Showing posts with label Pueblo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pueblo. Show all posts

September 21, 2019

Where Is My CBD-infused Green Chile?

Some shots from this year's Chile & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, still going on through Sunday. My visit was early, while the sun was still up and before the bands started playing, so it was a sort of sparse crowd.
It's more or less a celebration of every Southwestern street food
to which Pueblo County's Mirasol green chiles can be added.


And there were a lot of CBD (cannabidiol) products as well.
I foresee a certain convergence, a synergy if you will.
Yes, every kind of fast food and finger food.
Loaded-up fry bread ("Navajo tacos") is all right once a year.

The "Pueblo Chile Beer" is from Walter's, an old label that has been revived by craft-beer aficionados.
"Pueblo chile beer" is not one of their pre-Prohibition recipes, however.


These men are examining ristras of red chiles (sorry about the sun flare).
They were for sale along with many varieties of powdered dried peppers.

But what you could not buy were fresh-roasted Pueblo green chiles. Evidently the vendors don't think that anyone wants to walk around with a ten-pound sack of peppers, even though they are the best. 

Next year: CBD-inflused green chile beer. I will bet you money.

August 02, 2019

Driving Around Looking for a Farmers Market

Farmers market in Westcliffe, Colorado.
A few years ago, we had a membership in a CSA farm on "the mesa" outside Pueblo. In the summers, we planned our weekly shopping/library trip to coincide with the day when we could harvest or pick up our fruits and vegetables.

Then "our farmer" had some life changes and closed his operation, scattering his interns to the Colorado winds.

Vegetable gardening here in the foothills is a tricky operation, so for more volume and variety, we relied on farmers markets.

Only most of them that we see are only about 10-percent fresh food to begin with. The rest are selling crafts, preserved foods (jellies, etc.), burgers, brats, tamales, homemade soap, CBD products, house plants, fabric thingies, wooden thingies, adoptable dogs . . . you name it.

We made a circuit of four or five markets in a three-county area but more or less settled on the Saturday market at El Pueblo History Museum. In June the Pueblo Chieftain proclaimed,
The grounds of El Pueblo History Museum will soon be inundated with farm-fresh produce, crafts made by local artists, popular Pueblo food trucks, and countless other locally made goods as the museum gears up for the annual El Pueblo Farmers Market.
"Inundated" is not the word I would use. Yes, there were food trucks, but some food vendors that had been there last year had disappeared. One organic-grower couple whom we called "the Ravens" were back, but with less than usual. On our first visit, the third week of June, we bought some veggies from them and from Arkansas Valley Organic Growers. AVOG's radishes were too woody to slice, and their mushrooms were about a day away from rotten.

M's very favorite grower was not there that day or subsequently. Meanwhile, the museum's market day had shifted from Saturday to Friday, putting them in head-to-head competition with another one in town. In an editorial titled "Dueling Farmers Markets," the Chieftain noted,
Obviously, it will be tougher for shoppers who work regular weekday schedules to make it to either market, unless they can find time on their lunch hours. Trying to spend any significant amount of time browsing at both markets on a lunch hour would pose a significant challenge. . . .  it seems logical that at least some of the vendors would like to hedge their bets by selling at both markets. For small mom-and-pop operations, that will be difficult, if not impossible, with the conflicting dates and times.
In Fremont County, the Thursday market in Florence seemed sparser than ever in terms of actual food. One significant organic grower had dropped out two years ago for unspecified reasons, while another, smaller operator decided that he was better off selling from his own farmstand two days a week.

In Custer County, the Westcliffe farmers market was the healthiest of the bunch, in terms of producers' offerings, which (being Westcliffe) included local grass-fed beef and too-sweet Amish cakes and breads. My favorite tamale vendor was there too.The county's population triples when the summer people arrive, and there is a distinct vibe of said summer people wanting to shop there in order to participate in local culture. (I have no problem with that.)

Also, there is live music, although you have to wonder if "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" is music for food-shopping.

M. and I weighed the reasons why we visit these different towns, and in the end, we started planning some errands so that we could visit the farmstand. No more chasing the perfect farmers market.

But I still need to buy and freeze more tamales.

June 17, 2019

How Can You Be Neutral in the Chile Wars?

To be loyal to my bioregion, I have should have this license plate, but . . .

In August 2018 the state of Colorado announced an addition to its growing collection of specialty license plates — the Pueblo chile plate.
After months of working to get the famous pepper to appear on a Colorado specialty license plate, Pueblo farmers, the Visit Pueblo Convention and Visitors Bureau, Pueblo Chile Growers Association and Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce celebrated its availability at the steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse Monday morning.

The new plates went on sale for $50 early Monday [August 6, 2018].

“This is a great thing for the Pueblo Chile. People in Colorado want to be a part of it,” said Dalton Milberger, president of Pueblo Chile Growers Association and of Milberger Farms in Pueblo County. . . . Former Pueblo County Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, who helped Esgar kick off the idea for the license plates, said the plate represents another part of brand layering to increase Pueblo Chile’s market share competing with the rivals from New Mexico.
The Empire, however, had made a preemptive strike. New Mexico's 2017 chile pepper license plate was already winning awards in 2018.

Gov. Susana Martinez said she was proud to accept the award.
“Chile plays a significant role in our state’s culture and is one of our greatest treasures," she said. "This license plate lets the world know that New Mexico is — without a doubt — the Chile Capital of the World.”

In a bid to become the Princess Leia of the Pueblo Chile Rebel Alliance, Colorado State Representative Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) announced in February 2019 that she had gotten a tattoo of a Pueblo chile pepper with the words "Death Before Hatch."

She also sponsored the license plate bill. (Photo: Pueblo Chieftain.)

I would put the Pueblo chile plates on my Jeep, but I admit to some fear. I am in New Mexico two or three or four times a year. Would I face road rage from Hatch Empire loyalists? Would pickup truckloads of Hatch Stormtroopers blast me with their pepper cannons? Should I risk it? Maybe I should stick with the generic "greenie" plate.

Meanwhile, our Mirasol peppers are getting hotter. Last year (2018), dry weather kicked up the hotness of Pueblo chiles, this expert says:
Dr. Mike Bartolo with Colorado State University's Arkansas Valley Research Center looks specifically at local crops around the area, especially chili peppers. 
“I don’t know if we have any scientific evidence to validate that peppers are getting hotter," said Dr. Bartolo. "But certainly with hot dry conditions we experienced earlier in the summer, it wouldn’t be too surprising if that was the case. Especially if they were water stressed."
Not everyone in Pueblo is in agreement on whether the new crop's heat has increased. Pueblo chile pepper growers, like Kasey Hund with DiTomaso farms, says the pepper's level of spiciness is noticeable.
The power of the Pueblo Alliance continues to grow. And there is a long-range plan at work here — I blogged about it in 2007: "Chile Peppers and Pueblo's Identity."

July 06, 2017

Nature, Symbiosis . . . Ticks

Lovely complexity of nature.
M. and I were in Pueblo today, and someone tipped off one of the game wardens, who called me to say that she was going out to the Transportation Technology Center (where the levitating ghost train once ran) to pick up an orphan fawn — and could we relay it to the rehabilitators who live near us?

Oh sure. We had to hang around for an hour at the public library, which was torture, until she and a state wildlife biologist pulled up in her shiny black Colorado Parks and Wildlife truck.

When they handed over the crated fawn, they mentioned that it had a lot of ticks in its ear. And when we unloaded it, we saw them, like a bunch of grapes.

C., the rehabber, said she would enjoy popping them and killing them. She has a macabre sense of humor sometimes.

It can be worse. This page, from an organization devoted to creating perfect private habitat for whitetail deer, has some gruesome pictures under the heading "Can Ticks Kill Fawns?"

Writing about ticks always makes me think of outdoor entrepreneur and author George Leonard Herter. (Before there was Cabela's, there was Herter's.) Steve Bodio and I form a sort of two-person George Leonard Herter appreciation society.

Herter wrote with no regard for the norms and niceties of "sporting literature," just saying whatever was on his mind. Dare I say it, he was the Donald Trump of hunting writers.

He frequently mentions ticks, as in the number of them found on African game animals. In The Truth about Hunting in Today's Africa: And How to Go on Safari for $690.00 (1963), a book that now feels as distant as anything by Hemingway or Robert Ruark, he notes,
A really large rhino with a trophy size front horn of 30 inches of more [sic] is now [c.1960] impossible to get. Tick birds feed off of ticks that inhabit rhinos and also off from the blood that continually uses out of the scars on their skins. By watching for tick birds you can often locate a rhino. The tick birds, however, warn the rhino of your approach.
And also this exchange:
Jacques walked to the rear of the rhino and lifted its tail. Its anus was ringed with huge ticks a half inch in diameter.

"Every time I shoot one of these pigs I can't help feeling sorry for it. How would like to go around all your life with ticks like that around your anus?"
Show me another safari/hunting writer who discusses rhino ticks. Not "unhinged" as the New York Times described him, but just untroubled by the niceties of sporting lit.

UPDATE: The fawn died four days later. Tick-infested fawns are often "compromised," the rehabbers  said, which fits with the article that I linked to.

January 30, 2017

Look an Eagle in the Eye, February 3–5

Bald eagles at Pueblo Reservoir (Ron Drummond/CPW)
In our "wildlife taxi" volunteer gig for Colorado Parks & Wildlife, M. and I frequently make runs to the Raptor Center in Pueblo.

Too often, we are facilitating an injured hawk or owl's rendezvous with a hypodermic needle. But sometimes there is good news and we get to release a rehabilitated bird.
At the center of this whirl stands Raptor Center director Diana Miller, and the Colorado Springs Gaztte has an article about her: "Raptor center gives southern Colorado raptors a second chance at survival." 
 The ICU sees roughly 250 birds a year - about half of which are released back into the wild after a few months in captivity, said Diana Miller, director of the center.

"They get hit by cars, they get electrocuted on power lines, they get hung up on barbed wire," Miller said. "There's a million things that can go wrong. It's not an easy life when you're out and about."
Miller and some volunteers will be center-stage again next weekend during Pueblo Eagle Days on the 3rd through 5th.

Stop by the state park headquarters at Pueblo Reservoir and see if you have what it takes to look an eagle in the eye.

June 28, 2016

Bojon Pride

The license-plate holder reads, "Happiness is being Slovenian."

It was the big "Slivovitz" decal in the pickup's rear window that caught my eye. "Bojon" or "bojohn" is Southern Coloradan for a person of Slovenian descent, but also is applied to people with roots anywhere in Eastern Europe.

See also, "You might be from Pueblo if . . . "

Spotted yesterday on Union Avenue, itself now dignified as the Historic District — not part of what is traditionally considered Bojon Town, but not far away.

The neighborhood is not what it used to be, and the big topic is being a Superfund site and all the ramifications of that.

January 02, 2016

Propping up Charlie Goodnight's Barn

Goodnight's barn — the oldest standing structure in Pueblo?

"Charles Goodnight c. 1880" (late 40s) by University of Oklahoma Press; photo by Billy Hathorn -Wikimedia commons.
Famed cattleman Charles Goodnight is usually associated with the Texas Panhandle region, but he had a ranch in the 1870s that stretched southwest from Pueblo into the Wet Mountains. A feature of this ranch was a sandstone barn built in 1870. Goodnight dreamed big, but he never would have dreamt that his barn would have its own Facebook page.

And its own preservation committee, whose website says, 
Charles Goodnight was born in 1836 in Illinois and when he was 10 years of age his family moved to the newly formed State of Texas. Here learned about cattle herding and began his life-long love affair with Texas Longhorns. He and Oliver Loving began trailing Longhorns north to Colorado and Wyoming in the 1860s. Goodnight invented the chuck wagon in order to more easily feed the drovers on the trail.
In 1868, Goodnight put down roots just west of the newly created town of Pueblo, Colorado. He built his Rock Canyon Ranch below the bluffs of the area just west of what is named Goodnight Street. He ran his cattle all over the Gervacio Nolan Grant and had line camps over the area, including Babcock’s Hole Ranch in Wetmore, Colorado. The ranch remains today as a testament to Goodnight’s western heritage.
Goodnight and his wife lived several years in Pueblo before he transferred his headquarters to Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo. The barn lies between the Arkansas River and Thatcher Boulevard/Colorado 96 on the city's west edge. Formerly it was surrounded by the buildings and machinery of a gravel operation mining the alluvial deposits. Now all that is gone.

In a classic bureaucratic snafu, there is a sign by the barn about its history, but you cannot
The Goodnight barn about 1900 with windmill.
(legally) enter the property, even it is (I think) state-owned now. Bring your big telescope.

The barn needs structural help. As the committee reported last week,
The City and County are set to approve $5,000 each toward the cost of Construction Documents and Specifications. The total for the documents is $37,500.00! Frontier Pathways and HPI are funding $1,000 each toward this amount. The Committee is giving $26,540.00 which we raised already! . . . . In April we will be writing a State Historic Fund Grant for $200,000 to begin the exterior work on the barn next Autumn. Our grant writer is also submitting grants to go toward the cash match and more. We are looking forward to a HUGE 2016!
Assorted factoids about Charles Goodnight from Wikipedia and elsewhere.

• Young Charlie was too busy being a cowboy and then a Texas Ranger to be bothered much with schooling, never learning to read and write. About the time the barn was going up, he married Mary Ann "Molly" Dyer, a Texas schoolteacher, who handled all written matters for him. She died in 1926.

• He smoked numerous cigars every day.

• He is credited as the (very loose) inspiration for the character of Woodrow F. Call in Larry McMurtry's novel Lonesome Dove (1985) yet also appears himself as a minor character.

• At the age of 91, after Molly's death, he married a woman of 26. She got pregnant, but miscarried. (He and Molly had no children either.) He died two years later at the age of 93.

December 29, 2015

Bear with Me — There's More

Bear enjoying late-season tomatoes.
More links that I need to clear . . . 

• "The Hermit: New Mexico's First Mountaineer" — it's a story of religion, violence, penitence, and isolation, in other words, New Mexico.

• Some birds do well in cities and suburbs. How can we help them?

• We are told the decades of forest-fire suppression has led to hotter, bigger files. But a CU study suggests that severe fires are not new on Colorado's Front Range.  

Plans to sequence the genome of the oldest dogs found in North America.

Outdoor magazine's best 25 books for well-read explorers. Old Glory, yes!

• Everyone hears about Coronado's expedition in the American southwest,  no one about Francisco Leyva de Bonilla's. Maybe that is because it was such as disaster.

• Saving a big piece of southeastern Colorado's canyon country. And a chunk of the High Plains east of Pueblo.

Why are we still talking about Chris "Supertramp" McCandless?
Twenty-three years after his death, McCandless still has people talking — debating his cause of death, condemning his choices and discussing how perhaps they, too, can leave everything behind and walk into the wild.
A "river of sheep" in northwestern Colorado. Good photos.

October 10, 2015

August 05, 2015

Trinidad, Not Yet a Center for the Arts

Trinidad, Colorado, streetview (Pueblo Chieftain).
Colorado's governor is backing a plan to make the town of Trinidad some kind of artists' colony, reports the Pueblo Chieftain. (Story behind paywall.)
The red brick streets, historical buildings and gorgeous mountains to the west are just a few characteristics that make this small town a place that catches the eye.

Because of that, Gov. John Hickenlooper has chosen Trinidad to be the first town to participate in the first state-driven initiative in the nation for affordable housing and workspace for artists and arts organizations.

The Space to Create Colorado program also will position Colorado as the nation’s leader in artist-led community transformation in rural creative place-making.

“The feeling is amazing. The change and excitement is palpable. It’s all over,” said Marilyn Leuszier, chair of the newly formed Corazon de Trinidad Creative District.
This is the "X is magic" school of economic development, where X is semiconductors, Christian ministries, rockets, artists, outdoor recreation, information technology, marijuana . . .

Yes, Trinidad has lots of Victorian commercial architectures (cheap rents) and brick streets, but to some southern Coloradans  that it also has a certain reputation, as in, it helps to have a few cousins to cover your back.

A former co-worker, once a varsity basketball player at Cañon City High School, claimed that when they played in Trinidad, the players left without showering — just got onto the bus in their sweaty uniforms and hit the road, rather than stay longer and invite some kind of trouble.

Sadly, this reminds me a little of Las Vegas, New Mexico, which for the last few decades has been heralded as "the next Santa Fe," but which still is not.

Given that Pueblo, ninety miles north, now has a genuine "creative district" — if putting up street signs makes it so — maybe Trinidad will be the next Pueblo?

July 01, 2015

Where Lightning Strikes in Colorado

Click to embiggen
Now you know why Nikola Tesla built a laboratory in Colorado Springs in 1899, right in the central red patch.

This map was created at the National Weather Service office in Pueblo, Colo., where its page includes links to more maps for the (48) United States (Florida wins!) and the world.
The maps of Colorado and the United Statea show the number of Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning flashes per square kilometer per year. . . . The lightning flash density maps of the world show total lightning activity, that is, Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning plus In-Cloud (IC) lightning.
All lightning flash density plots for the state of Colorado are calculated with a very high spatial resolution of 0.01 degree latitude by 0.01 degree longitude squares. This corresponds to anapproximate resolutionof 1 km squared for the state of Colorado. Data is from 1994 through 2011, excluding 2000.
 M. and made up our term, the "Pike's Peak Swirl," when thunderstorms would interfere with our old summer job of censusing owls for the Bureau of Land Management in areas south and southeast of Pike's Peak. Or as the Coloado Springs Gazette puts it, "Why Is Pike's Peak a Giant Lightning Rod? Blame Denver. "
Moisture from the south tends to circle around Denver and slam back into the Palmer Divide, combining with heat generated by the Pikes Peak massif and its surrounding peaks, said Steve Hodanish, a meteorologist and lightning specialist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

July 22, 2014

Walter's Beer Makes a Comeback

This is the building, except it is painted white now.
The Walter Brewing Co. was a southern Colorado institution from 1898 until 1975, having been founded by Martin Walter, a German immigrant from a family of brewers, who thought that all those Pueblo steelworkers and railwaymen might be thirsty.

Now, the name is back — as a microbrewery with new owners but the old recipe, says Pueblo Chieftain columnist Anthony Sandstrom.

Follow the link for lots of great photos from the old days of the company.
The Walter Brewing Tap Room, located at 126 Oneida St., near D St. and the Pueblo Police Department offices, had its soft opening in June and plans a grand opening in September, [co-owner Andrew] Sanchez said. 
I went by today — the sign in the window said OPEN but the door was locked. Eh, start-ups, whatever. Have to try again later. 

July 07, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge - Part 4

Missouri-Pacific Railroad tourism brochure, 1927

Selling the San Isabel to Out-of-State Visitors

The first post in this series described Arthur Carhart's vision for scenic roads connecting campgrounds, picnic grounds, and private resorts in the Wet Mountains, the "cradle of car camping."

But what about out-of-state visitors? From the designation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 into the 20th century, many North American tourists arrived at the nearest railway station to their destinations.

Then they might walk or take a coach to the nearest hotel. Some were grand, like the Banff Springs Hotel, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888–89. From the hotel, they could self-guided or escorted tours, such as by stagecoach from Livingston, Mont., into Yellowstone under U. S. Army escort (the Army patrolled the park until 1918, when the National Park Service took over). 

The Baver Li Lodge on Highway 165, late 1920s or 1930s.
The Missouri Pacific RR operated a route west from St. Louis to Pueblo, Cañon City, and on to Salt Lake City via Grand Junction. Eager to attract passengers, it provided this 16-page brochure about the San Isabel National Forest, "Colorado's newest playground." 

According to the grandson of the Baver Li Lodge's founders, the Missouri Pacific tried to buy the lodge (built in 1927) in 1929, but his grandparents would not sell. (It closed as a lodge in the 1960s but is still in the family.)

The brochure offered numerous one, two, and three-day automobile tours, for example, this one booked through the San Isabel Forest Tours Co. of Pueblo: 
"No. 1" — One day. Includes automobile transportation and mid-day dinner. From Pueblo via Rye and Willow Creek Camp to Squirrel Creek Community House [Lodge] for dinner; returning through Squirrel Creek Canyon [Colorado 76], Pine Drive to Pueblo. Fare, $8.00 per person.
Another day trip went from Pueblo to Wetmore and Westcliffe, included a meal at the Alpine Lodge, and returned through the Arkansas River canyon and Cañon City to Pueblo. When you consider that was almost all on gravel roads with a maximum possible top speed of perhaps 40–45 mph, it would have been a long day's car ride for your $10.50 fare.

In today's dollars, that trip cost $142 per person, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics site. A cabin plus meals (fireplace heat, no plumbing) at the Baver Li Lodge cost $40–$50 in today's money (I would book one, definitely). I have not yet seen a menu for the Squirrel Creek Lodge, but I suspect that it featured fried chicken, since the archaeologists identified one foundation nearby as the chicken house.

The Missouri Pacific's brochure gushed about "Mountain Trout," "History and Romance," "The Wooliness of the West," "Altruistic Purposes" ("exorbitant charges for accommodation and services will not be countenanced"), "Scenic Grandeur," and "Special Vacation Summer Fares," among other headings.

One section, "The Hospitality of Colorado, reads as follows:
The spirit of wholesome friendliness is one of the refreshing pleasure to be anticipated in a visit to Colorado, and particularly to the San Isabel. The inhabitants of this country seem to be imbued with the bigness of their environs and manifest a sincere cordiality. In Colorado, all class distinction seems to be neutralized.
I wonder what areas we were being compared to.

To be continued at some point.

June 19, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge, Part 1

It is 1923, you are suffering the summer heat in Pueblo, Colorado, and you want to go car-camping up in the cooler Wet Mountains. So you load your blankets, quilts, and canvas tent in and on the Ford, pack some flour and bacon, maybe grab a fishing pole, and off you go. You take Colorado State Highway 76 (a gravel road) southwest to the foothills town of Beulah, then stay on 76 as it enters Squirrel Creek Canyon and the San Isabel National Forest.
1948 San Isabel National Forest map shows Colorado 76 coming southwest from Pueblo.
Bridge dated 1916 on Squirrel Creek Road, formerly Colorado 76, in Beulah.
You know this part of the road is new — in fact,  it was laid out by Forest Service landscape architect Arthur Carhart. His former professor from Iowa State, Frank Culley, was involved too on the project to design numerous campsites along the road, all with hand pumps, designated concrete garbage pits, and "sanitaries" (outdoor toilets) — all a response to the trash and piles of human waste that popular campsites had been attracting.

The first picnic and camping sites there had been designated in 1919. That was just five years after the southern Colorado Coalfield War that culminated in the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. It was two years after the Russian Revolution, which had segued into civil war, and one year after the end of World War One.

Private money — the San Isabel Public Recreation Association (SIPRA) — helped pay for the first improvements. Colorado Fuel & Iron, southern Colorado's industrial behemoth, with its coal mines, coke ovens, and steel mill, was the largest contributor. Wholesome outdoor recreation will lure its workers away from Red agitators.

Carhart writes,
There is a chance in this sort of [forest] camp to teach better Americanization of the people of foreign blood now living in our midst . . . these men will become better citizens and far less open to insidious suggestions of the radical agitator to strike at this land they have come to know and love.*
Enjoying one of the new campgrounds on Squirrel Creek. Woman takes photo of men by fireplace. Check gen-u-wine ten-gallon hat on man in foreground.
The campgrounds are wildly popular. On summer weekend days, as many as 700 cars pass up Colorado 76, which connects to Colorado 165, the north-south road through the Wet Mountains.

Many people stay or take meals at the privately operated Squirrel Creek Lodge, a two-story log structure in the center of the camping area. It stays popular until the World War II era, when it faces competition from the San Isabel lodge (which also began as a SIPRA project).

But Carhart's cool, winding creekside road is vulnerable. Rockslides menace it from the slopes above, and in 1947, a major flash flood rips down the narrow canyon, destroying all the little bridges, tearing out campsites, and wrecking many parts of the road.

Squirrel Creek Lodge: A central room with two wings, front porch on the left.
Dinner • Refreshment • Lodging • Souvenirs.

Click to enlarge for photos of original lodge.
The lodge falls into disuse and eventually burns in a 1979 forest fire.

The state builds a new highway from Beulah to Colorado 165. Formerly the Twelve-mile Road, it is now designated Colorado 78, and it  takes a higher route up a ridge.

Its last nine miles are still gravel today, and according to a friend on the Custer County Road & Bridge Dept., are the last gravel stretch of a state highway. (Many state highways around here were gravel roads into the 1960s, when there was a big push to pave them.)

Mentally remove the young trees along the trail, and there is the old Colorado 76.
Hiker at mortared wall that marked a scenic pull-off on Colorado 76.
Colorado 76 devolves into a Forest Service trail — one that oddly features mortared-stone retaining walls, log guard rails, and steel culverts. It passes the ruined campsites, where campers improvise new fire pits, and the ruins of the Squirrel Creek Lodge and its associated cabins.

You, meanwhile . . . Dad is in the steelworkers' union and has a new car with a powerful V-8 engine. Mom doesn't wear those 1920s cloche hats anymore.

You can go anywhere — Yellowstone, Banff . . . no more chugging up Squirrel Creek Hill with the Model T threatening to boil over.

Remember those days when you were younger, when the Squirrel Creek campground was the oldest auto campground in the national forest?

Next: Part 2: Davenport, the "Retro" Campground

*Tom Wolf, Arthur Carhart: Wilderness Prophet  (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2008), 55.

June 04, 2014

Cannabis and Water Law: A Western Reportorial Twofer

Despite the huge importance of water issues in Colorado — headwaters of four or five major rivers (depending how you count) and home of more water lawyers than anyplace — news outlets often don't cover water issues well.

On my first reporting job, at the now-vanished Colorado Springs Sun, it seemed like my colleagues found water issues to be arcane and scary. "Water is hard," to paraphrase Teen Talk Barbie

On my second reporting job, I sat out to educate myself — with not a little help from the late Charles "Tommy" Thompson, long-time general manager of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District — or as I liked to think of it, the secret government.

The concepts of Colorado water law are fairly simple, but their permutations are endless, and the system operates like warring tribes — if you don't fight, you lose.

But add cannabis culture, and suddenly water issues are not just vital, they are sexy!

"Water District Votes Dry on Pot" (mostly paywalled)

"[Pueblo West] water available for pot growers; St. Charles Mesa keeping moratorium"

"Pot Shop Battles for Water Supply

But this is all the legal stuff. Drought-stricken California sees legal, semi-legal, and outlaw grows using up water and polluting streams:

"Pot Farm Pollution: Too Dangerous to Deal With?"

"Study Finds Medical Pot Farms Draining Streams Dry"

May 24, 2014

A Blanket of Stupidity Has Descended on Our County, Part 3

Part 1: When is a "rattlesnake" not a rattlesnake?
Part 2: An Unnecessary Death

It was only ten o'clock when we left home after the bear shooting to do some shopping in Pueblo. But we had barely left the mountains for the prairie when my cell phone rang: "This is a CodeRED alert . . ."  It was a fire call.

I turned in by the corral at the bottom of Jackson Hill and went tearing back westward. Never mind that all my wildland gear was at home — I could grab a hard hat, gloves, and radio at the station and be well enough ready for what was, I felt in my bones, a bogus alarm.

For the fourth time this month, we had this situation:

1. Someone who is (a) relatively new to the area or (b) mentally and culturally disconnected welcomed the warmer, sunnier weather by building a fire outdoors to burn pruned branches, etc., without bothering to check with the sheriff's dispatcher first. (The sheriff, as fire marshal, has to give the OK for controlled burns.)

2. Someone else, made nervous by all the wildfires of the last few years, calls in the alarm.

After cruising the area of the smoke report with two other firefighters in one of the brush trucks, we stopped at another member's place and discovered him in conversation with his neighbor — the one who had the fire. He had already been made aware of his mistake, so after a little conversation, we put the truck back in the house, and M. and I headed for Pueblo an hour late.

But there was more to come!

Coming home, we hit a roadblock, improvised with the tanker truck utilized by the county coroner's septic tank-pumping business. For some reason, that struck me as hilarious. Who would want to run into that?
A 64-year-old local man was taken into custody for evaluation after an armed standoff with law enforcement officers this afternoon.
A 64-year-old local man was taken into custody for evaluation after an armed standoff with law enforcement officers this afternoon. - See more at: http://www.chieftain.com/news/region/2581206-120/county-armed-chieftain-coleman#sthash.CJNxg6eQ.dpuf
He ended up being taken to a hospital — with no shots fired. Amazing. The location was a house by the highway, hence the roadblock.

We had turned around and gone home another way — another fifty miles — and as we approached this area we passed a parade of law enforcement vehicles leaving the scene, even an armored car — it's truly a miracle that they didn't just shoot the house to pieces . . . and start another fire.

After supper, we watched an episode of Justified just to unwind. Watching Timothy Olyphant as Marshal Raylan Givens just seemed like light entertainment.

I just don't get the psychology of the "I'm in my house and will shoot anyone who comes near." On my last newspaper job, I covered such an incident — a man and his dog barricaded in a little frame house in town, me braced against a cop car, wishing that my telephoto lens was bigger than it was, since I was a block away.

Eventually smoke billowed from under the eaves—he had set the place on fire—and the police rushed in. I think the dog got out OK as well.

It is not the same as "suicide by cop" exactly. Like the man yesterday— he gave up, and now he is in Parkview Medical Center mental health unit for the time being.

And a male, age 64 — that seems so typical. I had a certain old Beatles song in my head the rest of the evening.

May 15, 2014

Keeping the Southwest Chief in Southern Colorado, We Hope

Union Depot, Pueblo, Colorado. It's just offices now.
A small crowd gathered at Pueblo's Union Depot (which currently sees only freight trains pass by) on Wednesday, May 14th, to watch Gov. John Hickenlooper sign a bill that represented one step toward keeping Amtrak's Southwest Chief train running through western Kansas, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico on its way between Chicago and Los Angeles.

First, Pueblo's favorite roots-music band, the Haunted Windchimes, played all the train songs in their repertoire as people gathered.

The Haunted Windchimes playing at the depot.
There were political operatives in tie-less blue button-down shirts and blue blazers, old rail-fan guys wearing train-themed caps, actual Amtrak employees, elected officials from the local, county, and state levels, and various people who unite in one idea, namely that train travel is local, comfortable, does not involve being probed by federal agents with blue gloves, and is environmentally sound.

In other words, when it comes to passengers moved per mile per gallon of fuel burned, trains beat everything else.

Why all the fuss? In essence, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) is not keeping up the tracks to the standard required for passenger trains. If they are not improved, Amtrak has threatened to reroute the Chief from Wichita-Amarillo-Albuquerque, cutting off western Kansas, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico — areas that have poor air service and poor bus service.

Kansas has partnered with Amtrak and BNSF Railroad to help fund a portion of the track improvements required along the Southwest Chief route. If the track is not upgraded, Amtrak has warned that it may move its daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles passenger service to a more southern route.
Gov. Hickenlooper says a few words.

On the other hand, southern Colorado officials are more and more seeing an Amtrak route through Pueblo - Walsenburg - Trinidad, as compared to today's route from La Junta to Trinidad, which cuts off the I-25 corridor completely, as good for economic development and tourism.

Either way, M. and I want to keep the train running through southern Colorado, which is why we were there today, applauding with the crowd.

Airlines are increasingly abandoning mid-sized airports. Pueblo keeps a minimal level of commercial air service going only through a municipal subsidy, while Colorado Springs has seen service and passenger numbers decline, even with a new terminal building.

What is going to fill the gap? Trains, I would argue, are the best choice.

April 19, 2014

The "Children of Ludlow"

One of my colleagues from the university recently referred to the students as "children of Ludlow, " claiming by analogy that they were being "massacred" by CSU system budget cuts.

It might not be the best analogy, though, if the reader has to look up the source that is unfamiliar. And I bet that 95 percent of Coloradans overall could not tell you what happened on April 20th, one hundred years ago.

The term "children of Ludlow" has a difference resonance for me.

For several years, a colleague in the History Dept. tapped me to be a judge on National History Day. Competing in different age classes, students from local schools might create posters-based exhibits, build dioramas, etc., and then they had to talk about them briefly to us judges as we came around. To quote the website, "NHD inspires children through exciting competitions and transforms teaching through project-based curriculum and instruction."

Imagine my surprise when I came across a sort of poster-triptych about the Ludlow Massacre, created by three middle-school boys. Something local, not another Martin Luther King, Jr., or other high-profile subject!

In talking with them, I asked if they had visited the site. It was only an hour-plus drive away but they would have needed a parent or someone to take them, being too young to drive themselves.

No, they had not. Learning the difference between primary and secondary sources was part of the project, so I said, "Look, the place is a primary source. You walk around on it and you see where things were — the tents, the machine gun, the railroad tracks where the engineer tried to move the freight train between the gunners and the camp . . . "

They looked at me like little birds. Maybe going there never occurred to them; maybe they felt unable to ask someone older for a ride, I don't know. Sometimes teaching in Pueblo was like teaching at the bottom of a well and wondering who would climb up and out.

To Be Continued

March 25, 2014

Middle-schoolers in Shooting Spree! (Safely)

Students from Craver Middle School in Pueblo County get a supervised trip to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Range out at the reservoir (with video).

There is an Project Appleseed tie-in, not well explained—but what do you expect from local television.

The kids liked it. 
"My favorite part is shooting guns. When I was little we used to go to the shooting range," said another student, Danielle Cooper.

These students have been on field trips before. But not one quite like this.
Guns in school can be a touchy subject.

"Often firearms and schools don't mix. There's a big fear there. So we are pushing the safety aspect and hopefully ease some people’s fears," said Timothy Baird, with the Craver Middle School.
The school's website lists Mr. Baird as a music teacher, so you may insert the "song of my people" meme here.

March 06, 2014

Blog Stew for Airport Survival

¶ News from the other America. A headline on the Reuters news site reads "Winter travel survival tips," and I am thinking, yeah, blanket in the car, something to eat and drink, warm coat . . . But the subhead continues, "Here’s what to do when your flight gets canceled." Get creative.

Some people suggest that you call the service desk and tell them you want to book an international, first-class flight, in order to jump to the head of the queue. And if the plane crashes, remember the Chilean rugby team.

¶ "After more than 30 years living in metropolitan Detroit, Kristen Schmitt moved to the Green Mountains in Vermont and now she's determined to make hunting part of her new life." So she started a blog, "City Roots to Hunting Boots." Just one post so far, on the sustainable/locavore food angle.

¶ A big solar plant is planned for Pueblo. Supposedly, the power produced "will be equal to the power used by 31,000 homes." No one ever comes back and checks those optimistic projections, however. At least it is next to an existing coal-fired plant, which means that transmission lines are already in place.