Monday, September 29, 2008


We're both tuckered out. From Thursday morning through this morning (Monday), we've been in Mancos at 7:15 a.m. for possible balloon flights. Thursday was a no-show, Friday and Saturday flights were scrubbed due to weather. But yesterday and this morning made it all worth while ... beautiful conditions, allowing long, leisurely flights!

Saturday's flights were about evenly divided twixt Boyle Park in Mancos and this field on the south edge of the town. This morning, all but one of those who stayed for a Monday flight launched from this field. 

I must admit, tired though I was then and am tonight, this picture got me excited as I saw the balloon moving into position between the two inflated balloons that were still on the ground. The gold of the dawn sunlight on the hayfield and the barn, Mesa Verde in the distance and the balloons in blue sky overheard are just, to me, the essence of the Mancos Balloon Festival. 'Twas a gorgeous couple of days, with lots of good memories.

We set up a table at the Bauer House during the benefit wine- and cheese-tasting event Sunday afternoon and found homes for a number of cards and a couple of prints. It was a bit of a pressure-cooker midday, but we were able to have photo cards of the morning's flight for the pilots, crew and onlookers in the afternoon, and that turned into a good selling point.

But, tomorrow morning, we mount up and head 'em out for Wisconsin. Are we ready? No! But we're going anyway! Actually, we'll get it together and it will be nice to drive off and leave the undone things ... undone. We're retired, darn it! And, the slopes of the La Platas are getting more golden every day, so we're hoping for good fall foliage pics across southern Colorado tomorrow and in northern Wisconsin and the UP a few days after that. tv

Saturday, September 27, 2008

SW Traders Rendezvous

I had an interesting morning, sitting in on the SW Traders conference at the Cortez Cultural Center. The present Hubbell Trading Post NHS supt. was there, as well as her predecessor and former HUTR trader Bill Malone, plus quite a few other people I've known from past experience in the Four Corners. Long-time acquaintance and Mancos Valley resident Frank Lister organized the conference, as he did the first one, held last year.

Part trade association meeting, part fraternity gathering, part family reunion, this bunch represents so many interties and crisscrossed trails that it would be almost impossible for an outsider to keep them straight. 

I tried to assemble five separate photos into a single panorama, but no matter what I tried, two guys in the middle disappeared when the software stitched them together. So, here's the group in two shots ... they're easier to see this way anyway! The upper photo is the left side of the group; the lower shot is the righthand portion.

Facing the audience in the front row are Claudia and Elijah Blair, with John Kennedy and his dad, John Kennedy (96!) to their left.

In the back row, from left, are Joe Wright, Jim Blair (Claudia and Elijah's son), Bruce and Virginia Burnham, Frank Pyle, Steve Getzweiler, Joe Tanner, Bill Malone, Steve and Georgiana (Kennedy) Simpson, Robert Hosler, Mark Winter, Jackson Clark, Larry Bloomfield McGee and Greg Leighton.

How many years of trading experience are represented in that bunch? Six hundred would probably be a low number ... several of those folks grew up in trading posts. Bruce Burnham is a fourth-generation trader and most of them are at least second-generation traders. Tanner, McGee, Pyle and Bloomfield are old names in the trading occupation around the Four Corners, names associated with any number of trading posts around the Navajo and Ute reservations. As Georgiana said, the smell of "lanolin and sumac" in the trading post wareroom  (from wool and baskets) is something that calls them back, like it's in their blood.

Some of the yarns they told about themselves, and on each other, just in the course of their introductions, were fascinating. Young John Kennedy told about going to Polacca Trading Post (Hopi) with his father, finding the trading post just crammed with Hopi pots. Old John Kennedy bought them all at $1 per pot; it took three station wagon trips to carry them all back to their store! 

The senior Kennedy has long specialized in piƱon nuts as a trade item, handling 200-700,000 pounds of them annually ... that's a lotta pine nuts! In 1936, he recalled, they anticipated a huge crop, maybe four million pounds. It turned out to be 8,000,000 pounds, and it took him four years to get rid of them all!

Trading is its own way of thinking. Young John Kennedy related that he wanted a horse. The owner would take hay for it in trade. So Kennedy traded cabinets replaced during his home remodel for saddles, then traded the saddles for jewelry, traded the jewelry for hay, with which he got the horse with no cash outlay on his part. I may have not tracked all of his products and trades properly, but it was a fascinating way of knowing where to go with what to reach his end result. tv

Aspens in Gold

With a little searching at the higher elevations, beautiful color spots can be found around the Mancos area.   Multicolor roadways, a majestic sleeping ute embraced by fall colors and giant aspens stretching toward the blue skies above were a beautiful reward for our bumpy two track ride yesterday.  Aspens are one of my favorite subjects in four corners photography.  They tend to organize themselves into picturesque groups, their white bark with its black markings are interesting and set off whatever color their leaves are for the season,  and they tend to stand still until you have your picture focused (unlike animals and small children).  The aspen bark  graffiti , left by years of passer- by- ers , I have always found interesting.   I know one very creative person who says that she can see words in the markings of the actual bark.  I told her she had been hanging out in the aspens too long!   But I do think aspens are one of natures best creations.   But then I like giant oaks,  the scraggly mountain mahogany, the twisted trunks of the scrub cedar  and many other trees as well.  Every one a little different and every one a work of art!  :) sf

Friday, September 26, 2008

Long day!

We'd heard a balloon was going to fly yesterday morning, so we got up early and went looking for it. No luck; instead, we found an alfalfa field with about 10 bucks in it on the south edge of Mancos. They seemed willing to pose, so we watched them graze and play antler games for a while. In the other direction, the morning sun was starting to paint Point Lookout with golden light ... that was an okay sight, too.

On the way back into town, we saw lots of activity around the bakery on this beautiful, sunny autumn morning, so Sandy suggested we open the co-op early; we were on duty yesterday morning anyway. The young people were still here from the Michael Franti/Spearhead concert in Mancos the night before, and balloonists started trickling in a little later. Not much sales, but it was a really pleasant morning to be at the center of Mancos.

After some maintenance details, like a haircut and repairs to the Jeep, I came home and started printing some more photos. When Sandy got done with her shift, we went into production mode for a while and got lots of cards (especially balloon pics from  previous years) ready to put out this morning.

We had dinner at Lotsa Pasta (one of our favorite restaurants in Cortez) to celebrate six months of wedded partnership. Yes, I'm ready to get in the tin can on wheels and go on another 4,000 mile trip with this lady, gladly!!!!

Less exciting but interesting was the candidates' forum at Vo-Tech in the evening. Well-run, it gave a good opportunity to compare the stands and styles of the two candidates for one of the two county commissioner openings. Fred and Larrie definitely offered two different possible futures. Unfortunately, we'll be gone for the forum among the three candidates for our district commissioner.

And today is the real start of the balloon festival, so we're off at dawn to chase bright-colored light bulbs around the valley! tv

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the Colorado color trail

After breakfast at the Absolute Bakery, we headed for the hills. Not the high country, where the aspen is just begin to yellow-mottle the forest. No, we went up the east slope of Menefee Mountain, which sports a mix of Gambel oak, chokecherry, mountain mahogany and other brush. 

Some of the oak leaves are bright red on the edges and bright green in the middle, a striking contrast.

On the east side of Menefee Mountain, just a couple miles from Mancos, we found this small corral made of poles and baling wire. Rustic to the max! With cell phone and radio towers lining the ridge top above this spot.

And from the top of Menefee, we got a sweeping view of the Town of Mancos, the Mancos Valley and beyond in all directions. tv

Colorado color is coming!

We're starting to see shrubs, oak brush and a few trees in the lower elevations turning color. Every day there's more, like this scene just west of Durango Monday afternoon. Haven't seen any aspens in the high country turning yet.

It'll be a race to see whether there are real autumn foliage scenes around here before we head for Wisconsin on the 30th. In any case, we should be seeing good color in the higher elevations as we head east, and then we should be in time for good color as we head out across the plains and get to the upper Midwest. 

We plan to head for the hills for a while this morning and see what we can turn up. tv

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Reunion

Tom and Scooby Doo have a warm reunion after her two day stay in our outdoor kennel while we had guests in house.   She was so happy to be back inside with a soft couch for sleeping and the company of others.  Tom even seemed delighted with her cuddling!

The weekend was a real enjoyment  with having my first experience hosting travelers from abroad.  Within hours they felt like good friends.   I thank John and Jytte for the experience!  They  were a pleasure to have in our home.   sf


Some observations on experiences with Servas visitors. Servas International is an international host organization ( I've been a Servas host for almost 25 years; this was Sandy's first experience as a Servas host. I've hosted maybe 50 Servas visits ... as many as six in one year, none in other years. Numbers have ranged from singles to a family of seven from Poland. Countries of origin have included Sweden, Brazil, England, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Denmark, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Italy, France (Brittany, actually), Ireland, Austria ... and maybe others I can't remember.

If you sign up and are approved as a Servas host or traveler, there is a good deal of information you provide ... ages, occupations, education, interests, travel experience, etc. As a host, this is summarized in a directory Servas travelers can use to plan their trips, including the limits you have ... length of stay, amount of advance notification, accessibility, pets, etc. 

Out of the many visits I've hosted, there have only been two sour notes; all the rest have been pleasant experiences. For the travelers, staying in homes is a richer experience than a series of motels, one that exposes them firsthand to American customs and allows conversations with hosts on a variety of subjects.

Our recent guests, John and Jytte, were from Denmark. They had both travelled some and are fluent in English, which made up for my lack of linguistic ability. We enjoyed visiting with them, sharing the farmers' market and touring Mesa Verde with them. I learned a bit more about life in Denmark today, contrasting a little with what I thought I knew about the country from Danish immigrants when I was growing up in northern Wisconsin (before our guests were born!). 

They offered perspective, too, on prices, commenting on how cheap our gasoline is! I knew prices were higher in Europe,  but this brings it home in a personal way. 

Jytte is in a wheelchair, which also offered some new perspectives for me. I thought the house was accessible; it is in some ways, but there are no sinks that a wheelchair can get under and the shower and tub are not accessible. These are factors we'll have to consider and negotiate with future mobility-impaired visitors. On the trail, she was awesome! She negotiated curbs and steps with relative ease (it would still be better if they weren't there) and was ready to take on every challenge. John actually pushed her up the Spruce Tree House trail at a run! Impressive people, not to be stopped by her physical condition. tv

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mesa Verde, again III

Big day yesterday, including a trip to Mesa Verde again!

We started off going to Cortez by way of Khan, the camel, and really enjoying the farmers' market. Lots of vendors and their wares must be at the height of plentitude. We got lots of green and yellow goodies, which will be good for our waistlines!

Servas visitors from Denmark arrived Friday evening, providing an excuse for two traditional kinds of supper ... I made posole for Friday night and Sandy did pot roast last night. As is usually the case with Servas visitors, they were wonderful about pitching in and helping with the salad, etc. 

So, they got to experience the Cortez farmers' market before we went up on the hill for a fairly full day at Mesa Verde. We went immediately to Spruce Tree House, in order to get down and back before the sun hit it and the trail got hot. The top picture shows John and Jytte down in Spruce Tree House, looking down into the reroofed kiva. While it's steep coming back out of both of them, Spruce Tree House and Step House (on Wetherill Mesa) are the only two cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde that are wheelchair-accessible ... and it makes a real difference in terms of being able to understand and appreciate them.

On the way back up, they paused on the slickrock to get pictures of Spruce Tree House. Later, Sandy, Jytte and John were together at the Square Tower House overlook, gazing at the immensity of Navajo Canyon.

One of the joys of touring the cliff dwellings yesterday afternoon was the scattered cloud cover. As we stood at the Sun Point overlook, clouds would focus the sun's light first on one site and then another. In this picture, it's spotlighting Cliff Palace, while Sun Temple and Mummy House at the left are in mid-shadow. We stood there for a while and just watched this light show play before us. tv

Friday, September 19, 2008

Autumn is coming!

It isn't freezing at night yet, but it's getting close to it. Oaks are turning and folks say there's fall color up at Silverton. So, we're looking forward to lots of autumn color on our trip back east.

Right now, it's just comfortable days and cool nights. Yesterday afternoon there were a buncha folks working on the mural wall that will brighten up "the hole" ... three lots where two buildings burned several years ago.

The lower picture is especially timely, with the Mancos Valley Balloon Festival only a week away. We're busy getting cards and prints from past balloon festivals ready and then we'll be busy capturing the colorful scenes of this year's event. Concurrent with the festival, though unrelated, is the SW Trader's Rendezvous at the Cortez Cultural Center. The coordinator told me yesterday that several former superintendents of Hubbell Trading Post NHS are slated to be there, so this former HUTR supt. may go over and see if there's anyone he knows. tv

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mesa Verde, again II

Another day at Mesa Verde, this time as a tour guide for an Elderhostel group. The day started nicely with a few minutes in the sun on the bench outside the Absolute Bakery & Cafe, reading the Mancos Times, sipping a cup of ABC coffee and enjoying the colorful flowers in the tub next to the bench.

In the early afternoon, our group went down to Spruce Tree House, located below the headquarters in Mesa Verde. This was my first time to tackle that trail since my knee replacement, and all went fine. Up is easier than down or flat, as long as my breath holds out! tv

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mesa Verde, again

What nicer pastime than to visit Mesa Verde on a September afternoon? We went up with friends and enjoyed late afternoon views into several of the cliff dwellings. Fire Temple and New Fire House are shown above. 

We mingled with five busloads of visitors during lunch at Far View Terrace ... a sign that bus tourism, at least, is going strong. Supper at the Metate Room at Far View Lodge offered the customary - always beautiful - view of the shadows creeping up the sides of the canyons spread out before us.

Now we have to get back to work and do boards, FeVa Fotos work, vaccinate dogs and cats, etc. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted! tv

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chaco in Focus

In reference to the flag at half mast above the Chaco Visitors Center. . . our first full day there was September 11th and I found the scene of the flag with the thunder clouds behind it quite symbolic of this anniversary and the world still in such turbulence. sf

Chaco in Focus

Chaco in Focus

Or out of focus ! 3 days in Chaco and so much to see. Sparse but beautiful wildflowers. And so much more appreciated in the Chaco landscape than when there is a field of them in the La Platas. Tom on top of our rented motor home attempting to get a better shot. Or why was he standing above the "Rent Me" sign? 3 days with good friends , beautiful weather and more ancient ruins and history than one could possibly take in. What a great experience. I caught Tom and Jack in discussion after we had climbed to a high mesa for better viewing and photography. I think the conversation was "How to get Sandy back down this cliff without her having a panic attack." This was the most challenging climb I have ever done and Have I ever told you about my fear of heights??! I did make it down, without incident, or heart attack or panic attack but I think I did have the urge to kiss the flat earth at the bottom. We were greeted by a beautiful sunset and the moon rising above one of Chaco's great houses (Pueblo Bonito). Tom and I spent the day sorting through our digital images and hoping that we have some good material for photo cards or larger prints. I think we do! But then I am a born optimist (That's the only thing that got me down the side of the cliff!) sf

We went camping a new way for us ... renting an RV. That's us in the back on the right in the top photo. Pretty empty campground on Wednesday night. By Friday night, it was getting fairly full. Sandy and I took a walk along the clifftop west of the campground Wednesday afternoon, enjoying the views, a bunny and flowers. tv

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Elk in Chaco ... who'd a thunk it?

Friends at Chaco Culture NHP have been telling me for several years that a herd of elk has moved into the park. I've believed them ... sorta. Never saw any, and anyway, what would a self-respecting elk be doing in Chaco?

Okay, gotta swallow my skepticism! We spent the last four days at Chaco and, as we were about to head up the trail onto South Mesa and Tsin Kletzin, a big bull elk bolted across the Bc sites in front of us (near Casa Rinconada), followed before long by two cow elk and a calf. We had heard Wednesday evening that there are about 60 in the Chaco herd now, and our dinner guest Thursday night showed us pictures he had taken. Other campers Friday morning said they heard an elk bugle ... but I still had trouble believing it.

Can't doubt it now, even though this is a crazy place for an elk to be! They apparently stay pretty much in the wash, which has water, shade and forage. Things are green enough this summer that they are up out of the wash, grazing on grasses on the canyon floor. There were probably a dozen of them dimly visible in Werito's Rincon as we drove by there last night. Still, what a crazy place to find elk! tv

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Green, Green Grass of Home

The peaceful fields of the Mancos Valley added to the quiet enjoyment of the walk down a country road at dusk yesterday.  No great pictures here, just captured the end of summer, with the touch of fall showing in nature.   When I downloaded the photos in my camera, I found as I frequently do, a few pictures of our feline housemates.   Fifi (short for Fiona) was enjoying the closeness to a bouquet of flowers on a colorful mat.  I snapped this before I reminded her that "cats do not belong on the dining table!"sf

A skunk in the grass

We had a few minutes between the artist's co-op meeting and another meeting last night, so we took a walk along CR J, which runs along the south edge of the town of Mancos. There's a farm there, plus cottonwood and mulberry trees , with low, grassy pasture on the town side of the road.

'Twas a beautiful evening, with that golden light that comes when the sun is near setting, and all was peaceful. As we walked past a little grove of cottonwoods on the south side of the road, I saw a doe standing there, watching us. Then I could see two long ears in the grass. In a moment, the doe and two fawns spooked and moved out into the field, where they began to graze peacefully.

A little further along the road, another doe slipped into the grass and brush on the north side, then vamoosed over fences in the grassland below the road.

Then Sandy spotted a skunk coming out of a driveway ahead of us, heading across the road. I couldn't get a shot of it in the clear, but we watched it unconcernedly snuffling along through through the roadside grass. It finally went down into some brush below the road, out of reach of prying eyes.

A beautiful evening stroll along the edge of town, filled with wildlife! tv

Monday, September 8, 2008

We're still here!

It's been a busy weekend! We hosted two of the attendees at the Friends Bulletin Corp. board meeting in Durango, plus provided airport transit for most of the others. So, not much picture-taking but lots of opportunities to renew friendships (I just resigned from that board after two years of service). 

On the way to pick up the new editor of Western Friend (new name for the FB) and take her to the airport Sunday, I was a little early so it was an opportunity to stop and enjoy the morning sun on the narrow gauge train preparing to make the run to Silverton. 

Sandy and I are both recovering from bad colds, probably with the usual fall allergy complications. Anyway, we're feeling enough better to enjoy the beauty around us again. The hummers are starting to lessen in number now; filling the feeder once a day is sufficient. And there's the occasional yellow tree in evidence, so soon we'll be seeing the russet of the Gambel oaks and then the gold of the aspens higher up. Morning temperatures are down in the low 40s now and the days are very comfortable.

Wednesday we're off to Chaco for four days, so today and tomorrow are turn-around time for us ... time to get to the rec center, replenish our cards and matted prints, get an entry in for an exhibition in Cortez, etc. September is going to rush by! tv

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tom's Rant

Watching the Republican convention last night, I was struck by two things. 

One, those folks at that convention don't look like the America I know.

Two, it sounds like it's going to be 2000 and 2004 all over again, playing the fear card. There seemed to be a lot of "noun, verb and 9/11," and not just from Giuliani. In addition, from the President on down, there was the drumbeat of divisive attacks on the left and liberals, on the east and the elite. Having grown up in Joe McCarthy's Wisconsin and well-remembering the red-baiting and the attacks on pinkos and commies that set neighbor against neighbor and cast a pall of fear over political discussion, this strikes me as the same old McCarthy era rhetoric with new names, appealing to the same old fears and hatreds ... us against them.

This was reinforced by the renewed focus on being commander in chief. At times, George W. Bush has talked as though being CIC is the only aspect of the presidency that matters. The debate over Sarah Palin's pick as vice presidential nominee has also been cast in that light. In the meantime, the world has gone on to become multi-polar, with other nations using their energy wealth and our national bankruptcy to pass us by or ignore us because we are no longer "militarily, economically and politically pre-eminent," as members of this administration proposed as the post-Cold War role for America in Sept. 2000. The Pax Americana those folks pursued is now beyond our grasp, and diplomacy on all fronts is going to be way more important to America's welfare than the command of military power. Let's hear about that, and about the way a healthy, well-educated nation is at least as important to our future as the guns in our arsenal.

Palin did a great job of presenting herself. I look forward to seeing how her beliefs play out on real issues. I used to think McCain was one of the few principled politicians at the national level; I've lost confidence in that assessment. Palin has bucked entrenched members of her own party on issues of principle and won. Maybe she can bring some of that focus on principles back into the campaign and we can hear debates on real issues, not about whether it's better and more worthy to be a community organizer in Chicago or a small-town mayor.

That's my rant before dawn's early light. Other views welcomed. tv

Monday, September 1, 2008

A fitting end to the rally

Starting before dawn, it rained off and on all day yesterday. The clouds on the western horizon cleared just enough at about 7:30 p.m. to give us a full, rich rainbow over the SE part of the Mancos Vally, plus a phantom second rainbow outside it. From the viewpoint of our house, one end of the main rainbow appeared to be firmly planted at the rally site. Perhaps it was rising from the Blue Star Moms' display. tv