a contemplative lifestyle, evidenced by the presence of a monastic retreat on the banks of Tallahassee Creek. This bucolic setting between Salida and Cañon City seemed ideal, not only to the monks and nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady and Saint Laurence, but also to the urban refugees who built homes and hobby ranches in the area during the past 25 years. But what once seemed like the idyllic manifestation of lifelong dreams took a nightmarish turn when residents realized a mining company owned the rights to the uranium that lies beneath their property.

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A Prospector’s Pick: The Early Town of Cache Creek

The town of Cache Creek once supported a boarding house, supplies stores and upwards of 300 residents.
The town of Cache Creek once supported a boarding house, supplies stores and upwards of 300 residents.

By Jan MacKell Collins

Hike along Cache Creek outside of Granite today, and you are certain to run into folks all along the water. These aren’t your average outdoor enthusiasts; rather, the folks scrambling along the riverbanks are on a mission. They are looking for gold, which can still be found over 150 years after being discovered.
Cache Creek’s name is derived from the French word, “cacher,” meaning “to hide.” One story goes that around 1854, French trappers hid their pelts there, while another claims that explorers Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell hid their supplies in the vicinity as they fled some Native Americans. Because of its odd pronunciation, Cache Creek was sometimes referred to as “Cash Creek.”

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The Way We Really Were

By Virginia McConnell Simmons Using native materials, early-day miners constructed arrastras at several remote, streamside locations in Colorado. First introduced to the New World by Spaniards, arrastras pulverized ore while a burro or horse dragged a grinding stone around and around over an existing large rock. Surviving evidence may be a very flat, wide rock …

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The Man Who Died Twice (part I)

mm-1-1995_webBy Daniel Smith

For a journalist, some stories, even those which start relatively small, can have long “legs,” and can emotionally touch you.
The most intriguing stories, naturally, are those that involve human drama. But throw in a strange twist of fate connecting two seemingly unrelated events and you have … well, stories with a strange twist of fate.
This story begins 21 years ago with a local drug investigation that resulted in brutal death, and a later murder trial intertwined with a dramatic accident resulting in another death and a compelling story of grit and survival – in two parts.
In early 1995, 24-year-old Richard Johnson never knew it, but he could have died twice – a second time in a plane crash – had he not been murdered beforehand.
Johnson, a reputed illegal drug user from Alamosa who had reportedly become an informant for local and state drug investigators, had his throat cut, his body dragged off County Road 185, eight miles up Ute Trail and partially buried in pine needles.
The Mountain Mail reported at the time Johnson had turned an informant for the local authorities and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and was involved in an ongoing investigation at the time he was slain.
He apparently died the night of Jan. 24, 1995. A trail of blood and marks from dragging were found, and his body lay near glass and pieces of metal from an apparent car wreck off the rural road.
The suspect arrested on Jan. 26 was 20-year-old Jeremy Nechol Denison of Salida. He and Johnson became acquainted while students at what was then Adams State College.
The Salida Police, Chaffee County District Attorney’s Office, Chaffee County Sheriff, CBI and Colorado State Patrol Patrol all took part in the investigation. Denison was initially held on one million dollars bond.
The paper reported the next day that the debris at the scene had prompted police to search for a red car with a broken windshield and front end damage. The victim’s red Pontiac Trans Am, with a large amount of blood inside, was recovered in Denver, not far from where Denison was staying.

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Down on the Ground with the Hotshots

By George Sibley I should probably be trying to write something wonky about American politics, but instead I’m writing this article from the near-wilds on the sunny side of Grand Mesa, at a rendezvous of an organization formerly known as the Crested Butte Hotshots. The Hotshots were a forest-fire crew based in Crested Butte who …

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Quillen’s Corner: Journalism in the Land of the Lost

By Martha Quillen

According to those in the know, America has lost it. But what have we lost? Donald Trump says it’s our greatness, because the way he sees it, our nation isn’t feared nor revered anymore, whereas others claim we’ve lost our mojo, which generally refers to our gumption and can-do attitude. Many agree we’ve lost our minds, and others think we’ve lost our soul. And scads of commentators believe America has lost either its moral compass, or moral standing, or morals altogether.

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Music Review: Gabrielle Louise – If the Static Clears

gabrielle_webReviewed by Brian Rill

Gabrielle Louise should be a movie star. Shrouded in stage lights, her enrapturing silhouette inspires lucid dreams. All that is divine moves on light feet and Gabrielle slowly drips her words onto the ear drum, barely striking it. A pseudo-drawl crawls over enticing acoustic guitar chords, vaguely jazz-laden with western flare. She wrote the first tune on a baby Martin guitar given to her at an early age and was forever inspired to become a songwriter.

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Book Review – Seasons of the Enemies: The Long Walk of the Navajo

seasons_webBy Sharon Leslie Gearhart 2015, 245 pp, $19.95
SC-ISBN: 987-1-4931-1

Reviewed by Virginia McConnell Simmons

The subtitle will lead prospective readers to believe this volume to be an account of the exodus of Navajo Indians to Fort Sumner. Instead, it is an amalgam of detailed descriptions of ceremonies that are incorporated into the narrative, descriptions of military personnel and events related to the period of 1858 to 1864, some text that appears to be historical fiction, approximately 25 pages of very well-researched history devoted to the Army’s campaign at Canyon de Chelly in 1863-1864 and a two-page epilogue about the internment at Fort Sumner. Although at times readers may not feel certain as to whether various parts of the text are historical fiction, anthropology or history, general readers with a special interest in the Diné will enjoy the book. They also will enjoy descriptions of the setting and activities in it at Black Mesa near Kayenta, New Mexico, Tseigi Canyon, the surrounding region and especially Canyon de Chelly itself.

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