Saturday, January 31, 2009

Testing, testing ...

Yes, it was a fun trip into the park ... to try out Sandy's new camera. As she said, it's nice that Mesa Verde is so near by with all it's views, wonders and diverse photo opportunities. 

It was a clear day and, by midday, we could feel the warmth of the sun as we stood in it (though our hands got cold on the cameras). There was some haze in the distance, and plenty of pollution spewing into the air south of the park, but near views were quite clear.

While we were standing at the Mancos Overlook, enjoying the views of the La Platas and the northern San Juans, I noticed hoodoos (dirt/rock columns with capstones) below the entrance road that I had never seen before.

The light made the ruins blend in with the sandstone cliffs behind them in an odd way. 

The park was relatively quiet, with very few other visitors around ... pretty standard for this time of year. The quiet disappeared when a group of BYU coeds appeared, on their way to Albuquerque for a meeting. There were not especially noisy and were well-behaved, but not the same as when you're the only ones around. tv

PS: For information on digital recording and presentation of sites at Mesa Verde NP, visit the CyArk Web site:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photo Safari

We took a quick photo safari to Mesa Verde today for me to try out my new camera.  I was pleased with the basic works and excited to have a 20X zoom available!  Hope to have some good photos to post here and on Flickr soon as I read the manual!   I have been "lusting after" this Canon camera for a long time and am pleased with the possibilities it offers.  My little 12 megapixel kodak has served me well but I think it was failing.  With the number of picture I've taken with it in the last year, I may have worn it out!  sf

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And the Winner is!

I can't let the dog sledding weekend pass without posting the picture of the winner.   Krista was a delight to watch last year in the Mancos Mush and great to see her here this year for the San Juan Stage Race and walk away with first place.   Well done, and well deserved.   Just a teenager but a champion all the way.  Plus great to photograph.  With her beautiful smile she's just never taken a bad picture I'm sure!   sf

FeVa Management Team

Fifi is handling the paperwork. Scooby Doo has assumed the supervision spot.  Top Cat Miss Sophie is on a sabatical.   (Probably sleeping in the closet.)   sf :)

Bright, beautiful ... and cold!

The temperature was moderate for our predawn walk (15 degrees), but the wind coming down from the La Platas to the east was cold!

Scooby Doo's answer is to take a nap, while keeping an eye on me. Actually, before Sandy gets up, she snuggles up against my thigh on the couch under a throw after our morning outing, warming both of us. I guess I'm okay when her Mommy's not around. It's interesting that the renter comes out and warms up his car and goes to work ... not a peep! But, when Sandy is up, any noise from outside is greeted with bark, bark, bark, bark, growl, bark, bark, bark ... . Guess the dachsigator's job in life is to protect Sandy!

Last night I went to the town board meeting to show support as part of the Mancos High School Centennial Committee; Superintendent Brian Hanson (who was my kids' math teacher 20 years ago) made the presentation about the events planned to celebrate the centennial of the oldest continuously-operating high school in Colorado.

That was the first time I've attended a town board meeting since I left the paper on May 31, 2006. Don't miss it a bit! Meetings start at 7, we were second on the list of agenda items and got out at 8 ... so glad we weren't number 12 on the agenda! tv

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter's back!

The San Juan Stage Race is over, with its 40+ degree weather and rain, and now, just a few days later, we have three inches of fresh snow and it was 14 degrees when Scooby Doo and I took our stroll at 5:30 a.m.

The pics above are from the last local day of the SJSR (Saturday; there was another stage in Durango on Sunday) and are all of Krista Halsnes, a 15-year-old musher from Steamboat Springs, CO. This is her sixth year of mushing; she and her father (a former Norwegian Olympic skier) came last year and she was the poster child of the Mush! In the bottom photo, she gives loving care and encouragement to her dogs. In the dazzling smile in the middle pic, you can also see that she's as excited and competitive as the dogs ... she was ahead of the five other teams at the beginning of the Saturday leg. The top picture was taken about one second into the race, with the dogs digging in to get started and get the momentum going.

In other news, planning is proceeding on the centennial celebration for Mancos High School. The good news at our planning committee meeting yesterday was that the centennial celebration will be the beneficiary at the Millwood Follies ... the great annual musical event that takes place at Millwood Junction Restaurant in Mancos every winter (March 14 this year). It's lots of fun, lots of local musicians (come early or stand elbow-to-elbow) and it usually raises a good amount through door prizes and silent auction. So, we'll be scouring the countryside for silent auction gifts, as well as working hard at the event. 

The kick-off for the centennial celebration will be a big all-class reunion party (with a pig roast) at the school football field on Friday, July 24, at the beginning of Mancos Days (and this is the 50th anniversary of the Mancos Days celebration). The end of the celebration will be the graduation of the centennial class in May 2010. 

And it's a bright, beautiful day in the Mancos Valley! tv

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Still here

Wierd weather ... rain for two nights straight and fog during the day. We hardly ever see fog here, but it was in layers everywhere yesterday. We ducked into Mesa Verde on our way to Cortez in the late afternoon, trying to see if we could get above it. No luck on that score, but there were some ghostly views of trees and rocks.

Sandy documented the presence of the twin turkeys at the Southwest Open School art show reception last night at the Cortez Cultural Center. Note the similarity twixt Tom Turkey and the one shown in his photograph? The turkey pic (the feathered one) was taken right outside our living room window. 

'Twas a nice show of artwork by students and staff (board members allowed in, too) at SWOS. More items than last year, and overall not as dragony and Gothic as last year. Lots of stuff selling, too (including my turkey pic). One student had about six works entered and she had sold all of them by last night (the show has another week to go). Students were also required to write something about their art, and some of those were very moving. There were also poetry readings and music, including a drum song by one of the Ute students. Life has been pretty hard for some of these kids, and art is one of their areas of expression that really seems to help them grow, express and gain confidence.

We agreed to swap shifts at Artisans this morning, so Sandy will open there while I head for the hills to see the start of the last stage of the San Juan Stage Race above Jackson Lake. That's higher and I hope it snowed up there, but I doubt it. It's been terrible weather for a sled dog race ... wet, slow snow and so warm that the dogs overheat.

Last year we were urged to hold the Mancos Mush at this time of year, to hitchhike on the Wyoming Stage Race. We looked at the precipitation records over the last 30 years or so and there just isn't a good record of snow at this time of year; most of our snow comes in February and March. tv

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Race is On!

The first leg of the San Juan  Stage Race brought the usual photo ops for pictures of  excited mushers, even more excited sled dogs and one dog that gave me the "I'm just not into it" look! sf  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

My goodness, what a day! I teared up numerous times during the inauguration, most often in response to the close-ups of the people in the crowd ... they looked like America in their diversity and they were so uplifted in their hopes that this was truly the start of a new era.

After the inauguration, I drove up to Mesa Verde for some Mesa Verde Museum Association business. The Abajos were clear on the horizon, to the west beyond Cortez (just last weekend we were southwest of those mountains!). Nothing was clear to the south, except the ocean of pollution hanging in the lowlands in the northern San Juan Basin below Mesa Verde, pierced only by Shiprock and the two smokestacks that were contributing to that sea of emissions. So, our wonderful natural beauty is still here, but the threats to it are real and tangible. One of the last-minute rules the outgoing administration tried to push through and pulled back from at the last minute would have loosened the rules on emissions from power plants near national parks. There is much to do yet in this area.

Last night we drove to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango. Getting home after 11 p.m. is not our customary pattern, but it was a great concert. The opener was Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans (I was amused that Lund had duct tape over part of the opening on his guitar; duct tape is a national joke in Canada). Lund congratulated us on our inauguration and the crowd responded loudly.

The headliner was Sam Bush, whom I had never heard before but is popular in this area, has been interviewed on KSUT before. Wow; those guys wore me out! Really high energy, fast-fingering bluegrass, as well as tunes from other genres. During the show, they played a version of the national anthem ... probably closer to the Jimi Hendrix rendition than what the Marine Band would have done ... and it really fit the occasion.

When he came back for an encore, Bush commented that it was a great way to end an historic day. I agree! tv

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bluff and Beyond

What a great weekend!  My first visit to this beautiful area, so close and so much to see.  Bluff is a friendly, historic small town.  Valley of the Gods is an adventure in itself but it was Monument Valley that took my breath away!   There was a quiet, spiritual feeling about it, an experience to remember.  On Saturday morning in Bluff and Sunday morning in the Valley  of the Gods, you throw into all this a pack hot air balloonist dancing their rainbow of colored balloons across the landscape and Wow!  just Wow!  It was an unplanned "mini-vac" that turned out unbelievably good.  Blue skies, crisp but bright sun against majestic red rock and the decoration of white snow trim was all we two photographers could hope to find!  Tom has already posted some pictures and I hope I can find some to add to the lot. sf

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A pretty, good, okay day!

In the beginning, there was darkness ... and cold. Cups of good coffee in china cups from the lobby helped to dispel that!

Then we were off to the races. Balloonists launch from all over Bluff, so we went over to the Twin Rocks Café and Trading Post (where more coffee was available), where we figured there would be a great backdrop for inflating and launching. We found Elaine and Jeff at the west end of the parking lot with their Dreamcatcher balloon (shown partially inflated above) and decided to help them crew. They had been at the Mancos Balloon Festival in September.

The Bluff baloonists get great views, but don't travel as far as those in Mancos do, maybe because there's not the network of roads to facilitate retrieval ... who wants to land three miles up a boulder-strewn canyon that's off-limits to vehicles? Anyway, "our" balloon came down near the cemetery, maybe a mile from where it went up.

Anyway, we helped them take it down and pack up, went back to the room and downloaded our pics and recharged our batteries to be ready for the afternoon. We went west from Bluff to the Sand Island petroglyph panel, then briefly joined the balloonists, who were tail-gating at the group picnic area there. 

Onward to the Goosenecks of the San Juan and the Moki Dugway to the top (edge) of Cedar Mesa. You can see at least half of the Four Corners region from that overlook. 

Onward to Monument Valley through Mexican Hat (half closed up for winter). It's been a dozen years since I've been to Monument Valley; they now charge an entrance fee to the tribal park, rather than just requiring you to hire a guide to go down into the valley. We sure got our $10 bucks worth! The 17-mile loop road is jarring, but it was gorgeous in the late afternoon. There is a vastness in that area that just overwhelms you and stills your breathing, envelops you. There were a few other visitors, more as we got closer to sunset, but it was relatively dust- and traffic-free.

Onward to Kayenta ... to get gas! Then quickly back to Bluff, an hour-and-a-half through the gathering shadows of the Navajo night. The balloon glow was almost done when we arrived, so we went to the Twin Rocks Café and shared a Navajo taco (on fry bread instead of pizza crust), had a small sundae afterwards (I had cinnamon ice cream ... wonderful!) and went back to the room to download and relax. After a day like that, the sixties part of being teenagers in our sixties was beginning to catch up! tv

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Surprise! We're ballooning in Bluff!

Yesterday started out as a normal day. Then we got a call from friends who said they had reservations at the Recapture Lodge in Bluff, Utah, for Friday and Saturday to catch the Bluff Balloon Festival. (We had been thinking of coming over for a day trip.) He woke up sick and she wondered if we would like to pick up the reservations. After making sure we could park the dog safely and checking to see that sunny weather was forecast for Bluff, we went for it!

I had a meeting in Cortez, but we got off from the house at 2, went by way of Monticello and pulled into Bluff about 4:30. Checked in and immediately headed out to get sunset pictures of the red rocks and bluffs around Bluff. What a joy!

Checking population, I was surprised to find Bluff is about the size of Mancos; it seems smaller. It's an old Mormon community on the San Juan River, with old two-story stone houses. I understand it's changing, though, and it looks like it has grown a lot in this decade.

Anyway, they're expecting about 28 balloons, about twice what we get at the Mancos Balloon Festival. So, we're excited about going out this morning and watching the balloons against the red rocks.

Last night we had a Navajo taco dinner at the elementary school (best fry bread I've had in a long time ... not leathery and not too greasy) and watched some of the students perform Navajo and Spanish dances. Good crowd of balloonists and locals and others. Seated across from us were a half-dozen University of Utah students on a design-build project. They designed a house for a family on the res last semester; this semester they build it. 

Then we settled in for a long winter's night. The Recapture Lodge is an old, rustic two-story motel (no phones in the rooms, no in-room coffee!) that fits the Bluff experience.

After the flight this morning, we'll see where the Jeep takes us. We're close to Monument Valley, the goosenecks of the San Juan, Comb Ridge, Cedar Mesa ... maybe we'll go up the Moki Dugway! 

Coffee calls! tv

Friday, January 16, 2009

Counting down (a rant)

I think we're down to about a hundred hours left in the George W. Bush administration ... and counting! He's done his last press conference and his last speech to the nation as POTUS, he and Dick Cheney are busily giving interviews, burnishing their legacy and insisting that they, and they alone, kept us from another 9/11 ... and it was because of all the ingenious ways they found to redefine laws and treaties so they could have unspeakable things done that we executed Germans for after the Nuremberg trials. Oh, by the way, 14 million missing e-mails have suddenly been (allegedly) found ... a day or two after a judge ordered the administration not to let that slide by. 

For me, the object lesson of the past eight years will be: This is what you get when you practice "enemy thinking" (us against them, and they ... all of them ... are evil, treacherous, etc.) and when your activities are based on the principle that the end justifies the means. 

I liked Pat Buchanan's characterization of Bush yesterday as "a tragic figure." The tragedy is what he and his toadies have done to our nation in so many ways ... economically, politically, morally and historically. In 100 hours, light will really begin to show on the dark, slimy, shadowy things in this administration that we've only begun to see glimpses of so far ... and the revulsion will be almost universal! Burnish fast, George and Dick, because the corrosion and corruption are about to show through clearly! tv

(PS: I've been advised to remember more prominently that there is that of God in every person. That's true; that's why Buchanan's characterization of Bush seems so apt ... a tragic figure. He's probably become a good husband and father, true to his faith, just not up (in my opinion and those of  millions and millions of others) to the demands of the presidency. tv)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Snowy Mountains and a Mancos Cowboy

Just a few photos  from the last few days.  It's been busy for us but there were a few chances to click a  picture now and then.  The cattle drive being escorted through Mancos reminded us that this still is cattle country, with working ranches still in full operation .   The mountain scenes are the other side of Durango.  Areas that are so green and lush during other times of the year are,on those days without blue skies and sunshine, now pretty much a black and white world.  Beautiful but in a different way. sf

Sunday, January 11, 2009


From time to time, I touch on the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamous group that has no ties with the LDS Church), because they own two 60-acre parcels a couple miles from here, parcels that seem to be pawns in the larger asset game involving the jailed prophet Warren Jeffs and other interests.

There's been a lot about the raid at the YFZ Ranch in Schleicher County, TX. I find the best source for news on that, and on the larger FLDS scene in Utah, Arizona and British Columbia, is Brooke Adams blog on the Salt Lake Tribune site: 

In today's post, Brooke quotes in its entirety the text of a statement made by Winston Blackmore after his arrest for polygamy in BC. Blackmore and Jimmy Oler were arrested by provincial officials on similar charges on Jan. 7. Oler is a follower of Warren Jeffs, though the leadership now seems to be in the hands of Merril Jessop. Blackmore was the head of the FLDS group in SE BC, but was ousted by Jeffs through his father, who was then the prophet. The "Warrenites" and the "Winstonites" live silently (and hostilely) intermingled in the community called Bountiful (formerly Lister) south of Creston, BC. 

Winston's statement can also be seen on his blog, Share the Light:, which includes other material espousing his point of view.

The Oler and Blackmore arrests have been a long time a-brewing, test cases pitting the anti-polygamy statute against claims of freedom of religion. US parallels are obvious. Almost incidentally, Winston points out that there are others besides the FLDS (Fundamentalist Mormons, he calls them) that practice polygamy in Canada. That's also true in the U.S., some Muslims, for example. 

'Twill be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, I commend to you Carolyn Jessop's book "Escape." A former wife of Merril Jessop who was raised an FLDS believer, she recounts how patriarchy can be carried to obscene extremes in a polygamous setup, especially when the woman's salvation is believed to depend on following the wishes of the prophet/master/husband. tv

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What a long day!

We're still resting up from the last couple of days, especially yesterday. We worked Thursday morning and caught a cattle drive going south on the Main Street of Mancos. Always adds to the atmosphere of the place!

Friday, however, we were off at 6:30 a.m. to attend the SW Business Forum at Fort Lewis College. I think this is the third one I've attended and they're always interesting. The basic message is, the U.S. economy is going to Hades in a handbasket, with Colorado and SW Colorado just a bit slower than the rest of the country. 

The guys shown on the stage during the question and answer session are Dr. Richard Wobbekind, director of the CU-Boulder Business Research Division; Dr. Scott Anderson, senior economist and vice president of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; and Dr. Luke Miller, asst. prof. of business admin., Fort Lewis College. Anderson gave the national picture in a global context; Wobbekind described Colorado in the West and the nation, and Miller dealt with the regional context, Durango especially. The events of the last year appeared to have chastened them ... they kept saying they had never seen events such as we have been experiencing in the last few months. They seemed hopeful that "bottom" (whatever and wherever that is) would be reached mid-2009 ... barring other events they've never seen before. Two surprises to me ... TARP money that's gone to banks is basically sitting there, waiting for confidence to build in support of loans and expenditures, and the average local time a house is on the market was shorter than I had thought. 

This year's Forum drew a pretty good crowd; they used the Community Concert Hall instead of one of the lecture halls.

Right afterward, we dropped off our entries for the Images of the Southwest juried exhibit at the FLC Center of SW Studies. After dropping some things off at the Durango Arts Center and having nice, warming bread bowls of soup and chile at Carver's, we did some shopping errands and still had a couple of hours to kill before the reception for the Four Corners Commission art show at the DAC. So, we headed north to see the skiers at Durango Mountain Resort, formerly known as Purgatory. 

Well, we in a low visibility blizzard on the way up, starting as soon as we left the upper Animas Valley. At Purgatory itself, it wasn't snowing and there were lots of skiers and snowboarders, but as you can see, it was a grey, grey day. 

There was an interesting set of buildings and fences on the way back, then blizzard and slick highway and then, as we reached the lower Animas Valley, the skies opened up again and there were spotlights of sunshine on the cliffs and peaks. 

Anyway, we didn't stay till the last dog was hung at the reception. We got on back to Mancos through the dark and the snow, reaching home about 7:30 p.m. What a nice feeling to slide into bed with the knowledge that there wasn't a thing we needed to get up for this morning! tv

Oh, and it was seven degrees with a fullish moon when Scooby Doo and I took our morning constitutional at 5:30 this morning. Brrr!!