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Know the West

Dear Friends


Balmy weather

It's been an unusual fall here on Colorado's West Slope. Unseasonably warm days and nights not only prolonged the vivid display of blazing aspens in the high country, but also kept the equally resplendent river-bottom color alive all the way into early November. The balmy air seemed to ripen leaves like fruit: Foliage that in most years turns a monochrome yellow mellowed into a wide palette of oranges and reds. In Paonia, some elm trees and willows are still holding onto their green leaves, as if they might be able to slide through the winter without having to drop them. Maybe this is the new face of global warming in the Rockies.

Global warming can't be blamed for the demise of the magnificent cottonwood forests along New Mexico's Rio Grande, the subject of this week's cover story. As Greg Hanscom reports, the bosque, as it is known, is succumbing to invading exotic trees and a hydrological regime radically altered by agriculture and cities. As is the case with so many restoration efforts in the West, reviving the bosque will take bucket-loads of money and political will, commodities that have yet to fully materialize.


When Matt Jenkins drove Highway 50 from Reno, Nev., to Paonia last January, he didn't know he was traversing the beat he would later cover as HCN's assistant editor. At the time, he only knew he was late for his internship at the paper.

The trip to Colorado was the next step in a roundabout journey that included several seasons as a wildland firefighter and three years in China, all of which left Matt with a compulsion to peer under the world's hood and figure out what makes it go. It wasn't far from there to an interest in journalism and the HCN internship.

While in Paonia, Matt developed a new appreciation for the West's prickly politics and the region's place in the world - and a strong desire to learn and write more about it. He remained in Paonia to freelance after his internship ended in May, and started his new position as assistant editor on Oct. 8.

HCN's new assistant business manager, Gretchen Aston-Puckett, comes to Paonia by way of Rhode Island, Washington, Montana and, most recently, northwest Arkansas, where she was studying biology at the University of Arkansas. Delighted to be living in the West again, she feels especially fortunate to share a little log cabin in the hills above town with her husband, Jeremy Puckett (who is the new assistant director for the environmental group, the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council), and their dog and cat. The juxtaposition of majestic Rocky Mountains and red-rock country has inspired Gretchen to dust off her photo equipment and revisit her favorite pastime of landscape photography.

Good books

Congratulations to longtime HCN reporter Jon Christensen on his contribution to a new book titled simply Nevada. Though the book's format is typically coffee-table, with gorgeous photos by Deon Reynolds, Jon's four essays on the colorful landscape, history and culture of the state give the book an intellectual heft rarely found in the genre. The book's publisher is Graphic Arts Center Publishing (www.gacpc.com).

A new book with photographs and narratives by Meredith W. Ogilby celebrates the tenacity of women in a valley just over the pass from our office in Paonia. Ogilby calls her book, A Life Well-Rooted: Women of Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley, and it's not until you've lived with it awhile and scanned the faces of these vibrant women that you realize almost every picture was taken outdoors - on a ranch, in a garden, on a porch or by a fence. The women profiled include Eve Homeyer, the first woman mayor of Aspen (who still refuses to drive a car); Betty Pfister, Colorado's first woman helicopter pilot; Marlyn Fiscus, who retired "early" as a cook for the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (she was 84); and Connie Harvey, Dottie Fox and Joy Caudill, founders of the Aspen Wilderness Workshop. The book, with a foreword by HCNnew-media editor Betsy Marston, recently won the Caroline Bancroft History Award from the Colorado Historical Society. The publisher is Hell Roaring Publishing in Carbondale, Colo.


Robert Hougard Sr., who lives in Green Bay, Wis., and is on the board of the National Railroad Museum there, said hello, and dropped off his card, illustrated by a steam locomotive belching black smoke into the sky.

Subscribers Buz and Katie Rathburn of Niwot, Colo., visited while on a trip through western Colorado. Donna and Bob Green came by on what they call their "pilgrimage to Paonia," where they visited two of their favorite nonprofits: KVNF Public Radio and HCN Public Newspaper. They split their time between Ridgway, Colo., and Mesa, Ariz.

Because "French camp" was full when she was 13, Laska Nygaard went to "Chinese camp," and she is now an attorney in Hong Kong. She and her dad, Larry, a Boulder, Colo., landscaper now turned photographer, stopped by while on a camping trip. Mark Chiropolus, an environmental attorney from Boulder, dropped by with his two young children, Nikos and Archer. They were in Paonia on an apple-picking expedition.