Dear Friends

  • Summer intern Jennifer Chergo outside the local meat locker

    Betsy Marston photo
  • PROFS IN PAONIA: Visiting Univ. of Colo. faculty and their bus

    Cindy Wehling photo

Celebrating the high life

Mountain men had their rendezvous; today's lovers of adventure in wild country have the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. Film is the draw, but many come for the company available at this most intimate of festivals. Mountaineer legends and environmental heroes like Paul Watson, Bradford and Barbara Washburn, Paul Petzoldt and Galen Rowell could be spotted at bookstores or strolling the main street. When Germany's Joachim Hellinger was asked why his snowboarding film "Pure" lasted only three minutes, he said, "Really, I just made it so I could have a chance to come to Telluride." His audience cheered.

Events were preceded by "Ode to Avalanche," Ken Bailey's and Michael Friedman's tribute to the power and beauty of cascading avalanches set to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

The material ranged all over the cinematic landscape; some films were very much for the mountaineer clan that dominated this 20th anniversary, but others had wider appeal. If best actor awards had been given, a coconut-picking Sumatran monkey named Bobo in Guathier Flauder's "Gatherers of the Sky," would have won. The "documentary" was a bit Disney, but it was also about sustainability.

If there had been a "most hateful character" award, it might have gone to the 13th generation traditional Tibetan healer, Pao Wangchuk, in Tsering Rhitar's "The Spirit Doesn't Come Anymore." The 78-year-old spent most of his time tyrannizing his family while extracting money from gullible Anglo patients by "extracting" their kidney stones by sleight of hand. It was a welcome relief from the reverence such characters generally receive.

The festival was generally good at not always taking itself too seriously. In one hilarious Monty Python clip, a climber in full costume, festooned with clips and ropes, inched heroically up a wall which turned into a busy London sidewalk when the camera pulled back.

The Telluride streets were filled with filmmakers, including HCN subscriber Chelsea Congdon, who is working on a film, "Subdivide and Conquer," about the West's need to plan its destiny. Her need is for home videos of kids playing cowboys and Indians in their backyard. If you have such footage, you can reach her at 303/444-2868.


Pam and Ron Bowker of Grand Junction, Colo., stopped by on their way to Europe "to see what they've done with the land over there." Subscriber Randy Hircel came by on his way back from the Utah desert to make a contribution to the Research Fund in honor of his 50th birthday. He was heading back to Denver, where he moves artwork for a living.

Documentary filmmaker Jane West of Edwards, Colo., stopped by. She worked on "The Irish in America" and produced "The Famine." Philip James, a member of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, popped in after what he says was a lively meeting of the commission in Gunnison. He lives in Fort Collins.

David Holton of Lake Tahoe came through after a couple of weeks of hiking in southern Utah. The retired mechanical engineer says he has a new vocation, so intense it can only be described with redundancies: "I hike now constantly, all the time." He is a member of the Oakland-based Desert Survivors, featured on HCN's May 11 front page.

Subscriber Eric Christensen wrote from Bothell, Wash., to say that HCN's May 11 issue on newsletters and grassroots groups "overlooked what I consider to be the best newsletter going: Montana Wildlife, put out by the Montana Wildlife Federation in Helena." He especially likes its professional look and two lively columns.

Summer intern

Jennifer Chergo simply describes herself as a refugee from a past life spent in Boulder, Colo., where for six years she worked as the office manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. On a recent adventure through the Northwest with her dog, Tulsa, a tent, and a confused sense of direction, Jennifer found herself in western Colorado's Delta County. "I thought it was one of the most beautiful areas in my native state and hoped soon to return," she recalls. The next summer she arrived in Paonia.

Jennifer did her undergraduate work at the University of Colorado, then traveled through Spain, trying to master the language and find the perfect beach. Over the past year, she has volunteered with the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Association, helping disabled people enhance communication and movement through horseback riding.

When September comes, she'll be back in Boulder at the University of Colorado beginning a master's degree in environmental journalism. In the meantime, she can be found most early mornings at a place called Moonrise, hanging around with locals and enjoying a good cup of coffee.

A busload of professors

It happens all the time. We will say to someone from Colorado's Front Range that we're from Paonia, and they will say they never heard of it, even though, on this side of the hill, we have all heard of Denver, and even of Boulder.

To remedy that situation within the University of Colorado, the CU Alumni Association enticed a dozen or so professors onto a bus and sent them around the state to see what's what away from the Denver-Boulder corridor. Among their stops was the Rocky Mountain Steel Mill in Pueblo, prisons in Canon City, the Rashkra Mushroom Factory in Alamosa, and High Country News.

The group arrived in our office at the perfect moment. Every other Thursday, staff turns itself into a human conveyor belt to load a ton of newspapers onto a mail truck. This time, the visitors joined in, and the papers were loaded in double quick time. Before that, they heard about the issues this paper covers.

In addition to Eileen Gordon of the CU Alumni Association, who conducted the tour, and driver Walt Roberts of Classic Charters, the visitors were John Behrendt, a researcher with the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research; Obdulia Elisa Castro, who teaches Spanish and Portuguese; Kuan-Yi Rose Chang, with the Anderson Language Technology Center; Roslyn Dauber, with the School of Communication; Maria Franquiz, with the School of Education; Anne Laffoon, with the School of Communication; Mutsumi Moteki, who teaches music; Diana Oliveras, a biologist in the Williams Village Academic Program; Peter Spear, the dean of Arts and Sciences; Hartmut Spetzler, who teaches material sciences; Daniel Stoljar, who teaches philosophy; William Wei, who teaches history; and Kent Zimmerman, who is president of the CU Alumni Association.


If we ever thought expanding this paper's readership would be easy, we were disabused by a group of marketing students at Colorado State University who adopted us as a project. Their report was thoughtful and polite. But it was clear that they saw HCN as hopelessly fuddy duddy, with too little hype, too much type, no jazzy graphics, and a fascination with arcane subjects.

So although we know we should be appealing to youth, we think the best way to reach most of them is through the many teachers and professors who read HCN, and use it in their classes. We're not writing off college students - we're just going to wait until they get tired of Details and Men's Health.

Our apricot crop

The joke about fruitgrowers in this valley is that they get frozen out and hailed out, and then, come fall, can't find pickers. So when Hotchkiss grower Ben Eastman stopped by, we asked him about the fruit. An embarrassment of riches, he said. The spring has been frost-free and the trees are loaded with blooms. If they survive into fruit, the apples and peaches and pears will be small, and bring low prices. Most growers will spray to induce a bud drop; organic growers are already pinching off buds by hand.

At High Country News, the apricot tree in our backyard, which bloomed so early we were sure it would be zapped, will once again be heavily weighted down with small fruit.

Death of an activist

Deborah Ham, an attorney and English teacher who organized a group of citizens to oppose the Carlota mine on Pinto Creek in Arizona's Tonto National Forest (HCN, 3/17/97), died in Globe, Ariz., at age 60. Those who worked with her in protecting the creek's endangered riparian habitat say her optimism, persistence, and selflessness inspired them even when opposition seemed hopeless. "I had a hard time saying no whenever she asked me to do anything," says volunteer Laurie Nessel.

Cambior, the Canadian mining company, expects to start mining when copper prices recover. However, Citizens for the Protection of Powers Gulch and Pinto Creek and the Sierra Club are proceeding to sue the U.S. Forest Service.

You may send donations in Ham's memory to the Nature Conservancy, 5308 N. 12th St. Suite 402, Phoenix, AZ 85014, or to Citizens for the Protection of Powers Gulch and Pinto Creek, Rt. 1, Box 736, Miami, AZ 85539.

* Ed Marston for the staff

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