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John Denver Peak proposed



CARBONDALE, Colo. - Mt. Sopris, although far from the highest peak in Colorado, is one of its most sublime. There's a neat symmetry to its broad shoulders and the 2,000 metres of vertical relief from the valley floor makes it seem much higher than its 4,000-metre elevation, 668 th highest in Colorado.

College professor J.P. McDaniel thinks a portion of the twin-summited mountain should be named after the late singer John Denver. He died in 1997.

"I didn't want just any mountain," said J.P. McDaniel, a college professor who has a doctorate in ecopsychology, which seeks to link ecology and psychology. She told the Aspen Times that Sopris is a fitting mountain not just because of its beauty and magnificence, but also because it overlooks a 1,000-acre tract of land that Denver helped preserve.

Denver in 1972 composed his signature song "Rocky Mountain High" from a lake located on a shoulder of the mountain.

Sopris has two summits at identical elevations 800 metres apart. McDaniel proposes to name just the eastern summit after Denver. She has collected 1,000 names to submit to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, the ultimate arbiter. The agency sometimes accedes to such proposals, but almost never without support of local jurisdictions. The peak is located within Pitkin County, officials have not yet been consulted, the Times reports.

Ironically, Sopris is named after a mayor of Denver and Denver - the musician - took his name from the city. Richard Sopris was mayor from 1878 to 1881, but in 1860 had led a prospecting expedition to the Roaring Fork Valley, which led to the naming of the peak in his honour.

The website for proponents of the change is


What exactly constitutes a small mountain town?

SALIDA, Colo. - With a whole string of 4,000 metre peaks in the background and a ski area, Monarch, about 30 kilometres away, Salida certainly qualifies as a mountain town. It is, asserted Mayor Chuck Rose at a recent meeting, "the last great mountain town."

But what constitutes a small town?

That question was recently posed to council members, and the Mountain Mail reports varied responses.

"A small town comes out of people caring for other people," said Councilman Tom Yerkey.

No one is anonymous in a small town, said Councilman Jay Moore.

Most everything is within in walking or hiking distance, said another councilman.

Salida has 5,000 people, a figure that has not substantially changed in the last century, although the blue-collared enterprises that sustained the community for most of that time have now largely disappeared, replaced by art galleries and other elements of the recreation and leisure economy.


Mandarin coming to school

AVON, Colo. - In August, 100 students at Battle Mountain High School are scheduled to begin lessons in Mandarin, the official language of the People's Republic of China.

A branch of the Chinese government called the Confucius Institute sponsors Mandarin instruction in American schools and colleges. The cost of the teacher at Battle Mountain will run $60,000, when both salary and benefits are tabulated. The Chinese government picks up the largest share, reports the Vail Daily.

Another local school, Eagle Valley High School, expects 60 students to study Chinese when instruction begins next year.


Greenhouses under study

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - The locovore food movement continues to move along, its adherents convinced we must abandon our chemically intensive production of food that is then shipped an average of 2,000 kilometres to consumer.

Two groups, Planet Yampa and Community Agriculture Alliance, have won a $50,000 federal grant to study whether it would be feasible to build 12 greenhouses in the Steamboat Springs-Craig area. The vision is to use hydroponics, or water-growing techniques, powered by clean energy sources, to produce fruits and vegetables.

All of this is at elevations of about 2,000-metres in an area with summers hot enough for rattlesnakes but too short to grow corn or watermelons.

Nancy Kramer, from the Agriculture Alliance, told Steamboat Today that the idea taps into the growing desire of people to know where their food comes from.


Pagosa studies geothermal

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. - A study has been authorized to better understand the extent of the geothermal resource at Pagosa Springs. The hot water is already tapped for use in an outdoor pool and spa, The Springs Resort, and to heat a portion of the downtown district.

The new study, funded by $30,000 from Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County, seeks to better understand whether there's enough hot water underground to heat greenhouses, grow fish, and perhaps expand the existing space-heating system, reports the Pagosa Sun .


New hot springs

REDSTONE, Colo. - Colorado has another hot springs, and unlike one planned at Ridgway several years ago, this one is at least partly natural.

There always has been a hot springs along the Crystal River between Carbondale and Redstone, called Penny Hot Springs. But several years ago, Chuck Ogilby and his family decided to find out if they could exploit the subterranean pool of hot water at a new location, a resort they own called the Avalanche Ranch.

A 60 metre well struck a vein of water, which is now running 37.7 °C. It is diverted into a tiered set of three pools, each at a different temperature. Some electric heating is also used to boost the pool water to a maximum of 39 °C, explains the Glenwood Springs Post Independent .


Electric cars plugged in Summit County

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - Will electric cars make any headway in ski towns? Aspen for several years has had charging stations at its town-parking garage. Vail and Whistler have a few charging stations, too.

But even if towns and shopping complexes install charging stations, will people use them? That's been a broad question across North America. Auto dealers tell the Summit Daily News that while plenty of people want improved fuel efficiency, there's been no demand for electric cars. Just the same, a local dealer plans to take possession of Ford's all-electric car, the Focus.

Electric cars cost significantly more, and they have limited range, typically 64-kilometres. It takes about eight hours to fully recharge a depleted battery using the 120-volt plugs used in homes for stoves and refrigerators. Aided by a federal program, San Diego, Portland and other cities have been busily installing new 240-volt and 440-volt stations, and Vancouver, B.C., now requires that new developments be outfitted with the infrastructure for charging stations.


Banff supports GranFondo

BANFF, Alberta - The town council in Banff has thrown its support behind a new road cycling event in Banff National Park planned for next year. GranFondo Canada hosts similar road rides at Whistler and, this year, in Kananaskis Country. The proposed race would cover 145 kilometres and would attract 1,500 riders in its first year, building to upwards of 5,000, organizers say.


Bikers, dogs barred from Banff trail

BANFF, Alberta - Dogs and mountain bikers are banned this summer from a shoreline trail along Lake Minnewanka, located in Banff National Park.

Hikers will still be allowed, but this year they will be required to take bear spray. They had previously been required to travel in tightly spaced groups no smaller than four people.

Provoking the new restrictions were three or four surprise grizzly bear encounters with cyclists in the past few years, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook . All involved female bears with cubs.

Why ban mountain bikers altogether while leaving hikers continued freedom? Steve Michel, the human-wildlife conflict specialist at Banff, explained that bicycles travel more rapidly than hikers, thus elevating the potential for a surprise encounter.

Doug Topp, a director of the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance, said the scientific evidence justified the summer-only restriction and pointed out that all other trails in the valley remained open.



Grizzly bears expand

JACKSON, Wyo. - Grizzly bears have significantly expanded their range from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Some bears have been seen hundreds of miles away, south of Lander, Wyo., and at Dillon, Mont., even in the desert country of the Bighorn Basin, located southeast of Yellowstone.

Bear biologists tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide they think the Yellowstone region now has 1,000 grizzlies, compared to an estimated 224 in 1975. The range has nearly quadrupled. They also say they suspect most of the bears in the more distant outposts are young males.

Conservationists hope for even more expansion of terrain. Mark Pearson, conservation program director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said ultimately populations of grizzly bears in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks should be connected.


Road through Glacier finally opens

WHITEFISH, Mont. - If all goes as planned, the entire 80 kilometres of the thrilling Going-to-the-Sun Highway that traverses Glacier National Park are to be opened July 13. In early June, the road looked more like it usually does in April. A heavily drifted area at Logan Pass as of early July was still nine metres deep, reports the Whitefish Pilot .

Post bark beetle a mystery

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - There's been little talk lately about the bark beetle epidemic that is expected to kill up to 90 per cent of lodgepole pine forests in Colorado. Maybe that's because people are accustomed to the sight of rusty red and then gray forests.

But what will come next?  Since the epidemic began in 1996, "next" is already arriving in many places of northern Colorado, in the area around Winter Park, Summit County and Vail.

And the answer, says Ph.D. candidate Kristen Pelz of Colorado State University, is that there is no one thing. She arrives at that vague answer after having studied the transitions after a bark beetle epidemic in the early 1980s in Colorado.

"Understanding the future forest condition has a lot of variables on whether the seed germinates and whether trees grow," she said recently at a luncheon covered by the Summit Daily News . "There's not a simple answer."

In some areas, meadows have formed where lodgepole pine forests once were. Other areas have seen conifers.

The bottom line: more diversity in species once this outbreak calms, trees are removed or the dead trees simply fall down, as is now starting to occur.

Also pertinent may be wildfire. While there's no more danger of fire now with the standing dead trees than there is with a green forest, that will change as the trees fall. If the deadfall burns, the intense heat could potentially sterilize the soil or make it hydrophobic, meaning not much will grow for a long time. But even if there is no fire, the thicket of logs could prevent much from happening.


Real estate sales accelerate

ASPEN, Colo. - Aspen's real estate market continues to recover, but especially at the high end. That said, those properties that are moving typically are discounted 10 to 15 per cent, some as much as 20 per cent.

Andrew Ernemann of B.J. Adams & Co. tells The Aspen Times that one of every four sales of single-family homes in Aspen so far this year has been for $10 million or more. He reports a 51 per cent increase in transactions during the first half of this year and a 44 per cent increase in dollar volume as compared with the first half of 2010.

Bob Starodoj, of Mason Moore Real Estate, said many buyers are from Europe, and not all are Russians. He further identified buyers from Mexico and Brazil, as well as Australia and New Zealand - all drawn, at least in part, by the exchange rates that favor them.

Sales activity at Snowmass Village, a few miles away, lags that of Aspen by six to 12 months, Ernemann estimated. "Prices have slipped further from 2010 levels, but are showing signs of leveling," he said.

A further lag effect is noted farther away in Basalt. The rate of foreclosures this year there and in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs is nearly at the same pace as last year, the Times reports. In short, prices are still dropping.

One curious phenomenon noted by the realty agents is that some of the distressed sales, such as the victims of the Bernie Madoff scam, have now sold their houses, and other sellers who could afford to be more patient have now started listing their properties.


Snow slows backcountry ventures

JACKSON, Wyo. - If much less so than in June, rivers remain high and the high mountains still patched with expanses of snow. And that's a problem for any number of outfitters and guides who rely upon a different seasonal sequence.

"For us being a fishing business, people aren't walking in the store if they can't fish," said Rob Parkins, guide at Westbank Anglers, to the Jackson Hole News&Guide .

The Snake River, he explained, is too high and dirty for trout fishing.

From Colorado comes the same complaint. "A lot of guys are working on their golf game," said Dave Johnson, who owns the Crystal Fly Shop in Carbondale, west of Aspen.

The Aspen Times reports that snow and high water of creeks may preclude hikes on high-country trails for several more weeks, including the popular trek between Crested Butte and Aspen. And even those willing to posthole through high-elevation snow may properly turn back from crossing streams and creeks that remain dangerously swollen with fast-moving and icy cold runoff.

For the motorized crowd, life is no better.  Forest Service Rangers say many roads contain snow, water or mud, and often all three.

For rafters, it's a mixed bag. In Wyoming, a rafting guide says tourists have been cancelling trips because they've heard that boats have been capsizing in the Snake River.

In the Aspen area, as well as near Vail, however, boaters may be able to provide thrilling rides through July on nearby rivers that by now often are reduced to a rubble of rocks.