His close-cropped hair, aviator shades and straight-backed bearing hint at his Navy past, but the silver hoop in his left ear and baggy bike shorts give Keith Baker a twist of hip outdoorsy-ness. He stands in the HCN office with his wife, Evelyn, also in bike garb, and their dog, a sleek weimaraner named Prana. The couple came from their central Colorado home equipped with mountain bikes, daypacks and dog leash to "discover some of (their) own backyard."
Keith and Evelyn met in Washington, D.C., in 1996, when she was working for a defense contractor and he was a Navy commander on the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Evelyn was transferred to Colorado Springs a year later, and Keith retired and came to join her in 2000. The decision was easy, Keith says -- not just for Evelyn (the couple married in 2001), but also because he wanted to be close to the Rocky Mountains. The Bakers came even farther west in 2004, moving to tiny Buena Vista, a tourist town in the shadow of the Collegiate Range, where they bought The Trailhead, an outdoor store. "We used to listen to Radio High Country News," says Keith, "and we wanted to make enough money to start it up again." (The radio program closed down in 2003.) Like so many Western towns, Buena Vista is "a community in transition," says Keith, as newcomers try to start a "green" subdivision on the edge of town and old-timers push to keep the place the way it was.
When the work day ended, the couple joined Paonia locals from Chaco Sandals and HCN for a mountain-bike jaunt up Mount Jumbo, the rocky, cliffy peak that looms east of town. "That ride kicked my butt," Keith says. No one believed him.