Whither Pack-Burro Racing?

The sages tell us that everything is always changing, and in fact the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that nothing endures but change itself. Thus is the case of Colorado’s indigenous sport of pack-burro racing.

It began back in 1949 with a race over Mosquito Pass to Fairplay. Nearly seven decades later I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps organizers should have stuck with this original format, or perhaps should consider going back to it. Then again, I may be jaded because I’ve been along for the adventure for more than half of those seven decades.

In the years since this first race, the sport has grown to include separate events in both Leadville and Fairplay, as well as shorter races in other towns including Buena Vista, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Creede and Victor.

The original rules remain largely unchanged. Each burro must carry 33 pounds of gear on a regulation packsaddle (whatever “regulation” means) and the gear must include a pick, pan and shovel. The burro must be led or driven by means of a halter and lead rope no longer than 15 feet. Riding is not allowed.

Over the years some rules have been adjusted slightly to allow donkeys larger than 53 inches at the withers to compete, and also to allow mini-donkeys to be run without the weight requirement. 

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The Saguache County Museum

By Connie Rapalski

The Saguache County Museum began as an idea that grew into a huge community project. At the time, all Colorado communities were asked to join in the 1976 Centennial celebration of the Rush to the Rockies, which brought miners and other pioneers to Colorado. Several clubs including the Saguache Women’s Club along with the Community Council started a movement to Save Our Jail. A museum was chosen because the jail and the old Jailer’s Home were scheduled to be torn down. The museum was originally to be located there for only a year, but now, 59 years later it remains in the same location.

The old jail was built in 1908, and the 1870s residence was built by Otto Mears. Neither building was in good shape. It took a lot of volunteers and donations to turn the house and yard into something suitable to hold a collection.

Unsolicited, people from Villa Grove, Center, Crestone, Hooper and Saguache began donating items. The museum started with a Nutmeg Grinder and two broken show cases.

In 1972, the Memorial Room was added, thanks to donations. In 2004, the museum secured $170,000 in grants and used it to add on the Virginia Sutherland Room. Originally, Sutherland headed up the museum committee for her club. She served as Chairman of the Museum for 56 years, and today continues on the Board of Directors as Chairman Emeritus. 

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What Do You Want?

By Jennifer Welch

Summer never starts off with these words, “What do you want?” It begins on a much softer note. “Hi, what can I help you with today? What can I get for you? Is that all you would like?” Everyone in the service industry has the lines memorized by heart and, at least in the beginning, manages to even use them with customers. But towards the end of the season, when angry August rolls around, you just might let a ‘What do you want?’ slip from your lips … if only accidentally. It’s not that we hate our jobs by the end of summer, it’s that we loathe them. And, really, it’s not you, it’s us. The service industry is exhausting and gratifying at the same time and, generally speaking, the more exhausted you get, the more gratified you become. But at some point we just need to crawl into a hole and hibernate for the winter until the next tourist season rolls around and we are required to smile and talk to people again.

Here at the bus, summer is off to a great start. We are busier than we were last year and running a larger menu and a larger farm. We are also looking at adding more pasture land to our rotations which will allow us to continue to grow our herds and the food truck even more. We really didn’t know what to expect this summer, especially after last year’s fiasco. It’s hard to know when to quit and when to keep going and we were ready to hinge that decision on this year’s progress or lack thereof. So I am relieved to say that things are looking up so far. In hindsight, I might be willing to admit that taking two of the most demanding, failure-prone business models and smashing them together might have been a horrible idea. Maybe they were right, maybe you can’t do it all or have it all. These thoughts have been rumbling around in my head all spring and begging the question, “What do you want?”

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Badger Creek: A Wilderness?

Article and photos by John Lacher

I grew up in the hills just outside Boulder. That upbringing offered me the opportunity to ramble around the mountainside on little explorations. I was always thinking about discoveries just beyond the next ridge or rock outcrop. Perhaps I would find an abandoned cabin, an old Indian campsite, or maybe the next quartz vein would have a chunk of gold sticking out of it. This would certainly be a big supplement to my paper route money. Alas, I never found anything of worth, but would sometimes run into a dip on the mountainside or a secluded ridge line where no houses were visible nor sounds of humanity present. They always seemed magical somehow, and to me they were true wilderness areas. I still enjoy poking around less traveled areas in Colorado.

Last year my eyes fell on Badger Creek on a map. It runs into the Arkansas River from the north, and seemed like a great place to visit, fish and explore. Last fall I drove to the North end, where County Road 2 crosses Badger Creek. There were a few fish, and not many people. I camped one night. Unzipping the tent next morning, my eyes fell on a lovely mountain bluebird perched on a cow pie eight feet away. I took that for good Karma, since the bird was in no hurry to leave, and we enjoyed each others’ company for a few minutes.

That afternoon, three gentlemen from Colorado Springs appeared. They had hiked down a few miles to fish. One fellow stated that he had always wanted to hike down the whole canyon to the Arkansas, but had heard that there were no trails, and that it might be a little tough going. Much like a lake cutthroat rising toward a dry fly, I was hooked. 

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CD Review: The Heartstring Hunters 

By Brian Rill

From my experience as a songwriter, most love songs start as a series of passionate screams inspired by a beautiful muse, only to end in a desperate, stifled echo never to be heard by the intended recipient. The Heartstring Hunters however have a very different story. Started by husband and wife duo Carolyn and Daniel Hunter, they have collected some premiere musicians and forged an extensive Indy-Folk team. The songs act as a sort of dialog between two lovers as they pass musical notes back and forth strumming pathos symbiotically within romantic spirits everywhere.

Lead vocalist and lyricist Carolyn Hunter soars, stretching her voice into other dimensions where shadows of true love hide slumbering like dreaming dragons snoring through fields filled with smoke, while lounging atop unstable mountains of gold. Musically solid, their self-titled debut album is impactful and well-recorded. Acoustic chords strummed quietly ring with precision. Harmony vocals from Rachael Sheaffer shatter the subdued back beat and steady drum rolls. Tempestuous runs from a Fender Telecaster guitar touch upon the heavily-hooked verses. Daniel Hunter joins his wife on vocals for some truly heartfelt folk duets.

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George Sibley: Down on the Ground with Science and Politics

A couple months ago, I marched for science in Gunnison with a handful of the several hundred thousand Americans marching throughout the nation, and a week later, in cold blustery weather, marched for the climate up in Crested Butte. These were enjoyable events with others like myself who currently feel ignored by a political administration that has no apparent respect for science, among other things.

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Quillen’s Corner – Another Pandemic Threatening Our World: Losing Perspective

By Martha Quillen

The sort of cruel gossip your mama forbade is now a common political ploy employed by both parties. That’s the way campaigns are conducted in the new millennium. Political players grab attention by making stunning accusations about their opponents’ morals, motives, and history, which they liberally supplement with humorous put-downs, and clever insults.

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Dispatch from the Edge

By Peter Anderson

I must have missed one of the rock cairns that marked the trail and walked off the map, but I did find a fine camp in an alpine meadow, with an island of spruce shielding me from elk grazing the waning tundra sun in a snow-rimmed cirque a mile or so off toward the Continental Divide. If my inner compass was a little off, so what? This was a fine place to be lost. As the elk herd approached, a slight breeze came with them, floating my scent off toward the sun which had gone down behind a distant ridge. As far as they were concerned I wasn’t there. Even when the walls of my tent billowed out in an occasional puff of wind, I didn’t exist. So they came closer and closer and soon I could hear the cows and calves mewing and bleating to one another on the far side of the spruce.

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Places: Antonito, CO

Photo by Ericka Kastner

By Ericka Kastner

If you know me, you know New Mexico is my happy place. I realize that’s an unlikely lead for a column in Colorado Central Magazine. But my love of New Mexico means that I’m passing through southern central Colorado on a fairly regular basis; it also means that every time I head towards Taos, Santa Fe or Madrid, I’m still discovering spots between Salida and the Colorado/New Mexico border that fascinate and surprise me. Six miles north of the state border, Antonito is one of those towns that tugs at my heart. It’s rich with authentic Mexican restaurants; is adorned with phenomenal murals displaying the town’s cultural heritage; and incredible mountains stretch far in the distance, allowing Antonito to offer up the vast, blue Colorado sky.

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Reviews: The Second Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas

Lynn E. Wickersham, Editor
Colorado Bird Atlas Partnership

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

The second edition of the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas is out and it is stunning. This is the bible for birders, but also a lovely book in and of itself. The illustrations by Radeaux are almost worth the price of the book. The effort by hundreds of volunteers to compile the atlas is impressive also. Lynn Wickersham and Catherine P. Ortega of Fort Lewis College deserve kudos as do Jason Beason and Tony Leukering of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory for managing this massive project. Each geographical block has been studied by an army of dedicated birders. The climate and water maps are well worth a ponder too.

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New Life for an Old Hotel

The Saguache Hotel today. Photo by Mike Rosso.

By Mike Rosso

When Steve Stewart and Cathy Kent randomly parked in front of an old hotel during a visit to Saguache, Colorado, on a November day in 2016, little did they know that single, incidental act would change their lives and possible the future of the entire town.

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Day Tripping – Part 2

By Mike Rosso

In May 2015, we ran our first installment of the Day Tripping column which took us from Salida to Cañon City, over the Oak Creek grade to Westcliffe, down to Cotopaxi and back to Salida along U.S. Hwy. 50.

Earlier this past June, my traveling partner Dan Smith and I chose the opposite direction for our explorations. The original plan was to drive over Marshall Pass to Sargents, where we would hook up with U.S. Hwy. 50 and continue west, but rainstorms in the mountains the previous evening, combined with lingering snow caused us to nix that idea.

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About the Cover Photographer: William Henry Jackson

By Mike Rosso

The cover photograph of Southern Ute Chief Ouray and Colorado railroad builder and entrepreneur Otto Mears was taken by famed American photographer William Henry Jackson sometime around 1878.

Printed on the board on which the photo is mounted is “Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories, Prof. F.V. Hayden in Charge.”

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