Sunday, January 31, 2010

End of January - still

Wish I could figure out how to turn a picture that gets posted sideways!

Anyway, we started yesterday with a brief foray into the hills to attend a dog harness class. The clouds came in by the time we got there, so the white dogs blended in with the snowbanks. Still, it was a good turnout and it quickened the eagerness for the La Plata Paw event, which will be mushing in Mancos on Feb. 13 and 14.

Very Goodnight was there with her digs and she has reminded us that Rick and Kate St. Onge, who are moving (maybe this year) from the Salt Lake City area to Mancos, are presently in the Wyoming Stage Race ... the biggie of stage racing, with a $10,000 first prize. Kate is running third at the end of the first stage, so we're rooting for her! Three of the four leaders have mushed in Mancos!

So anyway, we went on to Durango to pick up Sandy's photos from the Four Corners Commission show at the Durango Art Center, then sampled a little of the flavor of Snowdown, which neither of us have ever attended. The picture shows some of the participants assembled at the start of an event in the Main Mall ... remember, this was January 30, with deep snowbanks everywhere outside!

We went to see the 3D version of "Avatar" - interesting. I was actually more enthused about the 3D "Shrek" previews.

And we capped the evening off with a glimpse of beautiful sunset glow on the La Platas. 'Tis a beautiful land we live in. tv

Friday, January 29, 2010

January's almost over

January seems to be ending with a rush, as much as you can rush on ice. A little more snow last night, about the same as we got the night before. The nearly full moon's light before dawn came slicing across the landscape like auto headlights coming over a hill on a dark night.

We went to the SW Open School art reception last night and enjoyed the variety of expressions shown there by students and staff (I had one pic there). This is Janis Nowlin's last year as art teacher and she will be HARD to replace.

The Casita seems to be saying it's time to go south! The effect is exaggerated by the five-foot ProPanel pile between it and the house ... the snow that slides off the ProPanel roof after a snowstorm (across the entrance to the carport bays).

Got too much to do right now. Sandy's working on her bum leg to get it back in shape, but properly wary of ice and snow. We're doing the visitor center midday today, and I have an appointment with the dentist to replace a crown that fell off. I also have a meeting with some others to look at some maintenance issues with the Bauer Bank Building, where Artisans of Mancos is housed. And then we're going to try to get to a local performance of Godspell in Cortez this evening.

Last night we picked up tickets for a Michael Martin Murphey show that will be held in Cortez in mid-February ... we've enjoyed his performances tremendously. Unfortunately, it conflicts with the California Guitar Trio show in Shiprock ... which would be a lot further to travel, anyway.

And we've got Valentine's Day coming up, along with the library's annual bake sale (for which I make baklava), the La Plata Paw sled dog events on the 13th and 14th, the "Something" event that Mancos is going to put on the first weekend of March ... and so it goes. We should retire!

In the meantime, we'll go see the 3D "Avatar" tomorrow after picking up Sandy's pictures from the Durango Art Center. Life is good! tv

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunshine again!!

What a beautiful day!

We put up with days of snow and shoveling and gray and shoveling and icy roads and shoveling ... and then the sun comes out on the fresh snow and it is just glorious! (And our thanks to all the guys and some gals who drove plows night and day to keep people and goods moving!)

The temperature dropped to about 8 degrees overnight, the sky cleared, the stars and moon shone down and in the morning, dawn's golden rays illuminated Point Lookout brightly.

We went to Meeting and found that it was colder again as we crossed the Animas River into Durango and they had more snow than we did. After meeting, the kids were walking on the snowpiles, pushed way up above the cars.

I couldn't help thinking the solar panel made the winter bucolic scene with the cow so Colorado! On the other hand, at lunch we were next to what I guessed were college students. One was telling the others that there are different breeds of dairy cows, just like with beef cattle. He didn't know the names of any of those breeds, but he was sure it was true. I guess Fort Lewis isn't an Aggie college any more!

Ski Hesperus! After so much fresh snow and on such a beautiful Sunday, the little local ski hill between Durango and Mancos (Hesperus) was swarming with big and little snow bunnies. What a beautiful scene, with the La Platas gleaming across the valley north of the highway!

It's always reassuring when we come down off Mancos Hill into the Mancos Valley and see Point Lookout jutting into view from the south with the Sleeping Ute beyond, winter or summer. Sandy's evening shot of this in a warmer season is our signature shot for FeVa Fotos.

Finally, at the top, while our mornings are brightened by the sun gilding Mesa Verde, our afternoons let us thrill to the La Platas rising above their forested western slopes. tv

Friday, January 22, 2010

Still snowing!

Well, everything's off for the evening, except for reclining inside on the couch and chair, with cats and dog napping away, while the darkness begins to blot the 3-foot-deep Propanel piles just outside the windows and the snow that continues to fall.

The picture I took through the visitor center window midday is a different scene than the one from yesterday afternoon ... more snow, no sun. I was at the visitor center for four hours, and it snowed more than four inches!

When I left at about 2:30 p.m., I caught the historic Bauer House and yard, blanketed in snow. It is supposed to continue on through tomorrow, so who knows what it will look like 24 hours from now!

I've heard, don't know if it's true, that all highway passes in Colorado are closed. Not hard to believe. It's going to be beautiful afterward, and we should be well-watered next summer, but it's getting tiresome right now. tv

And then ...

Don't have pictures for this post ... Sandy is thoroughly tired of the leg brace and crutches (especially with snow and ice) and probably wouldn't want them photographed, but she is coming along pretty well. The swelling seems to have pretty much subsided, she's able to sleep comfortably and she gets around pretty well, doing more than Nurse Ratched thinks she ought to!

Today we are on duty at the visitor center and then there's a reception for the SWOS art exhibit this evening at the Cortez Cultural Center. I have a picture in the exhibit and I'm on the board, so guess we'll go.

Anyway, the healing is slow, but the progress is good. Sandy's impressed with the respect she gets from the cats and dog as she approaches them on crutches! tv

Snow it will!

Been tardy with the blog; been busy with the snow!

There was a brief respite Tuesday afternoon when the sun came out and made the eight inches of new snow outside the Mancos Valley Visitor Center look like a winter wonderland. The rest of the week has been the salt mines ... snow, ice, snow, more snow, etc.

It warmed up enough about 9 last night that it was raining a little, then settled back into snow again, leaving us with a layer of ice to deal with. When I walked the dog at 5, there was about three inches of new stuff to deal with.

So, I've got some shoveling to do here before going down to the visitor center at 10 and shoveling that sidewalk again. Too dark to guess yet what it's going to do today, but the forecast is for more snow through tomorrow ... all the schools are closed today, my dental appointment has been cancelled, etc.

Nonetheless, about 20 hardy souls made it to the visitor center last night for the annual meeting of the Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce. One feature of the annual meeting is the revelation of who has been selected as Mancos Valley Citizen of the Year. The chamber sponsors the event, but the solicitation and selection is done by a committee of past award winners.

This year's award went to our neighbor across the highway, Malcom Cannon. Malcom's "retired" from the Mancos Valley Bank, where he was president. He still goes in practically every day and is president of the bank board. When he retired, he undertook a fitness program that included daily walks or bike rides from his home to the bank ... four miles each way! I'd guess he lost about 50 pounds and he probably added years to his life!

In any case, Malcom was hornswoggled into showing up at the meeting and he was truly surprised at being named Citizen of the Year. The pictures show him standing in the doorway at the point of being named, being presented with the calligraphed certificate by outgoing Citizen of the Year Julia Whelihan and being honored verbally by Mancos Valley Bank President Janeen Jameson. The pensive picture at the top doesn't capture the tear that was in his eye, but there was one. tv

Monday, January 18, 2010

Back home from Bluff

It will take a few days to recover from the Bluff Balloon Festival, quite literally.

We set up our booth Saturday morning and then Sandy went out to chase balloons so we would be able to print out card prints directly from her camera. Balloons and light are highly transient so you have to pay attention what's going on in the sky ... which can lead to mishaps on the ground. Sandy hit her knee on a rock and came back limping. EMTs looked at the knee at the show and then again at the Desert Rose motel that night. We iced it down and kept it elevated, but there was a lot of swelling Sunday morning. So, we decided to head for the Cortez hospital emergency room and get it checked out, skipping the flight from Valley of the Gods.

As it turned out, the pilots decided to skip Valley of the Gods, too, because of concerns about the treacherously muddy road out there. So, as we were leaving Bluff, there were balloons inflating all over the place! Sandy was comfortable and we spent a while tracking them around Bluff. We watched the Koshare balloon from Gallup, NM, catch the morning sun's rays as it was inflated in the parking lot of the Twin Rocks Trading Post, then started out toward Blanding and Cortez.

Seeing the balloons were trending upstream along the San Juan River Valley, I noticed a highway trending southward from the road to Blanding and we decided to take that for more views. Very soon there was a two-track heading across the countryside to the rim of the bluffs
... and my Jeep can't pass up a two-track!

It worked well! In fact, we took pictures there for a while, went back down Cow Canyon the SJR Valley, went up-valley for a while, then finished off by taking more pictures from the bluff-top site again. Though there was still a lot of haze that didn't give us the bright, snappy blue we saw last year (and which we heard was present Friday), we did have attractive views.

With the snow cover and the 19-degree temperature, the scene was positively Arctic! You could imagine pilots and passengers searching for polar bears! In addition to the frozen wasteland aspect, there were opportunities to see the balloons backdropped by the sandstone bluffs along the valley.

I especially like the picture next to the top of a red-and-blue balloon almost totally submerged in Cow Canyon, the narrow canyon on the east edge of Bluff through which you drive to Blanding. The balloon is 3-4 stories tall and it's hidden in that canyon!

The top scene is looking northeast from the rim of the bluff, away from the San Juan River Valley. The Abajo Mountains are in the distance, beyond the "Heart" balloon crew packing up after their flight.

And we did get to the hospital emergency room and Sandy did get her knee x-rayed and she doesn't have a broken bone ... but she does have to wear a leg-brace, use cold packs, elevate the knee and use crutches this week and go to the clinic for a follow-up at the end of the week. Bummer! tv

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bluff - Day I

Long first day of the Bluff Balloon Festival 2010. We collected our show stuff and dropped off Scooby Doo at the Dog Hotel by about 10 a.m. The owner wanted to show us a lamb that had just been born, which was among several other recent lambs. The one shown is one that would stand still for a second, not the most recent one.

I was hoping to stop at the Cajon Group of ruins, part of Hovenweep National Monument, on the way to Bluff, but we didn't find it. I'd been there about 15 years ago and thought I had it mapped on Google, but all we found was slick, muddy roads, ending up in three different Navajo "outfits," as my father-in-law Jack Wade used to call them. The roads kinda reminded me of being back at Chaco; they were slick as snot.

Anyway, we got to Bluff, had a late lunch, checked in at the Desert Rose and took a nap. 'Bout sunset we went up on the bluff above Bluff and caught the sun's last rays streaking across the canyon-cut landscape, looking south across the San Juan River valley toward the Chorrizo Mountains in NE Arizona.

To the school for the Navajo taco dinner and entertainment. We hear there's more than 20 balloons here this year and they had a good flight Friday morning. A few more are expected in for the weekend flights. The sponsors surely sold several hundred Navajo taco dinners last night!

What a varied program! Lots of round-dance songs, a piano solo, the cloggers shown, a country singer and the young yei-bi-chai dancers shown in a line. Several of the dancers used small hand-drums ... I liked the detail on this one.

Today we'll set up our booth after the pilot's meeting in the community center. This morning's launch, if there is one (weather rules all in ballooning), will be right outside the community center. We think we've got good photos in card and print form, and we may be able to offer cards this afternoon of pictures taken this morning. So, we'll see how it goes. This afternoon is a SW cuisine show, then a glow in the evening.

The real event, if weather allows, will be the launch west of Bluff in Valley of the Gods State Park tomorrow morning. It will be COLD, but visually thrilling! tv

Friday, January 15, 2010

Up, up and away!

It's still dark, and we're watching more of the disaster unfold in Haiti on CNN (I'll be making a donation to the American Friends Service Committee), but we're excited about getting ready to roll westward to Bluff, Utah, for the Bluff Balloon Festival! These pics are from last year, but we're looking forward to posting new ones over the next few days.

Some of these pilots also come to Mancos for our balloon festival, but a lot of last year's attendees were a different group. All fun! Navajo tacos tonight! tv

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bluff Balloon Festival 2009

Last year's Bluff Balloon Festival was captured on many photos of the area and the events. We are excited about visiting the hospitable small community and doing it all again! The photography on Sunday morning at Valley of the Gods and the balloon launch from that location is spectacular! sf

Is it 2010 yet?

I guess it's really here, isn't it? And I've been tardy in keeping up my end of the blog.

Yesterday was a rewarding day at the Mancos Valley Visitor Center, where we volunteer four hours a day, two days a week. Sandy answered a call from someone in the SE US who's planning a trip to Mancos this summer and wanted to know about horsing around opportunities for her family in the Mancos Valley. And later someone came in from one of the local businesses to pick up some of the rack cards that list the local events for the year, fulfilling our mission of providing useful information for locals as well as for travelers.

In between times, we went over our pictures from last year's Bluff Balloon Festival ... and we just got more excited about going over there this weekend for this year's event. They're having an art show for the first time (with the balloon festival) and we're delighted to be part of it!

We're going to detour to the Cajon Group unit of Hovenweep on the way. I've only been there once before and hope it will be a sunny morning to highlight the standing-wall ruins against the blue sky and the white snow.

Still, the real fun is going to be the colorful balloons against the blue sky and red bluffs of Bluff, hopefully with white snow as well. It's a fun event, in a town that has a lot of the same small-town feeling that Mancos has. And Sunday, when they go out to Valley of the Gods to launch, could be just spectacular!

Back to yesterday. I moderated the Mancos Valley Cares forum last night. We were fortunate to have the town administrator and the school superintendent there to talk about their plans and how they relate to each other and to the overall context of the county and of the infrastructure of the Mancos Valley.

One thing that came out is that this tax-averse county is going to have to deal with the transportation infrastructure at some point. Unlike other counties, Montezuma passes no money along to the municipalities and, frankly, it doesn't even have the money it needs to maintain county roads. While there's plenty of bitching about roads, voters recently turned down a ballot issue that would have provided more funds for roadwork. We've got roads in the valley that are becoming used way beyond their original design capacity, but we can't afford to maintain and resurface our roads, much less widen or realign them!

The school superintendent addressed our declining enrollment and their efforts to attract young families to the community. Part of this issue is: Where are they going to go? The Town is basically built-out, residential occupancy is at a high level and subdivisions outside town in the valley are not cheap. A related and perhaps prior issue is jobs. We are a bedroom community (median travel time to work is 23 minutes, suggesting a LOT of folks are working in Cortez, Durango, etc.), but we need to have jobs and services here, too, at least in part to generate revenue to support Town services to residents and businesses.

There's good news on that score, at least for the moment. Despite the gloomy economy overall, and in the face of reduced revenues from gasoline sales associated with lower prices per gallon in 2009 than in 2008, the Town's sales tax receipts in 2009 were 3.63% higher than in 2008! That's really amazing and I personally think the renaissance in the downtown area is an important factor.

Light is coming to the valley, we're waking up ... time to get breakfast and then go to Cortez for a SWOS board meeting. tv

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunny Sunday

Today is sunny and a warm 32 degrees. The picture above is taken as we were driving to an early morning seminar at Ft Lewis College in Durango on Friday. Not quite so sunny but pretty in it's own way. We need to be more attentive with this blog but get distracted by keeping up with facebook, our flickr pages and also many non electronic happenings and time obligations. We are heading to the Bluff Balloon Festival this weekend and are doubly excited since we found out they are having an art show along with it this year and we can show and sell our photography. Last year's pictures were good with red rocks decorated with touches of white snow and colorful hot air balloons bouncing around amongst! We are going to go to one of the ruins in the Hovenweep area on the way down so should be an interesting few days. We are back from our Sunday morning trip to the Quaker meeting in Durango and on our way out the door to help with artists moves down at Artisans Co-op. We like our spot in the gallery and get to keep it this time but thought we would go and see what we can do to help with the general shuffle. The changing of assigned locations within the gallery does keep locations fair and gives it a fresh look. Hello to all. . Hope you have recovered from the busy holidays. . .sf

Monday, January 4, 2010

Coming home from the doctor ...

I had a doctor's appointment in Durango this morning. It was a pretty, sunny morning, but nothing special.

On the way home, we saw a CDOT snow blower clearing the snowpile from the guardrails. Couldn't resist getting a picture of the plume of snow against the blue sky and Menefee Mountain across Thompson Park.

And then we got into a cow jam just outside Mancos. They were a little disorganized at first, but finally moved a couple of miles east on US 160, then up the Echo Basin Road to an old barn and corrals with the East Mancos and the La Platas as a backdrop.

One of the critters wasn't with the program and had to be roped by one of the cowboys and put back in the paddock. Roping isn't just a "ranch rodeo" event! tv

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mancos Mix

The bottom picture is of the New Year Eve's full moon rising on the horizon outside of Mancos. Then on the outskirts of Mancos and on our way to Cortez we snapped a few pictures of some yaks that are sharing a field with cows and horses. We have tried before and these creatures just are not photogenic! We were delighted to find my friend Alexander the camel hanging out in the front of his pasture and even seemed glad for the company. Alexander is a ham, I think as he always seems to strut and pose for the camera. I thought he was particularly handsome is his heavy winter coat! Just never know what you are going to find around and about Mancos. Happy New Year all. . sf