BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — People for decades have lived in tents and make-shift dwellings in the forests around Breckenridge, Frisco and other towns of Summit County. But this spring, one of the forest-dwellers was murdered, and police accused another forest-dweller of the crime.
The death put the spotlight on this largely invisible population. Law enforcement officials tell the Summit Daily News that perhaps hundreds of people live in forested settings, some of them through winter months, emerging during the day to jobs or to libraries, to tap Internet connections.
More evidence: one man's trash is another's treasure
OURAY, Colo. — One person's history is another guy's trash. That seems to be the case in the San Juan Mountains, where the rotting remains of an old railroad depot between Ouray and Silverton were recently bulldozed.
The crushed wood crushed railroad historians. But Don Paulson told The Telluride Watch that he had refrained from the impulse to restore the depot to make it a Disneyland-type attraction.
"Rustic decay is part of what makes historic sites interesting," said the railroad enthusiast.
Silver-spoons aplenty at Food and Wine Classic
ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen hosted the Food & Wine Classic last weekend, the first of a stream of festivals leading up to the Fourth of July.
After a few years of softness, the festival is reporting strong numbers from those who can pony up the cost of $1,185 for a festival pass — presumably, with money left over for silver spoons. All 5,000 passes were sold by April, and Aspen hotels were booked in advance to 97 per cent capacity, with lingering rooms commanding $700 a night, officials told the Aspen Daily News.
New this year, said The Denver Post, was a five kilometre race hosted by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, hands-on classes in knife skills, and a performance by Elvis Costello & the Blue Beguilers.
Next up: the Aspen Environmental Forum, followed by the Aspen Ideas Forum, a relatively new event that has been getting national attention from the likes of large publications and broadcast outlets like the New York Times and National Public Radio.
Wolf keeps distance, but that may change
JASPER, Alberta — Eventually, somebody's going to get hurt, say officials in Jasper National Park.
That assessment was uttered after a wolf chased a dog that had been running ahead of a woman jogging on a trail in the park. She heard a shriek, saw the dog tearing back to her, a large, gray wolf in hot pursuit.
"He really wanted to eat my dog," the woman told Jasper's Fitzhugh newspaper.
The dog at her side, the woman emptied her can of bear spray, to no effect, then picked up a large stick. Thrusting the stick at the wolf, she backed down the trail several hundred metres to a road, where she was rescued by a passing motorist. The wolf stalked them the whole way.
A dog last November in the same area wasn't so lucky. It, too, had been running free.
Steve Malcolm, a wildlife conflict specialist with the national park, told the Fitzhugh that the wolf pack there appears habituated to human beings. They do not yet see people as prey, but with habituation, that will change.
"Wolves will eventually move from this stage, where they're just hunting their natural prey (dogs, coyotes and foxes), to looking at people as a food option," he said.
Elsewhere in the Rockies, wolves were also in the news, with mixed results. In Idaho, a pup found several weeks ago was found, through DNA testing, to be in fact a wolf, and not a hybrid. The wolf may have been left as the mother was moving her pups from one den to another. But now removed from the pack for longer than two weeks, it would not be accepted again. Instead, wildlife officials are examining whether to put it into a zoo, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.
Ironically, perhaps, federal wildlife officials recently authorized the killing of three wolves found guilty of plundering domestic sheep in the same area.
Meanwhile, two wolves were killed on the TransCanada Highway in Banff National Park. That leaves the Bow Valley pack at just four wolves, experts tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Wildlife officials suspect the wolves got onto the highway at cattle guards.
Also killed on the highway recently was a rare swift fox. Wildlife specialists aren't sure from whence it came, as the swift fox, like the bison, prairie wolf and plains grizzly, had mostly disappeared early in the 20th century. The species had been extirpated from Alberta altogether in the 1970s.
Aerial adventure new at Whitefish Mountain
WHITEFISH, Mont. — Before, visitors during summer could run through all the amusements at Whitefish Mountain Resort in a day. But the menu will be expanded substantially when a new zipline, adventure park and other attractions are added.
The zipline will be 580 metres long and a maximum 61 metres above the ground.
A new aerial adventure park, set to open in August, will be suspended in trees, challenging participants to walk across ladders, rope bridges and other obstacles. "It's like a big playground, only it's in the air," ski area spokeswoman Riley Polumbus told the Whitefish Pilot. "Imagine being like Tarzan swinging from vine to vine."
Aerial parks have been popular in Europe but only recently began showing up in North America.
Vail Mountain getting summer menu upgrade
VAIL, Colo. — Vail Mountain is also getting a makeover, to provide more amusements for its summer visitors. Ski company officials have submitted plans for summer tubing, climbing boulders, an upgraded climbing wall, and an aerial challenge course.
Don Dressler, the liaison with the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the property on which the ski area is located, said the make-over has just begun. "That is a larger vision for Vail Mountain that is in the process," he said. What might that vision entail? "More stuff," speculated one local resident.
Tensions rise as wind, heat spike risk of fire
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado's just one lighting strike, one careless cigarette butt, away from more uproar and catastrophic fires.
Last week, a new map was issued that shows the drought intensity. Vail, Aspen and Steamboat Springs are all overlaid with a bright-red blanket that shows "extreme drought," the fourth highest of five levels.
That's rare for June, when mountain meadows are typically emerald green. This year they tend toward Thanksgiving brown.
"I cannot ever remember ever hoping for rain — but a few days of steady sprinkles would help us all a lot," wrote Mark Reaman in the Crested Butte News.
In Steamboat, the Yampa River was expected this week to be reduced to a trickle, too low for kayaking, reported Steamboat Today.
Colorado already has one major forest fire, located in the foothills west of the college town of Fort Collins. It's the third largest in the state's recorded history, as measured by acreage, at 58,000 acres as of Monday morning, and tops in number of homes destroyed, 181. One person has died in the blaze.
Mindful of the danger, one homeowner in Red Cliff, near Vail, has been removing dead grasses from around his home, while others in the town are investing in sprinkling systems.
In Aspen, city officials announced free assessments of properties identified as being in high-risk areas. If homeowners need to cut or trim trees and bushes, the city will chip them for free. Hurdles in the city's bureaucratic process for tree removal have been lowered or eliminated altogether if those trees are deemed a fire hazard, reports the Aspen Daily News.
Winds have been almost constant. "It was like the Dust Bowl yesterday," said Jan Fedrizzi of Eagle.
She and her husband, Gerald, have a cabin located at 2,500 metres in elevation above the town of Glenwood Springs. Keenly aware of the fire risk, they used cement board siding in construction, instead of the typical logs. They have also diligently removed vegetation from around their house and are now prepared to spend $2,900 to remove two large diseased Douglas fir trees near their cabin.
This is all exemplary, but another homeowner had done intensive fireproofing and still managed to lose his house to a fire in the foothills southwest of Denver during March. "It gives one pause," says Jan.
In addition to writing about water and energy for various magazines, Allen Best publishes an online newsmagazine called Mountain Town News. He can be found at http://mountaintownnews.net.
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