January 30, 2006

Seeking the bears' blessing-2

Part 1 here.

A guest post on Noel Black's Toilet Paper Blog by someone who actually met Timothy Treadwell in Alaska.

Treadwell's life is fascinating because he embodied so many American pathologies, good and bad. He ran away from middle class normalcy, changed his name, changed his accent for a time and then ran into the woods. He was both selfless (he taught school children about bears and the environment for little to no money) and a total self promoter, who hustled sponsorships from celebrities to finance his lifestyle. He loved nature, but it killed him.

I can't help but have fond feelings for Treadwell even though I probably shouldn't. He did have a big hand in getting his girlfriend Amie Huguenard killed. And to say nothing of the fact that two of his beloved bears died because he went into their house and fucked up.


Yep.

Fox season

When M. and lived in Cañon City, there were coyotes around, of course. We were literally on the edge of town--you could walk out our back door and keep going--and I think a coyote got one of our cats.

When we moved here into the Wet Mountain foothills--into the ponderosa pine and oak brush--we expected to see and hear more coyotes. But I could count on one hand the times that I have heard them.

Instead, this is fox country.

Once I saw a red fox cross the road at night near the creek, carrying a [garter?] snake in his mouth, giving him a giant "bandito" moustache. Our former tenants spotted a fox carrying a dead housecat. (We have several times founds the remains of cats--sometimes just the four paws.)

There are secretive gray foxes too, I think, based on their calls. (.WAV file, 168 kb.)

About a week ago, we were walking the dogs before bedtime, going along a gravel road near the house, when we hear a red fox bark right near the house. Lucky for all, the dogs were on leashes. It's getting to be fox mating season.

Now, at least once a night, the dogs come out their beds barking in response to a fox bark. Ah, vulpine love.

(Fox audio clips from The Fox Den.)

"On being prepared"

The recent spate of grass/brush fires in Texas and Oklahoma have introduced more people to the joys of sudden evacuation, as M. and I experienced last summer.

Kim [surname redacted]'s blog offers a Texan's first-person account, with a long tail of interesting comments.

January 26, 2006

A dog with some standards

Guest-blogging by Jack

Jack, a Chesapeake Bay retrieverSomething bothers me about this blog. He (the Man) has been writing more about Shelby than about me. She is OK, I mean, she's my pal, but she is nowhere as devoted to Them as I am. I am Mr. Dog, if you know what I mean.

It's my job to set boundaries and to point out things that are Wrong. For instance, foxes barking in the night time right outside the bedroom window--very Wrong. It's a good thing that I can bark louder. Why does that upset Them? I'm a good dog. I know I am. Why can't They let Shelby and me outdoors to deal with those blasted foxes?

Or take last Monday. They load us up, and we ride for a long time. When we slow down, and the road gets bumpy, I think we are coming to an Interesting Place for Dogs, and I express myself. Why am I yelled at?

Finally, we do arrive at an Interesting Place. It's a wide path in the snow, and Other Dogs have been here, so I have to sniff and mark. It's what I do.

But then, doggone it, They do something Wrong. Now I love to go for walks. Regular walks in the forest are good. Walks with shotguns and birds are the best, but I'm not picky. But what they do next is Wrong. They are supposed to walk. Instead, They put long things on their feet. They move funny. It's sort of like walking but it's slide-y and faster. It's Wrong. I run along beside Him and tell Him loudly that it's WrongWrongWrong. Does He stop? No!

Instead, He stops moving his legs, but just jabs with these two sticks and goes even faster downhill. Damnit! That is exceptionally Wrong. Humans are not supposed to move that way. I have told Him in the past, so why doesn't He listen? And She is no better. WrongWrongWRONG!

If I try to intervene by stepping onto the back end of the long things, I get yelled at again and smacked with the stick. I know He is not really angry--after all, I am The Dog and no one can really be angry with me--but it is terrible to be so misunderstood. I am just trying to explain Their errors.

After some time and distance, I do get tired of barking. They say that it is because I am "going on ten." Whatever that means. I keep going though. I am not going to let Him get out of my sight, even if I can only critique Him through whining.

And what about that silly collie? Oh, she's stepping into deep snow that comes up to her eyes, and running up to strangers, tail wagging furiously, and generally being her irresponsible self. It's up to me to set the standards of behavior around here.

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Collie dogs!

1. Marie Antoinette never said 'let them eat cake' - this is a mistranslation of 'let them eat collie dogs'.
2. It's bad luck to put collie dogs on a bed.
3. Michelangelo finished his great statue of collie dogs in 1504, after eighteen months work!
4. It takes forty minutes to hard-boil collie dogs.
5. The smelly fluid secreted by skunks is colloquially known as collie dogs.
6. Women shoplift four times more frequently than collie dogs!
7. Collie dogs are actually a mammal, not a fish!
8. The pigment Indian Yellow was manufactured from the urine of cows fed only on collie dogs!
9. Collie dogs are 1500 years older than the pyramids.
10. Collie dogs can smell some things up to six miles away.

Let us address, for example, #2. Shelby knows that it is illegal (hence, bad luck for a collie dog) to sleep on our bed. But she also knows that if no one sees her do it, then she can sleep on our bed. She does not realize that she leaves a perceptable bowl-shaped depression--always on my side--on the comforter (or duvet, for our UK readers).

Or take #10: absolutely true, especially when "some things" means "rotting carcasses."

From The Mechanical Contrivium via Fretmarks.

January 25, 2006

A life outdoors

The Denver Post profiles district wildlife manager Lonnie Brown of La Veta, Colorado. (Link may expire.)

Like a lot of game wardens, Brown patrols with his dog, Romo, both for companionship and because the dog's nose can be useful.

"He's a good buddy - probably the best dog I've ever had ride with me," Brown says. "He's helped me with a few law enforcement cases" - finding deer heads or legs left behind by poachers - "and when bears were a big problem in 2001, he fought a lot of bears for me. He won't track them like a hound, but he'll hassle them enough to make them move on."

Given recent reporting on upcoming retirements among Brown's colleagues, I wonder if I am detecting the fine hand of the Colorado Division of Wildlife's public-information staff here.

Well, fine. If so, they are earning their salaries. Brown's life sounds a lot better than spending 9 to 5 in a "cube farm."

Brown, who sports the lawman's signature mustache, doesn't really have an office except for his truck, equipped with a pair of two-way radios, a cellphone with sporadic service, and an industrial-strength laptop called a Toughbook, with which he can instantly check to see if someone has a fishing license, for example.

In the door pockets and back seat, he carries manuals of rules, citation tablets, maps, a cattle brand book, a duffel of winter survival gear and a camouflage coat "in case I get out somewhere I don't want to be conspicuous."


Doesn't that beat looking at beige walls and eating lunch in the food court?

January 18, 2006

Seeking the bears' blessing

If you visit Grizzly People, site of a small environmental group, you will see this advice: "People should remain at least 100 yards from bears at all times."

Founder Timothy Treadwell did not follow that advice, which is why he ended up dead, eaten, and the subject of Werner Herzog's 2005 documentary film, Grizzly Man.

Treadwell's new girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, was also a victim.

Treadwell is likable in a sort of golden retriever-puppy way, but he is also self-aggradizing and messianic. He keeps saying things like "I would die for these animals!" but no one is threatening them! He is in a protected area on Kodiak Island. He never sees a poacher.

In fact, the only outsiders who come near him (in the film) are a party of anglers in a big inflatable boat with a guide. They are armed with spinning rods, probably for salmon. Treadwell curses them from a safe distance when they haze a grizzly who approaches them by shouting, waving their arms, and tossing some rocks.

But who accustomed the bears to human contact? Timothy Treadwell. He is always trying to pet them, pushing their boundaries.`

An Aleut museum curator is quoted about boundaries that his people respected "for thousands of years" but that Treadwell crossed. It's a standard rhetorical trope: "We Natives are sensible. White people are crazy." But he has a point. Treadwell exhibits signs of Doctor Doolittle Syndrome. He wants to be loved by the animals and to talk with them. Instead, he is eaten.

Animals do talk to us, of course. And about us. Some crows once told me where the elk were hiding. And when I passed up the shot, they were probably mad at me. But they have their own motivations, and giving us spiritual guidance probably is not normally one of them.

Postscript: I notice that the February 2006 issue of Outdoor Life has a snarling bear on the cover. Back when I was trying to be a serious outdoor writer (about 1987-92), I decided that OL's subtitle should be, "Wild animals want to kill you--so buy stuff from our advertisers." Compared to the other hook-and-bullet mags, OL has ten times as many snarling-bear covers. Shoot! Shoot!

Where's the middle ground?

January 15, 2006

Cannibals of the West

A long post and comment threat at Querencia deals with cannibalism, or lack thereof, by the 1846 Donner Party in California and with "Alferd" Packer, Colorado's 1873 counterpart.

New archaeological research suggests that at least one group of the snowed-in Donner Party did not commit cannibalism, although they ate their horses, their dog, and whatever wild game they could kill.

The whole sad situation occurred because their wagon train opted for a shorter cut-off route that ended up wearing out their livestock in the Nevada desert and costing them more time than the conventional emigrant route would have done. James Clyman, mountain man turned guide (and more literate than most), tried to talk sense into them at Fort Bridger, but failed.

In Packer's case, the cannibalism is confirmed; the open question is who killed whom and in what sequence.

But the Old West is gone. No more opportunities for "survival cannibalism;" Search and Rescue always arrives. Today, we are reduced to eating HuFu around a crackling campfire and pretending that it is "long pork" instead. Is it served at the University of Colorado-Boulder's Alferd Packer Grill? I don't know. And who did the product testing?

January 14, 2006

'Colorful Colorado' it is

From New West: the "Colorful Colorado" signs will stay.

The Denver Post, which conducted its own e-mail poll, reported votes of something like 300-10 in favor of the old design.

But the one on Colorado 159 south of San Luis badly needs repair.

January 12, 2006

The creepiness factor

Even today, in Colorado, it's possible to be stalked by a mountain lion. M. and I have had the experience. It's unsettling but also normal in a sort of evolutionary way: a big cat and a hominid.

But to be preyed upon by birds -- now that seems somehow creepier. Was Alfred Hitchcock tapping genetic memory?

My falconer friends, upon reading this news, have strange, faraway looks in their eyes.

January 10, 2006

Some Colorado conservation projects

New West Network rounds up some Colorado conservation projects. I need to learn more about the Fort Carson buffer-zone bill. It sounds like an excellent idea.

Wildlife-dollars versus wildlife-spirituality

Unbossed has started a series on the economic value of wildlife.

It's not an issue some people like to think about, because they would prefer that wildlife and wild places be considered outside of the marketplace. I can sympathize, but when you're up in front of something like that Roadless Areas task force, you have to be thinking this way:

That is the kind of connection that I seek. The dominate culture in this nation came from other places. It has no spiritual connection to this land. Its not going away, so we need to create a spiritual connection to the land. This is what I call Becoming Indigenous. Lets fact it, most people in this country are not going to run out and start kissing trees. Nor should they, other than the Ponderosa Pine, bark tastes bad. But to achieve indigenousness, we must first demonstrate clear economic need for conservation. Our economic future, particularly in the West, is dependant on conservation of wildlife and wildlands.

One good thing about the NRA

Even though the National Rifle Association deserves criticism for its blind spots, there is one reason that I joined back when I was a penniless guy in bell-bottom jeans, with only a Winchester Model 12 shotgun to my name.

The NRA makes global technocrats nervous. And, really, that's all the reason that you need. (Via Publicola.)

January 09, 2006

He's sick of nature writing

Since I teach nature writing and at intervals attempt to practice it, I'm qualified to say that I know where this guy is coming from.

As with so many endeavors, nature writing has become specialized and polarized. On the one hand there is the generally healthy movement from the anthropocentric to the biocentric, from human-focused to world-focused, a movement that Thoreau anticipated late in his life with his more scientific writing. This movement has led to some fine objective writing, but it has also led to many dull pages, exhaustive and occasionally exhausting works. The problem is that most readers are human beings and therefore naturally interested in the human. The driving youthful question that enlivened "Walden" -- "How to live?" -- has been all but forgotten.

Or usurped by the opposite camp. At the other pole are writers with a too easy access to the "spiritual," writers who replace hard-won thought with idealized references to Native Americans and who repeat the word "wonder" over and over. Theirs is a cloying and simplistic philosophy of "nature is good," and they see symbols in every acorn. Nature becomes a kind of bland church, and these writers seem intent on smearing themselves with what Mark Twain called "soul butter." Long gone are the fried rats.


He turned the rant into a book, and I suppose I should read the whole thing!

If I could, I would change the name of my course to "Nature-and-Culture-Writing in the West." But just changing a university course name means going through three levels of committees, and one of them would probably pronounce the name too lengthy for the catalog.

If I can just get students to consider that nature is not "out there" but also "in here," I would be a happy man.

Mauricio Fire Update

Today's Pueblo Chieftain headlined the Mauricio Canyon fire. The good news is that a little cold front blew through last night, dropping an inch and a half of snow at my house, and from the radar picture it looked as though that same band of snow was heading south into Huerfano County.

KKTV (Colorado Springs) has updated its coverage. So has the Colorado Springs Gazette.

We need more snow. A foot would be good.

January 08, 2006

Testimony

Last Friday night M. and I went to Pueblo for the (deep breath) Roadless Area Review Task Force Public Hearing, one of several being held around Colorado.

To summarize drastically, this was the latest step of a tedious process going back to the Nixon Administration. Such processes are why the Forest Service has more people staring at computer screens rather than doing things out on the national forests. Now, according to the pro-roadless area activists:

In May, 2005, the Bush administration repealed the national policy — known as the “Roadless Rule” — that protected roadless areas in our National Forests, and replaced it with a process that requires governors to petition the Department of Agriculture in order to seek continued protections for these areas. In response, the Colorado legislature created the Roadless Areas Review Task force to advise the governor in that process. The task force is now holding hearings around the state to discuss these areas and identify any compelling reasons to shift the boundaries and the types of protections offered in the Roadless Rule. Even as the task force review process proceeds, roadless areas are increasingly subject to road-building and other disturbance from oil and gas development, mining, and logging, as industrial and commercial interests are already making plans to degrade these critical areas by opening them up to development.

According to the Pueblo Chieftain, about 250 people attended. I would put the pro-roadless crowd at a slight majority if I were counting noses. In terms of people getting up to speak, the pro-roadless folks were the definite majority.

The other side was represented by ATV and dirt bike riders, many of whom, unfortunately, don't realize that "roadless" and "trailless" do not mean the same thing. Like the man from Cheyenne, they seem to care nothing about wildlife, watersheds, or future human generations. They fear only that their motorized recreation might be disrupted. In fact, as one more-informed speaker pointed out, more than 80 percent of "roadless" areas on Colorado national forests are open to ATVs and motorcycles on designated trails.

One little irony: trying to walk on both sides of the fence in a classic bureaucratic way, Bob Leaverton, supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel national forests, said he was all for continued management of roadless areas as roadless--provided his people could have access for forest-fire fighting.

Immediately before that statement, he had projected a series of map slides. One showed how the immense Hayman Fire of 2002 (southwest of Denver) had burned right through the most heavily roaded part of the Pike NF. Meanwhile, the adjacent Lost Creek Wilderness Area came through mostly untouched. Pay attention to the slide, Bob.

The meeting ended only twenty minutes late. I had a chance to speak. There were no fistfights. No one had vandalized the Jeep's "Wilderness: A Great Place to Hunt and Fish" bumper sticker. So it was a successful public meeting.

A forest fire in January

The same winds that have pushed the grass fires in Oklahoma and Texas for the past couple of weeks have been blowing in southern Colorado too.

Now a forest fire is burning west of Aguilar, just one county south of us. It is called the Mauricio Canyon fire.

As of this evening it was 5,000 acres and basically out of control.

When I go outdoors, the forest floor is just crunchy dry. Even in 2002, the big fire year, we didn't have forest fires in January.

In Denver and other northern parts, however, people are acting like the drought is over, tra-la tra-la. No, it is not.

War Birds

I'm glad to see that Birding Babylon, a soldier-birder's blog, is still going.

I'm reminded of the time six years ago when an English friend was showing me around Winchester Cathedral. We paused in front of a 19th-century memorial plaque, where a British officer who helped to build Queen Victoria's empire was described as an avid amateur naturalist.

Putting on a plummy accent, my friend pretended to be that officer pointing out the rare Crested-Whatever even as the Zulus/Afghans/Whoever were charging his position. But all joking aside, we liked the idea of his being a soldier-naturalist.

The same with this guy, "J".

Even famed "milblogger" Michael Yon is a birder too.

Habitat Stamp 'Time Bomb'

To help pay for the costs of administering its state wildlife areas, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has instituted a "habitat stamp."

It started last year, but this year it is required. So when I bought my $40 combined small game-fishing license for 2006 (still a bargain, I admit), I paid an extra $10 (or $5 per license) for the habitat stamp. The cost is $5 per hunting/fishing license with a $10 maximum.

My hunting and angling friends have no problem with this, but some people are going to be really surprised.

For instance, my county includes Lake DeWeese, a nice little fishing lake that is actually owned by the Cañon City-based DeWeese-Dye Ditch & Reservoir Co., a shareholder-owned irrigation company. (M. and I owned shares when we lived in Cañon City and watered our garden with DeWeese Ditch water.)

The CDOW leases the lake for public use. When those Texans, Oklahomans, etc., who own summer houses in the area show up later this year, they will get a surprise. They will have to pay, individually, $10 if they don't have a fishing license. They will scream and moan about how their rights are being trampled etc. etc. etc. I can already imagine the letters to the editor in the county newspaper.

“When you consider the cost of a cappuccino, $10 is probably a small fee to pay for access to a beautiful place like Lake DeWeese,” said DOW spokesperson Michael Seraphin.

True. But there will be screaming and outrage anyway, I predict.

Feeble Responses to Pat Wray's NRA-Hunters Column

Today's Denver Post carried two letters in response to Pat Wray's recent column on how the National Rifle Association betrays hunters' interests. (Link may expire.)

The first, from Grant Coffin of Cheyenne, Wyo., takes the "poor feeble Americans" approach.

I'm a lifelong hunter in good health and very active, but I am also 70 years old. My days of hiking into a wilderness area carrying a pack and rifle are just pleasant memories, but I still like to hunt. What opportunity does the game population in the middle of a 58.5 million-acre roadless area offer me? If I cannot afford a safari-type guided hunt and I cannot use a motor vehicle, it is just a dream.

TRANSLATION: "I had my day, but I don't want future generations to have the wilderness hunting experience that I did. It's all about me, damn it. Me! Me! Me!"

The second comes from NRA staffer Dawson R. Hobbs of Fairfax, Va., (not exactly a low-income area). He is identified as the NRA's "manager of hunting policy."

He winds up with this laughable statement:

Wray ... wants to ensure that the best hunting lands are accessible only to him and to those with means.

Let's see, who is more likely to be a person of means, a freelance writer or a an NRA Board Member?

Here's a clue, Dawson, old chap. All it takes to access those lands is a pair of boots. Look in your closet.

Black Mesa Mine closing--some history

Albuquerque blogger Coco reminds of us about the back story to the recent closing of the Black Mesa Mine and the Mohave power plant. The usual slant today is unemployment on the Big Rez, but there is a lot of dirt involved--not just in the air but the financial and ethical kind.

The back story is rich, complicated, long, and full of enough intrigue for an HBO mini-series. It's tied to water, crooked lawyers, the Cheney Energy Task Force and the Navajo-Hopi land dispute.

....

Long-time attorney for the Hopi Tribe, John Sterling Boyden was found in 1997, years after his death, to have been employed by Peabody Coal (operator of the mine and slurry line) at the same time he was representing the Hopi in land claims and coal lease negotiations. With Peabody. (Did Abramoff learn from this guy?) Read about it in Phoenix New Times.

January 07, 2006

Thumbs Down on Salvage Logging

Glen Barry notes to an upcoming article in the journal Science that will offer evidence suggesting that salvage logging after a fire slows forest regeneration. More here:

One of the consequences of logging, the scientists said, is that the use of heavy equipment, log skidding, soil compaction and burial of seedlings by excess woody debris took a heavy toll on naturally regenerated seedlings, which in this case began taking root almost immediately after the fire. The logging of dead, burned trees might add more debris than logging of green trees, researchers said, because without foliage to catch the wind, burned trees often fall more quickly and shatter more readily than living trees.

Up the road, burned trees from the Mason Gulch Fire are beginning to fall from windstorms. This part of Colorado's San Isabel National Forest was never much of a commercial timber-producing area (after they cut the big ponderosa pines in the late 19th-century). We have been spared a squabble over salvage logging here, although a few people have gathered some sooty firewood.

The Vulture and the University

What is it with universities and vultures? Texas State University in San Marcos has learned to co-exist with its vultures, although they do at times interfere with administrative social functions:

The vultures — specifically turkey and black vultures — used to roost on electric wires around campus and in the trees near Aquarena Center, an environmental attraction close to the university. But a few years ago, the birds moved closer to the main campus, settling on Strahan Coliseum and the J.C. Kellam Administration Building, where they startle people and have left excrement on the balcony of the 11th-floor room where campus officials often host parties.

New Mexico Tech in Socorro also has its resident flock of turkey vultures nesting in the large campus trees.

The poet Gary Snyder provides the answer, I think. In one of his essays--which I will cite if I can find it--he suggests that artists and writers are scavengers at the top of the intellectual food chain. But then, he continues, "we are eaten by our students."

With all that scaveging going on, you would expect to see some vultures. Can you say "objective correlative"?

(Via University Diaries.)

January 04, 2006

Is the NRA a Friend of Hunters?

Pat Wray of Corvallis, Oregon, nails the National Rifle Association on one of its weakest points: supporting Second Amendment rights while simultaneously supporting anti-widlife habitat Republicans. (link may expire)

The NRA aligns itself with politicians who care little about the land or wildlife, but who will deliver votes against gun control. This includes politicians like Republican Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who serves on the NRA board of directors. Craig was a primary supporter of the Bush administration's action removing federal protection of 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in our national forests and returning their fate to the tender mercies of individual states. The NRA regularly parrots Craig's message about our roadless areas, interchanging the terms wilderness, roadless areas and road closures, which confuses the public and convinces hunters that their hunting access will be lost in all of these areas.

As I recall--and this was before I joined the NRA--in the mid-1970s, the organization planned to move its headquarters from suburban Washington, DC, to Colorado Springs. A large group of members rebelled, thinking that the NRA would lose its effectiveness on gun laws and become just another conservation group. The move never occurred.

Unfortunately, Wray is right. The NRA's American Hunter magazine is full of ATV ads, while its board members, who do their hunting on Texas game ranches, Atlanta quail plantations, and the like, simply don't see the problem.

My dad belonged to both NRA and the Sierra Club. He had the right idea. To hell with political labels.

January 03, 2006

4x4 Posers or Just Camera-Shy?

The midnight-blue Range Rover with Texas plates parked next to my Jeep at the motel in Taos last week might have benefited from a can of spray-on mud.

But while the pure Shropshire dirt in aquaeous solution is sold for the stated purpose of allowing sedate 4x4 owners to make it look as though they actually used their vehicles offroad, the real purpose, more likely, is to thwart Britain's growing array of closed-circuit traffic camera. If, as this UK cop-blogger says, the police are turning into social workers, then closed-circuit cameras will make society perfect. (You believe that, don't you?)

Even Boing-Boing got it wrong, at first.

I am a little more cynical about traffic cameras after an experience this fall. Last July I sold my well-cared-for Volkswagen Westfalia camper van to a guy from Fort Collins, who came all the way down here to look at it and paid me almost as much as I was asking.

About two weeks later, not having yet registered it to himself (bad new VW owner), he drove too fast through an intersection with a speed camera.

Months later, I got the court summons. (The photograph that was supposed to be included to prove my misdeed was missing.) I protested. I got another summons. I protested again. All this took weeks. Eventually the charge was dropped--I guess I finally convinced them that I did not own it, was not driving it, and had not set foot in Fort Collins since about 1995.

I was afraid that as a fugitive, I would never be able to return to that city of "broad streets and narrow minds," as my cynical high-school friends used to say.

If I lived there still, I might patronize these people. For mud, I can just go down my own driveway.

January 01, 2006

Over in the Valley

New West writer Ted Alvarez gushes over the San Luis Valley, an exotic locale to northern Coloradans like him, apparently. His three-part article hits the standard notes: alligators, UFOs, Penitentes ("shadowy religious cult") and the slightly over-rated Emma's Hacienda restaurant in the town of San Luis.

Not to knock Emma's, but I think this is a case of a restaurant's fame being proportional to the drive to get there. You could keep going across the state line and eat the same food, more rightly described as "New Mexican" than "Mexican," at Orlando's in El Prado or Roberto's in Taos.

Alvarez' piece, "Paradise without a PR Agent," is a three-parter: One, Two, Three.

To some extent, he's following in the footsteps of CSU-Pueblo students who wrote their own articles in the university's Southern Colorado web zine.

Try Randi Gonzales on the alien landing site tourist trap, Lydia Hunter on the Monte Vista Crane Festival, or Marc Boone on San Luis' tried-and-true approach to economic growth: creating a recession-proof religious pilgrimage site.

Colorado birding

Some people are out today doing their Christmas bird counts. The wind is a little strong for good listening, but in this area, the ground is mostly dry below 10,000 feet, which is good for walking around but worrisome for the water supply. A handy Web resource for birders is a the Colorado Birding site.