Reproachful roommate; a deceased politician is victorious; helpful hiker

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


THE WEST: Be wary of those post-holiday discounts.
Carol Fey

A self-proclaimed “redneck” spelled out exactly what kind of roommate he wanted in a classified ad in the Durango Herald: “No meth heads, no man buns, no BS. Horses OK. No cats. No couples. NO chicken-chasing dogs. Serious background check, no eviction notices, you will be bodily thrown out the door.” And what’s the rent for sharing his 40-year-old-trailer on its own 40 acres, should you qualify? “$600/month plus one-half utilities.” Housing is tight in this southern Colorado college town.

No state has more airports — 282 — than Alaska, and the northernmost one is the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqia˙gvik. Once the snow falls, wildlife can’t help wandering onto the runway, and over the years workers have had to shoo away oxen, caribou, a wide variety of birds and the occasional polar bear, reports The Associated Press. But another critter made its first-ever appearance on the runway recently: a bearded seal, which humped its way inland for a mile from the Chukchi Sea. The animal was so docile it didn’t need to be tranquilized, but it was so plump — at 450 pounds — that it took a snow machine and sled to haul it off.

In Montana, meanwhile, the vandals allegedly targeting a Stevensville golf course turned out to be a grizzly bear lusting after earthworms. The bear snapped flag sticks and dug a huge hole on the green over several days. Yet it remained elusive: Golfers played through its visit but never reported glimpsing it. A culvert trap placed by state Fish and Game staffers corralled the 2-and-a-half-year-old male, which weighed close to 250 pounds and sported what one observer called “a massive head.” The bear was released close to the Rattlesnake Wilderness, reports the Missoulian.

Perhaps only in Nevada could Dennis Hof, a Republican candidate for the state Assembly, win election despite being dead for two months. Hof, 72, a proud self-proclaimed pimp, owned every legal house of prostitution in his county, and gained even more notoriety by appearing in the HBO reality series, Cathouse. Hof wielded political heft; when a ballot initiative would have banned his brothels, his opposition to it proved decisive — only 4,000 voted in favor, while 16,000 voted against. Rolling Stone, which said Hof called himself the “Trump of Pahrump,” concluded that “Though pundits have long believed death to be one of the quickest ways to sink a campaign for office, conventional wisdom doesn’t have much of a foothold in southern Nevada.”

Nevada is definitely paradoxical, agrees the Center for Land Use Interpretation, a California think tank. On the one hand, researchers say, Nevada is the most urban state. Close to 95 percent of its 3 million residents live in either the metro areas of Reno or Las Vegas, two cities that take up only 2 percent of the land in the state. That means Nevada has the most people living on the least amount of land, “making it the most urban state and most rural state at the same time.” Nevada is also the most “open” state, given its 85 percent of publicly owned lands. Yet it contains the U.S. military’s largest and most secretive restricted areas: “Go through that gate, pardner, and your freedom is likely to diminish considerably.” Nevada’s relative emptiness is drawing the interest of Southern California businesses, thanks to its “inexpensive land and permissive development atmosphere.”

Katharina Groene is alive today only because she met a day hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail, the 2,650-mile trek made famous by Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild. The 34-year-old had been hiking alone since May, and was determined to reach Canada, less than 200 miles away, when she met Nancy Abell, an experienced backpacker from nearby Sultan, Washington. The two women hiked together for two hours, and Abell began to worry. She told the Washington Post that she urged Groene, who lacked snowshoes, to turn back before heavy snow hit the difficult upcoming part of the trail. Groene could not be dissuaded. That week, three feet of snow fell, and Abell, more worried than ever, finally called 911. “I just kept thinking of her being up there alone,” she said. Groene was in deep trouble: Her clothes and tent were wet, her only food was a Pop-Tart, and without snowshoes she floundered in the snow. She recorded farewell messages on her phone to friends and family, “apologizing for dying on the trail,” but rescuers — guided by Abell’s predictions regarding her whereabouts — set out to save her. After 10 abortive tries, a helicopter was able to land and rescue the hypothermic hiker from Munich, Germany. Groene said at a press conference that she had wanted to hike the trail because she “felt like she was losing faith in humanity. My faith in humanity is definitely restored … box checked.”

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.

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