Potato living; safe landings; swarms at the bend

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

MONTANA: A meaty opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Paul J. Rana

IDAHO
“If you’ve ever dreamed of living in the starchy goodness of a potato — who hasn’t? — that dream could soon become a reality,” reports Esquire. Kristie Wolfe acquired the oversized spud from the Idaho Potato Commission after it spent a few years traveling around the country on a flatbed to promote — what else — the virtues of Idaho potatoes. Now that Wolfe has equipped the spud with air conditioning, an indoor fireplace, bathroom and a queen-size bed, the Airbnb is “not the worst potato you could stay in,” says writer Justin Kirkland. Wolfe has developed other specialized tiny homes, including a treehouse in Hawaii and what she calls a “Hobbit Hole.” In Boise, she has planted her latest house on 400 acres of farmland, where it stands alone in serene and stately spudliness.

CALIFORNIA
When it comes to skydivers, those people who routinely fall out of planes on purpose, “daring” doesn’t begin to describe them. Dion Callaway, 39, for example, had to have his left leg amputated below the knee after a botched landing in California’s Sonoma County severely injured his foot and impeded his jumping. But Callaway, who has parachuted hundreds of times and who says he loves the “sensation of floating,” continues to skydive wearing an artificial leg, the Washington Post reports. On a recent leap into space at 10,000 feet, however, a gust of wind yanked off his prosthesis, and though he landed successfully on one leg, he then had to spend the day searching for the missing limb: “I didn’t think I was going to get it back.” But good luck found him, and the prosthetic — in good condition — was discovered at a lumberyard. Callaway said from now on he’ll make sure his prosthetic is securely fastened, although “landing on one leg, he has proved, isn’t out of the question.” 

WYOMING
A controversial outdoor sculpture that was hastily removed from the University of Wyoming campus in 2011 was briefly re-created at what organizer Mike Selmer called “a rally for truth and action on climate change.” Carbon Sink was created by British artist Chris Drury, who used beetle-killed trees to form a 279-square-yard vortex with a pile of coal at its center, thereby suggesting how climate change and shriveled forests were in part driven by coal. According to Wyofile, public documents acquired by journalists revealed that coal company bosses and politicians pressured university officials to remove the sculpture. University of Wyoming professor Jeffrey Lockwood wrote an award-winning book about the kerfuffle, Behind the Carbon Curtain, which thoroughly documented the industry’s efforts at censorship. Dan Mitchell, a former art curator at Casper’s Nicolaysen Museum, praised Wyoming journalists for revealing what he called “the university administrators’ clumsy lies and the bone-headed, angry and intellectually dishonest cacophony of legislators’ voices. …” Lockwood, however, warns that the battle against academic censorship is far from over. The university’s trustees have passed a new regulation, he said, that allows for the firing of even tenured faculty who speak out. Reasons for dismissal include “insubordination (and) discourteous treatment of other employees, students or the public. …”

ARIZONA
When a river makes a U-turn and appears to almost reverse course, it’s a marvel to behold. You used to be able to watch the Colorado River do that at an undeveloped local spot called Horseshoe Bend, off a dirt road outside the town of Page near the Utah border. Then, about six years ago, visitors started sharing their photos on social media, particularly Instagram, and that drew tourists from all over the world to seek out Horseshoe Bend. According to the Associated Press, 2 million people now visit the site annually. The swarms of people led Page officials to recently complete a 160-space parking lot — another 140 spaces will soon follow — and charge drivers at least $10 to enter. Though Horseshoe Bend lies within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, like all federal land facilities it has a paltry budget. Page has so far spent $5 million on safety and other improvements, and the city intends to spend even more, adding restrooms and a visitors’ center. Recent comments by a London tourist reveal why the crowds at Horseshoe Bend will most likely increase: Online research inspired the traveler to come see Horseshoe Bend for himself, he said, because it was listed as “one of the region’s must-see places.” And his five-day visit, he said, was even “better than the pictures.” 

CALIFORNIA
At the height of this spring’s wildflower burst in Death Valley National Park, Birgitta Jansen was hiking one of the trails when down at her feet she saw a panamint red rattlesnake rising up, ready to strike. “She was beautiful, sleek, muscular and healthy looking,” she wrote in the Sierra Club’s Desert Report. “I was mesmerized.” But after Jansen moved back while calling out to her husband to bring his camera, the rattler vanished. In retrospect, she says, her urge to capture the snake by taking photographs of it was a mistake, one she’d try not to make again: “I wish I had just allowed myself to be fully engaged with the magic of the moment.”

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

High Country News Classifieds
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.