Thursday, February 28, 2008

Amidst the kids

Being in the Convention Center in Denver has been interesting. Not only have we gotten our exercise navigating this huge building, but we have been cohabiting it with other conferences and exhibitions. The guy on the Segway was scooting rapidly up and down the halls early yesterday, coordinating docents to deal with the anticipated avalanche of 80 busloads of school kids at one side of the building and 30 busloads at the other side! In the picture at the upper left, you see one of the classes going upstairs to see an aerospace exhibit, which is what I think drew most of them. 

It's a cavernous building, but it provides enough space to handle all those kids ... and us adult conventioneers ... and still leave enough room for kids to play catch with small, soft projectiles. 

It's been a nice time in the big city, but it's time to head home. We're going to try to visit a few offices this morning, then head south to Colorado Springs tonight, home tomorrow. TV

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Local crew brings home national prize

At last night's awards ceremony for the Association of Partners for Public Lands, the Mesa Verde Museum Association received the top General Interest Publication award for "Mesa Verde: The Living Park," the association's new basic book about Mesa Verde National Park.

In yesterday's keynote speech (pic above), Dr. Patricia Limerick's theme was based on A. Lincoln's comment in 1861 about people "being touched by the better angels of their nature." Sounded like Herman Wagner! tv

PS: This passage so affected me, I searched for its origin. They are the final words of Lincoln's first inaugural address, delivered March 4, 1861: "I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." And then the Civil War came.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Leadville Remembered

I am in a lovely hotel in a bustling downtown Denver, yet it is the historic Leadville that keeps coming to mind.  I really didn't get a lot of good pictures while we toured the town but the variety of architecture and eerie overlay image of the lady and the old hotel are my favorites.  It is the small and somewhat desolate areas of Colorado that have become so fascinating to me.  The towering buildings and hurried crowds around me today seems worlds away from the quaint,local charm that abounds out there, somewhere when you go seeking it.  sf

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sixty degrees in Denver today

The temperature was 60 degrees in Denver when we got there, but Leadville was something else. As you can see in the first picture, some cars are still buried in snow ... see you in the spring! 

Looking down the main drag in Leadville wasn't too cheery, either. A surprising number of businesses, including some neat shops, but cold, grey and dreary above (which seems to be how Leadville has always been when I've been there).

Georgetown, west of Denver of I-70, was warmer, but still grey. We ate at The Happy Cooker, and the food was good, with good breads. Looking north along the main downtown street, it's hard to remember that I-70 runs above the town across the end of the street.

Anyway, we got into Denver in good time and had an opportunity to relax before the evening program began. TV

What a beautiful day!

What a great day yesterday turned out to be! We started off  thinking it would probably be cloudy and snowy all the way from Mancos to Buena Vista. As we were approaching Hesperus (about halfway to Durango), the clouds cleared and there was bright sunshine on the fresh snow. There were times of snow and cloudiness as we were approaching and going over Wolf Creek Pass, but it was beautiful most of the day. (Can't figure out how to turn off the underlining!)

The first picture was taken along Lightner Creek, going into Durango from the west. The fresh snow on the rocks and trees was gorgeous. We stopped to look at the damage from Friday afternoon's fire in downtown Durango ... at least three buildings destroyed and one side of a block on lower Main closed for business. (See for details)

As we approached and ascended Wolf Creek Pass, the clouds hung over us, giving a dramatic, brooding look to the landscape, and then we were in them, with shifting light patterns. The ski area on the east side of the pass was packed with cars. There was a cow elk just north of the highway at one point on the west side.

The sun came out again while we lunched at the Hungy Logger in South Fork, one of my favorite hearty eating places. We stopped briefly at the Organic Peddler, on the west end of Del Norte ... an indescribable mix of Mexican crafts, Far Eastern/Hindu/Buddhist mysticism, off-beat coffees and teas, offbeat cards, hippie "stuff," holistic tinctures and scents ... you name it. Plus a restaurant/teahouse in the back. It's a trip!

The San Luis Valley is hellaciously cold, or hot, depending on the time of year. I just read that it's the largest intermontane valley in the world ... hundreds of square miles of flat land, 8,000 feet high or more, surrounded by a coronet of, at this time of year, snow-capped peaks. It's old Spanish ... more part of Colonial Spain and Old Mexico in its origins than the US that most of us know. It was part of the Far North, which was settled long before the Far West was, and it's still culturally an extension of northern New Mexico.

East of Alamosa, we turned north to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which is now about 150,000 acres. When I last visited it, 42 years ago, it was a smaller national monument. Beautiful new visitor center, with lots of interactive exhibits. And the dunes!

The telephoto picture of people about a quarter-mile away gives an idea of the immensity of the dunes. We've gotta go back there! (When it's warmer!)

Back west across the valley to Highway 17 and then north to its connection with US 285. It's called the Gunbarrel Highway, and the last picture of one of the sections (looking south, with Blanca Peak in the distance) shows why the highway got that name. Desolate, but dramatic!

It was after dark (about 6:30) when we made it into Buena Vista. Quickly went out for supper (Mother's Bistro again, with meatloaf for me and macaroni for Sandy, next to a gas-fired, ornately chrome-plated old wood stove ... good food, good ambience) and then back to the motel for a dip in the pool. Downloading the hundreds of pictures from the day was a quick reminder of all the beautiful things we had seen during the day.

Off to Denver today, probably via Leadville. TV

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The mighty Rio Grande

The mighty Rio Grande, covered nearly over with snow and ice below Wolf Creek Pass in southern Colorado, is but a cascade of frigid water into a small pothole. And then it grows and grows ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How cold was it?

After a Mancos Mush review meeting at the Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus Sunday, we went up La Plata Canyon to catch the last of the sun on the peaks. This was taken at the mouth of the canyon, where there are some residences.

The car thermometer read in the 20s, but the wind whistling down that canyon felt like 40 below! It was SO cold ... that wind just cut right through us. Imagine what it was like to live in La Plata City, the gold mining camp that existed a hundred years ago a few miles up the canyon?

Today I send off the story on the Mancos Mush for "Mushing" magazine; hope it gets published. I've sent 16 pictures (so far); it will be interesting to see which they choose. I hate to write! This was as bad as being back at the paper!

Lightening the burden, however, is the comedy we see from our breakfast table. The sun hits the feeder outside the front windows, the turkeys come running in single file to the feeder and then they compete to fly up onto the feeder, jostle each other for position and fall off with great flapping. Our own Keystone Kops Komedy show every morning! tv

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spring is creeping in

Ah, February, when the aroma of squished skunks begins to perfume the roadsides. And when the mud begins to deepen. Here's what happens to the county road below our driveway when a 4+-inch snowfall is followed by a 40+-degree day. Things get a little goopy!

For the next couple of months, a trip to Durango or Cortez may take us through six different changes of weather ... or two hours sitting at home may produce the same experience. Our heaviest snows are yet to come, but the days are getting longer and warmer. We had the doors open in the living room and the ceiling fan on for a while yesterday afternoon.

It's catching up time, after the Mush and travel ... paying bills, throwing stuff away, etc. We're eating the last of the oranges we bought in California, after sharing some with friends and neighbors and converting others to beautiful, tasty marmalade, sitting in lovely little jars on the counter. 

Still organizing all the photos from the Mush, bringing back memories of yipping dogs, frolicking kids, sunny days in the mountains and pleasant conversations with the mushers who came to participate. The organizers meet Sunday afternoon to do a post mortem on Mancos Mush IV and start the planning for IV.

There's a "Deliciously Weird" exhibit in Durango tonight; I've entered a photo of a mantis chewing on a hummingbird it's killed. (Nowhere near as charming and appealing as Sandy's pics of donkeys!) Should be an interesting show! TV

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snow again

Last night's wind died down, and a gentle snowfall continues into the dawn time. There was that muffled silence outside as I walked the dog at 5:30, and it's relatively warm, about 28 degrees.

 Yesterday was tiring, though satisfying. I went to Durango in the morning for my annual audiology checkup ... got my ears set a notch higher. I noticed in the evening that the TV volume was comfortable two clicks lower than it had been. The audiologist told me there's a remote control I can carry on my keychain that can raise and lower the volume on my hearing aids, which might be a nice addition, letting me hear better without having to raise the volume for everyone (it would let me tune out some conversations, too! ;-}).

After a brief visit to a friend in a nursing home in Durango, I dashed back to meet Sandy at SWOS for their "stone soup" potluck. Sandy's sopapilla cheesecake was inhaled by the kids; neither of us got a piece. One of the students made a great pot of vegetarian chile, and the director's kale-and-sausage soup was outstanding. Sandy had a couple of requests for her recipe.

In the afternoon, a neighbor gave us some guidance on how to concentrate and network our computers and printers into the room that we'll use as an office and FeVa Fotos workspace. 

Then it was time to haul out the filo dough. I always make four pans of baklava for the library's Valentine's Day bake sale. It was nice when the last ones were out of the oven and the syrup was drizzled!

There was gorgeous color at sunset, which Sandy got some good shots of. It looked like there was an active volcano just south of the rim of the valley, lighting the clouds above it. tv

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

TESTING 1.. 2.... .3

New toys are nice. . Even when you're 65+!!  Maybe especially when you are 65+.  . (The second childhood thing,you know)!  With my little Kodak camera limping along, not giving me the picture I want  at times and completely refusing to do anything at some perfect" Kodak moments".. .. . .I have treated myself to a new 12 megapixel camera and have been snapping a few pictures to test the camera  and also my ability to read the manual for instructions.  :)    I am enjoying the new piece of equipment and experimenting . . . Here are a couple of my favorites. . . The first of two of my housemates, Sophie and Tom.   Sophie is the one wearing the  white  fur.   Tom is the  handsome, studious fellow with the beard.  The second photo  is a shot taken at first light of day , catching a bunny waiting for the warm sun to come his way.  Aren't I lucky to be surrounded by all of these marvelous creatures!  (Especially the bearded one :)  ) sf

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Something's missing in the Mancos Valley

Sandy took this picture of the Mancos Valley from our house at dawn today. Point Lookout is still there, but there's something missing ... something that has seemed as much a part of the Mancos Valley as Point Lookout since I moved here 19 years ago ... Herman Wagner. 
Herman's celebration of life was held yesterday afternoon at the community center; he passed away last week at 92.
There were many stories about Herman ... his generosity, his service to his community, his loving nature. A couple that touched me were from his high school classmates. One remembered playing basketball with Herman, who was on the Mancos team that came in second to Colorado Springs in the state finals. Most moving was when another noted that he was born a week after Herman was, and that Herman had been his best friend ... for 92 years!
When I edited the Mancos Times, there were times when meetings descended to a level approximating a food-fight and people would be at each other's throats. I would go to Herman, seeking his wisdom and knowledge of the community, and he'd sort it out for me. 

What showed through in all those conversations with Herman was his conviction that we are all better than we sometimes behave. Gone, but unforgettable. tv

And the winner is ...

Wendy Davis, of Lander, WY, running a team owned by Lloyd Gilbertson's Caribou Creek Kennels, Chatham, MI. Wendy completed Sunday's 30-mile run three seconds faster than her Saturday run: 2:04:11.  Her overall time for the 60 miles of mushing was 4:08:25. The first picture shows Wendy and her team racing by on Sunday morning, with Sharkstooth Peak in the background (she's hunkered down to cut wind resistance). The second shot shows Queen Wendy after she was crowned during Sunday's awards luncheon at the Millwood Junction Restaurant in Mancos, where she also received a $250 check for the day's fastest time. 

Clint Hallam, of Lyman, WY, placed second overall, nine minutes behind Wendy with 4:17:44. This was Clint's third time running the Mush, and he's always a top competitor.

Third place went to Ted Schanen, with an overall time of 4:21:44. Tim, who's from Wisconsin, was also running a Caribou Creek team. Gilbertson personally guided his third team to a seventh place finish in 4:58:54.

Sausage-maker Jerry Bath came down from Lander, WY, to run his first Mancos Mush and take fourth place in 4:34:52. Right behind him, time-wise, was Kate St. Onge, with a time of 4:35:55. Kate and her husband Rick, who was eighth (4:59:26) presently live in Millville, UT, but have purchased property less than two miles from the Mush starting point and are planning to move to Mancos shortly. This was Kate's third Mancos Mush; a death in the family caused her to withdraw from the 2007 Mush at the last minute.

The third pictured musher, 14-year-old Krista Halsnes, from Steamboat Springs, CO, was close on the heels of Jerry and Kate, with a total time of 4:36:42; Krista's Sunday run was actually fourth fastest out of 17. With her exuberance, competence and stunning smile, this five-year mushing veteran was quickly the poster child of Mancos Mush IV. 

The breakdown for the purse was $2,500 for first place; $1,500 for second; third, $1,000; fourth, $800; fifth, $700; sixth, $600; seventh, $500, and $400 for eighth place.

It was really quite a weekend! The mushers ranged in age from 14 to 68, they numbered about 30 people visiting Mancos for this February weekend and there were numerous visitors during the two days of the race. In fact, the piles of snow pushed up around the starting point were a wonderful winter playground for kids on both sunny days, and many of them got to take short rides on a dog sled, courtesy of Mark and Sandy Schwartz's efforts (also new residents in the Mancos Valley). 

Sculptors Veryl Goodnight and Patsy Davis had a "Wolves at Heart" art exhibit at Veryl's Grand Avenue Gallery in Mancos, augmented by a juried "Junior Wolves at Heart" competition that brought in, and displayed about 130 works of art by school children from around Montezuma County. The entries were posted in the community center (Mush Central) and will be shown at the Artisans of Mancos gallery across the street; the winners were honored at the Saturday night banquet. 

The banquet, catered at the Mancos Community Center by ARAMARK-Mesa Verde Company (the Mesa Verde National Park concessioner), received many compliments from mushers and other attendees. Only next year we need to find a bigger venue! 

Mancos Valley teachers Brad and Karen Finch created kits that were used in classrooms before the Mush and also helped plan and carry out the Junior Wolves art contest, with wonderful results. 

The artist's co-op, Artisans of Mancos, sponsored an art auction Friday night to raise money for the new library we hope to build, starting next spring. It added to the activity of the weekend (a couple of mushers participated in the bidding) and was very successful, raising more than $7,500 (more than $6,000 from the auction; the rest from the banquet, etc.). 

Silent auction items from the "Animals in Art" photo exhibit at Open Shutter Gallery in Durango were brought to Mancos to finish the bidding (proceeds to the Mush) and that was successful, too. 

There was a host of volunteers from Durango and Mancos, without whom the Mush would not have been successful, but the least seen one was perhaps most important of all ... Roger Pennington. Though events seemed to conspire against him (being called out on a rescue, mechanical problems, etc.), he took the sno-cat out and groomed the course till 2 a.m one night, then got up at 3 a.m. and went back at it. That well-groomed trail is something mushers consistently compliment us on, and the reason is Roger!

Enough, except to say that the other thing I hear consistently from mushers about the Mancos Mush, this year and in years past, is how welcome they feel in the community of Mancos, how well-organized the race is and how well the community supports the event. That makes me feel proud that I make my home in the Mancos Valley! TV

Sunday, February 10, 2008

In the midst of the Mush

We haven't posted in a couple of days because we've been in the middle of preparations for Mancos Mush IV, the annual sled dog race held in the hills above Mancos. 

I think it would be fair to say this year's event has been thrilling ... unbelievably rewarding for those of us who have worked on the preparations. It's a two-day race (30 miles each day) with the prizes going to those with the best total time. 

It's 6:30 a.m. Sunday, dawning clear and cloudless, with a temperature at home of 17 degrees. That means the temperature at the mush course (about 8200 feet at start, going up above 10,000 feet) will be lower. That should have given the snow on the groomed course a chance to harden overnight; yesterday's temperatures got above 40 degrees by midday and that's too warm for these canine athletes to be pulling a sled at 10 miles per hour.

In the pictures above, the first one shows Wendy Davis crossing the finish line Saturday morning to chalk up the fastest time for the first day's run (2:04:14 to cover the 30-mile course ... almost 15 mph!). Wendy is from Lander, WY, and she was running one of three teams entered by Lloyd Gilbertson, Caribou Creek Kennels, Chatham, MI (in da UP). 

The second picture is of Kate St. Onge, who was actually the first to cross the finish line. The mushers drew numbers Friday night, which determined their order of starting at four-minute intervals. Kate drew number 2 and Wendy drew number 6, so they started 16 minutes apart. Kate's time was 2:15:45; they both made great time on the trail, but Wendy caught up by about five minutes. Kate, a retired nurse who is moving to the Mancos Valley with her surgeon husband Rick, placed fifth on Saturday. 

Saturday's second-place finisher was Clint Hallam, third went to Ted Schanen (running another Caribou Creek Kennels team) and fourth to Jerry Bath, also of Lander, WY. Wendy got a $250 check at the banquet last night for first day fastest time and Clint takes home an Osprey pack (the famous pack manufacturer is based in Cortez).

Today's run will, of course, determine the final prize order. Today's times will be added to yesterday's and the winners will be those with the fastest times for the total, 60-mile Mancos Mush race. It should be all over but the yipping by noon. TV

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Home again

We made the trip back in two days, pretty much driving straight through each day, and reached Cortez in plenty of time to liberate Scooby Doo from the animal B&B where she stayed while we were gone.

'Twas a good trip. The Friends Bulletin board meeting (my next-to-last) was productive ... we agreed on Western Friend as the new name, approved a job description for the editor position (which we can now advertise ... six people have already indicated an interest) and we hope to fill it at the May meeting. We decided to meet in Portland OR in May, for ease of access, and then come to Durango for the September meeting. So, even though I aim to be off the board by then, I'll still help host that meeting.

The air is thick a mile and a quarter lower ... and damp. I wound up wearing my parka, which I never bother to wear around here, during our deliberations Saturday. Saturday night we heard a presentation by two of the co-founders of Combatants for Peace. Elik Elhanan (at the left in the top picture) was in the Israeli Defense Force, and his sister died in a suicide bombing. Bassam Aranin, center, was a Palestinian fighter against the Israeli occupation (don't know which group he was with); his one-year-old daughter was killed by Israeli soldiers and he spent several years in an Israeli jail. Donna Baranski-Walker (at right), of the Rebuilding Alliance, facilitated their presentation and introduced them.

Their message is that talks and cooperation have to take place between both parties at all levels ... the existing situation dehumanizes both sides and cannot succeed for either side. On an immediate level, they are working to raise money for a garden at Anata Girl's School, in Anata Village, Jerusalem, in memory of Bassam's daughter. On the larger level, they are recruiting and mobilizing combatants from both sides in several conflicts to build bridges and find other means to peace.

The farm boy successfully negotiated his way back out of the Bay Area to Stockton, and enjoyed another evening with Sandy's son and his family. On the way south Monday, we got directions to an area with fruit stands about 10 miles east of Tulare and splurged on fresh oranges, grapefruit, onions and tomatoes. The fresh oranges are SO sweet and juicy, they remind me of a navel orange tree near an old Hawaiian home above the stream in Kipahulu. I used to hike up there, find the orange tree amid the coffee trees, and the oranges were so sweet and juicy it was like a sweet bath!

Our luck held and we hit the weather window again. Mancos schools were closed Monday, but it was bright and beautiful on Tuesday ... the second picture is the driveway scene when we got home. Lots of snow for the Mush, and we heard last night that we may have 15 or 16 mushers this year, almost double last year's turnout. We'll have a yippin' good time in the Rockies!

Sure is nice to be home and sleep in your own bed! 

(A note: We're reducing the size of the picture files for easier loading, so they are not as high quality on the blog as the original.) TV

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sunshine in Stockton

Well, this is more of a historical tour section. We decided to get off the flatland freeway of 99 and headed inland at Fresno on California 41. 

It was lunchtime when we got to the intersection of 41 and 49 at Oakhurst, a ways outside Yosemite National Park. Sandy saw the sign for the Three Sisters CafĂ© down a side-street and we doubled back. Glad we did! 

The "crazy chef," Richard Beyerl and his wife run a great little restaurant. Their lunch menu is posted on the Web ... it's quite varied! Any place that offers meatloaf can't be all bad, and the menu goes way beyond that. Coffee was excellent, bread was excellent, they do rotating art shows on the walls, and the helpings were plenteous! We'll certainly plan to stop there again if we're back through that area.

Up the road a piece is Coulterville ... which appears to be a remnant of the last century, or the one before that. We stopped and wandered a little. Wandered into a place called the Rose Cottage; I was intrigued by a sign outside that advertised sarsaparilla. It's the kind of place where I keep my hands in my pockets, for fear I'll brush something off a table. Horehound candy, old postcards ... and Sandy noticed a table covered with Pfaltzgraff stoneware ... covered and stacked ... 16 cups and saucers, a platter, plates, etc. She also noticed a sign that said they'd take $30 for the lot. The Jeep isn't as spacious any more!

It was a grey, rainy, sometimes snowy day ... but it was also a day of fun, exploring old places, stopping at tiny roadside waterfalls, etc.

Still, it was nice to reach Sandy's son's home and see family. We went out to eat at a restaurant where Sandy's grandson works, so he got to serve us. Good food, good company ... and a good night's sleep. Today dawns nice and sunny ... new worlds to conquer. I'm off this afternoon for Palo Alto. TV