Showing posts with label Canon City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canon City. Show all posts

March 24, 2013

Signs of Spring (2)

Sandhill cranes (Wikipedia)
While I was shoveling snow this morning — two flocks of sandhill cranes calling and shimmering in a clear blue sky.

And I don't know if this is springlike or not, but on the 17th a scorpion stung me in the hand — when I was in bed, which felt like a real violation.

The last time that happened was in 1986, I think, but I was in Cañon City, which is an outlier of the Chihuahuan Desert anyway.

It seems like I saw one in this foothills house one other time, but I can't remember when.

These little tan scorpions are not too bad — it's a hit like a wasp sting that is just a memory a couple of hours later. But M. says that venomous desert critters have it in for me.

March 13, 2013

Signs of Spring (1)

Two nights ago: The first scent of skunk spray. So they are up and about.

Last night: A dinner guest said that a bear had been seen in or near Cañon City.

Today: Mourning cloak butterflies in the air when M. and I went for a walk up into the national forest.

January 30, 2013

Fremont County Corn

Someone was growing corn north of Cañon City in 1939, and she shows up in the famous Shorpy historic photo archive. Originally from a Resettlement Administration photo, part of the "New Deal," so maybe the woman in the photo was a refugee from the Dust Bowl, which was not that far away.

August 07, 2012

Blog Stew with Ingredients that You Don't Want to Know About

Off-topic but fascinating. Sewer-diving in Mexico City (with video). Sewer-cleaning the "fatbergs"  in London (with video). More sewer history.  The good old days of scavenging in sewers.

The Humane Society of the United States is sued for racketeering and other issues.

District judge Emmet G. Sullivan did dismiss allegations of mail and wire fraud, but he did so only because Feld didn't have standing to file this charge. His ruling all but set the stage for a class-action RICO lawsuit against HSUS for misrepresenting itself in its fundraising campaigns across the nation. This lawsuit easily could bankrupt HSUS, put it out of business and send some of its top executives to prison.
Funny, isn't it, that you have to go to a blogger to hear about this.

Ze artiste Christo has pushed back the construction of "Over the River" yet again. Tourism-industry types are dismayed, try to find silver lining.

I understand the argument that asks how pristine is a canyon with a highway(US 50) and a railroad in it already. But I do think that the Bureau of Land Management should have restricted OTR to the stretch between Texas Creek and Parkdale, because if there are highway blockages — and there will be — one could detour around on Colorado highways 96 and 69.

Upstream of Texas Creek, there are no detours, except very long, twisty, gravel roads through the mountains such as Fremont County Road 2 or an even longer highway detour up to Hartsel and Antero Junction.

It doesn't take much to close US 50 now: a little roadside fire, a car going into the river, a truck hitting a bridge abutment — I have seen all of these.

• Oh yes, and this: tracking coyotes with GPS collars in urban Chicago.

August 06, 2012

Notes on Some Southern Colorado Farmers Markets

CCFA farmers market at Holy Cross Abbey, Cañon City
Our usual CSA farmer offered only spring shares this year, for various reasons, so last month M. and I were faced with making the rounds of farmers' markets to supplement our garden.

First we tried the Pueblo Riverwalk Famers Market, which starts a 4 p.m. on Thursdays for the after-work crowd. Once you sort out the artsies and craftsies, there were four food producers selling — all local, but non organic. The booths were jammed onto one sidewalk between Union Avenue and Victoria Street — one of the few spots with shade! We bought some Rocky Ford cantaloupe, which was riper than what the supermarket had.

On Thursday mornings you can try the Florence farmers market in shady Pioneer Park. It features one local organic producer (Lippis farm) plus some sellers of honey (sometimes), spices, goat cheese, and potted plants.

The Central Colorado Foodshed Alliance sponsors markets in Cañon City, Salida, and Buena Vista.

We visited the Cañon market a week ago — it is held on Saturdays — and came away with a few items, including some raspberry-chipotle jelly from Shirley Ann's Field Fresh Produce of Manzanola (down the Arkansas Valley east of Pueblo). Any economic activity in Manzanola needs to be encourage, and the jelly had a nice zing.  You can buy Shirley Ann's products online.

Check the CCFA site for more information about times, places, producers, etc.

Another market that we have not visited since last summer is held in Westcliffe on Thursdays from 2–5:30 p.m. Not too many vegetables are grown locally (compared to the early 20th century, when the Wet Mountain Valley produced lettuce, potatoes, sugar beets, and I don't know what all else—before refrigerated railroad cars brought everything from California). It should offer herbal remedies, local beef, and Amish (i.e., very sweet) baked goods along with veggies that are least Colorado-grown within the "foodshed."

July 13, 2012

Southern Colorado Mine Lays Off Miners as Coal Use Drops

One of the last working coal mines in southern Colorado is laying off miners because they have a large stock of unsold coal.

A hundred years ago, there were coal mines all up and down what is now the I-25 corridor, from north of Longmont south to Trinidad (and into New Mexico as well).

Most of the coal was used locally, for heating and industry. The former use mostly went away, while the later shrank, leaving power plants as the main customers.

Now the trend is away from coal — natural gas produces as much electricity as coal and is trending up. Burning gas produces fewer carbon emissions, although it's still fossil fuel, of course.

I don't think that anyone wants to go back to the smoky days when every household furnace was burning coal. But when I lived in a quiet older neighborhood of Cañon City, I used to walk out on a winter night and get a quick acrid whiff of coal smoke. Some of the neighbors never had upgraded.

That part of the town often seemed stopped in time, perhaps around 1950. Example: the Italian restaurant that still displayed a large photo of President Harry Truman on its dining room wall.

June 23, 2012

The Old Mose Memorial Tour

Black Mountain. Old Mose was killed just over the horizon and outside the frame to the left.
The Jeep rocked and pitched as we rolled slowly down a two-track dirt road coming off Black Mountain.

I wondered if Wharton Pigg's ranch wagon lurched down this same drainage — or one parallel to it — laden with a thousand pounds of dead grizzly bear, headed for his ranch, the Stirrup, still the largest in Fremont County.

With it went several ranch hands and James Anthony of Cañon City, who had shot the bear they called Old Mose, and the dogs who tracked him on Anthony and Pigg's final hunt: Ray, Dummit, Penny, Ginger, Ring, Prince, Jet, Gale, Zepher, Dowey, and Bluff, no doubt with tails high, knowing that they were Important and Successful Dogs.

It was the afternoon of April 30, 1904.

Old Mose, the Denver Post reported a few days later, was the "King of the Grizzlies." He was 45 years old, had killed three men (or four, or five) and countless livestock. The Cañon City Clipper called him "the largest and oldest bear criminal of Fremont County." He was the "terror of stockmen."  He ranged clear to the San Juan Mountains, over eleven Colorado counties, said the Post.  Moving more slowly, as befits a magazine, Outdoor Life, then published in Colorado, hyped Old Mose's reputation more later that year.

None of it was true. Except that he was a grizzly bear, and he might have killed two Hereford bulls — but no people.

According to later lab analysis of his teeth, he was 10 or 12 years old, but he was blamed for deaths occurring as far back as 1883.
The Stirrup Ranch today, with a newer, grander residence.
His range covered only parts of two counties, Park and Fremont, and with his death the population of grizzlies in Colorado, perhaps 800 in 1880, continued to plunge until it flickered out (as far as is officially known) in 1979.

When I lived Cañon City, I read and heard about Old Mose, the terrible mankiller. Periodically the Canon City Daily Record trotted out the story, and it was in the little local-history books as well.

But one writer had gone back to the original sources, walked the ground, and even arranged for the Arizona Fish and Game Department to analyze a tooth taken from Old Mose's head, now at the University of California, Berkeley.

Stirrup Ranch cattle. Waugh Mountain in background.
That was James E. Perkins, author of Old Mose: The King of the Grizzlies (2002). It contains a couple of errors (black bears do not have retractable claws), but it still ranks far above many works of local history that I have seen, because Perkins' narrative is supported by actual research instead of merely copying.

He makes a convincing case that the lives of at least three bears were conflated to produce the legend of Old Mose — and his argument is worth reading.

It is from him, to give one small example, that I got the names of the dogs. As Abbey Quillen said in her review for Colorado Central, it is "easy to read in one sitting, but you’ll probably find yourself flipping back through it again and again."

I have indeed been flipping through it again and again, for last week M. and I decided to tour Old Mose's home ground, at least by Jeep. Call it a mini-staff ride.

He deserves a shrine. Instead, I left a geocache on the nearest county road. So far, no one has looked for it.

May 25, 2012

Go, Team Vulture

Today M. and I had the assignment of releasing a rehabilitated turkey vulture who had spent a few weeks at the raptor center.

 It had been captured in Cañon City after being hit by a car, but although it had some internal injuries and abrasions, it had been doing well, so the staff judged it ready to go. We decided to take it back to its former summer range.

We let it go from an overlook on the Oak Creek Grade, for those readers who know Fremont County, and it was last seen soaring high toward the Royal Gorge — where I know there has been a large vulture roost in the past, although I have not looked lately.

I put on the official Colorado Parks and Wildlife volunteer shirt in case someone stopped and asked, "What have you got there? What's in the carrier? You're not dumping your dog, are you?"

Only one car went by, but did not stop. M. shot the photos.

Meanwhile, the "stargazing owl"  from ten days ago did not make it. The vet diagnosed a virus, possibly Newcastle disease. The bird's condition started to deteriorate, and it was euthanized. To be honest, they lose more injured birds than survive, which is why a release is always a happy event.

Ok, vulture, this is your cue.

There goes the turkey vulture. Those are actually dark feathers reflecting light.

Turkey vulture taking flight.

Gaining altitude over the Oak Creek Grade.

December 26, 2011

Cotter Uranium Mill to Give Up Operating License

I would call it a Christmas present for Cañon City. The Cotter uranium mill is giving up its operating license. (It employs only a small crew these days.)

Read between the lines of this news story, and they seem to be saying that now that the state of Colorado has put some teeth in its regulations, in order to keep operating, General Atomics (Cotter's current owner) would actually have to, y'know, clean it up.

This after thirty-plus years of leaks, of groundwater pollution, of "notice violations," of lawsuits, of corporate foot-dragging, etc. Some people have seen it all go by.

Places like Cotter Mill are, unfortunately, the part of "clean nuclear energy" that its proponents never talk about.

August 12, 2011

How to Fail at Hiding Out in the Mountains

Lee Grace Dougherty, failed camper (Associated Press).
Southern Colorado media are full of the capture of the "Dougherty Gang," also known as the stripper, her brother Darryl, and her other brother Darryl. Evidently they thought, like countless criminals before them, that they could out-run radio, the Internet, and cable TV news shows.

Their mother says, "I'm glad they were found," as though they got lost on a Boy Scout hike. But isn't that always part of the script?

Life in Walsenburg, Colo.,  was considerably disrupted yesterday.

Back from our supply run to Pueblo today, M. and I ate supper as the sun sat over Holt Mountain and chuckled at such lines as "the remote San Isabel National Forest in southern Colorado" from the Boston Herald

They camped one night in a pullout off a paved state highway. Not what I call "remote". Not more than two miles away, a road gave access into the heart of the Wet Mountains with many obscure little spur roads off it. But when they were shopping for camping gear and ammo in Colorado Springs and/or Cañon City, they evidently did not pick up national forest maps.

Then they drove down onto Interstate 25 and into their eventual fate. One night in the woods and their nerves failed them?

I tell you, it's sad. No one knows how to hide out in the mountains anymore.

July 31, 2011

BLM Lets Christo Have His Way

As I said two years ago, the fix was in. The Bureau of Land Management sees no reason why ze gran artiste known modestly as Christo should not drape the canyon of the Arkansas River in plastic.

That would improve it, you see. In the words of one breathless High Art fan-girl, "It is thrilling that the BLM has embraced the idea of bringing plastic art into the natural landscape" (statement by Aspen museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson).
The preferred alternative identified in the BLM's final environmental impact statement largely matches the vision of the Bulgarian-born Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude. They wanted to suspend 5.9 miles of silvery panels in eight sections above a 42-mile stretch of the river that mostly involves federal land.
What may be worst is that the BLM has agreed to let his construction crews block part of the  already narrow and twisting highway, which could add hours to the travel time of anyone who just wants to go from Point A to Point B.

Part of the canyon—from Parkdale to Texas Creek—could be bypassed via a longer, twistier drive on two state highways, Colorado 96 and 69. But the "preferred alternative" stupidly would let Christo's crews tie up the highway between Texas Creek and Salida, where there is no alternative highway route without going hundreds of miles out of the way—no consolation to the people who actually, y'know, live there.

All so that Christo can make a pile of money. Actually, since he makes his money from the sketches and other "conceptual" stuff, he could stop now and come out ahead. From an artistic standpoint, since he makes artworks "that go away," why not take the next step and make artworks that never existed?

After Interstate 70, which is quite a bit further north, U.S. Highway 50 is the next-busiest east-west route across Colorado. Sure, Christo has promised delays of no more than 15 minutes per work site, but there are a bunch of work sites. They are just the little people, mice nibbling around the ankles of Christo's grand artistic vision.

These rolling road-closures would last for two years during the project's construction and for months during its removal.

All the tourist-industry people licking their chops over the anticipated brief flush of visitors had better get used to some lean times first.

Sociology professor-turned-Cañon City fly shop owner Bill Edrington speaks for many:
"I'm afraid we are going to lose a lot of fisherman support on this river, and many of us here have worked all our lives to build this river into something special, and this project will destroy that work," said Bill Edrington, owner of Cañon City's Royal Gorge Anglers. "We have a law firm standing by waiting to file an injunction."

The battle now heads to the courts and the local jurisdictions, including Fremont and Chaffee counties, which must issue construction permits.
Drag it out. Time is on your side. Christo "is an artist and has courage," but he does not look too healthy.

July 30, 2011

Velociraptor with Feathers and Other Updated Dinosaurs

One of the most famous Stegasaurus fossils was found near Cañon City, Colorado, a little more than a century ago, and the "most complete" skeleton was found there in 1992.

But a lot has changed in our understanding of dinosaurs over the intervening years, as this "top ten" post makes clear.

Some people, however, believe that dinosaurs were created by (drumroll) Satan. The Lone Star Parson has the details. What does that say about all the little boys who love dinosaurs?

Me, I do believe that there was a separate Creator for the insects—not anti-human or even anti-mammal, just profoundly alien.

April 09, 2011

Back from the Wildlife Volunteer Banquet

What do you get for a table favor at a Division of Wildlife banquet? This handy "urban primitive" turkey call, made from a cocktail straw and a 35 mm film cannister. It works too, but I will stick with slate.

New T-shirts in hand, M. and I are home from the annual Colorado Division of Wildlife volunteer-appreciation banquet for the southeast region. It was at the abbey in Cañon City this year, not too long a drive, so we went.

There were door prizes and awards, a slide show of volunteers helping on various projectd—the usual. Some volunteers help by staffing regional offices and answering information-seekers.

The best part of the show was a series of true telephone conversations.

Some samples:
Caller: We saw a coyote in a residential area. Is it legal for them to be there?

DOW: Yes.
Never miss an opportunity for education:
Caller: There is an owl stuck up in a tree.

DOW: Owls roost in trees. 
Or how would this be for a wildlife-transport request?
Caller: I found an injured deer. I can stay here until someone comes.

DOW: Where are you calling from?

Caller: Pennsylvania.

May 18, 2010

It's Time to Go Fishing

Some times it is just necessary to go fishing. A slow spring run-off this year is helping keep spring streams in southern Colorado fishable. Thanks  to Sawtooth (who needs to blog more) for getting me out of the house.

This is Grape Creek, which flows from the Wet Mountain Valley into the Arkansas River at Cañon City. It was Zebulon Pike's route up into the valley in 1807, which must have been a miserable trip. I wonder what its canyon looked like then.

We caught brown and rainbow trout—and saw one battered two-foot-long tiger muskie, which must have washed down from Lake DeWeese. Out of its habitat, away from its prey base, its prospects were not good at all.

Zeb would have eaten it, had tiger muskies existed two hundred years ago. So would I, but I had no net to try to grab it with, and I could not interest it in a streamer fly.

March 10, 2010

Breaking Taboos that You Didn't Know Existed

Sometimes you find that you broke a taboo that you did not know exists.

A recent news story in the New York Post described a chef who made cheese from his wife's breast milk—with her permission.

The response has been generally positive from those who've tried the cheese, although many customers are too squeamish to attempt it.

"I think a lot of the criticism has to do with the combination of sex and cheese, but . . . the breast is there to make food," said Lori Mason, the chef's wife.

Back when I was a reporter for the Cañon City Daily Record, I wrote a weekly outdoor column in addition to my reporter/photographer duties.

In our accounting department worked a young woman from rural Fremont County whose father was a noted mountain lion-hunting guide. At one time Colorado paid a bounty on mountain lions (abolished in the 1970s, I think). A guide might get paid by a client and  collect the bounty, which helped buy food for his lion-hunting dogs.

Let's call her Debbie, since it was her name. A statuesque blonde, Debbie grew up riding and shooting but had never gone lion hunting. "The shoemaker's children go barefoot," as the old saying goes.

Debbie got married and moved to northwest Colorado near Craig. A few months later, she dropped by the newspaper office to see her old workmates.  I looked up to see her standing by my desk.

She had finally prevailed upon her father to take her lion hunting with horses and dogs across the rocky ridges of northeast Fremont County, and she had the photos to prove it.  Would I like to write about it for "Gone for the Day," my weekly column?

I always needed new material, so I sat her down and interviewed her. In the course of our talk, she mentioned that she was about three months pregnant, a detail that I included in my column.

After the column ran, the editor mentioned that it had received a couple of complaints from readers.

It wasn't the lion hunting that bothered them. It was that the lion had been killed by a pregnant woman.   Something about life and death and fecundity.

The editor and I shrugged our shoulders over it all. With my column, I had broken a taboo that I had not known existed.

January 18, 2008

Blog Stew with Lynx

¶ A Colorado lynx apparently walked to Yellowstone. (Hat tip: The Goat.) Or maybe you thought I was referring to an early Web browser.

¶ The Evening Grosbeak is back. No, not the bird, the bar in Cañon City. In the 1980s, we called its similar previous incarnation a "fern bar." Now it is a "martini bar." Social historians, please note. Whatever it is, Cañon finally has one, again.

¶ Conclusion: it was a Northern pygmy-owl. (Apparently it rates a hyphen, for some dark reason known only to the American Ornithologists' Union.)

¶ Another visitor today was a Clark's nutcracker. It was a little out of place too, but only by altitude. I have never seen one down this low (6,600) feet, but there is no reason it could not come down from the higher ridges, which are 9,000-plus feet in elevation.

May 11, 2007

10-Bird Meme: No. 9, Evening Grosbeak

Evening grosbeak
Black-headed grosbeaks are regular migrators. Evening grosbeaks are pirates--in the humorous Jimmy Buffet sense.

When they show up in the spring--if they do--they are the nearest thing we have in appearance to tropical birds. I see those big spring-green beaks and vivid colors, and I find myself wanting to mix a fruity rum-based drink.

And the little raspy calls, which are quietly raucous!

Ornithologist Jeff Groth writes, "Cardueline finches [which includes evening grosbeaks] are well known for their strong tendency to roam. Most species do not have regular migration patterns and cycles; their patterns of movement and their numbers vary greatly from year to year."

And so when they do arrive, winter or spring, it's a matter of saying, "Look, evening grosbeaks!"

Historical note: Canon City's one-and-only "fern bar" of the 1980s was called The Evening Grosbeak.