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Sunday, november 21, 2010 ❘ the gazette ❘



mountain: Defender of name says liberal residents are trying to impose their will on the community from page 1 —

When the expedition of surveyor Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden came through the San Luis Valley in 1873, he named a mountain here after Kit Carson, who had died five years before. In 1878, competing surveyor Lt. George Wheeler named it Frustum Peak. Nobody told the pioneers who settled in its shadow in the 1880s. They named their town Crestone and have always called the peak that dominates the skyline Crestone Peak, said Kizzen Laki, town councilwoman, former mayor and publisher of the monthly Crestone Eagle newspaper. “Pretty much since the town of Crestone was settled in the late 1800s, the big mountain that kind of looms over Crestone was called Crestone Peak, and the two mountains to the south of there were called The Needles,” she said. Fourteener Crestone Peak is south of Kit Carson. Keno Menechino contends the old maps show Kit Carson Peak in a different location and Crestone Peak as the name of the mountain above town, and the U.S. Geological Survey got it wrong when it officially declared the mountain’s name in 1906. A longtime Manitou Springs resident, he sold his marketing business and moved to Crestone eight years ago. He learned of the name controversy when he wrote an article in the Eagle, calling it Kit Carson, and got angry phone calls. So he submitted a petition to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to rename it. He said when hikers pass through town, they get confused because locals call the mountain Crestone, not Kit Carson. Anyone may petition to have a geographic feature named or renamed. Menechino has also asked that the summit be renamed Tranquility Peak.

Mystical mountain

Crestone is not your typical mountain town. Drive beyond the tiny quaint downtown and you’ll notice shrines poking above the pines. Living here are Carmelite monks, Hindus, Buddhists, Zen devotees, Indian yogis and many other

The area around Crestone and Kit Carson Mountain has long been known as a spiritual zone that is friendly to all followers of Eastern religions. They set up temples after a developer whose housing subdivision plans failed offered free land to religious groups. The newcomers from around the world have given Crestone a decidedly New Age feel. People you meet are as likely to talk about vibration and energy as the weather. You can dine at the Bliss Cafe or channel your loved ones’ spirits with a local medium. Few residents own televisions. “They’re not from our community. They’re from Chicago and New York. They live in another world. They come here and camp out and go away eventually, hopefully,” said Fred Bauder, a former attorney who lived here as a child and moved back 25 years ago. While he says the spiritual movement has been good for Crestone, he sees the renaming drive an effort by the liberal element to impose its will on the community. He submitted a counterpetition to the government, asking to change the mountain’s name to Kit Carson Peak. “For a man of his time, the 1860s, he was generous, knowledgeable and he did good work for the govern-


Crestone resident Keno Menechino says when hikers pass through town they get confused because locals call the mountain Crestone, not Kit Carson. ment. It wasn’t his idea to pacify the Navajo. The government told him to do it,” Bauder said. “It was a different time, and he really

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Menechino said he is not motivated by dislike for Carson, though he is no apologist. “He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Native Americans on the Long Walk. You could say he was acting on orders, but look at the Nazis carrying out orders under Hitler. Were they pardoned for it?” he said. He believes mountaineers and the Forest Service oppose renaming because they would have to change their maps and guidebooks, and notes that two other nearby points were changed in the past 25 years, Challenger Point in 1985 and Columbia Point in 2003, in honor of the two space shuttles. And he disputes the notion that a community can’t decide what a feature owned by the American public is named. “In a way, it is our mountain. No, we don’t own it and the mountain is for everybody. We should have a say. It’s our landmark. It’s what we’ve been calling it for 130 years,” he said. The 18-member Board of Geographic Names is expected to vote on the name change in Washington, D.C., within the next few months.

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needs to be judged by the standards of his time.” He is joined by the Colorado Mountain Club and the U.S. Forest Service, who

want to keep the name, not out of respect for Carson, but to avoid confusion. Two other popular fourteeners nearby have Crestone in the name: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. “Kit Carson Mountain is very well-known among Colorado hikers and climbers. Changing the name would cause confusion in the area, not only for the public but to firefighting and search-andrescue operations,” said Mike Blakeman, spokesman for Rio Grande National Forest. Dan Anderson, chair of the Colorado Mountain Club’s toponymics committee, noted Pikes Peak was once named Grand Peak. “Should we rename it Grand Peak? If we did, would some child in school 80 years from now ask the question, ‘Where is Pikes Peak?,’ when he learns of the phrase ‘Pikes Peak or Bust?’” he said. “We can lose a bit of history when we change names or, at least, make learning it more difficult.” An informal survey of mountaineers on the website shows 13 people in favor of renaming and 172 against.


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types of religions. A Buddhist shrine called the Jangchub Chorten Stupa of Enlightenment is south of Crestone.

support the change. “I like it. That’s what we call it anyway,” said Lynn Drake, owner of the Clay Art Studio. “Only people who are new to town call it (Kit Carson.) It’s just Crestone Mountain,” said high school student Leif Swordy. “It always seemed really weird that we call the mountain we can see from town Kit Carson and call the mountain we can’t see from town Crestone Peak,” Jeremiah Bayes said. But Matthew Clark, who is new to town, called the renaming “ridiculous.” “To have all the names of the different peaks Crestone would create a lot of confusion,” he said. “We have Crestone Peak, back behind this one, and Crestone Needle, so we already have mountains named Crestone something.” Anne Kelly has reasons for wanting the renaming. “I don’t know who Kit Carson was, but the vibration doesn’t feel right to me. The energy doesn’t feel right to me,” she said.

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