JACKSON, Wyo. — Jackson Hole averages altogether 60 contiguous frost-free days each year. It's not the first place you'd think of as being home to giant pumpkins.
But with a great deal of coddling, Greg Hahnel coaxed a 182 kg (401 lbs) pound gourd from a community garden this summer. He tells the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he ordered $50 worth of Dill's Atlantic Giant seeds from somebody in Oregon. Of the 10 seeds he received, only four germinated and two flourished. But the seeds were certified from a strong lineage of monsters. "My pumpkin's got papers," he said.
The pumpkin was planted mid-May, and along the way Hahnel swaddled the plant with blankets on nippy nights. But even after a hard frost hit Sept. 13, the pumpkin gained 20.4kg (45 lbs). He then loaded the gourd into his pickup truck and drove to Salt Lake City, where he entered it into a contest. But there, others are far larger — the winner weighed 726kg (1,600-lbs).
Celebration of singer's life ends
ASPEN, Colo. — The singer John Denver died in the wreckage of small plane in Monterey Bay in October 1997. Every year since then, friends, family and admirers have gathered every October in Aspen to celebrate his life and music.
The producer of the memorial gathering is Mark Johnson, who remembers first hearing the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" while driving from Florida to Chicago. At first, he told the Aspen Daily News, he thought the song stunk. "By the time I got to Chicago, I had heard it six times and I loved it."
But after 15 years, this year's tribute will be the last. "All things must pass," says Johnson.
bad month for young critters
BANFF, Alberta — It's been a bad month for both grizzly bears and wolves in Banff National Park and adjoining areas.
Two young grizzly bears were struck and killed on the train tracks in early October. Wildlife biologists say the yearlings, along with their mother, had returned to the Bow Valley after a summer of feeding on buffalo berries in the remote Cascade Valley.
The bears were not feeding on grain spilled by passing trains, as has been the case with so many of the 13 confirmed grizzly bear mortalities on the tracks since 2000. Rather, it appears they were just using the tracks as a travel corridor, officials from Parks Canada tell the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
As for wolves, just two of the six wolves born to the Bow Valley pack this year have survived. But biologists say this isn't particularly unusual. Wolves often have five to six pups each spring, but the chances of all pups surviving are very slim.
The wolf pack in the Bow Valley, where both the towns of Banff and Canmore are located, currently has five wolves. This is in direct proportion to the size of the elk herd in Banff.
Meanwhile, Banff officials are working to reintroduce woodland caribou. The last herd of caribou in Banff was wiped out in an avalanche in 2009, and only five herds remain in Jasper, located just to the north.
If the caribou herds grow, more wolves will be eating them, too. Absent the caribou, the wolves are eating a surprising number of mountain goats.
Utah philanthropist gives
DRIGGS, Idaho — Jon Huntsman Sr. continues to seek to make good on his vow to die broke. His family foundation recently gave $100,000 to the Teton Valley Hospital, located in Driggs, and has pledged four more installments of the same amount.
Huntsman's family has a golf course and real estate development company in Driggs called Huntsman Springs. Driggs is the closest town to the Grand Targhee Ski area. One of his sons, Jon Huntsman Jr., was the governor of Utah, U.S. ambassador to China and unsuccessful candidate to be this year's Republican nominee for president.
The elder Huntsman was born in a small town nearby in Idaho, but made a fortune in plastics, helping develop the first plastic cartons for eggs and then fast-food and other containers.
Forbes says he has given away $1.2 billion and vowed to be broke by the time he dies. He's 77. As recently as 2010, he was listed as 937 on the Forbes list of the world's richest persons. He also gave money to local schools in Driggs and provided the land on which the Teton County courthouse was built.
Flash mob in Jasper flips out on
JASPER, Alberta — Traffic was disrupted one afternoon in Jasper when loud music began to play and a group of men and women, dressed in business attire, crossed the street in front of Rexall Drugs, each carrying a briefcase.
"This is right and this has always worked," read the message on their briefcases. Immediately, local students arrived, rearranged the briefcases to create a new message: "This has worked but is this always right?"
And then they began to dance, hundreds of them, with "some impressive flips and choreographed moves," according to Jasper's Fitzhugh.
It was, explained the newspaper, a flash mob, such as has been appearing with greater frequency around the globe.
Ski country tries to regulate gas drilling
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Part of the U.S. government's 2009 Recovery Act earmarked $7 billion in subsidies for delivery of Internet connectivity to underserved areas, including mountain communities.
Nearly four years later, that connectivity is arriving in Western Colorado, but with criticism left and right.
For years, Crested Butte has thought it needed to get better Internet access if it hopes to draw people who could be living anywhere. A Colorado-based firm called Eagle-Net, using federal money, is using microwave-based technology to boost Internet connections in Crested Butte and Gunnison. But the local governments, reports the Crested Butte News, prefer another fiber-optic line.
"We'll take microwave for right now if that's the only option we have," says David Clayton, a councilman from Mt. Crested Butte. Both his town and adjacent Crested Butte say they want to have the same bandwidth found in the nation's cities.
To the southwest about 80 miles in Ouray, the same company is delivering fiber-optic installation, but existing cable operators and telephone companies say the federal stimulus money is being used to "cherry pick" schools and libraries.
But for those institutions, the new fibre optic line is wonderful. It's like going from "an old jalopy to a brand-new Corvette," Ouray schools superintendent Scott Pankow tells the Telluride Watch.
Aspen Skiing pushes for mid-sized hotels
ASPEN, Colo. — The Aspen Skiing Co. continues to advocate for policies that yield more mid-range lodging options in Aspen's downtown commercial district.
For years, the city has discussed — and sometimes cussed — the idea of taller buildings in the Victorian-themed district. In general, the city has distrusted new buildings that would change the scale. Most of the older buildings are two or sometimes three stories tall. Around the edges of downtown, especially against the mountain, are some taller lodging properties.
Earlier this year, the council, in a three-to-two vote, instructed planners to draw up regulations that would cap redevelopment at 8.5 metres (28 feet), effectively killing the third-floor penthouses that have been popping up as the result of more liberalized building caps adopted about eight years ago. That policy, still to be finalized, would allow exceptions.
In a recent appearance before the city council, ski company chief executive Mike Kaplan outlined his company's vision of the future. The downtown area needs more mid-size hotels, of about 100 rooms, he said.
He called for more limited-service hotels, similar in size to the Limelight Hotel, which the ski company purchased and redeveloped.
Aspen, said Kaplan, needs to look beyond baby boomers, who have been the resort's staple since the late 1960s.
"Yes, things are good now," he said. "But the baby boomers aren't going to keep coming here forever." To stay competitive, he added, Aspen needs to focus on creating more lodging opportunities, particularly those geared for younger age brackets.
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