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Backyard training for the backcountry by Morgan Tilton Hone your avalanche beacon skills at the new-and-near Jeff Schneider Memorial Beacon Park.
16 The coaching Coveys return by Than Acuff
“More Ted Lasso, less Bobby Knight” on the volleyball court this time around.
20 Wander and wonder by Dawne Belloise
Crested Butte’s eight new Wheels of Intention prayer wheels spin good community karma.
24 The Climate Kids by Kathy Norgard
As concerned citizens prompt climate-conscious changes throughout the county, young activists are stepping up as well.
People, place, power by Stephanie Maltarich
Crested Butte native Benjamin Swift finds a new approach to activism – as a podcaster. Side note: The Gunnison Valley Audio Journal.
34 Mountain heart, city style by Beth Buehler
Drawn to Crested Butte since its rowdy, dirt-street days, Jeff Hermanson is investing his time, talent and resources in the town’s future.
45 Still not over the hill by John Norton
This jovial uphiller didn’t intend to launch a tradition when he invited some buddies for a dawn skin up the mountain 20 winters ago.
48 The barber of the Butte by Stephanie Maltarich
Longtime local Drew Canale re-tooled and put out his barber’s pole to cut hair, trim beards and build community among the men of Crested Butte.
54 Going wild, being safe by Morgan Tilton
As a teen, Andy Sovick shared his backcountry photos and notes with fellow ski fanatics. Now he publishes benchmark guides on safely exploring avalanche terrain.
62 More precious than gold by Brian Levine
Rumors of “unparalleled” gold stoked the formation of Gunnison County’s Box Canyon Mining District. As the rumors fizzled, one promoter remained steadfast: Albert P. Nelson.
Not-so-lonesome Bob by Sandra Cortner
He’s “Lonesome Bob” on KBUT, but photographer, DJ and transplant recipient Bob Brazell has felt well loved by his community.
80 The Time of the Melting Side by Molly Murfee
Ute lore reconnects us to the sacred wild.
Winter valleys by Leath Tonino
Snowy venturings and the words they call forth.
THE VIEW FROM HERE
97 Cutting new trails by Cara Guerrieri
Steering the feed truck and other life lessons from a ranch childhood.
101 The case of the missing macchiato by Annie Rijks Flora
Adjusting to mountain life, one non-coffee coffee drink at a time. 105 Hidden histories by Remy Schultz
A museum research project and exhibit show how different our valley’s history looks if you’re Black, indigenous or a person of color.
FOOT TO EARTH, FOOT TO EARTH
A few months ago, my husband and I walked part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain. I delighted in Spain’s beauty, culture and history, but right now I’m pondering another aspect of the Camino – the difference between being a pilgrim and being a tourist.
(By this, I don’t mean the English Pilgrims who bequeathed us the Thanksgiving turkey, but a broader sense of the word pilgrim: one who undertakes an intentional journey in a place of significance.)
People convened on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from many places and backgrounds, but most seemed to be seeking a deeper connection to and understanding of life. Otherwise, they might have spent their vacation time on tour buses or beach chairs instead of footblistering daily walks (we averaged 15 miles a day) along paths that have been trodden by seekers for many centuries.
With a sense of common intention along the trail, we pilgrims naturally shared on a more honest, less superficial
level. Rather than bumping our egos and judgments against each other, we connected on a plane of caring. Social hierarchies lost meaning. Everyone got blisters; everyone quieted and slowed in the fog-shrouded Pyrenees; everyone got cow poop splashed on their pants when rain turned the trail to muck.
We heard many languages spoken –with one person’s native tongue sounding like gibberish to a traveler from a different continent. Likewise, people had different spiritual languages. Some attended
pilgrims’ mass in the ancient, resonant churches; other people placed stones at makeshift hilltop altars to symbolically lay down burdens, resentments or losses; yet other sojourners paused to meditate in the shade of the olive trees.
We were each on our own journey, but we had all come to a powerful place and invited that place to change us. I found people inordinately curious, candid and tuned in – to themselves, each other and the world through which they were walking. Equally open were the Spanish people whose towns we travelled; everywhere they greeted us with their blessings of “Buen Camino!”
A pilgrimage is a break from the human-stoked rat race. It’s slow, quiet and grounding: foot to earth, foot to earth. Though it’s not easy, it’s simple. If a shoe rubs, stop and deal with it. If it rains, poncho up. If you sweat today, rise in the cool darkness tomorrow. As we slipped into Camino mode, we didn’t whine or rail or fight against “problems”; we happily (mas o menos) adapted to the circumstances of the moment.
So here’s the deal. I like being a pilgrim, and I don’t want to stop. I like being curious, open, present and tuned in – amid other people doing the same. Luckily, I live among mountains that can feel as holy as an “official” pilgrimage –and here also, people convene partly to be shaped by the spirit of the place.
Our land has its own history of consecration. Centuries ago, while Catholic authorities were installing saintly relics and blessing the Camino de Santiago, the Ute people were traversing this valley and paying homage to a land they considered sacred (see Molly Murfee’s story on page 80). I can feel the depth of both histories.
I’m wandering this mental path because this issue of the Crested Butte Magazine is about the interplay of people and place. Here you can read several profiles of individuals who have been changed in one way or another by Crested Butte – its community, wilderness, historical legacy. These pages also speak to the might of the land itself, and what happens when we immerse ourselves in that (see Leath Tonino’s poetic take on page 88).
Perusing this issue after trekking the Camino, I imagine: What if we could all be pilgrims together – allowing wonder to elbow aside ego; respecting each other’s journeys; honoring and opening to this place where we’ve chosen to be?
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Sandra Cortner Sandy Fails
Annie Rijks Flora Cara Guerrieri Brian Levine
Stephanie Maltarich Molly Murfee
Mamie Rijks Remy Schultz Morgan Tilton Leath Tonino
Nathan Bilow Nolan Blunck
Trevor Bona Bob Brazell Sandra Cortner Dusty Demerson Petar Dopchev Sean Enberg
Xavier Fané David Kish
Constance Mahoney Chris Miller
Rebecca Ofstedahl Mary Schmidt Tracy Schwartz
Greta Starrett Lydia Stern
BACKYARD TRAINING FOR THE BACKCOUNTRYBy Morgan Tilton
This winter you might notice folks clad in snow gear poking and shuffling around the snowy heaps on the southern edge of Crested Butte, near the dogs and skiers scurrying along the Town Ranch Nordic loop. Those people are not part of a metal detector club or Move the Butte dance rehearsal or some extended science experiment of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
You’re looking at the new community beacon practice park, where potential backcountry travelers can use their beacons and probes to locate activated transceivers that are hidden beneath the snow. (Backcountry skiers typically wear the transceivers so they can be located if they are buried by an avalanche.) The beacon garden, which was established last season, is open to the public and free of charge.
Whether you’re a dog walker, snowshoer, avalanche forecaster, emergency responder, ski patroller, fat biker, backcountry skier or splitboarder, learning how to use life-saving equipment, before an emergency happens, is essential.
Center (CBAC). “And we wanted to reach as many people as possible – who might not necessarily read the CBAC forecast, like dog walkers – with education about the snowpack forecast, avalanches and the basics of a beacon search.”
The idea was introduced four years ago by Ian Havlick, outreach director and a former forecaster for the CBAC, when beacon parks started popping up nationwide. The idea was tabled due to funding.
The pitch was reintroduced on the coattails of the CBAC’s 2020 Outreach Program, which was launched in response to a surge in backcountry travel and avalanche incidents during the pandemic.
In 2020, Jeff Schneider, a prolific backcountry skier who served on the Crested Butte Ski Patrol for 35 years, was caught and buried in an avalanche. His death shook the community and helped prompt the creation of the Jeff Schneider Memorial Beacon Park. A sign in Jeff’s honor, designed by CBAC Board President Keitha Kostyk, will be installed this winter.
Dogs and humans search for buried avalanche beacons during an early-season “brush-up” at the new practice park.
“We are creatures of convenience, myself included, and we wanted to make this beacon park as easy as possible for people to utilize without excuses like ‘Kebler is too busy’ or ‘It’s windy at Snodgrass’,” said Than Acuff, executive director of the Crested Butte Avalanche
Acuff said, “When Jeff passed, who had been an avid backcountry ski tourer in Crested Butte since the sixties, I thought, what a great way to memorialize Jeff and have a beacon park. Everyone saw Jeff in the backcountry, and he was known for those signature tight turns.”
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Most beacon parks around Colorado are found at ski resorts (see side box), where public access can be limited. In contrast, Crested Butte’s practice area is in town and easy to use. Located on the undulating dirt mounds of the summer bike park and pump track, the beacon park’s terrain could not be more fitting for an off-piste homework area. The landscape’s small slopes make practice sessions more realistic than, say, postholing in a flat meadow, without being in avalanche terrain. Nor could the location, on the south edge of town, be more convenient for folks in Crested Butte. The practice area has parking and sits near a hub surrounded by students, Nordic skiers, bikers and dog walkers. In addition to being used by the public and CBAC forecasters, the range has already been utilized for training by Crested Butte Search and Rescue and Western Colorado University.
The beacon site houses a $4,500 BCA Wireless Beacon Training Park System. Fortunately, the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee (STOR) funded the community investment. The system includes a weatherproof control panel – you’ll see it affixed to the beacon park sign – that has eight on/off switches that flash to indicate use. The toggles
wirelessly control the transmitters that are buried throughout the snow. Each transmit box features a graham crackersized strike target with a motion sensor, so when the transmitter is probed, practicers can feel a distinct thud and hear an audible beep at the control panel, confirming that the theoretical victim has been found. All of the transmitters are buried within 60 meters of the control panel. You can run laps with all your gear, solo or in a group, and switch on one or all eight transmitters at the same time. “Zach Kinler, our forecaster and outreach assistant, worked with our forecast team to lay out the transmitters in an organic way that is good for training, friendly to a variety of user levels, and without signal overlap,” said Acuff. This season, the team plans to intermittently relocate the transmitters. b
BEACON PARKS IN COLORADO
Several Colorado ski resorts have beacon parks, such as Arapahoe Basin, Monarch, Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat and Aspen Mountain. Some ski patrollers, like those at Aspen Highlands, also bury beacons in various locations around the mountain for training, and the public is welcome to use these. But not all of the established in-bounds transmitter hubs are available around the clock. For instance, Telluride’s is located at the top of a ski lift that typically operates between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
A handful of uniquely placed public beacon playgrounds also exist, like the one at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park and another recently opened at Meadow Mountain Trailhead outside of Minturn. Ultimately, not many beacon parks are conveniently established within town limits like Crested Butte’s. Comparable outdoor stations include the drills spot at Howelsen Hill Ski Area in Steamboat Springs, one set up by the Summit County Rescue Group at the Frisco Adventure Park, and the training center at the Silverton Avalanche School campus.
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THE COACHING COVEYS RETURNBy Than Acuff
Crested Butte’s school volleyball court this year got a little livelier. After taking a hiatus from coaching the Crested Butte Titans volleyball team, sisters Sheri and Marla Covey are back, with their trademark energy and banter.
“I compare it to the mafia,” said Marla. “Once you get in, you can’t get out.”
Growing up in Nebraska, Sheri and Marla had sports in their lives from the start. With their boundless energy and athletic dad, sports were part passion and part necessity for the two sisters, who are just two years apart in age.
“Our parents had a philosophy of ‘get them out of the house and exhaust them,’ ” said Marla.
Sheri recalls vividly how volleyball took hold of her in eighth grade. “I saw it in the Olympics and thought it was the coolest thing,” she said. “I fell in love with the sport on sight.”
Both Sheri and Marla tout Title 9 as a big part of opening the door to sports for them. When the family moved to Minnesota, Sheri was a junior and Marla a freshman. They followed their passion for athletics through high school and into college, with Sheri focused on volleyball and Marla splitting time between volleyball and softball.
“I was better at softball, but I liked volleyball more,” said Marla.
Sheri spent summers of her college years coaching volleyball at summer camps and after college took a job coaching at
South St. Paul High School for two years. When she left to work in a more competitive program, Marla stepped in at South St. Paul.
That template was repeated in Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Community School’s new high school opened in 1997, and Sheri jumped into the volleyball head coaching role in 1998.
“Jason Gould was the coach that first year, and he said to me, ‘I heard you coach’,” recalled Sheri. “I asked him what offenses and defenses he used, and he replied, ‘There’s offense and defense?’ ”
Sheri took the helm with Jason as an assistant, and the program gained strength almost immediately.
“We had girls who had never played volleyball, and three years later we were in regionals battling to get into the state tournament,” Sheri said.
Sheri roped Marla in as a volunteer coach, and after Sheri moved on from the program in 2005, Marla took over and continued coaching until 2015.
“Marla and Sheri were a dynamic duo,” recalled one of their first players, Lauren (Holbrook) Kugler. “When they were coaching, they were yin and yang, bringing out the best in each other. They were focused on earning respect from players by leading by example, being firm with their expectations, and conveying the importance of showing up to do our very best and represent our community well, on and off the court. They were role
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models and instilled a sense of pride in us by creating a healthy team dynamic and culture.”
Amid all of their coaching, building and rebuilding the Titans volleyball program, Marla and Sheri do have careers off the court. High school coaching is about the passion and not the paycheck. Marla has been in the loan industry throughout it all and spends 40-plus hours per week outside of coaching as a loan officer for Benchmark Mortgage.
Sheri pursued a career studying and practicing ortho-bionomy and is now an advanced practitioner and advanced instructor. She started the Rocky Mountain Ortho-Bionomy Center, with schools in Grand Junction and Denver. Remarkably, part of the stated mission of her school, “To help promote the beauty and power of
the work of ortho-bionomy and to support students to improve their skills and allow them to reach their visions of their own success,” translates almost verbatim to the Covey sisters’ mission on the court.
After a seven-year break from the school gym, the sisters returned due to popular demand. Sheri had continued coaching club volleyball, and last year they both started helping out with the local Anthracite Volleyball Club. When it became known that the Titans were losing their coach of the past two years, Marla and Sheri started getting phone calls from parents asking them to come back.
“Marla was adamantly no, but I knew it was just a matter of bugging her,” Sheri said. “I talked Marla into helping me; I always do.”
“I was worried the program was going to die,” said Marla. “I put too much time in that gym to see the sport die.”
They admitted things are different this time around.
“ This generation has so much anxiety and stress on them. They’re more tuned in and they’re struggling,” said Sheri.
“Also, during Covid, I think they had trouble with team building,” Marla said. “They couldn’t have team dinners or team meetings; they had to play with masks on.” Sheri and Marla have also adjusted.
“I’ve changed, too,” said Marla. “I try to have more open lines of communication.”
“We’re more flexible than we used to be,” added Sheri. “More Ted Lasso, less Bobby Knight.”
How long will they be back? That depends. The Titans have had four different coaches over the previous six seasons, so the Coveys want to return some consistency to the program to get it back on its feet. Also, with a local volleyball club in place and massive numbers in the middle school volleyball program, the future looks promising. So, they say their tenure comes down to their own health and the parents of the players.
“ The parents now are just so incredibly willing to pitch in and help us,” said Marla. “We’ll probably go until our joints give out, or our brains.”
Ultimately, though, it’s about the kids. “You see such a range of emotions, and their emotional highs and lows add to your life,” said Marla.
“ There’s something really challenging and something really inspiring working with these kids,” said Sheri. “They’re on their journeys and it’s cool to be a part of that. The girls have added a whole new layer of inspiration for me. I’ve always loved coaching and it’s nice to know I still love it. I’m gratefully inspired by these kids.” b
CRESTED BUTTE’S EIGHT NEW WHEELS OF INTENTION SPIN GOOD COMMUNITY KARMA.By Dawne Belloise
With a pleasant whirring, a blur of color twirls against the backdrop of mountains, people and a bustling downtown. No wonder passersby delight in spinning Crested Butte’s eight newly installed Wheels of Intention, modeled after sacred Tibetan prayer wheels.
Caroline McLean and Neil Windsor dreamed up the concept for the wheels. Each themed wheel was designed by a local artist, with a business sponsor, a nonprofit partner, and inspirational “intentions” contributed by community members. People wrote the intentions to express their collective desires to bring hope, peace, joy, wellbeing, love and respect to the nearby surroundings, to global mountain communities, and to all living things. The creators then placed the written intentions within each wheel so that when people turn the cylinder, the prayers, or mantras, are sent out into the universe, simulating chants with each rotation.
The installation was dedicated on the summer solstice this year. The wheels are located primarily at businesses on or near Elk Avenue (see side box). The website (cbwheelsofintention.org) offers a selfguided tour and map, with information on the stories and people behind each creation.
The eight themes weave together
elements of nature, community, imagination and inspiration, diversity and heritage, water, joy and peaceful abiding.
The colorful art encasing the wheels ranges from mountain scenery, dogs and flowers to whimsical creatures and pastel rainbows. A traditional Tibetan “Tree of Life” spindle from locally sourced wood is incorporated into each wheel and painted and inscribed with a mantra by Lama Gyurme, a Tibetan sacred-art artist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Caroline McLean explained the Wheels of Intention are essentially a collective blessing for the community. “These mantras cultivate seeds of goodness and good fortune, and through this project, we honor our interconnections with other mountain cultures. Together, we celebrate our mountain majesties. They are the sentinels of our communities and to our way of life. When the prayer wheels embedded with the community-sourced intentions are spun, the intentions release good tidings into our mountains.”
According to the Tibetan tradition and texts, prayer wheels can be traced back to the Indian master Nagarjuna as well as other Indian Buddhist masters. The concept of the wheel itself was inspired by the Buddha’s teachings of “turning the wheel of Dharma.” Prayer wheels have been
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used in Tibet and China since the fourth century and are driven by wind. Spinning them clockwise is thought to help one accumulate wisdom and good karma and eliminate negatives or bad karma. Buddhist practitioners believe this helps bring them to enlightenment, and the prayer wheels are a visual aid for developing the capacity for visualizations.
About 150 people attended the June dedication of the Wheels of Intention. “There were lots of emotions, and everyone was touched by the presentations, the amount of work and the community engagement,” McLean said. Celebrants toured the wheels in their various locations, with the artists speaking about their designs and inspirations. At the end of the blessing at each location, a young person from the crowd was chosen to spin the wheel.
Pemba Sherpa, a local transplant from Nepal, has been an active contributor to the concepts and creation of the prayer wheels. He’s hoping to take a group of people to Nepal to a prayer wheel factory, and the Wheels of Intention group is discussing with him the idea of taking on a Nepali “sister city.” McLean explained that the towns would foster an exchange program under the umbrella of an international exchange organization. “We’d be connecting mountain community people with other mountain community people.”
The Wheels of Intention group hopes to install additional prayer wheels in Crested Butte, but in locations very different from the initial downtown sites. With Elk Avenue becoming more bustling, especially in the summer, future installations might be set in quiet, more reflective places, perhaps with expansive views of the valley. McLean described the perfect placements for the next group of wheels: ”places of contemplation, peace and gratitude for the beauty, where people can appreciate the natural environment.”
Some locations being considered are “Hippie Hill” on the west end of town, the Peanut Lake area, and the public art site at the west end of Elk Avenue. The wheels could possibly have solar panels to be dimly lit at night, but the idea is to have a simple walk to a site accessible to everyone.
“We’d also like to see wheels on the bridges in town, because bridges are transitions,” McLean said. She noted that plans are very preliminary for the next phase of Wheels of Intention. The organizers welcome ideas on sites, concepts and funding.
For now, the eight Wheels of Intention will spin as the world continues to spin; and the good vibes released into the cosmos and our mountains will shower love and gratitude for all beings.
TAKE A SPIN
You can twirl the Wheels of Intention at the Visitors Center, Mountain Tails, Townie Books, Mountain Earth, Secret Stash, Sherpa Café, Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven and creekside at 126 Elk Avenue. See the website, cbwheelsofintention.org, for maps, information and a video of the project.
Each wheel has a plaque with a QR code that you can scan with your phone. It takes you to the location map; artists, business sponsors and nonprofits associated with the installations; and the stories behind the wheels. If you prefer, you can pick up a brochure at the Visitors Center at Crested Butte’s four-way stop.
THE CLIMATE KIDSBy Kathy Norgard
Two hundred people spilled over onto Elk Avenue on a warm September day in 2019. A mom pushed her baby in a stroller. Young and old, locals and visitors talked not about religious or political beliefs but about weather changes, expressing their common concern about the warming planet. They were walking together to call attention to the worldwide climate crisis.
March organizers Randy Swift and Dana Delaney had no idea so many would show up on such short notice, with little publicity. They were both overjoyed and overwhelmed.
Everyone seemed energized by the large turnout. The enthusiastic marchers didn’t know they were supposed to stay on the sidewalk. Mayor Jim Schmidt saw what was happening and spontaneously hopped on his bicycle and rode to the head of the parade, legitimizing the event.
to discuss what local action they could take in the Gunnison Valley to reduce the impact of climate change. The group included engineers, a psychologist, a librarian, a retired schoolteacher, a mathematician, students and a builder. No one wanted to start another nonprofit. All efforts would be volunteer powered.
The newly formed group invited Emily Artale, a local expert on sustainability, to attend their second meeting to help educate them about some of the complicated issues related to climate change. Emily’s experience spans both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She co-founded an engineering firm dedicated to climate change solutions. Emily has since sold her business to devote more time to her young family and GVCCC.
The Climate Kids prepare apples for dehydrating, with Tina Haney and Kathy Norgard.
The Gunnison Valley Climate Crisis Coalition (GVCCC) was born as a result of that September march. A dozen concerned locals met in a Crested Butte South living room just before Covid-19 struck (making virtual get-togethers the norm). Two high school students and nine middle-aged, working and retired people came together
Emily’s daughter, then seven years old, accompanied her mother to that second living-room meeting. The youngster sat at the dining room table, apparently focused on her coloring. But, like all kids, she was a little sponge, listening intently.
GVCCC volunteers accomplished many things during the next months, even as Covid made such efforts challenging. They encouraged member engagement with
AS CONCERNED CITIZENS PROMPT CLIMATE-CONSCIOUS CHANGES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY, YOUNG ACTIVISTS ARE STEPPING UP AS WELL.
Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA, a co-op which provides electricity to the north end of the valley) to accelerate production of sustainable energy. GVCCC manned a table in front of the Crested Butte Post Office to help sign up people for GCEA’s solar garden rental and green power programs.
• GVCCC began its work with local and multi-state electricity providers, Colorado legislators, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to add more green electricity sources and help retire coal plants, which are dirty electricity producers.
• Recently, GVCCC supporters (numbering near 500) wrote the preponderance of letters to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission urging that our wholesale electric power supplier be required to provide more clean energy faster (using less coal) for its 1.5 million customers. This will reduce emissions 80% by 2030.
• GVCCC supporters joined with the Crested Butte South Property Owners Association Climate Action Committee to successfully urge the purchase of renewable energy credits
to help fund GCEA’s next solar project, the Sunshine Solar Garden. This will soon be built outside the town of Crested Butte near the Baxter Gulch Trailhead.
• Another GVCCC committee began working with local governmental and nonprofit entities. The new library in Gunnison, which officially opened October 1, is net zero, producing more energy than it uses.
• GVCCC members helped the Crested Butte Nordic Center plan an energyefficient snowcat barn, to be built soon; co-sponsored a composting workshop; and encouraged the Crested Butte Town Council to adopt the state’s 2021 building codes and require all new buildings to be totally electric. Volunteers are working with the local school district as it makes plans to remodel and undertake building projects for the school system.
CLIMATE KIDS: THE YOUNG STEP UP Meanwhile, Emily Artale’s daughter turned nine, and her mother described her as “a budding activist who wants to do something about climate change.” As a part of GVCCC, I thought: Why not have a very young
component of the group? Youngsters will be most impacted by climate change over their lifetimes. Mental health professionals are seeing in young people a new kind of anxiety, related to climate issues. Getting involved, helping to implement change,
lessens this “eco-anxiety.”
Our initial meeting included three girls who decided to call themselves “The Climate Kids.” We met at Emily Artale’s home around a large, wooden, kid-friendly kitchen table next to a corner shelf with oodles of art supplies. The nine-year-olds energetically discussed their concerns.
One girl said, “I’m worried about all the endangered animals.” Another commented, “We are all polluters.” A third said, “We need to stop using so much gasoline and stop being selfish. The earth belongs to all of us. We need to take care of it.”
During that first meeting, the girls painted pictures on black rocks. At the next meeting, they delivered the rocks to local businesses to display their messages: Save our plants…turtles…oceans…ladybugs.
Just before the youngsters returned to school this year, Tina Haney from the CSU Extension Office attended a Climate Kid meeting to teach the six young people how to dehydrate food. Tina, a former elementary teacher, said they were going to focus on preservation and sustainability, and they talked about how those words apply to the earth. Then they washed their hands and learned how to “preserve and sustain” apples by dehydrating them.
As they worked at the kitchen counter in Crested Butte South’s Sunshine Hall, I listened to their conversation:
“If we preserved more food, we wouldn’t go to the market as often and waste gas.”
“We could eat dried fruit all year even when we can’t buy it at the market.”
Tina asked, “How does sustainability relate to dehydrating?”
“We could eat the food we want even when it’s not in season. All the trucks wouldn’t have to drive so much to bring us stuff,” answered one nine-year-old.
At the end of each meeting, the children, who are busy with school and other activities, asked, “When can we meet again? Tomorrow?”
As large as the weather and climate problems are, these small actions by young activists may seem just a drop in the bucket. However, buckets are filled one drop at a time, and every drop counts. The Climate Kids can inspire each of us to take actions, to add our drops to the bucket. As one Climate Kid summed it up, “Earth is our only home. We need to take care of it.” b
GVCCC core members: Emily Artale, Michael Bell, Nicole Blaser, Dana Delaney, Jeff Delaney, Sonda Donovan, Bob Goettge, Rois Langer, Gesa Michel, Kathy Norgard, Darcie Perkins, Steven Schechter, Frank Stern, Sue and Tim Williamson, Oliver Van Tiel and Deidre Witherell. Online: gunnisonvalleyclimate.com.
CRESTED BUTTE NATIVE BENJAMIN SWIFT FINDS A NEW APPROACH TO ACTIVISM – AS A PODCASTER.By Stephanie Maltarich
Born and raised in Crested Butte, Benjamin Swift is no stranger to activism. As an engaged and creative teenager, he left his mark on Crested Butte before he graduated high school. Now, as a podcaster, he hopes to broaden his reach.
Benjamin was the brains behind Crested Butte’s plastic bag ban, an initiative that went into effect in 2018. Inspired by the documentary Bag It, Benjamin applied for a grant to provide reusable bags to stores and businesses around town. After a public viewing of the film that inspired his work, then Crested Butte Town Council member Erika Vohman teamed up with Benjamin to take the initiative one step further: a full-on plastic bag ban in Crested Butte.
“I hadn’t really thought of the project as being that big at that point,” remembered Benjamin. “Then I was like, yeah, that’s a great idea!”
the bigger picture,” explained Benjamin, “not necessarily making small incremental changes.”
Last year, he combined his keen interest in activism and in media when he launched a six-episode podcast called People • Place • Power. It explores “big questions about global activism through the eyes of activists creating change in unprecedented and underrepresented ways.”
The idea for the podcast, like many great ideas, came about during idle time during the pandemic. Benjamin teamed up with his longtime friend Trisha Mukherjee – when they both realized podcasts were carrying them through social isolation.
With Trisha Mukherjee, podcast fan and ecoadvocate Benjamin Swift created a six-episode podcast about activists around the world.
Benjamin went on to study sociology and filmmaking at Colorado College as a Boettcher Scholar. Through his work and studies, he’s followed his passion for enacting environmental and social change through political advocacy.
“I’m looking more at the human impact of environmental things and looking at
The episodes are highly produced and focus on interviews and stories from activists around the world. From indigenous women in India fighting for their freedom, to an app focused on democracy in Afghanistan, to Crested Butte’s very own Billy Barr, who has quietly and consistently collected invaluable data that has informed climate science.
Both avid podcast listeners, Benjamin and Trisha wanted to take a stab at creating their own. After many conversations
discussing a variety of ideas, Trisha came to live in Crested Butte in October 2020. For a month the pair sifted through concepts and themes that would eventually shape the series.
“We’ve both been very interested in activism and advocacy,” Benjamin explained. “That’s kind of how we initially bonded.”
The two met while traveling in South America on a gap year program after high school. They realized their love for travel was rooted in the people they met along the way. Sharing stories from individuals around the world seemed like a great place to start.
They eventually landed on a podcast focused on activism. But – in a less traditional way. Through their travels, they learned activism is more than marching through the streets or protesting; activism also includes small and approachable actions.
Benjamin and Trisha also wanted their podcast to have an impact.
“We both wanted to make something that wasn’t just interesting or fun to listen to or entertaining, but something that would actually play a role in doing something in the world,” said Benjamin. “Whether that’s telling stories that aren’t heard that often, or inspiring others to do similar work…like with the plastic bag ban.”
Benjamin’s experience in helping to enact the plastic bag ban in Crested Butte fueled his decision to produce the activismfocused podcast. He saw Crested Butte, a small community that took a big stand against waste, as an opportunity to show the ripple effect of small actions.
“What’s really important about that [the bag ban] is the story it tells,” said Benjamin. “So many tourists pass through the valley, and if they see that, wow, there are bans in this town, they can take that story back to their own towns.”
Thus, the goal of People • Place • Power was to tell a variety of stories through the eyes of activists around the world, to inspire others to act in small ways in their
Stories to ski by
In addition to being podcast aficionados and activists, Benjamin and Trisha both had a deep interest in storytelling. Benjamin took film classes at Colorado College, and Trisha was studying creative writing at Columbia University. So, it made sense to try their hand at podcasting.
The two quickly realized producing a scripted podcast series is quite a heavy lift. They knew they’d need more help. After hashing out ideas for a month in Crested
ear,” said Benjamin.
Otis explained that the script for a podcast should mimic the way one talks in everyday life. So Benjamin and Trisha learned to speak out loud to figure out what they wanted to say – then write it down to create a script.
Benjamin admitted the editing phase was more than he had anticipated. After a few months of working on the podcast in New York City, he was surprised at their progress.
“We worked almost exclusively on the first two episodes of the series, and then we’re like, oh, shoot, the summer is over, I’m starting school again,” he remembered with a laugh.
People • Place • Power was released last year, and Benjamin and Trisha are proud – not only because they produced a podcast, but because they created something with meaning and inspiration behind it.
Butte, they applied for a grant and received $6,000 from Colorado College’s Creativity and Innovation Center.
The grant allowed them to live and work solely on the podcast in New York City during the summer of 2021. It also allowed them to hire a team of experts to support their work. There’s a lot more to podcasting than simply recording voices and mixing the recordings together.
“We hired someone to do our cover art for the show; we hired someone else to do oil paintings of each of the guests,” said Benjamin. “That’s amazing, and we felt like it brought it so much more to life.”
They also hired a mentor that Trisha met while in a podcasting course at Columbia. Otis Grey, a New York City-based podcaster, provided invaluable feedback to People • Place • Power. He also helped the creators develop their script-writing skills.
“Otis helped us learn to write for the
Trisha graduated from Columbia University in 2021, and because of the success of People • Place • Power, she is now a producer for iHeart Media. Benjamin graduated from Colorado College last spring, and the two already have another idea in the works. They recently pitched a proposal to iHeart Media to explore abortion movements in six countries around the world.
Benjamin is thrilled his work as a podcaster brings together his passions for storytelling, activism and social/ environmental equity. He hopes People • Place • Power offers insight and inspiration about activism. And he believes the diversity of stories – from an unassuming climate scientist in the mountains of Crested Butte to an indigenous comedian who uses humor to heal – can connect humans across the world. Perhaps listeners will begin “thinking about every movement as operating toward similar ends, even if those ends don’t seem the same at face value.” Ultimately, he hopes, people might begin “thinking more creatively about our world and how to work toward solving problems.” b
Speaking of podcasts, here’s another way to appreciate Crested Butte in the winter. The Gunnison Valley Audio Journal is a series of three 35-minute podcasts available on Spotify. Editors Chad Reich and George Sibley selected a variety of writings about winter in the valley. The pieces range from George’s hilarious recollection of being on the Crested Butte Ski Patrol in 1966 (when job applicants weren’t even asked if they knew how to ski!) to Cosmo Langsfeld’s short memoir of growing up near Jack’s Cabin, interspersed with limericks by children and short contemplative poems. Local musician Lizzie Plotkin provides the theme music for
the inaugural episode. Almost all of the pieces are read by their writers. You might recognize a few; some of the readings were originally published in the Crested Butte Magazine or other local publications. The Audio Journal was created by the Gunnison Valley Resiliency Project during Covid-19’s social distancing, with the idea of giving people something to listen to while enjoying the outdoors. The length, host Chad Reich noted, “is perfect for driving up and down valley or as an accompaniment on a Nordic outing.” To enjoy an episode, Google spotify + Gunnison Valley Audio Journal.
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city style MOUNTAIN HEART,
If you heard that one of the people buying up downtown Crested Butte real estate was a big-time Denver development guy, you might cast a wary eye his way. But Jeff Hermanson put down roots in Crested Butte before its streets were paved, and he has hiked, biked, skied and fostered friendships in the valley for almost half a century. He has owned and operated restaurants here and assisted many local nonprofits as a board member, advisor and contributor. Now, having helped shaped some of Denver’s most iconic places, he’s turning his creativity back to the town that never lost its hold on him.
In Denver, where Hermanson spent much of his time for three-plus decades, his name and visionary skills are well known. He is the former owner of Larimer Square, one of the principal developers behind the Denver Union Station renovation, and part of the team building Populus hotel in the Civic Center Park neighborhood.
He continues to have a stake in more than 20 Denver restaurants, helping chefs over the years bring their visions to reality, such as Jennifer Jasinski (creator of Rioja, Ultreia, Bistro Vendome and Stoic + Genuine), Dana Rodriquez (visionary behind Work + Class, Super Mega Bien and Cantina Loca) and Troy Guard (founder of TAG Restaurant Group). All three took time away from
HERMANSON IN THE TOWN’S FUTURE. IS INVESTING HIS TIME, TALENT AND RESOURCESBy Beth Buehler
busy restaurants to cook for the 2022 Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival’s Vintner Gala + Auction, where Hermanson was honored as the festival’s founder.
While his work is far from done in Denver, Hermanson’s lifestyle has shifted to Crested Butte, other than a few days a month spent in Colorado’s capital city. With years of placemaking and leadership under his belt, it’s timely for Hermanson to play a role in this mountain town’s future.
“My professional life has been in Denver, and I was a little oblivious to what was going on in Crested Butte,” he admitted. “Crested Butte is going through a tsunami of change, and there is a real opportunity to influence the outcome. It’s never going to be what it was in 1973 when I moved here, but change creates opportunity, and part of that opportunity is driven by the people moving here.”
DISCOVERING THE BUTTE
The Southern California native’s story may strike a chord with many who land in ski towns. He completed an undergraduate degree in Santa Barbara and a graduate degree in San Francisco and sneaked in two winter quarters as a ski bum in Lake Tahoe. “It was only natural to take one more year to ski in Colorado,” Hermanson recalled. “My college roommate followed his brother to Crested Butte, and I followed sight unseen.”
Hermanson visited Aspen and Telluride a year later, but Crested Butte had already worked its magic. “Like many people driving up Highway 135 or over Kebler Pass, I said, ‘This is a special place where I want to raise my kids.’ It just captivated me. Crested Butte is a real community – a community on steroids.”
In what seemed like a heartbeat, he went from planning to spend one or two years in Crested Butte to having a place here for nearly five decades. And today, in an unexpected but welcome turn of events, he is raising a daughter, 10-year-old Lilli, in this community with his partner, Theresa Lydick, who also has a grown daughter. They adopted Lilli six years ago after Theresa’s sister passed away.
Hermanson is having a blast being a father later in life. The father-daughter duo went on a ski trip to Portillo in Chile this summer, and they have been heli-skiing in Canada.
“My latest reinvention has been as a parent. Before, I watched kids from a distance. The greatest gift you can give is a childhood in Crested Butte,” he emphasized. “I compare it to Denver, and the amount of freedom kids can have here is awe inspiring.”
Hermanson’s deep connection to Crested Butte started in his early years here. After arriving in 1973, he started working as a waiter at Penelope’s Restaurant, located in the Elk Avenue building that now houses Chopwood Mercantile and Ryce. (He purchased the property and transformed it through an adaptive reuse project more than 15 years ago.)
After three years in Crested Butte, Hermanson made his first move to own restaurants and real estate. His first eatery was Slogar, a fine-dining restaurant that was sold nine years later to Mac Bailey, who kept the name but changed the concept to family-style fried chicken dinners. Next, Hermanson bought the Artichoke Restaurant and building located at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort in 1979 and became a partner in Soupçon for a few years in the 1980s.
A move to Denver resulted in the establishment of Larimer Associates in 1987 and the acquisition of Larimer Square in 1993. Hermanson and his team transformed Larimer Square, one of the city’s most significant historic blocks, into one of the best-recognized collections of independent boutiques and chef-driven restaurants in the state. After owning Larimer Square for more than 25 years, he sold the district in late 2020, knowing it was time to move on.
In recognition of his efforts to reenergize Denver’s retail, restaurant and entertainment scene, Hermanson was inducted into the Denver and Colorado Travel Industry Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Colorado Restaurant Association honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
EMBRACING THE FUTURE
Hermanson still owns what is known today as the Avalanche Bar & Grill building at the ski area base, and he plans to open a restaurant there. “The bigger goal is having a dialogue with the other base area owners to see if there is an opportunity to collaborate and re-envision the base area,” he said. “When I owned the Artichoke, during the summer people would drive from town to have dinner there. I think there could be a viable option for the same today.”
What about his vision for the three buildings recently purchased on Elk Avenue? Hermanson is teaming up with local restaurateur Kyleena Falzone to develop the two adjacent properties at 208 and 212 Elk Avenue. The Last Steep will remain a faster, casual eatery with a refreshed space and menu. A major renovation will transform the former Montanya Distillers location into an elevated dining experience around a wood-burning hearth, with plans to open in summer 2023. As for the building across the street, occupied by the Breadery, he plans to keep on working with Meg Antonczyk, whom Hermanson describes as “an incredible restaurateur.”
Hermanson and Lydick also are building a new residence in Crested Butte that is scheduled for completion early next year. While the house he built in town 49 years ago (and has transformed over the years) oozes charm, it’s not ideal for a family.
Regardless of a full plate in Crested Butte, Hermanson continues to participate in the future of Denver as a partner with Urban Villages, a sustainability-focused development company. Urban Villages is building the 265-room Populus hotel, the country’s first carbonpositive hotel that is set for completion in late 2023, and working on a large initiative in the Golden Triangle district, which includes the state capitol and numerous museums.
“We have successfully assembled a pretty big property and are in the middle of executing a $500 million project that is all about urban placemaking, livability, walkability and sustainability and will further contribute to the architecture of the city,” Hermanson explained.
While he has enjoyed an enviable career, he has also learned tough lessons along the way. “I’ve had some really good successes, but they have been tempered with really good setbacks. Our greatest learning experiences are from our setbacks; they helped shape who I am,” he said. “Through setbacks, I realized my talents are fairly slim. My greatest talent is identifying people to work with who have different skill sets from mine.”
FOCUSING ON FOOD SECURITY
For example, he teamed up with Sara Brito to co-found Good Food Media Network, Inc. and the Good Food 100 list, a rating system for restaurants based on sustainability and ESG factors (environmental, social and governance) that is now part of the Colorado Restaurant Association.
He also was involved with Denver-based We Don’t Waste from its beginning, serving on the nonprofit’s board of directors for several years. The organization works to reduce hunger and food waste in the Denver area by recovering quality, unused food from the food industry (restaurants, caterers, venues, grocery stores and more) and delivering it to nonprofit partners.
“ The founder [Arlan Preblud] drove around in a Volvo wagon picking up food and has grown it into a really successful and effective nonprofit,” Hermanson said. “These endeavors start as dreams and with the right leadership and collaboration can make a difference.”
After seeing Lilli working in the garden at Crested Butte Community School with Mountain Roots and helping sell the produce from a stand in the parking lot, Hermanson realized change often happens best on a smaller scale at the local level. At the same time, he was involved in a garden on top of a Larimer Square parking garage to demonstrate food can be grown in cities; he also partnered with the Auraria Campus in Denver on events dealing with education in the food realm.
“ This tiny community in Crested Butte was hitting it out of the park and educating on this topic, while I was on a parallel path in the city,” he said. “In Crested Butte, on a very simple level, they were being more effective than we were.”
Since then, Hermanson has become more involved with Mountain Roots, which in 2021 presented him with an Inspiration Award for his support of local food. He described the organization as a valuable “agent of change” that can be replicated in other communities and integrated into the Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival in a variety of ways.
This year, at a festival seminar titled “Seed to Skin: Scrappy Bartending,” representatives from Mountain Roots and Carbondale-based Marble Distilling demonstrated how delicious cocktails can be made from food items that might otherwise be thrown away. “It wouldn’t be a wholesale shift at the festival; many chefs and winemakers have the same interest,” Hermanson explained.
Lydick, a nutritionist, shares his interest in food and exercise and the key role they play in people’s lives. “We met through a friend of a friend. It was good timing for both of us,” he said. “Her focus is on food as medicine. She believes diet –the choice of fuel for your body – is more important than time spent working out.”
Hermanson also invests his time in land conservation and community building, serving on the advisory committee for the Town of Crested Butte’s Community Compass long-range planning process and previously as a Crested Butte Land Trust board member and president for eight years. The affordable housing issue also is firmly on his radar.
“Nothing can happen without addressing the housing crisis. We have a 25-acre parcel in Gunnison that we envision as workforce housing driven by a livable, walkable community,” he said.
Having a worthwhile impact on the people and places he cares about is at the heart of Hermanson’s ethos. “We all want to make a difference, whether it’s in our family, neighborhood, community or world,” he said. “I want to make a difference, however that looks.”
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CHEFS AS ARTISTS – and provocateurs
EVOLVING THE CRESTED BUTTE WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL.
Jeff Hermanson envisioned the possibilities for a wine and cuisine festival in Crested Butte and rallied his resources at Larimer Associates to launch the event in 2008. Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival began partnering with the Center for the Arts in 2013 and has become one of the organization’s largest annual fundraisers. He shared a few thoughts about the event.
HOW IT’S DIFFERENT: There continues to be the opportunity to make it Crested Butte-centric and less like a typical wine and food event. Since the early days of Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival, we have tried to integrate things that were beyond the typical curriculum and added the “eat, drink and think” concept.
BEING HONORED IN 2022: It was a huge validation. My story is about resiliency, reinvention and partnerships. It was really rewarding to have three of my restaurant partners there and the collaboration with the Center for the Arts, as the arts and restaurants were totally impacted by Covid.
FESTIVAL HAPPENINGS: The festival lineup is delegated to the staffers who make it happen. I love the relationship with the Center for the Arts and its executive team. I really think they can take the Center to the next level.
BUILDING BLOCKS: There’s an opportunity with Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival to not only produce a gentrified program around the arts of both food and wine, but also to partner with Mountain Roots and bring a whole different dimension to talk about food in the valley and food insecurity. Chefs historically are provocateurs and want to change the world. They also are interested in sustainability, regenerative agriculture and changing the food system.
Next summer’s event: July 19-22, 2023
OVER THE HILL still not
In the 1990s and the first two years of this century, a stray skier or two skinned up the ski mountain in the early morning. Norm Bardeen comes to mind. But it wasn’t until the 2002-2003 winter that skinning slowly became a thing (skiers strap or adhere “skins” to the bottom of their skis so they can go uphill without sliding backwards), and it took at least a decade before the crowds skiing UP the mountain resembled the scene today.
It started simply enough. I had moved back to town from Aspen to become CEO for the ski area, and I invited some friends to join me on skins in the early mornings. The original crew was Jim Gebhart, Ed Chase, David Baxter, David McCay and my wife Robin. We picked the un-holy start time of 6:45 a.m. because that gave some of us time to start our workdays at 8 a.m. And we picked Monday, Wednesday and Friday as the skin days because, well, that seemed enough.
People still wrote letters in 2002, and in December I got one. It asked why our band of Merry Men (and Robin) could skin up the mountain when no one else was allowed. I walked down the hall of the Axtel Building and asked Mountain Manager Roark Kiklevich how the letter’s author could be so mistaken. Turns out he was not. “You can do whatever you want,” Roark
explained, “but no one else is allowed to climb.” He and I, along with Mountain Operations VP Stewart Johnson, set about devising the first policy for morning uphillers. It was mercifully brief: “Climbers should avoid snowcats, snowmobiles and slopes being worked by a winch cat and cable. Climbers should be off the mountain by 9 a.m.” Easy enough.
The policy was practically unneeded. There were only the six of us plus Norm, who typically was on the hill before us. Gebhart brought his feisty little Tibetan terrier, Everest. Baxter had his two labs. Robin and I brought our rescue mutt, Page, who would run with the occasional coyotes we found on the hill. Our routes varied, with the exception of Warming House Hill. Someone would say “Let’s do X or Y,” and we’d follow along. We’d climb Upper Keystone or, more often, Upper Ruby Chief. Baxter would quit on lower Upper Ruby Chief, at a place we began calling “Baxter Flats.” He was complaining of imagined infirmities even back in the day.
We used to laugh that we could feel the sun returning in the mornings after the Winter Solstice. But then we realized we were wrong. This coming season, January 5 (well after the solstice in December) will be the shortest morning of the year. It’s a full week later that we gain one minute of
THIS JOVIAL UPHILLER DIDN’T INTEND TO LAUNCH A TRADITION WHEN HE INVITED SOME BUDDIES FOR A DAWN SKIN UP THE MOUNTAIN 20 WINTERS AGO.David Kish
morning sun. All the while the afternoons are gaining more sun – faster. Tom Filchner tried to explain to me once why mornings stalled and afternoons zoomed along – it has to do with earth wobble – but I was unable to grasp the concept.
On Friday, March 9, of this coming season, the sun will rise at 6:00 a.m., and we will be in Upper Paradise and skiing down with the sun on our faces. A time to celebrate. On Monday, March 12, because of the joke of Daylight Savings Time, sunrise will be 6:57 a.m. We’ll be back to the shortest morning of the year. (January 5 sunrise is also 6:57 a.m.)
As our little group began to grow, we decided to celebrate the season with what we call the Rookie Party. Someone who joined us the season prior is saddled with the responsibility of throwing a dinner party for the rest of the group. David Baxter found a Loving Cup, a small version of the Stanley Cup, to commemorate all the Rookies. Inscribed on the cup are: Mark Reaman, Tom Filchner, Ian Billick, Bill Ronai, Jeff Hermanson, Chris Kopf, Francene Kopf and Kurt Giesselman.
There is also a Rookie Trophy, a plaster with “Dick Montrose, ‘81” pressed onto its base. It’s a PG-13 trophy that was passed between Eric Roemer, David Leinsdorf, Bill Crank and Thom Cox for years, a sculpture none of them wanted to keep. I ended up with it at a going-away party for Thom. It’s been traveling among the Rookies since Thom moved to Kansas. I’ve never
seen it on a mantelpiece but know that Jeff Hermanson kept it in his sock drawer during his rookie year.
Our group has had some sadness. Jim Gebhart died and is buried in our community’s cemetery. Ed Chase died, his ashes up on the old NASTAR course on the mountain. Both Robin and David Baxter have taken to sleeping in on our winter mornings. David McCay no longer spends much time here in the winter. Of the originals, I’m the only one going – and not going like I used to. My former 60 minutes to the top of Paradise has turned into 70-minutes-plus over the past 20 years.
We now sometimes get lapped on our way up. The skimo (ski mountaineering) racers, the ones I refer to as the “skinny little fast guys,” now have their way with us. Recognition dawned years ago that the difference in speed is not due to racers having their ultralight equipment and we our older, heavier backcountry setups.
Bill Ronai, reviewing this piece for accuracy, complained about the lack of funny stories herein. I can think of three, and all involve David Baxter. Each contains adolescent humor, which we continue to enjoy even as we masquerade as full-grown adults. David put his pack down in the base area one morning, and two dogs proceeded to piss on it. David howled. Another: the steep lip at Upper Park can be difficult to navigate, especially in March during the freeze and thaw cycle. One March day David slipped and slid all the way down to the flats, 200 or 300 yards, at one point catching decent air. He howled again. Finally: it had long been understood, in the rare instances when a dog or a climber couldn’t hold it, that the way to clean a slope of poop was on the way down, when said leavings had frozen. One morning one of our party couldn’t hold it, and Baxter’s precious purebred labs consumed his refuse before he could pull his pants back up. David howled again, and claimed it didn’t happen. But the rest of us saw.
We share laughs about the dozens and dozens of people who’ve asked if they could join us, because “it sounds fun.” Very rarely do we find a newbie at the base of the Red Lady at 6:45 a.m. “Fun” is not the word. “Anchor?” That’s closer to the purpose to me. Over the years the whitewater waves get bigger, our river bottoms more awkward to wade, and the bike trail on Deer Creek just a little longer, although all of it is still uphill. And while the mountain gets steeper, I’m not ready to let go just yet. Nor is the rest of our group, for now. b
barber the Butte of the
LONGTIME LOCAL DREW CANALE RE-TOOLED AND PUT OUT HIS BARBER’S POLE TO CUT HAIR, TRIM BEARDS AND BUILD COMMUNITY AMONG THE MEN OF CRESTED BUTTE.By Stephanie Maltarich Photos by Rebecca Ofstedahl
At 5 p.m. on a Friday evening, Drew Canale stands behind a shiny silver barber chair dressed in a black smock, black slacks and black clogs. The way he’s smiling and chatting as he clips his customer’s hair, no one would guess it’s Drew’s 60th haircut of the week. But his friends would hardly be surprised; Drew is known for being chatty, positive and stoked – and for going the extra mile to make each Blue Spruce Barber Shop patron feel comfortable.
“Can I get you a glass of water?” Drew asks his next customer, Steve Jennison, the facilities director at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
After a brief hydration break, Drew gets down to business: a haircut and a neck shave. Between clips and snips, the two talk about soccer, traveling and the swarm of kids who recently came in to get back-toschool haircuts.
“Back-to-school is like Christmastime in terms of business for us,” laughs Drew.
Steve has been getting haircuts from Drew for about a year. Steve heard about the barber shop from his boss Ian Billick, who is also Crested Butte’s mayor and a happy Blue Spruce customer.
After Drew finishes Steve’s hair, he pulls out a straight razor and lathers Steve’s neck with shaving cream.
“ This is the authentic barber right here,” says Steve with a smile.
With his accuracy, patience and precision, Drew makes the straight razor neck shave look like an art. He first gets into a steady position by lowering into
a squat. Then, he slowly scrapes the shaving cream from bottom to top. He gets so close that he squints for accuracy, and when he’s done, he gently wraps a warm towel around Steve’s neck. For the finale, he slaps on a few drops of a sea breeze-scented astringent – which smells cool and fresh. Drew jokes that it’s what teenagers like to use for their complexion, but more importantly, the smell is what most guys associate with barber shops.
Steve stands up looking relaxed and refreshed. With clipped hair and a trimmed beard, he pays and is out the door.
Drew started Blue Spruce Barber Shop two years ago, and business has been nonstop ever since. As the only barber in the north end of the valley, he takes pride in cutting hair, shaving beards and building community for men in Crested Butte.
He’s also providing a service that almost everyone needs, at least occasionally. “That’s what’s amazing about this profession; everybody needs a haircut, like everybody needs to eat lunch,” explains Drew. “Even in our little mountain town where some guys only get a haircut once a year.”
Drew doesn’t just cut hair at Blue Spruce; he creates an experience. Above his doorway on Fifth Street, a classic barber pole swirls red, white and blue, an appropriately nostalgic touch. Inside, the shop is small, simple and clean. The space just fits two barber chairs and a few spectator chairs along the walls so guests can sit and join the conversations.
A flat-screen TV on the wall almost always features a live soccer game. Crested Butte’s local radio station KBUT plays softly in the background.
“Sports on the tube and music and hair in the air!” Drew says.
The walls show Drew’s connection to Crested Butte while nodding to his Philadelphia roots. Large photographs depicting local landscapes alternate with Philly’s regalia like signed posters and “#1 Fan” foam fingers. There are hints to his prolific presence in the community: a Crested Butte high school sports calendar and a flier for a local man’s 70th birthday.
Drew likes to play on the nostalgia of old-time barber shops. A large metal Craftsman tool chest is stocked with classic tools: the fat brush, styling glue, a glass jar filled with fine-toothed combs, and talc powder.
Of the old-timey ambiance, Drew says, “There’s something kind of classic about it… timeless, you know? You get that from the older gentlemen. I think they’ve missed that.”
GETTING A DOGWOOD HAIRCUT Drew moved to Crested Butte in 2005 to help a friend build a house just south of town. He’d visited the valley once on a winter ski trip with his brothers, and while building the house, he quickly realized he wanted to stay. For about ten years Drew worked and served in the community. He made tacos at Teocalli Tamale, served drinks at The Dogwood, acted in Mountain Theatre productions, coached the high school soccer team,
volunteered at the Adaptive Sports Center and hosted his weekly radio show, the Wholly Stromboli.
Like most Crested Buttians, he fell in love with the place for the views, the adventures and the people.
“It’s the beauty, the mountains, the outdoors – but the community, too,” says Drew. “The way I tell people is it’s not exclusive, it’s more inclusive; the community is pretty special.”
While Drew enjoyed working in the service industry, he was always brainstorming what might be next. He wanted a job that provided a decent living and also allowed him to be his own boss. So he kept his eyes peeled for a business idea that might fill a gap within the community.
His inspiration came while working as a bartender at The Dogwood. The former owner, Doug Pederson, came to Crested Butte from Portland, where he’d worked as a barber. When Doug opened The Dogwood, he offered his employees a free haircut once a month. It was pretty informal: guys would come over on a Wednesday afternoon before opening.
Drew loved it.
“He didn’t have a cape; he’d punch a hole in a trash bag, and he’d cut our hair right there on the wood floor of The Dogwood at one o’clock in the afternoon,” Drew remembers. “It was really cool, and we hung out while the other ones were getting cut, and cracked jokes, and it was like a barber shop. That’s when it occurred to me that this might be something I would really enjoy.”
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The camaraderie reminded Drew of the barber shops back in Philly where he grew up. He filed away the idea, and a handful of years later he decided to go all in. He told friends he was moving back east to apprentice in a barber shop to learn the skills of the trade that he planned to bring back to Crested Butte.
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Drew apprenticed at a shop called Philly Fades for several years and gained experience working with a diverse group of people. Becoming a barber takes years and requires a lot of work. A licensed barber must acquire 1,500 hours of hands-on training followed by two practical tests. A barber also has to learn the fine art of the straight razor neck shave.
“I just observed and asked questions for about two months,” remembers Drew. “You have to be in the presence of a master barber or barber teacher; they’re the only ones who can take on apprentices.”
The process of learning, getting his license, and getting some work experience before returning to Crested Butte took about four years, much longer than Drew had anticipated. In 2019 he made his way back to the valley and quickly realized barbering in the Butte was different from in Philly. In Philly, most guys wanted a hairstyle called a fade, which is shorter and requires clippers – Drew’s specialty at the time. “I’m really good with fades and clippers,” he says. “I moved back here with pretty decent scissor skills. But there’s so much longer hair here, and now my scissor skills are right there with my clipper skills.”
Drew arranged to work with The Cut Above for one year to get a little more experience before opening his own shop. That year flew by, and his last day at the salon was set for April – the day after the lifts stopped spinning in 2020. But that day came a little sooner than anticipated – when Covid hit the valley and shut everything down in March. In the frenzy of the pandemic, Drew decided to take a leap of faith: he went for his dream and opened Blue Spruce Barber Shop. It was good timing, he said, because after going into pandemic isolation, everyone needed a haircut. “I’ve been busy, right from the getgo.”
CREATING THE CULTURE
Two years later, Drew gives about a dozen haircuts each day, five days a week. He has around 100 customers and meets new people every week. His clients range from two to 92, and he describes them as a true cross-section of town: from the mayor to business owners, second homeowners, service workers, tourists and kids.
Drew loves his job. “It’s just as cool as I’d hoped it would be,” he says with a smile. “Every once in a while, I have these
overwhelming days, but I remind myself how lucky I am because 98% of my clients are really cool, and that’s not always the case for a barber.” After working for other people for more than a decade, Drew also appreciates the flexibility he has to close down the shop to go on vacation.
Doug Pederson now lives in Bend, Oregon, and he’s not surprised that Drew is thriving as Crested Butte’s barber. “I imagine there’s a line out the door and everyone can’t wait to have a one-on-one with him,” says Doug. “He’s so inspiring, a glass-half-full kind of guy. If you’re having a bad day, he’s the guy you want to sit down with. I think that’s why he’s so successful: the haircuts are good; the conversation is great.”
Drew isn’t the first to make a living barbering at the north end of the valley. Years ago Kathy Joyce ran a barber shop behind Clark’s Market. She was on the tail end of her career when Drew moved to town in 2005, and she has since passed away. Drew keeps her in mind while he works; on his wall he has a small image of her dressed as Crested Butte’s 2000 Flauschink Queen.
He also has tremendous respect for the well-known barber at the south end of the valley known as “Fast Eddy.” Drew appreciates the culture Eddy has created in his shop: groups of men often hang out and socialize – and many of them aren’t even there for haircuts.
Drew hopes to create a similar culture in his own shop. “It really is a place where people can stop in, catch up a little bit, and shoot the breeze.” He wants Blue Spruce Barber Shop to be a safe space where guys can relax and take time out of their day for themselves – something he thinks most men don’t do.
For every guy who walks in the door, Drew takes extra care, whether it’s opening the door for a customer, holding a warm towel in place after a neck shave, or trimming some pesky ear hairs. “I try to pay special attention to the details and the friendliness,” says Drew. “The guys are busy and they’ve got stuff going on. To provide a calm, cool environment for them to get a little self-care is huge.”
Drew knows his work isn’t going to pay huge dividends, but that’s not why he does it. “You’re not going to make a million bucks cutting hair in a little town. But I didn’t care; I just wanted to work for myself and find a career that could justify me living here.”
Moving into his third year of booming business, Drew has hired a second hairstylist, and he’s gaining such a reputation that people stop him on the street to make appointments.
“It’s like a dream come true, to be the barber in the Butte,” he says. b
My home is in the mountains. My priority is you nding yours. Let’s work together.
GOING WILD, BEING SAFE
AS A TEEN, ANDY SOVICK SHARED HIS BACKCOUNTRY PHOTOS AND NOTES WITH FELLOW SKI FANATICS. NOW HE PUBLISHES BENCHMARK GUIDES ON SAFELY EXPLORING AVALANCHE TERRAIN.By Morgan Tilton
LOCAL GUIDEBOOK PUBLISHER ANDY SOVICK VENTURED EARLY INTO THE OUTDOORS.
Raised in Fort Collins, Sovick bouldered solo at the nearby Tropics crag as a teenager and enrolled in kayak classes. He and his family took occasional day trips to Front Range ski resorts, but backcountry skiing, as obscure as the sport was at the time, was more financially and logistically accessible to Sovick. Fortunately, he met an avalanche course instructor who needed a ski partner and took Sovick under his wing, becoming a foundational mentor.
“I learned important safety pieces from a professional perspective and got to ski cool stuff as a teenager, which was rare – there were no kids at my high school interested in that kind of thing. I had a vision of getting more into mountaineering and skiing, and I was dedicated,” said Sovick. In 2010 he landed at Fort Lewis College in Durango, where he could boat, climb and ski in the San Juan Mountains. He quickly found a backcountry crew to dawn patrol on Red
Mountain Pass before 9:30 a.m. class. They toured Coal Bank and Molas passes and around Silverton with no one else in sight.
“We were not by any means doing something new, but it felt that way, like we were at the frontier,” said Sovick, who was still on telemark skis at the time. “At parties, we’d discuss what we’d seen, where everyone had gone, and share notes. We knew what a serious situation it was to be skiing around avalanche terrain like that, and we were excited about the education side.”
Sovick and his tour partners used disposable cameras to take photos (up close or from across the valley) of slopes they skied or wanted to ski. They’d pick up the prints from Wal-Mart to organize in a three-ring binder, with labels, scribbles and invented names of runs. Those binders were the earliest seed of Sovick’s current business, Beacon Guidebooks.
“All our friends were using those
photos. We were trying to make good decisions in avalanche terrain. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we made and printed a couple dozen of these some day for friends?’”
During his senior year in college, Sovick met a fellow skier named Gail, and one of their earliest dates was skiing a line on Red Mountain Number 3. One of their cars broke down, and yet the day was perfect, recalled Sovick. By 2005, Gail completed a one-year masters program in Alaska while Sovick post-collegiately ski bummed and couch surfed in the Tetons. When she secured a job teaching Spanish and art at the Crested Butte Academy, Gunnison Valley became home for the couple, and the backcountry skiing was no compromise, Sovick found. The following year, he proposed to Gail in Poverty Gulch before she left for a summer guiding gig in Denali State Park.
“I was building houses in the upper Slate River area throughout summer and winter, and that was the last summer it was as rainy as it’s been in 2022. I was living out of my truck, camping in a tent, and no one else was up there. My food was in my cooler. It was so rainy my gear started to mold in my tent. It was awesome,” said Sovick. He’d majored in sociology, political science and Spanish, but Crested Butte was in a building boom, and he’d come from a long line of manual laborers. Then 22 years old, Sovick had learned carpentry and architecture skills from his dad, so he worked his way up the ladder under contractors for eight years, learning the trade from foundation to trim.
The 2011 recession opened up an opportunity for the Sovicks to purchase a home in Gunnison, after having their son, Walker, who is now 11 years old and who, thankfully, loves alpine skiing.
“We are tentatively getting him into backcountry skiing. Now with avalanche education, and as you get older, you see more accidents and lose more
people, it becomes that much more nerve-racking to raise a child in the backcountry,” said Sovick.
Alongside building homes, Sovick printed the original backcountry ski guidebook for Crested Butte in 2013. A college buddy, Brady Johnston, had made one for the Targhee side of the west Tetons, which was staple bound with aerial photos and basic information, including route and trailhead names. Sovick asked if he could steal Johnston’s format. Another local carpenter and photographer, Chris Miller, jumped on board to capture images. “We found a Cessna pilot willing to take us up for free. We flew over the Elk Mountains on a bluebird day with no wind in February. I still remember like it was yesterday,” said Sovick.
The inaugural 36-page book was saddle stitched and covered 11 zones and 50 descents. Then, as now, each route’s information is based on how students are taught to study avalanche terrain in a certified course: elevation, aspect, exit options, a brief description of the descent, and trailhead location.
“If you’re very new or you shouldn’t be out there, this book would feel underwhelming. For a proficient skier and someone who has a good sense of the area, this format has the right amount of information for them to make better decisions,” said Sovick.
Despite finally creating what he’d envisioned, he didn’t yet believe in the full potential of publishing guidebooks for backcountry travelers.
“From an entrepreneurial mindset, I had a small sense of hope and desire to turn this side project, which profited enough to buy a new pair of skis, into a viable business. It didn’t seem like a rational option to support a family. I was running a contracting company doing fix and flips and didn’t know anything about publishing.”
But after Backcountry Skiing Crested Butte, Colorado hit shelves, he got a phone call from a professional ski guide in the Seattle area who
“IT’S CARRIED PAIN AND RISK LIKE ANY BUSINESS VENTURE. IT’S BEEN A TOTAL ROLLERCOASTER THAT I WOULDN’T TRADE FOR ANYTHING.”Left: Andy Sovick and buddy Matt Steinwand in the San Juans in 2001. Right: Andy, Gail and son Walker. Courtesy photos
wanted to replicate the guidebook for Snoqualmie Pass. The big picture clicked. “Suddenly it occurred to me that there was something I didn’t see anyone else doing. I started taking it seriously and helping pros take their own zone to the market while removing the risk of printing, cartography, marketing, sales and distribution,” Sovick said.
Today, Beacon Guidebooks has grown to six employees. By the end of 2022, the company will have published 15 ski atlases, 13 maps, an avalanche search and rescue backcountry field guide, and a children’s book called Squeak Goes Backcountry Skiing. The guidebook collection includes covers on Colorado’s Loveland and Berthoud passes, Silverton, and sledskiing on Buffalo Pass, in addition to Olympic National Park and Mount Baker in Washington. Last year, Colorado-born author and ski legend Lou Dawson (many know his mother Patricia Dawson, a longtime Crested Butte artist), who became the first person to ski all of the state’s 14,000-foot peaks in 1991, updated Light Tours of Colorado. This guide serves the shifting demographic of backcountry skiers: newcomers of all ages, such as parents with kiddos, folks seeking exercise and solitude over riskier gnarly descents, and aging veterans. The guidebook features the top low-angle, avalanche-safe terrain across the Centennial State.
“ To have a fun booklet – and an itch that I wanted to scratch – turn into an industry standard for tools for traveling in avalanche terrain is not what I could have predicted,” said Sovick. “It’s carried pain and risk like any business venture. It’s been a total rollercoaster that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
The growing demand for educational backcountry resources has paralleled the surge of winter recreation and the advancement of technology, reflected Sovick. Over the past decade-plus, ski and splitboard equipment has become more innovative, lighter and more user friendly, helping to revolutionize snow sports. Snowmobile mechanics improved, the state expanded road plowing, more trailheads were established, and the state’s population ballooned. Avalanche education has become more standardized, refined and available. All of those variables have helped to draw more people into backcountry exploration.
Sales for the basic equipment, including beacons, shovels, probes, alpine touring gear and splitboards, rose by 76 percent nationwide at the opening of the 2020 winter season, according to market research group NPD. Participation in avalanche-safety courses statewide also surged. Irwin Guides grew their
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Sam Lumb 970.275.2448
lineup of recreation courses by nearly 40 percent for the upcoming season to meet the burgeoning student need. North of Denver, participation in Colorado Mountain School’s level one avalanche course increased threefold. “There’s lots of money in the sport now, and if you’d told us back then that large venture capitalists would be investing in backcountry skiing, we would have laughed,” said Sovick.
The uptick of popularity in 2020 came with a rise in lives lost, too. The Centennial State and the U.S. as a whole recorded their highest number of avalanche fatalities, with a dozen deaths in Colorado and 37 nationwide, reports the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The nationwide number of people lost to avalanches went down in 2021. However, sometimes the publishing team, in providing local information on backcountry ski terrain, experiences pushback from other skiers due to safety concerns, a sense of lost solitude or crowdedness.
“I feel the growing pains like everybody else,” Sovick said. “However, it’s public land, and we’re all occupiers of native land. At the end of the day, none of us is more entitled to this recreation land than anyone else. With that in mind, we might as well share and recognize the futility of trying to stop something we can’t stop.”
Sovick likened sharing terrain beta to sex education for adolescents. “Secrecy as a policy for abstinence doesn’t work, and it’s the same with keeping people out of avalanche terrain. They’re going to figure it out, and we have an opportunity, obligation and responsibility to give important information that might save their lives. Withholding that information in the past has contributed to otherwise preventable accidents.”
Beacon Guidebooks publications highlight the most commonly covered backcountry ski routes. Those locations are often more developed, with attributes such as established trailheads and parking lots, which is where it’s important to share information that helps travelers and land managers with issues like traffic or waste management. “We certainly leave a lot up to the explorer who wants to go off the map. It’s important to allow and remind people that the adventure side of backcountry skiing is beautiful. We hope people will explore new areas and be alone in wildness,” said Sovick.
As Beacon Guidebooks approaches its 10-year anniversary, the foundation of the mission remains the same. Sovick said, “We try to provide decision-making tools for backcountry skiers, reliably and responsibly. And we’re obsessed with making the guidebooks beautiful.”
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More than preciousgold
Rumors of an “unparalleled” gold find stoked the formation of Gunnison County’s Box Canyon Mining District. As the rumors fizzled, one promoter remained steadfast: Albert P. Nelson.By
iwas in the posse in 1948 – the Denver Posse of Westerners. My duty was to ride, not to chase down outlaws but to uncover facts. To rediscover history for my fellow story-keepers of the West. One witness to that history was Mrs. Albert P. (Edah) Nelson. I‘d heard that she was concerned about another winter on her own in Gunnison County, so I set out to see her before the first snowfall.
The ride was long and rough, and after reaching Pitkin, I found Edah Nelson outside her home. She was gathering wood, and when she stood straight, she was noticeably tall, trim and healthy-looking for 67. Her grayish-blonde hair was tautly woven behind her head. She wore an anklelength, floral-patterned dress, pulled in at the waist, with leather engineer’s boots visible just beneath the hem.
“Let me help,” I said, shutting the door on my ’47 Willys Overland.
Mrs. Nelson looked confused, blue-gray eyes staring at me through her round-lensed glasses. I approached, cautiously, leather briefcase in hand. “Dick Rizzari,” I said, perhaps unnecessarily loud. “We agreed to meet today. About the Town of Bowerman… your husband’s work in the Box Canyon Mining District.” Was I at the wrong house?
“Ah, yes,” she said, and with a growing boldness, “Yes, yes. You’re the chemist from Golden.” Her words flowed through a Swedish accent. “Here.” Stove-sized logs rolled into my lifted arms. Just like that, Edah and I became friends.
In her small Victorian house, thick curtains and dark furniture dimmed the slightly musty air. A floral-patterned carpet covered the parlor floor. We placed the logs in a tin basin near a large cast-iron, nickelplated stove. “Sit,” she said, directing me to a burgundy velvet, claw-footed chair. She balled up sheets of paper and placed them in the stove’s belly. After lighting the fire, Edah sat opposite me, a mahogany
art-nouveau table between us. Atop the table lay a silver tray garnished with marzipan-filled semla, kanelbull smothered in cinnamon syrup, flora-scented coffee, and a dish of cut salmon. Nearer her rested several old suede-covered albums bulging with photographs and newspaper clippings.
“My husband never gave up on Bowerman, even after J.C. Bowerman had.” She sighed, clasped her hands together.
“Albert was a newspaper man when we met. He owned and edited the Kansas City Daily Tribune—”
The interview had begun. I rushed for pencil and paper inside my briefcase.
“I was from Salvesborg, Sweden. Albert and I met in Kansas City in 1896 and married in ’98. There was no talk of gold mining then. I thought Kansas City was our home. Then, in 1903, Albert met a man named George Brant, from St. Louis. Brant’s talk of a recent Colorado gold strike intrigued Albert. This was Bowerman’s, near Hot Springs Creek, on Copper Mountain, not far from where we now sit.”
She paused, gestured to coffee and food. “Please.”
After several bits of salmon, I opened an album. “Is that—“ “Yes, Albert.”
Edah turned a few pages to a newspaper article cut from the Gunnison News Champion, dated July 17, 1903. Its headline: “GOLD FIND UNPARALLELED!” “That was hyperbole,” she said. “Only, we didn’t learn that until much later.” Whether or not J. C. Bowerman had been up to chicanery or was a victim of his own exuberance remains a question.
But Bowerman had, indeed, found gold in vug-pocked quartz wedged between granite and porphyry. The initial assays ran an incredible $70,175 per ton, when gold was valued at $20 per troy ounce. And the wireand nugget-gold was readily extracted from the native rock.
The Town of Bowerman was rapidly nailed together in fall 1903. Fortuneseekers staked hundreds of mining claims throughout the hills and gulches between the Town of Pitkin and Wuanita Hot Springs. By 1904, nearly 500 people
The American House hotel and downtown Bowerman in its heyday, 1904.
the series PAPER TRAILS
inhabited Bowerman Town and the surrounding territory. The Bowerman Hotel, American House, Bank of Bowerman, Log Cabin Saloon, Phillips Bakery, Elston Assay Office, Cummings Restaurant, Bowerman Herald, and Bowerman City Land Company lined Gold Avenue, the town’s main street. Gunnison County’s Box Canyon Mining District was officially formed.
“ The Camp Bird Mine, on Copper Mountain, was first to freight ore,” Edah told me. “That shipment was seized in Pueblo over an ownership dispute. The Richmond Tunnel Company claimed it’d been taken from their property. George Brant resolved the conflict by purchasing both mines in September 1904. The Brant Independent Mining Company was incorporated. And two years later, Albert sold the Daily Tribune to join the Brant Company. Ironically, the Bowerman excitement was already fading.”
Head slightly lowered, eyes on the scrapbooks, she pulled in her lips while adjusting her old-fashioned glasses.
“Something wrong, Mrs. Nelson?” I asked, suddenly feeling awkward.
An eternity later she said, “But Albert was already deeply invested. In 1907, as president of the Brant Company, Albert initiated a defining promotional campaign.”
The campaign, she explained, extravagantly advertised the Camp Bird Mine, Bowerman Mill and Box Canyon Mining District, even as the gold camp receded back into the dust from whence it came. The campaign began in The Mining Investor magazine with a rather audacious two-page display promising company dividends, property improvements, treasury stock and gold production. Photos showed George Brant, the Brant Independent Mill, Camp Bird Mine and Albert.
“This Company has accomplished in a few months what it has taken other companies years to do,” the ad claimed.
“It was all too blustery,” Edah said, tearing up more paper, rolling and twisting it artfully, and then placing it just so inside the stove.
“But Albert truly believed the Company had potential. I’m not so sure about Brant.”
George Brant was a charismatic, rotund, gregarious character full of ideas and superlative statements. He carried about gold specimens in his vest pockets and gave them to the curious. He spoke of grand plans, laughed uproariously and carried himself like a man about to make another fortune. Albert P. Nelson was the opposite. He was determined to make his plans and promises real.
“ To be fair,” Edah said, “the Company looked promising.” Brant raised significant St. Louis capital to purchase hundreds of acres all over Copper Mountain, between Bowerman and Pitkin. “And some gold was found on the Independent, Camp Bird, I.X.L., Queen Bee, Midnight, Gold Ridge and Roosevelt properties. But most was in pockets. Nothing continuous or dependable, except in the Camp Bird. There, gold was to be mined, but low-grade below the 300-foot level.”
While Bowerman’s population dropped below 300, Albert Nelson wrote in The Mining Investor: “A Prosperous Promising Project for Progressive People. Here is a Solid Substantial Corporation, owning some of the Largest and Richest Gold Mining Properties in the West, Developed on a Broad, Generous Plan… “ (Volume XLIX, No. 10, January 27, 1908).
The three-page promotional listed numerous mining claims owned by the Company: Camp Bird Group (130 acres); Roosevelt Group (70 acres); Gold Ridge Group (70 acres); Paonia Group (30 acres); Manhattan Group (110 acres); Coney Island Group (148 acres), etc., all contiguous on Copper Mountain, extending from the Roosevelt Tunnel on the northeast side to the Camp Bird on the southwest. Brant and Nelson wanted to drive a tunnel from Quartz Creek under Copper Mountain, cutting 42 gold veins along the way, near three miles to the Camp Bird Mine, draining water and creating an ore-transportation tunnel to the proposed mill near the mouth of the Roosevelt Tunnel. Albert Nelson believed in this concept so heartily that when Brant began faltering on his promises to the Company’s stockholders, Nelson personally managed the Company’s operations.
The Roosevelt Tunnel, with rectangular dimensions of 10 by 12 feet, was cut for the purpose of installing a dual-track electric transportation line. The power for
“The only thing more valuable than real estate is the time you’ll spend here.”
the series PAPER TRAILS
Creek, near the mouth of the Roosevelt Tunnel. Crews built a large dam, and water fed through a 6,000-foot, iron-banded, wood-staved pipe, producing 110 head of pressure. A cement building enclosed two General Electric turbines operating at 900 revolutions per minute, 150 K.V.A., 60-cycle, three-phase, generating 200 horsepower each and 2300 volts. Electricity was supplied to all the Brant Company’s operations, as well as to the towns of Pitkin and Crested Butte.
In 1915, Albert Nelson began a new promotional campaign: a prospectus for all of Gunnison County. It was titled, GUNNISON COUNTY, COLORADO: The Majestic Empire of the Western Slope.
“People all-round respected Albert,” Edah told me, again feeding the stove with paper and wood. “They liked his determination, his work for the community, the way he treated his employees and lived up to his word. People trusted him.” Hands slightly trembling, Edah handed me what looked like a new copy of Nelson’s prospectus. “That was published in 1916.”
the Company’s mining operations was to come from a proposed hydroelectric plant on Quartz Creek. The gold mined from the Camp Bird and reduced by a ten-stamp mill near Bowerman funded part of the improvements. Logging and shareholders funded the rest. A 1,000-foot-long flume, six feet wide and four feet deep, was completed to direct water to the proposed 400-horsepower hydroelectric plant. A hot springs, less than a mile above the power plant site, fed into a creek and prevented it from winter freezing. Rail tracks for a Colorado & Southern spur were already in place just a few hundred feet from the Roosevelt’s Quartz Creek portal.
“I’ve not seen this before,” I said, perusing the illustrated, 94-page publication.
“ That same year we learned George Brant hadn’t been paying Mr. Daughtry’s bills for work on the hydroelectric plant. Lawsuits were filed against the Company. Daughtry was owed $3,236.88. The Brant Company fell into foreclosure.”
Her voice softened. “It was a sad time for us. Albert felt personally responsible. Yet, he stayed focused on what he’d promised.”
In 1908, the Camp Bird Mine proclaimed its “record run,” producing 274 ounces of gold in 70 hours.
“By 1910, 274 gold ounces had been produced,” Edah said. She turned album pages, finally tapping a long, thin index finger on images of gold bullion and bagged ore. “Most every year the Camp Bird produced as the shaft was sunk to the 400-foot level.” She seemed proud of that; not so much the gold production, but the fact that her husband had kept his word. “There wasn’t great profit, but Albert kept the Company debt free and Pitkin men remained employed.”
In 1914, T.R.L. Daughtry was contracted to build the hydroelectric plant on Quartz
In 1918, the Company was reorganized as The Roosevelt Mines & Electric Company, and a new owner, George Hetherington, took over. He brought new investors: L.H. Becker of Kansas City; R.B. Anderson, St. Louis; M. Woolley, New York; and, George Zapf, Jacksonville, Florida. They retained Albert Nelson as general manager; and soon, most of the original employees were back at work. In 1920, the Roosevelt Tunnel was 2,100 feet in length; the shaft in the Camp Bird below the 400-foot level; and, once again, gold was produced. In January 1922, the Roosevelt Tunnel bore into an underground reservoir and water levels in all the Company’s mines dropped significantly, allowing for more gold extraction.
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On August 7, 1922, the Roosevelt Company held an annual stockholders’ meeting in Pitkin. “I must admit,” Edah said, “I enjoyed those events. Seeing our investors confident in Albert. Seeing everyone proud to be part of the Company.”
Twenty-some people gathered from around the country to meet with the Nelsons – Albert, Edah and their daughter, Pauline. A fine dinner in Pitkin marked the first night. On day two, the guests rode an electric tram 2,500 feet into the Roosevelt Tunnel. Afterwards, J. F. Maneth guided the inquisitive group through the hydroelectric plant on Quartz Creek, then on to dinner at the Roosevelt boardinghouse. On August 9, everyone rode horses with Nelson to the Camp Bird Mine. There, a snowball fight ensued before participants were lowered down the mineshaft to the 400-foot level. After the tour, the guests received valuable gold specimens. Mrs. P. Lewis provided afternoon meals at the Camp Bird boardinghouse, followed by dinner at Pitkin’s Mason Hotel. There, the guests expressed gratifying enthusiasm for the proposed electric amalgamation mill to be erected near the Roosevelt Tunnel; and Albert Nelson was honored for his progressive and productive management. Just before the investors’ departure on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, each received copies of Nelson’s 1916 Gunnison County prospectus.
“Next year – 1923 – the new electric reduction mill was fully operational,” Edah told me. “And Albert’s management continued to keep the Company profitable and debt free.” The Roosevelt Company then owned 1,055 acres of mineral and timber lands; two mill sites; 128 acres of placer claims; a hydroelectric plant; and a new amalgamation mill. The Roosevelt Tunnel had reached a length of 2,560 feet. And the Company had produced more than $80,000 in gold.
In 1928, the Roosevelt Tunnel was 4,700 feet in length, and the hydroelectric plant upgraded to generate even more power. From 1936 through 1945, the Roosevelt Company’s hydroelectric plant produced enough electricity to supply energy for the recently formed Gunnison County Rural Electric Association. Mining was discontinued in 1941 after the U.S. Government deemed national war efforts more vital than private precious metal
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mining. With no mining, the Roosevelt Company focused on its timber and electricity production.
“Albert passed away here, in this house,” Edah said. “February 12, 1945.”
I held a respectful silence for a few moments, then asked, “Did he truly believe there were great gold deposits still to be found under Copper Mountain?”
“Without Albert, the Roosevelt Company would have failed with Bowerman.” It was then I noticed Edah had been fueling the stove’s flames with pages from copies of her husband’s 1916 Gunnison County book. “So you must understand, for him, it stopped being about gold long ago….”
Before saying farewell to Edah, I asked if I could have several more copies of the Gunnison County prospectus, generally to prevent her from destroying them all. Once back in the Willy’s Overland, I started up the engine, and with my Westerners’ article already writing itself, rode on.
I heard a few years later that Edah had moved to Gunnison to live with her daughter, Pauline Laqua. In May 1956, Edah (Larson) Nelson died in a Pueblo hospital at age 75. She was buried in Pueblo’s Masons and Odd Fellows Cemetery. The husband to whom she was so loyal, Albert P. Nelson, 1869-1945, was buried in the Gunnison County Cemetery. b
Why A PAPER TRAILS series?
Most days we make use of trails: for driving, walking, skiing and biking. Likewise, in journeying into the past, we often travel via paper trails: books, maps, photographs and documents. They bring vitality and clarity to our blurred history. My rediscovery of the forgotten town of Bowerman and the Box Canyon Mining District began with a 1914 stock certificate, for The Camp Bird Mining, Leasing and Power Company. From there, the trail led me into an unfamiliar part of Gunnison County and revealed such intriguing stories. That stock certificate made me realize that most every historic document could be a portal to a fascinating paper trail.– Brian Levine
Unique by nature, Academy Place is an enclave of year-round vacation rental opportunities. Thoughtfully designed and nestled within Town limits, guests enjoy walkable access to local restaurants, shops, galleries, and the free town shuttle. Never has it been easier to escape to the mountains solo or with your entire group or family.
Many listeners, young and old, know “Lonesome Bob” these days from his KBUT rock-and-roll radio show. In his half-century in Crested Butte, Bob Brazell has also been known as a topnotch photographer and an organ transplant recipient with a fierce will to survive.
The native San Diegoan arrived in Crested Butte in 1973 with his girlfriend, Denise. They both applied for jobs during the Crested Butte Ski Area’s autumn job fair.
“A big, dark-haired guy named Edgar Villanueva, who is still a good friend, told me, ‘Get in this line. This is the job you want.’” Soon Bob and Edgar found themselves driving buses between the ski area and downtown. “We were like the chamber of commerce back then, pointing out the high spots to tourists. The businesses courted us with free drinks and dinners,” Bob recalled with delight.
In May 1975, Bob married Denise, who was employed at the Crested Butte Lodge. That same month he started Crested Butte Auto with his new brother-in-law, a mechanic. In 1978 Bob bought out his partner and merged with a towing company to form CB Auto Repair and Towing. After selling the business later that year, he went to work for Steve Glazer’s Crested Butte Cable Company.
“No one in Crested Butte had cable, or even television. I was a cable drop installer in houses. Lynda Jackson Petito and her sister Bonnie ran the office on Elk Avenue. They sold televisions out of the office, and we got everyone in town signed into a closed circuit TV. This way we didn’t have to apply for a license or conform to FCC regulations,” he explained.
“We had a book we used as an instruction manual called Sex and
He’s “Lonesome Bob” on the radio, but photographer, DJ and transplant recipient
Bob Brazell has felt well loved by his community.
by Sandra CortnerSean Enberg
Broadcasting: How to start a community FM system on little or no money. The first line said, ‘This has nothing to do with sex.’”
While Bob was dropping cable lines around town, Gary Gorbett, who owned the record store, had a disc jockey set-up for disco shows, and a local engineer figured out how to put it on the cable system. Gary called it “Earth Station.”
Bob signed onto Earth Station Radio as a volunteer DJ in 1978. “I got to do my own show for two hours on Friday afternoons.”
Steve also hired Bob to help videotape local events for the budding TV station. “We did the July Fourth parade, the balloon festival and the 1978 Men’s Softball Championship game. Because we only had six 15-minute reels of videotape, we had to record new events over the old ones. The softball game is the last we did.” Many years later, Bob had a photo lab transfer the game footage to DVD and make a few copies. “It’s pretty crude and the quality is
poor, but it remains as a nostalgic record of what life was like in Crested Butte in the 1970s,” he said.
After Steve Glazer sold the Crested Butte Cable Company and Earth Station folded, enthusiasm remained high for an FM radio station. “Following a ton of bureaucratic crap and many fundraisers, on December 26, 1986, KBUT started broadcasting via a 50-watt transmitter on the roof of the bus barn. But we couldn’t even cover the ski area,” Bob recounted. The station needed a bigger transmitter, and that cost money.
Bob, Jim Michael, Bonnie Petito Chlipala and others undertook a 35-year funding campaign to expand KBUT to the ski area and Gunnison and to improve the station’s programming. “Thanks to Bonnie, we got National Public Radio,” Bob noted. Sixty volunteers and a paid staff of five now make up the core of KBUT, which has become a nonprofit corporation. “I’m the only one [of the original crew] who’s still a disc jockey,” said Bob.
Though Bob has added so much to Crested Butte’s soundwaves, his first love remains photography. At age 11 he built a darkroom under his stairs to develop his film and sold his first print: a photo of the Beatles he shot off the television. “My camera was a Pentax. Later I used a large-format press camera in high school. I apprenticed with my dad’s college friend, an industrial photographer who took me under his wing.”
Bob gravitated to architectural still photography, a tricky field because the lines all have to look straight in the final product. Earth Station, CB Cable videography and KBUT were side gigs. Starting his photography business in the early 1980s, he did what he could to make a buck. He worked for a couple of years for the Crested Butte Pilot under Jane and Lee Ervin, and was in demand as a wedding photographer. “I gave it up after about 150 weddings. Too stressful,” he noted with a sigh.
Soon Bob had a family to support. Julia arrived in 1982 and Robin in 1984. Bob was often out of town shooting for Arizona Highways and Sunset Magazine and photographing hospital, school and public health facilities in New York, Florida, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Arizona. Gradually, Bob made the transition from film to digital photography. Once local realtors discovered his talent for lighting and keeping those lines straight, he became the go-to guy for shooting color brochures of homes for sale. “I know how to make them look really slick with Photoshop software.”
Bob descends from a pair of performing parents. His mother, Consuelo Alden, was a professional opera singer whose ancestor
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John Alden came over on the Mayflower. Bob’s father played saxophone in a dance band. “I have the 8x10 glossy prints of Mom’s studio shots from the 1940s. That’s what inspired me to shoot Crested Butte Mountain Theatre shows in black and white and color between 1981 and 1990.” He photographed 30 plays, including some with his daughters as cast members.
“It was a tight shoot,” Bob recalled. “I would photograph dress rehearsal and 24 hours later have the finished 8x10 prints up on the wall for opening night.”
He also photographed Crested Butte Community School plays and Golden Marmot awards.
Bob even had a role in the Mountain Theatre’s 1982 production of “Bleacher Bums.” He played the off-stage announcer and also provided percussion: the crack of the bat, crowd noise and organ music.
Just as Bob’s photography career was taking off in the summer of 1994, the bottom fell out. After months of chronic stomachaches, he received the diagnosis at Grand Junction’s St. Mary’s Hospital: liver disease. He needed a transplant.
“I decided right then to stop drinking,” recalled Bob. “I wanted to be there for my kids.”
Bob and Denise had neither savings nor health insurance. The community came through for him. Anne Steinbeck, director of the Gunnison County Department of Health and Human Services, helped Bob navigate the maze of Medicaid insurance. Bob spent 18 months traveling to and from Denver’s University Hospital, which had the best transplant success record in the country, for various screenings. “Sometimes I was so sick I couldn’t get there,” he remembered. “I was in horrible shape. My doctor couldn’t look me in the eye any more and finally confessed he thought I was going to die.”
Denise’s salary at the Forest Queen and Paradise Cafe wasn’t enough to support the family. Bonnie Chlipala, KBUT station manager, organized benefits and collection jars around town as well as putting public service announcements on
the radio. “Eric and Kathleen Ross let us use their apartment in Denver when we went for appointments and then took care of our kids. Gene Mason flew us to Denver in his plane. Benefits were held by the ski patrol, fire district and others,” recalled Bob.
In October of 1995, Bob got the final okay to be a transplant recipient. The hospital sent a Lear Jet to fly him to University Hospital. On Friday, October 13, 1995, Bob received the liver of a 17-year-old girl killed in a car accident.
Despite the new organ, Bob’s pain continued. “I had edema both before and after the surgery. I had so much fluid retention I couldn’t breathe. They stuck a long syringe through my back and pulled out three bottles of fluid from my lungs.” Bob was trying to adhere to doctor’s orders that he couldn’t drink more than one liter of water every 24 hours to reduce the edema. “My whole body was drying up. My hands were cracked and bleeding. I was seriously thinking up ways to murder people to get water. It was brutal. At one point I found myself on the floor literally bawling.”
Bob spent six weeks in the hospital after surgery, watching roommates come and go. Following his discharge, he had to stay another month in an apartment next to the hospital.
“I had a huge scar across my abdomen. I told a little kid who asked what happened, ‘Shark attack!’” He laughed at the memory, but added, “Seriously, it changed me. I wasn’t afraid any more. I felt I could handle anything.”
Finally home, Bob did physical therapy with free weights for six hours a week. His muscles were atrophied from being bed bound. “It took me two years to get back in shape. The first time I could shovel snow…I’ve never been so happy.”
Continuing to abstain from liquor, he counsels other transplant candidates referred by the University Hospital.
Bob gradually resumed his photography career and continued with his “Lonesome Bob” show on Friday afternoons. “Now it’s classic rock and roll,” he admitted, in deference to his 73 years and grandfather status. He’s back on the air following a two-year Covid pandemic hiatus. He has to be very cautious because of his compromised immune system and the post-transplant anti-rejection drugs he still takes.
Bob is not “lonesome” despite his show name. The whole community had his back, and he’ll never forget it. “I try to make sure I’m ‘up’ every time on my show,” he said with a smile. “My goal is to make everyone feel good. I consider it my civic duty.” b
IN THE TIME OF ‘MELTING SIDE’
ute lore reconnects us to the sacred wild.By Molly Murfee
A particular growl of thunder is different from the rest.
It is the first one.
After four months of winter, sometime in the middle of March, ‘round about the Spring Equinox, when the snow begins to take on the heaviness of rain, as Red-Winged Blackbirds return, filling the air with their trill, from somewhere over the mountains, comes this rumble, nearly forgotten until now.
The Tabeguache, or Uncompahgre, Utes wandered not only through what we know as Crested Butte and Gunnison, but also east from Leadville to Colorado Springs, south into Saguache, west into Montrose and Grand Junction, then east again through Delta and Paonia. Their name comes from the Ute word Mogwatavungwatsingwu, or “sunny slope people.” As they were a migrating hunter-gatherer society, the Gunnison Valley was one of their important and recurring seasonal homes. They called this period of change, when fat globs of flakes plummeted to a ground beginning to show signs of earth, the month in which Spring officially began, pusikwamici maatukwuci: “Melting side. Snow on one side of the road.
Bear rolls over this month.”
Many years ago, the Ute lore tells us, people and animals spoke the same language. Two brothers went out hunting and paused to look around from high on a cliff. One noticed Grizzly Bear Woman, freshly emerged from her underground hibernation, standing upright facing a tree, dancing with and clawing at the tree, and singing a song. While one brother decided to return to the village, the other one stayed and watched. Grizzly Bear Woman told the man if he lived with her for one year, she would teach him the Bear Dance. And so he did.
Grizzly Bear Woman taught the man the song and dance, and told him to return to his people to teach them in turn. Some even say the man turned into a Bear.
This First Thunder was the sound of Grizzly Bear Woman turning over in her sleep and nearing the day of exit from her womb-like den, when she would emerge anew into the freshly blooming world. Throughout the Myth Telling Time of Winter, the people had been sharing stories, practicing songs. They were ready. Bands came together to celebrate this coming of Spring, and the hosts busied themselves preparing food for their guests.
Those who heard the First Thunder beckoned the shamanic Bear Dance Chief who was visited by visionary dreams of supernatural instructions on establishing the dance grounds and conducting the celebration. He instructed the people on building the ceremonial space, with every bit of the preparations letting the spirits know of the sacred intent. They erected a circular corral, with a singular door facing east, bringing ritual items forward to this central point. It was time, finally, for the dance.
Just as Grizzly Bear Woman picked her hunter, this was a woman’s choice dance, and each female swished her shawl in the direction of her preferred while musicians played a notched rasp, a morache, imitating the sounds Grizzly Bear Woman made coming out of hibernation. A line of women faced a line of men, and they advanced and retreated in unison, giving the dance its name, mamaqui niqap, the “forwardbackward dance.”
The dance strengthened bonds in the community, being social as well as spiritual. The starving time was finally over, and the season of fertility and fecundity begun. The New Year. The Shaman prayed for the group, blessing them with an eagle wing. According to the Bear Dance Chief’s instructions, the ritual lasted from four to ten days, making it a dance of endurance, with Bear lending her strength to the cause. Yet it was also a healing dance, and in the final hours, Medicine Men performed curing ceremonies for the sick. Upon completion, as the circle of people exited the corral, they left behind a ritual object, such as a feather or a scarf, representative of the grief and hardship they wished to shed. They never looked back. Afterward, they feasted together on buffalo tongue.
The Ute Bear Dance is one of the oldest known Native American ceremonies. It is still practiced today, with very little changed.
The dance also honors Bear. Called Kwiyagat in Ute, she is a relative, a primal ancestor, often called Grandmother or Aunt. Bear is
the leader of all animal relations and the keeper of mountain game and resources. Bear safeguards such ritual items as the pipe, and her permission must be sought for its use. While certainly respected for their strength and ferocity – the fiercer the animal, the more power she lends for healing or hunting – Bears are also teachers, showing the people food, medicine and ceremony. Historically the Ute didn’t eat Bear, except for one time a year, when a single individual was sacrificed in the Spring to serve as an honored guest at the Bear Dance; her meat was taken as sacrament. She thus became a part of them, and bestowed upon them her characteristics.
But it isn’t just Bear. Traditional Utes believe all beings have spirit and are enlivened with what they call puwá, the animating and fertile supernatural force of the cosmos. The sun exhibits the most powerful reservoir of this power. Puwá is often referred to as water and is also found in the physical and spiritual fluids of life, such as rivers, sap and blood. It enlivens rock art. The rock itself. Hot springs. Healing from a plant comes not only from the medicinal qualities inherent therein, but also from a call to the plant’s spirit to assist in the process. The spirit actually does the work. From Eagle to Wolf, every animal is full of puwá, each offering a special gift. Some are otherworldly harbingers. Like Bear.
Bear is a high-level teacher of spiritual life, like Christ is to Christians, explained Clifford Duncan, a recently passed elder and culture-bearer whose ancestry was Uncompahgre Ute. The Creator speaks to us through Bear, he said, connecting humans to nature. She is a role model for how to live on this earth. In pictographs carved into stone, the representation of the Uncompahgre Utes, the band particular to the Gunnison River Valley, was the bear paw.
Whether to learn how to heal or to identify plants, “You must talk to these animals in such a way they will become your teacher,” prompted Clifford. “They are people.” It’s not like praying, he clarified; it’s communicating.
Clifford told us even Songs have spirit, jumping around from human to human like thoughts. They arise from the land, each place singing its unique Song. If you are open, you might catch it. Songs open ceremony, begin the conversation. They pour like wind in the pines, water over rock, until bursting spontaneously from your lips.
Historically, mountains were particularly sacred to the Ute, and each band migrated through the seasons around a sacred mountain. This high, snowy place was the physical and spiritual center from which they spiraled out, the literal heart of their universe. Engaged in near-continuous movement, the Tabeguache travelled throughout the Gunnison River Valley, South Park, the Upper Arkansas River Valley, the San Luis Valley and the Uncompahgre Valley, always in a sun-wise, or clock-wise, direction. Their trails were ancestral, also sacred, created by Siná-wavi, the mythological Wolf, responsible for much of the creation on earth. Many of the highways we drive today lie on top of these ancient paths. Many of the trails we walk in our National Forest once bore the feet of the Ute.
The very footsteps they placed on the earth were a migrational manifestation of their cosmology, and with each quarter turn of the circle around the sacred mountain came a ceremony, a color, an animal teacher, and a world. The Sun Dance for the Summer Solstice, indicated with yellow and led by the Mountain Lion, representative of Upper World. Pine Nut Round Dance for the Autumn Equinox, washed in white, the Eagle overhead and the world of Sky. At the Winter Solstice, Myth Telling Time began in the blackness of the season, with Snake signifying the Underworld. And then, the Bear Dance at the Spring Equinox, the rising of the color red, Weasel and the Lower World. At the Center, Wolf and the color turquoise. Ceremonial sites were chosen not only for the specific plants and animals necessary for healing there, but for their far-seeing vistas. Mythology unfolded in the walk itself, through the cycles of the land.
The Ute’s movement was not only a statement of belief, however, a celebration and an honoring; it was also an act of stewardship – to not take too much from any one place. The Tabeguache knew they had to share resources with Bear, and sometimes this meant moving on and letting the earth rest. It was a sacred mandate, a contract with the land itself, a living cultural ecology.
It was only after the Tabeguache performed the ceremonial Bear Dance that they obtained permission to move into this high, hallowed ground where we now live. Once granted, they came free of worries, blessed, transformed and healed for the New Year, the teachings of shape-shifting Bear opened with Song, guiding every step.
You don’t own a Song, said Clifford, “The Song owns you.”
Much research went into this article to assure accuracy. It includes information from the published work of many anthropologists and archaeologists who have long studied Ute mythology, history and culture. As a storyteller, however, I must pay proper respect to the native Ute storytellers who have kept these traditions alive, and from whom I learned much, and derived much, for this writing. While their words are reflected in my references, I wish to pay special homage to culture-bearer Clifford Duncan, a Northern Ute recently passed into the ancestral world, and a descendant of Uncompahgre Ute, the indigenous people of the Gunnison Valley. To research the Tabeguache and Uncompahgre Ute is to know the work of Clifford in preserving the culture and stories of his people. To Matthew Box, of the Southern Ute, the present-day Bear Dance Chief, whose generous video from the Smithsonian Institute offered many storytelling nuances not otherwise available through print. And to the work of Larry Cesspooch, Northern Ute storyteller, filmmaker, musician and spiritual leader. I offer this article with the utmost respect to the Ute, in the hopes it honors the true people of this place, and so that those of us who occupy it now might learn and grow from its message.
Box, Matthew. “Southern Ute Bear Dancers.” YouTube, uploaded by Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Living Earth Festival, 19 July 19, 2017, www.youtube.com/ watch?v=2zLiLGEDatM.
Cesspooch, Larry. “In the Footsteps of Shavano.” Through Native Eyes. www. throughnativeeyes.net/more-past-productions.
Goss, James A. “Traditional Cosmology, Ecology, and Language of the Ute Indians” in Ute Indian Arts and Culture: From Prehistory to the New Millennium, ed. Wroth, William. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 2000.
Jones, Sondra G. Being and Becoming Ute: The Story of an American Indian People. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2019.
Patterson, Carol B. “Concepts of Spirit in Prehistoric Art according to Clifford Duncan, Ute Spiritual Elder” in Rock Art and Sacred Landscape, ed. Gillette, Donna L.; Greer, Mavis; Hayard, Michele Helene; and Murray, William Breen; One World Archaeology. New York: Springer, 2014.
Petroglyphs of Western Colorado and the Northern Ute Indian Reservation as Interpreted by Clifford Duncan. American Philosophical Society Press, Philadelphia, 2016.
Smith, Anne M. Ethnography of the Northern Utes. Museum of New Mexico Press, 1974. “Southern Ute Tribe Bear Dance.” Southern Ute Tribe. www.southernute-nsn.gov/culture/beardance/.
“The Ute Relationships to the Lands of West Central Colorado: An Ethnographic Overview.” Prepared by the Office of Community Services, Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado. www. fortlewis.edu/finding_aids/inventory/UteLands. htm#Pt2.
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AND THE WORDS THEY CALL FORTH.By Leath Tonino
Initially, the voice is faint, easy to ignore. By the middle of December, though, it’s booming, barging into consciousness while I’m stirring the pasta sauce, showering, joking with my girlfriend.
You must forfeit the comforts of civilization, the cheery warmth of house and hearth, and go alone to the wilderness. You must strip yourself of the real world and bare yourself to the realer world, its diamond edges and severe delights. There is a single way to shut me up, the way of effort and uncertainty and spicy soup and violent gales and thermal underwear and delicate alpenglow and glittering constellations—Orion, Canis Major, The Seven Sisters.
Quite the dramatic dude, that inner voice. And likewise the voice that replies, the squirming, shirking, chamomile-tea-sipping wuss.
Oh, oh, but I don’t wanna. It’s intense. The cold makes my toes ache. The lonely beauty of huge mountains at dusk makes my soul ache. Ache pervades this existence as is—so much ache, so much ache. Why can’t I linger here on the couch where things are simple and secure? Why can’t I snuggle in flannel pajamas forever?
Because, the first voice barks. Be-fucking-cause.
There’s no point explaining that I/we reside at 9,000 feet in the
Colorado Rockies and already crosscountry ski five evenings a week. Or that I/we once worked at the South Pole, shoveling Antarctica’s fathomless snows in temperatures that routinely hit -70 degrees. Or that I/we have undertaken numerous expeditions over the past decade –mile after mile, sweating and shivering, dragging a sled heaped with gear, actively choosing the suffering of the season, the burning blisters and screaming fingertips and vast white boring blanknesses of mind. Nope, no point. The logic of be-fucking-cause is unassailable.
Thus, on a random Saturday, it begins. Specifically, a pattern begins, a practice. Until the glacier lilies burst from the thawing ground, until the bears rise from hibernation and, with an astonishing hunger, feast on those symbols of spring, those harbingers of summer, those dainty yellow petals, I will brave the backcountry. One trip per month. Twenty-four hours minimum. A different local valley each time.
Declares the first voice: Winter is transient, impermanent, a fleeting challenge, a fleeting blessing, a strange power that demands immediate attention, total devotion. Giddyup, hoss!
To which the second voice, cringing, asks:
CAN THE HOSS AT LEAST BRING A PLASTIC PEANUT BUTTER JAR OF WHISKEY?
Camp chores finished and rosy light blushing half a dozen encircling peaks, I grab my ski poles, figuring it’s too early for the sleeping bag, too damn frigid to stand around doing diddlysquat amid hovering breathclouds. Six uphill miles delivered me to this inhuman spot, a clearing beyond the maze of firs, and I could definitely use a rest. But rest doesn’t compete with creeping hypothermia. Best to fight fatigue and stay busy. Pump the blood, aimlessly explore.
As I’m about to push away – wait, no, c’mon. That’s precisely when the scrawny fox, all bushy tail and mystical eyes, appears at my side. I freeze, trapping the breath-clouds in my chest, unwilling to move even my lungs for fear of spooking her. How long do I hold this stance? How long do I maintain this suffocation? Long enough for the apparition to paw within a yard of me – sniff, sniff – and take a seat.
She is a monologue without words. She is a one-act play in a theater of silence. And, of course, like the rosy light, like the day, like any thought I’ve ever had on any subject other than fox, she is suddenly gone.
Forget skiing. I burrow into the tent, arrange a foam pad beneath my butt, layer on the fleece and wool, slap my arms and pinch my nose. Cracking a book seems wrong, borderline obscene, and messing with the stove to boil a glop of couscous, dehydrated peas and tuna fish is an unwanted distraction.
Fig Newtons dipped in the whiskey jar.
Starshine on the encircling peaks.
The vestibule door zipped open to the million-tree stillness.
I stare until midnight, stare at everything and the gaps between everything, my face stiffening, skin tight across the bones, her face everywhere.
ISOLATION IS MARRIAGE, A WEDDING, A UNION.
The forecast calls for snow, a foot or three by dawn. That is exciting. That is intimidating. That is what it is.
Isness. Isn’t establishing a kind of trembling primal contact with nonnegotiable earthly reality the basic, enduring aspiration? My childhood forts dug in the driveway’s plow piles. My teenage experiments with crampons, ropes, waterfalls of soaring ice. The itch to work in Antarctica. The compulsion to camp in the dead – nay, in the alive – of winter.
Indeed, putting my body in situations, environments, places that force it to become the very place itself –that’s always been the goal. Not merger or woo-woo holism, but attunement, responsiveness, my senses reaching toward the sensible and the sensible reaching back in turn.
Again the trusty pack rides my spine, heavy with equipment and supplies that buffer isness and, paradoxically, draw it close. Three p.m gauzy gray skies are thickening, flurries starting to fly. The burgeoning storm hides up there in the overcast, as do lofty ridges, precarious cornices, steep loaded slopes. Avalanches kill with a grim regularity in this range. Solo is judged dangerous.
So be it. Nobody claimed the quest for isness was safe or, for that matter, sane. With companions, god
love them, chitchat reaches toward chitchat, superimposing a topography of language on the raw terrain. Solo is necessary. Solo is vital.
I keep to the valley bottom, weaving with the weaving creek. Four p.m. and I’m searching leafless aspen groves for a sheltered site. Five p.m. and the tent is taut, anchored to snapped branches staked deep in powder. Six p.m. and the flurries are fat flakes, a speedy slant. Seven p.m. and the mac-n-cheese is bubbling, drenched in Tabasco. Eight p.m. and the storm is rowdy, a drunken party, frat boys and cheerleaders, the dance floor a chaos of swilly cans and crotch-to-ass grinding. Nine p.m. and I’m toasty in my sealed chamber, afloat on the weather’s surging energy, nodding, nodding, nodding off.
Night at this latitude, at this time of year, lasts 15 hours. I sleep fitfully, skittishly. Two a.m. and I’m rolling onto my hip, punching the tent’s sagging ceiling, listening to the whump of sloughing snow-weight. Three a.m. and it’s deja vu. And four a.m. And five a.m. In my scattered dreams, that weight, that whump, that accumulating isness remains near, a millimeter of nylon separating my cozy fetal curl from its gentle crush.
Writes Czeslaw Milosz: “Even asleep we partake in the becoming of the world.”
Travelling overseas – departing Antarctica actually, a six-week “layover” on New Zealand’s South Island – I fell in with a crew of Israeli hippie-bros fresh from their stint of mandatory military service, comrades in dirt-cheap vagabonding. One morning, pooling breakfast scraps, the caffeinated conversation swerved to mountain climbing, and I was told, with lots of gleeful cursing and enthusiastic gesticulating, that hiking isn’t about hiking – it’s about brewing good strong bitter coffee on the summit.
Though the hippie-bros were certifiable goofballs, this struck me as shrewd. In darkness, the amber glow of whiskey. In sparking, blinding brightness, the blackest, fiercest, chewiest joe a stomach can stomach.
A third round?
Generous of you to offer, sir. A dash of organic cocoa?
Are you enjoying the hints of refried bean imparted by the cookpot’s crust?
I noticed this intriguing flavor, yes. The pot sits between my thighs and I sit in a meadow under infinite blue, a hundred-acre basin brimming with absence, with possibility. Yesterday was sad, something to do with the muted sunset and this exposed camp’s pin-drop quiet, but today is a new day, an inspiring day, a phenomenal day for reckless imbibing, vigorous skiing, and frequent pausing, observing, appreciating.
Creation! Our planet’s tilted axis and the four sacred seasons! Mouse tracks! Sculptural drifts! Israeli hippiebros! The tingling spirit of gratitude is awakening, gulp by gulp, my every cell.
And that’s not all. In my gut a prehistoric mammalian need is also awakening – a need for which no honest creature ought to feel shame or embarrassment – and it is awakening with disconcerting rapidity. I pound the pot’s dregs, survey my options with a hasty scan. Besides my tent, the meadow is essentially featureless. Okay, whatever. I’m miles from any lifeform that might take offense.
Time to get in touch. Time to shit out the toxins, the computer screens and dollar bills and egoistic cravings. Time to steel my nerves, scoop a gloveful, and wipe with winter – the cleansing wild!
ADVENTURES WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
Shy of the beaver ponds, I quit my huffing and puffing, plant my poles and nudge my ears free from the jacket’s hood. Ah, the perfect hush of a full moon ascending in the east, tiptoeing a distant crest, stepping into purple emptiness. Suspended, solitary, it reminds me that this valley is home to a hermit, a legendary recluse. Scraggly beard and baggy sweater. Blizzard for a brain, tender chickadee for a heart.
Well, I assume. I don’t know the man – his brain, his heart, or the exact location of his cabin. I just know that tonight, pressing onward, breaking a trail, I will temporarily outdo his isolation, meaning his connection, meaning his bond with the elemental. Isolation isn’t divorce. Isolation is marriage, a wedding, a union. Isolation is a micro-hush embedded in the perfect hush.
Twentyish degrees, zero wind. A headlamp shrinks the land to a pale orb, a battery-operated sphere of comprehension, whereas skiing by moonlight fixes the land in a cosmos, a mysterious immensity. Snow gleams. Rock gleams. Water gleams. I should stop and build my camp, change my outfit, eat a meal, but the gleam won’t allow it.
And then a question mark in my periphery does stop me, a gliding anomaly, a squirt of ink on the gleaming page. It’s the hermit, the legendary recluse – across the valley, past the beaver ponds and frostsparkled willows, perhaps a quartermile off – and he’s skiing with a partner, no headlamps for them, either.
I squint, trying to tell, and failing to tell, which is which, who is who.
The man. The shadow.
Tiny bonfire. Tiny portal leading nowhere, leading here. Another camp, another night, another session gazing, spacing out, spacing in, spacing every direction. I feed the bonfire brittle twigs and feed it supple awareness. I listen to the hiss and pop, listen to myself listening.
That stubborn, bossy, won’tbe-dissuaded voice, that inner voice running me from the couch and my flannel pajamas, driving me into pillowed spruce and howling coyotes and spindrift, strange power, numb digits – it didn’t lie. There is a single way to shut me up, the voice said, and true to its promise, I haven’t heard a peep since December. Ditto the second voice, the wuss-voice that bows to inertia and luxury and unfounded worry, neglecting winter’s invitation, shunning winter’s gift.
Hiss-pop. Another collapse, another twig. The bonfire is simultaneously a miniature cathedral of flaring radiance and a grand edifice in ruins – charred wood, fading embers, fluttering ash. Balanced, I’m thinking. Complete.
I unscrew the whiskey jar –mesmerized, hypnotized – and wince as the liquor kisses my chapped lips. A few lines by Robinson Jeffers emerge from the flames, lines about the bed downstairs, beside the window, that the young poet has selected in advance for his inevitable, eventual dying: “I
often regard it, / With neither dislike nor desire; rather with both, so equalled / That they kill each other and a crystalline interest / Remains alone.”
Is that enlightenment? The equalization of binaries? The crystalline interest that remains alone? Jeffers disappears in the flames, refusing to answer, and a big wet snowflake brushes my cheek, signalling the end of a two-week dry spell. Ribbony scarves of snow follow, billowing sails of snow, ballooning universes of snow.
Another collapse, another kiss.
Shoulders hunched, I feed twigs, feed twigs, listening, listening, and ten minutes later the squall abruptly fizzles, leaving me coated, fuzzy, white.
Done? Pshaw! Herons are beating upvalley, broad wings spread over the electric springtime river, the river of aluminum foil, hammered tin, molten silver, and I am pursuing, traversing the sun-averse pitches, the northern aspects where snow hangs on – mushy, stained, littered with bark bits and pine needles and splinters, crappy by normal standards, plenty skiable by mine. Lowering standards is awesome, highly recommended. It’s a spiritual exercise of sorts, a battle with entitlement and expectation, an art of accepting the world and what the world provides.
Ardea herodias. Today the world is providing great blue herons, sticks in their beaks, nests in their minds, evolution in their elegant necks and legs. And geese and ducks. And warblers, swallows, snipe, the rushing tremolo of vibrating feathers, the racing whistle-whir of migrants arrived and arriving.
Somehow, despite having no particular destination, I manage to arrive, too, today’s world providing a patch of damp dirt and flattened brown grass, a site by the water to unfold my tarp and explode my pack. The plan is sky for a tent. The plan is this sweet golden hour before night. The plan is trancelike exhaustion. The plan is wandering inside my binoculars, watching the birds, welcoming them home.
As I peel off soggy socks and recline, a fairytale unspools in my imagination, requesting that I abandon the plan and scribble quick, catch the ephemeral sentences.
Guy goes alone to the wilderness –that’s the premise, the setting and scene. Guy goes alone to the wilderness and guy keeps going. Guy isn’t made happy or healthy or wise by his going. Guy isn’t made glum or unhealthy or stupid by his going. Guy isn’t rewarded. Guy isn’t punished. Guy isn’t transformed or renewed or destroyed or anything fancy. Guy goes and goes and goes, nothing more, nothing less, and slowly, subtly, almost secretly, his going becomes a habit, the habit a ritual, the ritual a rhythm, the rhythm a life, the life a steady soft hum. At the age of ninety – I scratch that out – at the age of one hundred and eight, this guy, this character, this figment, he heads upvalley again, pursuing herons, and it is the thousandth consecutive month of his going, and it is the final month.
Knobby knees, tear-blurred vision. A lump in the throat. He unfolds a tarp. He peels off socks. He reclines. He dozes – the river flowing through him, the birds doing the same – and wakes to the gloaming, confused, unsure if he’s really awake. Frogs are chorusing and the mountains, his old dear friends, are harmonizing. The music is a color, a song of yellow, glacier lilies, symbols of spring, harbingers of summer, dainty yellow petals begging him to join, to hum along.
Inhale, exhale. That rich scent of soil recently uncovered. I stretch my back, sharpen my pencil with a jackknife. Sneeze. Friggin’ allergies.
“And the bears, roused from hibernation, are hungry as ever,” I write. “Hungry with an ancient hunger, an eternal hunger, an insatiable hunger for blossoms and the thawing ground that gives blossoms birth.” b
CUTTING NEW TRAILS
STEERING THE FEED TRUCK AND OTHER LIFE LESSONS FROM A RANCH CHILDHOOD.By Cara Guerrieri
I scooted my five-year-old self onto my knees and into the driver’s seat of the old Ford truck. Dad got out and jumped on back, from where he’d toss the hay while I steered round and round the meadow. I was too short to reach the gas pedal, but in 1964 trucks had chokes, which could be pulled out a bit, causing the truck to putt-putt along on its own at a slow creep. Over the crunchy snow I steered, but not before calling out, “Where should I go?”
Dad’s answer was the same as it had been yesterday and the day before. “Don’t hit any cows, ditches or fences,” he hollered. Dad’s instructions were notorious for being short and incomplete, and he left out that he also expected me to cut new paths, not simply to follow yesterday’s feed trail. That meant looking for undisturbed snow, which sometimes camouflaged the ditches and their long snake-like outlines crisscrossing the field.
Meanwhile, up ahead, 200 hungry, pregnant Hereford cows milled about, anxious for their morning feed. They stared at me through the windshield, unblinking, as if inviting me to a dare. Their feet planted, they’d wait until the very last moment before lumbering out of the way of the
truck. I’d have my hand on the choke, ready to kill the engine if I needed to, while I chewed my lower lip and sweated.
As to Dad’s directive to avoid hitting fences, that should be easy enough in a 150-acre field, but with cows all over the place, hidden ditches to avoid and new track to cut, even the barbed wire fences were too close for comfort. I kept my eye on them.
Steering the truck was serious business at my age, and Dad needed my help. He couldn’t very well be both in the cab of the truck and on the back feeding at the same time. Turns out it was a help to Mom, too, as it kept me out of her hair during her chaotic scramble to get my three older brothers off to school.
With all my concentration, I didn’t notice the stunning views of Carbon Mountain and the Anthracites in the backdrop. I’m not sure I even noticed the beauty of them until late childhood, when I suppose my world view extended beyond the ranch meadows. But at that age, I simply had a job to do, and that was all that mattered. As ranch kids, we were given real responsibilities early in life and were expected to help where we could. These days that— Richard Guerrieri
would be considered a wise parenting practice, but for my folks it was born of necessity rather than philosophy. Ranching meant work, hard work for everyone involved.
Mom had been up since early that morning, making us a real breakfast of sourdough pancakes, eggs and bacon. Before I was even dressed, Dad had ventured out into the cold, backed the truck up to a haystack, grabbed a hay hook, and hefted 70- to 80-pound bales neatly onto the flatbed. He stacked them just so, in a pattern to “tie” the load and keep it stable. Twenty bales to a truckload, three-quarter ton of hay. Each cow ate 25 to 30 pounds of hay per day, which meant he would load two or three truckloads, at least two and a half tons of hay every day, all winter long.
“No wonder you have a bad back,” I said to him recently, thinking he might chuckle or at least agree with me. Instead, he focused his 91-year-old eyes over the meadows where he’d spent his entire adult life irrigating, fencing, mowing, raking, baling and feeding hay. “If you think lifting bales onto a truck is hard, you don’t know nothin’ about feeding with a team of horses and a sled. Now that’s real work. Back then I’d start the day lifting those heavy cold harnesses – the collars, the Hames, the tugs and the breeching. If the horses were jittery, hitching them up could be tough as hell and damn aggravating.
“Sometimes I was half froze to death before I even finished hitching the team. On those days, I’d head out, tie the lines to the rack and trust my team to follow the well-worn route to the stack while I built myself a careful little fire on the frosty sled boards with a little handful of hay. I’d warm up enough to keep going, put the fire out solid, and carry on.
“We’d get to the stack, and I’ll tell you, loading a sled by hand with a pitchfork is a real art. It takes finesse to get a good full load, built up from the edge to the middle so you don’t lose your load as you bump along uneven ground.”
He continued musing about times gone by and the switch from horses to trucks. “Even though feeding with a truck was a helluva lot more expensive than with horses, it was half the work and twice the efficiency. It made sense economy-wise, but there’s something about a team of horses I still miss. The companionship, the feeling of two thick leather lines connecting you with the team. We were one unit, working together with singular purpose. You don’t get that with a truck.”
I listened as Dad described the old days and thought about the modern tractors my brother Burt and his wife Sandy use on the ranch these days. Their new tractors automatically unroll giant round bales for the cattle. No hand work involved. The process makes feeding with an old flatbed Ford truck almost seem quaint. In an echo of my own childhood, Burt and Sandy’s five-yearold grandson, Carter, often sits on Burt’s lap and steers the tractor while Burt reminds him not to hit cows, ditches or fences. Carter’s face is all concentration as he considers the path ahead. I smile, thinking of those simple directions being handed down to another generation.
I wonder if the instructions Carter has been given will stick with him as they have with me. Or if, in time, he’ll consider that when cutting new tracks in life, the solution to most difficulties can be boiled down to avoiding trenches, staying away from barbed barriers, and maneuvering around herds of lumbering naysayers that might block the way.
Of course, those things were far from my mind when I did Carter’s job that day in 1964. I just wanted to finish up and get ready for afternoon kindergarten. As for Dad, he didn’t intend to impart a life metaphor when he jumped on the truck and hollered out my instructions, but we both agree that the lessons kids learn on a ranch are unplanned, unique and lifelong.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING MACCHIATO
ADJUSTING TO MOUNTAIN LIFE, ONE NON-COFFEE COFFEE DRINK AT A TIME.By Annie Rijks Flora
The Starbucks caramel macchiato is the perfect drink for the person who is not a coffee lover but enjoys the concept of being one. I first started drinking “coffee” when I moved to Chicago. I always assumed that I would only shop at the local coffee shops like Metropolis Coffee, Intelligentsia, the Goddess and Grocer. Starbucks, however, had two advantages: one, it had a coffee shop in my office building, and two, it makes coffee drinks for people who don’t actually like coffee.
It turns out that going on coffee runs has very little to do with the coffee itself. It’s just a nice excuse to leave the office and socialize and talk about how tired you are, which is something I am very good at. I also soon became friendly with all of the Starbucks baristas, which made it feel more personal and less corporate. One of the baristas worked with the Raven Theatre on the production of “A
Klingon Christmas Carol” – what’s not to love? I am basic enough to enjoy the pumpkin spice latte, but the caramel macchiato became my standby.
When I moved from Chicago back to Crested Butte (after doing much of my growing up here), I was still addicted to going on coffee runs. However, I learned something interesting about my favorite “coffee” drink. It wasn’t real. There is no such thing as a caramel macchiato outside of Starbucks, or at least not the drink that I had been enjoying for the last ten years. Macchiato means “stained” or “spotted” in Italian. A true macchiato is a small espresso drink with a tiny amount of foamed milk on top. Stain is a good word to describe it, because it is the same quantity as what you would typically spill out of a regular-sized drink. Your first sip is your last, and there is no caramel in it.
How does Starbucks justify calling its drink a macchiato? The chain claims that it created an inverse of an espresso macchiato by starting with the milk and pouring espresso over it. The caramel macchiato debuted in the fall of 1996 to celebrate the store’s 25th anniversary. It was only supposed to be a temporary item, but its popularity made it a permanent fixture, to the dismay of baristas at other coffee shops.
We are very lucky to have fantastic coffee shops in Crested Butte, including Rumors Coffee & Tea, Daily Dose, Camp 4 Coffee and T-Bar. Going on coffee runs with friends or family became awkward, though, because I no longer knew how to order drinks. My first visit to each establishment started with me asking if I could order a caramel macchiato and having it explained to me that this was not, in fact, a drink. In lieu of that, I would look at the menu and pick the beverage that sounded the most absurd.
Luckily, after enough visits, I found the courage to ask if I could have something that was roughly equivalent to a Starbucks caramel macchiato, and the friendly baristas took pity on me and fixed it. This resulted in a coffee-ordering loophole. Now I can go to local coffee shops and order “the usual’’ so that I am not breaking any rules but still getting the drink I want.
However, the fault clearly rested with me, and I wanted to crack the case of how to order drinks. It turns out that a caramel macchiato is essentially the same as a caramel latte. If you want to be picky, the latte-maker pours the shot of espresso in before the milk, and the macchiato-maker does it afterwards. It also turns out that the macchiato involves both caramel and vanilla syrup while the latte only uses caramel. Therefore, the caramel latte is actually a more pure caramel experience. So for all my fellow not-coffee coffee lovers, may I please give you this morsel of advice: Shop at your local coffee shops, and order the caramel latte.
I recently went back to Chicago for the first time since I began working remotely from Crested Butte two years ago. The Starbucks that I loved in my office building is now closed. The store depended on office workers being in the building. Downtown Chicago is still quieter than it used to be; the local donut shop around the corner also closed. But my coworkers had already asked me to go on coffee runs before I even got to town. The weather was nice, so we walked up to Wacker Street and went to the Goddess and Grocer. I had to choose between the Nutella oat latte and the butterscotch popcorn latte. I got the Nutella oat latte, which was sugary and absurd and didn’t taste like coffee – the perfect drink for a coffee lover who doesn’t love coffee.
PROJECT AND EXHIBIT SHOW HOW DIFFERENT OUR VALLEY’S HISTORY LOOKS IF YOU’RE BLACK, INDIGENOUS OR A PERSON OF COLOR.
MUSEUM RESEARCHBy Remy Schultz
Editor’s note: In September 2021, Remy Schultz, registrar at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, took on a research project titled “Hidden Histories: Exploring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Past, Present and Future in the Gunnison Valley and Beyond.” The museum received a grant for the project from the Town of Crested Butte, because the council members felt it would contribute to the town’s goal of improving “diversity, equity and inclusion in its programs – maintaining an authentic and unique community and advancing the thoughtful management of our historic character.”
The exhibit will remain in the museum’s front showcase until December. You can find the report on the webpage, crestedbuttemuseum.com. Remy noted that the museum “will continue to incorporate stories of the same caliber from BIPOC individuals into future exhibits and highlight new ways to support these members of our community.”
After Remy’s extensive research, I asked her what she’d learned and how she’d been impacted by the project. This is her response.
I started to see the project as a response to the turmoil of the world at the time. A rise in police brutality, the general struggles faced by the Black community, rioting, and the following Black Lives Matter movement. Covid was still in full swing, and Asian Americans were seeing increased discrimination and violence as well (our country’s President at the time had referred to Covid-19 as “Kung flu” or “Wuhan flu”). It felt like the right time to take it all into account and reflect, research, draw comparisons to the past, think of solutions and hopefully invite readers to do the same.
After doing the research, my biggest take-away, not only from this project but about ALL of history, is that it
is still here – it is living history. A living reminder of, in this case, a dark past of segregation and oppression of Black and indigenous people and individuals of color in the valley we call home. Homes still stand in downtown Gunnison and Crested Butte that once belonged to Black men and women, or housed them as slaves to white families. Before this project I had no idea about Gunnison’s and Crested Butte’s association with the Ku Klux Klan, or that Crested Butte commonly held “black-face” minstrel shows and KKK marches (my report includes sensitive photos of some of these events). I found only white men’s accounts of the relationships between Black folks and white folks in the valley, which makes me wonder how those relationships felt from a Black perspective. My report also touches on Cora Indian relations in the valley, Spanish and Basque history, Asian American discrimination, and Ute tribes in Colorado.
By connecting current events to past discrimination of BIPOC individuals, I acknowledge that a lot has changed; however, a lot more has not. Clearly, inequality is alive and well, and Colorado needs to continue to address this. Crested Butte, a small, rural and majority-white ski town, is not exempt from these issues. By reading my report, I hope
people are inspired to act. Here are some actions to take. Find a way to do your part and educate yourself on the latest BIPOC issues in the news, because doing nothing is harmful, too. Look for credible information sources. Be an advocate and a safe place. Know that although people boast, “It’s not happening around here,” it likely is, perhaps in the form of microaggressions (avoidance, slurs, mistreatment and more). Know, too, that violence and discrimination could be taking place and going unreported due to fear or mistrust of the police force and court of law. Consider donating to the Melanin Mountain Project of Crested Butte and other organizations close to home that can make a difference.
I hope my project and exhibit have contributed in some way. When information is put into exhibition and made available to the public, readers become more aware and discover new ways to help. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen and what I hope readers will take away from the report and exhibit. Despite the “shock” of some local history that turned up, my goal is, as it has always been, to guide others to learn from the past – even the parts that are hard to swallow. It is supremely important to acknowledge what happened, bear it, learn from it, never let it happen again, and do something to spark change. b
“For a 911 call with an individual experiencing a cardiac or neurological event, as we say in this field, time is tissue. Every single second matters. A new station will dramatically improve our response time so we can save tissue in a brain or a heart.”
We need you to meet our match and help raise the final $1.5 million needed to break ground on a new station for GVH Paramedics! The Gunnison Valley Health Foundation has issued a community challenge grant to match dollar-for-dollar up to $500,000 all donations and pledges for the Seconds Save Lives $10 million capital campaign.
Jenny Birnie, Executive Director
Gunnison Valley Health Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org 970.642.8400 gunnisonvalleyhealth.org/savelives
The Gunnison Valley Health Foundation is an IRS designated nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and donations are tax deductible.
Crested Butte 970.349.5023
Steamboat Springs 970.879.9222
Telluride 970.728.3359 Vail 970.949.5500
interior landscapes that delight the senses
Crested Butte Nordic (CBN) Opening Day 12 Makers Market, Center for the Arts (CFTA) 13 Trivia Night at the Center, CFTA 14 Uncorked! Wine Class, CFTA 15 Socrates Café, CB Library 17 Novel Tea Book Club, CB Library 17 Thanksgiving Poetry & Wine, Drawing & Drinks, CFTA 21 Watercolor & Wine, CFTA 22, 29 Virtual Series: Thrilling History of Gunnison Country, CB Museum (CBM) 23 Crested Butte Mountain Resort Opening Day 24-27 Thanksgiving Nordic Camp, CBN 27 Pinnacle Orthopedics Community Race Series, CBN
Sweaty Kids Film Festival at the Majestic Theatre
13, 29 Watercolor & Wine, CFTA
CB Avalanche Center (CBAC) Avalanche Awareness Night
CBAC Beacon Brush-up
Gingerbread House Making Class, CFTA
Community Holiday Movie, CFTA
13, 20 Virtual Series: Thrilling History of Gunnison Country, CBM
Open House, CBM and Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT)
Santa Night at the Museum
Light Up the Night in Mt. Crested Butte
Pinnacle Orthopedics Community Race Series, CBN
School of Dance holiday performances
Books-n-Bars, CB Library
Christmas “Bubbles” Tasting Class, CFTA
Novel Tea Book Club, CB Library
Crested Butte Mtn. Theatre (CBMT): 50 Years of Holiday Mtn. Magic
Nordic Junior National Qualifier, CBN
Christmas Mulled Wine Tasting Class, CFTA
Polka Party with Pete Dunda, CBM
Easy Jim benefit concert for Valley Housing Fund
ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries
New Year’s Eve with Southern Avenue, CFTA
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte
3, 17 Socrates Café, CB Library 5, 15 Trivia Nights at the Center, CFTA 8 History Hour at Magic Meadows Yurt, CBM 10 Books-n-Bars, CB Library 14 ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries 14, 21 Pinnacle Orthopedics Community Race Series, CBN 19 Novel Tea Book Club, CB Library 21 Colorado Symphony at the Center, CFTA 24 Uncorked! Wine Class, CFTA 31 History Dinner at Magic Meadows Yurt, CBM
Trivia Night at the Center, CFTA
Alley Loop Nordic Marathon
Socrates Café, CB Library
Interpretive Historic Ski, CBM
Pinnacle Orthopedics Community Race Series, CBN
Chocolate-making workshop, CFTA
Books-n-Bars, CB Library
Valentine’s Poetry & Wine, CFTA
Novel Tea Book Club, CB Library
Historic Pub Crawl, CBM
ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries
Gothic Mountain Tour, CBN
Geology Youth Workshop, CBM and Trailhead Children’s Museum
Tuesdays Live Music at the Museum Wednesdays Historic Walking Tours with Glo, CBM
Trivia at the Center, CFTA
21 Socrates Café, CB Library
Interpretive Historic Ski, CBM
11 Banff Film Festival, CFTA
Books-n-Bars, CB Library
Novel Tea Book Club, CB Library
Whiskey Tasting Class, CFTA
ArtWalk at Crested Butte studios and galleries
Historic Pub Crawl, CBM
Dead Head Ed’s End of Season Party
2 Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, CBN
Socrates Café, CB Library
Flauschink season-ending celebration
Ski area closing day
Books-n-Bars, CB Library
Last week I sat in a cushy seat, chomping on popcorn and laughing with strangers at the antics on the big screen. It felt so delightfully… normal. I’m ready for that.
My husband and I used to eat out as our primary on-the-town entertainment, along with going to movies and concerts. Then the early pandemic banished us to our own kitchen for food and to our television for screen-time diversions.
For the last few years, local restaurateurs have adapted to pandemic protocols, outdoor seating alternatives and employee shortages. Our town lost some eateries and traded owners at others. Our movie theater owners had to close its doors.
Now we can celebrate good news. Some dedicated former Majestic Theatre employees created a nonprofit, worked hard to raise funds, and in September reopened the theater. Watch for current and classic movies and creative community gatherings, like the Sweaty Kids Film Festival in early December. You can even (affordably) rent one of the small theater spaces for your own event.
There’s new energy in our restaurant scene as well, with some immediate changes and others unfolding next summer and beyond. (Find a few clues in the Jeff Hermanson profile on page 34.)
Meanwhile, my husband and I are back sipping and supping at our long-time and new-found favorites. Ahhh.
CREATIVITY, MYTHS AND MAGIC FOR THE WINTERTIMEBy Mamie Rijks
COLORFUL ICE SCULPTURES
If you’re looking for an artistic way to spend the day, this simple project can bring a lot of beauty and creativity to the white winter world. All you need is food coloring, containers and water. Fill your container with water. Leave a bit of space at the top of your container. Water expands when it freezes. That means the ice you take out of your container will be bigger than the water you put in. You can try different sizes of containers so you will have a variety of ice to work with later.
Next, add some food coloring to the water. For light colors, add a little; for darker colors, add a lot. You can also mix colors to create new ones, so feel free to experiment.
When your water is a color you like, take it outside, put it in a safe place, and let it freeze overnight. Smaller containers of water will freeze faster than larger ones, so if you’ve filled a big bucket, you might need to leave it out longer to freeze all the way through.
If the ice doesn’t pop out of the container after it’s frozen, warm the outside of the container just a little. You can do this by taking the container inside for a minute or two or putting the container upside down in a sunny spot outside.
With the colorful ice out of its holder, you can use it to do all kinds of things. You can spread smaller pieces of ice on the snow to draw pictures or write your name. Or use the ice to mark a path. You can even build sculptures by packing snow between the pieces of ice or using a drop of water as glue.
If you don’t have food coloring, don’t worry. You can still make beautiful ice sculptures with the natural color of ice that will sparkle in the sunlight.
Since it’s important to keep our hands safe and warm, please use waterproof gloves when working with water and ice outside in the cold.
MYSTICAL CREATURES OF THE SNOW
AND ICE *
While most of us know there are all kinds of winter animals in the world, such as polar bears and snow hares, have you ever heard of these magical winter creatures?
The Barbegazi is a friendly little dwarf dressed in white with a long white beard. What makes him special are his feet. His feet are extra long, so he can use them to ski down the mountains where he lives. The Barbegazi only comes out in the winter. In the summer, he lives in caves and tunnels in the mountains.
The Amaroq is a giant wolf who helped a boy grow taller and stronger by letting the boy wrestle his tail time and time again – until the boy was strong enough to overpower three large bears and gain the respect of his village.
The last of our magical winter creatures is the Saumen Kar. This sevenfoot-tall giant is covered in white fur and has twisted black horns. While these beasts sound scary, they aren’t. They spend most of their time watching humans from afar and then telling other Saumen Kar their stories about the humans. If you ever come across a Saumen Kar, chances are you won’t remember. The Saumen Kar have the magical power to make humans and animals forget that they’ve ever seen the mythical creatures.
When you’re outside in winter you can see who has wandered past your home by looking at the footprints in the snow. You can recognize a bird’s footprint from its little lines or a dog’s footprint by the circle of its paws. However, did you know that you can leave behind footprints that aren’t your own?
You can use your feet to stomp the snow down into the shape of a huge footprint that a T-Rex would have made while searching for its dinner. Or use a toothpick to draw the tiny footprints of a fairy that landed on your windowsill to look inside.
You can use your fist to make the large circle of an Amaroq paw and your thumb to make the smaller circles around the edges. With a stick, try making the footprints of a Barbegazi walking through the snow while he looks for a good slope to ski. b
* These snow-loving creatures come from the mythology of different cultures. The Amaroq and Saumen Kar are Inuit, and the Barbegazi is Swiss/French.