Time has run out for the frozen cows of Conundrum Hot Springs, the immensely popular, 11,200-foot-high stopover for hikers in western Colorado's White River National Forest. According to the Aspen Daily News, several cows jammed themselves into a Forest Service cabin this winter, apparently to get warm, though unfortunately they were unable to figure out how to build a fire. After a while, they died inside, "piled up," and eventually, they all froze solid. The cows apparently belong to a Gunnison area rancher with grazing permits on the other side of the Elk Mountains, who reported 29 cows missing last fall. With spring thaw imminent, the ice-cows will begin to decompose, and the hot springs are at risk of contamination. At first, Forest Service officials said they'd blow up the cows with explosives, then they considered burning them, but both operations would require lengthy analysis and would have impacts of their own. Meanwhile, snow on the 8.5-mile trail ruled out using horses to haul the corpses away, and a helicopter was said to be too pricey. So the rancher sent up three workers with handsaws to help the local wilderness ranger divide them into "appropriate-sized" pieces to be dispersed around the area. "Nature will take it from there," the News reports, "between decomposition and hungry wildlife." Since the latter includes bears, the agency is asking hikers to stay away for at least a month.
A 30-foot-tall neon martini glass welcomes visitors to what some Las Vegas residents call the city's "real" downtown. This seedy and neglected area lies some six miles off the glittering Strip, whose casino-hotels are visited by an astounding 40 million visitors each year. In contrast, the city's quiet downtown has stubbornly resisted redevelopment for decades, specializing in dollar stores, pawnshops, vacant lots and low-rise condos. But now, a financial angel named Tony Hsieh, CEO of the shoe-mecca Zappos.com, has moved into the neighborhood with big plans. Using his own millions, he intends to transform the area into the kind of yeasty urban zone that appeals to both new businesses and budding artists, reports Bloomberg Businessweek's Brad Stone. He's already spent $100 million to buy land, invested another $100 million to develop apartment buildings, and is offering $5 million to back startup businesses. Hsieh says his for-profit company, The Downtown Project, will acquire equity in each business it funds, but won't take a penny until the business earns a profit. "We are not doing it to make money," he says. "We want owner-operators who care about this community." Hsieh says he could have created a cloistered set of buildings for his 1,400 suburban employees -- "our own little Paradise" -- but instead decided to relocate his entire staff to the downtown's former City Hall. As for this being a risky move, Hsieh, who wrote a best-selling memoir, Delivering Happiness, in 2010, says he's not worried: "I don't see my lifestyle changing. In some ways, you could argue I'm not actually risking anything." In his downtown apartment, Hsieh plots his revitalization effort with the help of yellow Post-it notes that detail the kind of businesses he wants to lure, "including a doggie day care and a barbecue joint." But is his vision of a startup hub in a long-ignored area of Las Vegas too audacious, even for a city that was dreamed up by the Mob and constructed in the middle of a desert not all that long ago? Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has an answer for that. "Iconoclasm," he says, "is completely normal (here). Nevada is still a place where individual audacity can be successful."
From our friends
HCN in the outhouses of the West
From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!
Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor
From a HUGE admirer
I just want to tell you that I'm a huge admirer of High Country News. The reporting, the stories you write it's so important to those of us in California who see ourselves as part of the West and share all its issues. And they're always all so well-written. When people I know move to the West, I give them a gift subscription.
— Dr. Stephanie Pincetl, UCLA