Archive for the ‘General’ Category

You can go by Zike-Bike if you like

June 8, 2010

OK. So I rode something that doesn’t have long ears. And with all due respect to Dr. Seuss, it was great fun.

Today we received a used Trek Mountain Train tag-a-long bike, a gift from The Great Divide in Pueblo and one of the store’s customers. We had told Harrison we were getting a “Zike-Bike,” which you might recall from “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now.”  I immediately hooked it up to one of my mountain bikes and we gave it a try on the dirt roads around the house.

Boy howdy — talk about having to learn how to ride a bike all over again! Remember, I’m a 50-year old fossil and have a hard enough time keeping my own self upright on two feet. Keeping a 45-pound autistic boy (he doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of shifting his weight around, and pedaling is entirely optional for him), plus another half of a bike, balanced on three wheels is, well, let’s just call it a reawakening of the senses of balance and danger.

Back and forth we pedaled on the flat dirt road southwest of the property. Then I tried the cul-de-sac, and even managed to negotiate the turn there without putting a foot down in the soft dirt. Harrison thought the ride was a blast, particularly when we hit bumps in the road.

It was actually a lot of fun for me, too, especially once I began to relax. My visions of cruising the nearby Adobe Peak forest roads may be a ways off, but I think this thing’s going to be a great addition. Still, at this point I must admit I’m more confident on the back of a donkey.

Time sure does fly

April 20, 2010

My son Harrison’s 6th birthday is today. It’s amazing to think back over these past years. Time sure does fly. Oddly, this morning when I went to check on the animals I found a fresh-born calf standing next to its mother.

I also recalled today something I had written shortly after Harrison’s birth. It seems so long ago, yet just like yesterday. Check it out and Happy Birthday, Harrison: The Arrival of Harrison Jake.

Collecting thoughts over spring break

April 5, 2010

Easter Sunday kayaking on Dry Lake at Bear Basin Ranch.

OK. OK. All right, already. No, I didn’t turn 50 and run off into the sunset. The truth is I just haven’t had a collected thought in, well, more than a week. Give me a break. I can join AARP now.

It’s been spring break. Without much of the spring. Although during this staycation we did enjoy two trips to Pueblo Reservoir to check out the trails there with our burros. What a great trail system, with lots of Southwestern scenery, tall sandstone rimrock and not really a lot of people. The thermometer hit 83 there one day and 78 the next.

And then spring was over.

We lasted out the rest of the week battling the mud and the wind and the actual running and standing water.

For Éostre there was a little break in the weather. I got in a good run and then decided to try something we hadn’t done locally before — kayaking. There’s a little pothole called Dry Lake that holds water in some of the wetter years. This spring it’s about as full of snowmelt as I remember ever seeing it in 19 winters.

So we loaded up the boat and drove the couple miles over to Dry Lake. There I put on my leaky fishing waders and pulled Harrison around in the kayak. He thought that was just great fun.

Of course, I had to get in the boat and paddle around Dry Lake, too. Just to say I’ve kayaked in this place that many would think never holds water. I may be 50 now but I’m not exactly what you would call a grownup.

Snowy perch

March 24, 2010

An American magpie (pheasantus westclifficus) waits to make its next foray into the barn for cat food on a snowy spring day.

Sangre photography, The Nightsider, Taxarado

March 18, 2010

Horn Peak viewed from Willow Lane southwest of Westcliffe.

It’s tough to get a really bad photo of the Sangre de Cristo range. But it might be tougher still to get a really good shot. I’ve photographed these mountains for years and have found they are terribly difficult to capture. What you see with your eyes is rarely what you record on your camera.

From a distance the mountains are so dramatic it’s tempting to overzoom trying to bring them in closer. This poses two problems, the first being that fakey telephoto look, the second being the more you zoom, the more peaks you lose out the sides of your photo. On the other hand, get too close to these mountains and they may be even more elusive.

Lighting is almost always tricky. Truly crisp days are few and far between. Clouds can be finicky though often add much to a scenic. And then there’s composition. Sure, the mountains are beautiful by themselves, but it often takes a fenceline, cows, a windmill, horses or a grove of trees in the foreground to make a snapshot into a real photograph. On the other hand, it’s amazing how many houses, powerlines, jet contrails and other noise can get in the way of some really nice frames.

I was bummed out to learn this week that my friend and former Pueblo Chieftain co-worker Stan Nelson has decided to discontinue his blog, The Nightsider. I often found value in what Stan had to say, and so his site and insight will be missed.

It’s distressing to see people putting “Taxarado” bumper stickers on their vehicles. Their point being that Colorado residents pay excessive taxes. The truth is Coloradans pay the fourth lowest per-capita taxes in the nation. If you want lower taxes maybe you belong in New Hampshire, Texas or South Dakota. The real problem is we’ve had 1.5 million new residents move into Colorado over the past two decades and we’ve not done a good job reinvesting in infrastructure or planning for education. Sooner or later the chickens come home to roost.

Meanwhile Colorado ranks dead last among the 50 states in average pay for teachers. Even the three states with lower taxes pay their teachers better. What’s wrong with this picture?

Late winter in the Sangres

March 11, 2010

A late winter view of the Sangre de Cristo range from the Wet Mountain Valley south of Westcliffe. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Of elk, cats, mud, ice, and a great old guy

March 6, 2010

We’ve had bands of elk roaming through the area all winter. This little herd was spotted near here this evening. They’ll hang around for the next couple months, then begin to follow the snowline up the surrounding mountains.

It’s been a somewhat peculiar week here at Hardscrabble Times, beginning with the previously mentioned encounter with a suspected bobcat in the barn, and the subsequent disappearance of all the barn cats. There had been at least a half-dozen of the critters living there before the wild cat showed up. Today, one of the barn cats, gray with tiger stripes, returned to the tack room. Maybe the little monster is gone.

The gathering sunlight and warmer days have brought a literal groundswell of mud and ice, a mixed blessing. The warmer temperatures make almost everything I do easier. But the mud and ice are both serious annoyances.

Friday I attended a memorial service for Oscar “Ole” Olson. Ole had been a neighbor of my wife’s family in Pueblo for many years. He and his wife Alice, who died in 2005, are credited with leading many camping, skiing, rafting, fishing and other outdoor excursions for both families. In fact, I once went on one of these famous campouts with Ole and Alice at Alvarado Campground near Westcliffe in the early 1980s.

When I first met Ole back in the early ‘80s and told him I was involved in pack-burro racing, he told me about when he was working for the Colorado Department of Transportation on Highway 9 near Fairplay one summer and watched the race from Breckenridge to Fairplay over Hoosier Pass.

I was new at the sport and hadn’t delved much into its history at the time. I thought perhaps he was mistaken, since the race actually goes up Mosquito Pass, and I knew that it once had been point-to-point between Leadville and Fairplay. I was polite and just nodded.

Many years later while researching my book “Pack-Burro Stories” I found that Ole was right after all — the race actually was held between Breckenridge and Fairplay over Hoosier Pass for three years 1969-1971. The race finished in Breck in 1970, so he must have been there either in ’69 or ‘71.

Ole was born in the mining camp of Primero, near Trinidad. He was a World War II vet, a CU grad, and a civil engineer with both CDOT and CF&I. He was also, I must add, a great old guy.

His passing is yet another reminder that life is short. We should all strive to be remembered as vividly as Ole.

Colder than cold

February 23, 2010

It’s been cold this winter for sure — minus 1 this morning. But there seems to be something else going on below the mercury line on the thermometer, with things freezing up that people have never seen freeze before.

Steller’s jay (quailius westcliffius)

Sure we’ve had a few spells of below-zero weather. But the coldest I can remember seeing is 8 below zero. This is not unusual — we usually see a couple nights of double-digit minus temperatures during a winter.

However, the freezing point seems different.

Gary Ziegler reported a frozen spring at Bear Basin Ranch that he’s never seen freeze since he bought the place in 1972.

My friend Vanessa Taft, who has lived in the area for many years, reported her septic tank frozen. I later learned of a local business that has steam-defrosted 65 septic tanks in the area this winter, surely a record of some sort.

My friend Peter Hedberg had the water line to his barn freeze. Another first.

Many area roads display effects of severe frost-heaving, and a literal glacier several feet thick has form on a nearby creekbed.

Meanwhile, I’ve been breaking ice on two stock tanks with electric de-icers in them. Never seen this happen before.

So, why is all this stuff freezing when it’s not even been, relatively speaking, that cold? Are the thermometers wrong? Is there some other factor beside temperature at work?

Perhaps hell has frozen over and climate change is not something we can quantify with our little glass tubes full of liquid or our fancy digital devices.

Bare Trees

February 21, 2010

When a dog pukes bluish green

February 19, 2010

Could anything else possibly go wrong around here? Today, while I was in Pueblo getting a painful tooth filling refilled, Mary took the dogs on a walk with Harrison over to our new neighbors’ new building. They don’t actually live here and have indicated it’s OK for us to walk over there. They put up this barn to store belongings, but we didn’t know they also had set out a lot of mouse poison outside around the building.

Unfortunately our dogs got into it.

When I arrived home to this story I called area veterinarian Kit Ryff, and he gave me instructions over the phone. We induced vomiting in both dogs by giving them a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. Then we waited to look at the results. Soon both dogs barfed.

Ted the rat terrier threw up dog food that was a normal color. However, Sam the big shepherd mix, puked bluish-green, which meant he had consumed a significant dose of the poison.

Since Kit was in Salida and would not be back until later in the evening, I called another local vet, Julie Sperry. She suggested one more round of peroxide for Sam. This time he hurled a whitish bile, indicating he had thrown up most of the poison the first go-round.

All that was left to do was drive to town and pick up some vitamin K pills, which Sam will have to take for the next few days.

While we’re hoping our dogs will be OK, I’m also wondering why the sale of rat poison is allowed, period. Sure, it’s their property, but clearly their use of this poison is careless and the effects reach beyond property lines. Our dogs found it, and what wildlife other than mice might have gotten into this poison? Worse yet, what if a child gets into it?