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Trail frustrations

Letter from Ray Schoch

Colorado Central – November 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Trail frustrations

Ed and Martha:

Once again, nicely done (No. 80, that is).

Like Lou Bendrick, I’ll never be allowed to be an avid birder, though I’ve never provided Lakewood hummingbirds (perhaps an oxymoronic term) with a sugar overdose. Ms. Bendrick’s little piece reminds me, however (and I obviously have no idea how the Quillen pairing works in this regard), that spouses are sometimes among the least forgiving of acquaintances.

“On Mountain Time” continues to amuse, in this case with the “non-local” vehicle on the road to the new house. When I began to visit Colorado as a vacation destination in the mid 1980s, I fairly quickly became convinced that the state’s official automobile was a silver Subaru with a cracked windshield. I suppose I could have the windshield on my Neon replaced — I got my official resident’s crack about 6 months after I moved here in 1997 — but aside from the expense, the crack is on the passenger’s side, and I rarely have passengers.

Besides, I think it goes nicely with the two circular dings, also on the passenger’s side, that the windshield has acquired to go with the crack. One came from a rock, but the other circular ding in the windshield came from a bolt, which I clearly saw as it was thrown up by the snow tires on the pickup truck 50 yards ahead of me, then watched as it bounced once on the road before doing its best to send me to a glass-replacement shop.

As a charter member of OCTA (The Oregon-California Trails Association), which managed to successfully lobby Congress some years back to get this whole “historic trails” movement going in the first place, I’m somewhat familiar with the frustrations of those who’d like the Old Spanish Trail to achieve official designation as a historic trail. Especially as we work our way “down” the list from routes that had obvious heavy use by emigrants and military forces alike over a lengthy period to routes less heavily traveled, or less “newsworthy” at the time, the task of getting a route officially designated becomes progressively more difficult.

I enjoyed George’s AMUC piece, and he gave me a flyer on the Headwaters Conference when we finished the Headwater Hill hike. If I could afford a couple of nights in a Gunnison motel, I’d consider attending the Headwaters Conference just out of curiosity, but I don’t know that a retired school teacher from Lakewood by way of St. Louis, with no political skills, business experience, or clout at all, would have anything of value to contribute to a Headwaters Conference. More than that, I’m still trying to figure out how George made the entire Headwaters Hill hike without ever appearing to breathe hard (I admit that much of my interest in the latter is spurred on by jealousy).

As usual, there was some interesting history in the series on Kit Carson’s various permutations, and for many of the same reasons I’m inclined to agree with Martha’s view that there’s no reason not to name a mountain after him. I’ve yet to meet a morally perfect human, and don’t expect to, so Carson’s failings along those lines are part of what makes him an interesting historical character and person, and aren’t necessarily reason for blanket condemnation. We seem to grant considerable prestige to the Nobel Prize in its several forms, and particularly the Peace Prize, despite the fact that the money to fund those prizes comes from a fortune Alfred Nobel was able to amass because he invented an explosive that has killed millions of people in the wars of the last century or so.

Tom Wolf’s piece was interesting, as well, but I’m not yet convinced — especially after seeing huge and numerous piles of “slash” in logged areas during my many high country hikes this summer — that logging necessarily offers both economic reward and reduced fire danger simultaneously. I do, however, like Wolf’s use of the term “sustainable,” a word that many logging companies have tossed about all too frequently over the past century and a half without any apparent effort to use methods which would make it reality.

I really enjoyed “Just who should be giving us moral instruction?” but in the end, I have to disagree with who’s getting most of the flak. It’s a matter of degree, I admit, and I hardly think that government (whether local, state or federal) is blameless for many of the minor and major annoyances of modern life, not to mention some of those moral conundrums we’re occasionally confronted with as ordinary human beings. Personally — you guys have your bias, and I have mine — I’d be putting more of the blame on those corporations the government is often unable to regulate effectively.

Such regulation would be unnecessary if the corporation as a legal entity, and its officers and executives as human beings, conducted business in an ethical (as opposed to legal, which is quite another matter) manner. If we’re going to take people and institutions to task for failing to provide moral leadership, right up there at the top of my personal list are corporations as social institutions, and corporate executives as leaders of those institutions, who cannot morally justify a host of events and activities for which they’re responsible, whether it be compensation packages hundreds of times as lucrative for CEO’s as those of the employees who actually do the work of the company, to purposeful actions and policies that endanger the health of individuals and communities, to lying about those very actions and policies.

Many of the pull quotes scattered through the article, not to mention “The Wisdom of the Ages” page, will get nods of approval and recognition from readers, including this one, but precious few of them address the real villains — if that’s not too harsh a term to use — which seem to me to be far more corporate than governmental. We’ve allowed corporations as entities to remain strangely exempt from moral culpability for their actions, and corporate executives, who sound, on those very rare occasions when they’re actually brought before some sort of legal tribunal, distressingly like the Nazis at Nuremberg, to escape any personal responsibility for actions taken by the company while they’re in charge. “It’s not my fault” is something of a national disease of late, but corporate suits have set an example for denial of responsibility that makes it difficult for the local felon not to follow admiringly in their footsteps.

And Hal Walter gets better all the time. I’ve never had the sort of attachment to a dog that seems so common among Coloradans, but Golden’s story is a touching one, and ought to be even for people who’ve never had a dog.

I loved the back cover, and, unless you folks really prefer the actual physical activity of cutting and pasting, I hope you’re aware that clip art is now widely available in electronic form, including the old-fashioned cuts that Colorado Central favors.

And finally, kudos to this new writer for Colorado Central. I’m kidding, of course, but all the “collector’s issues” I’ve previously received have had a lot more of Ed’s byline than Martha’s, and this one is quite the reverse. Perhaps Ed was busy making speeches and someone had to get the magazine out? Regardless, the result admits to more tears, perhaps, but the prose is just as well-written. Nice job, Mrs. Quillen.

Best wishes

Ray Schoch