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Know the West

Morning eavesdropping; rivergeddon; condor camping

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

THE WEST
We always enjoy the Boatman’s Quarterly Review, a classy publication that celebrates the boat people who not only challenge tough rapids but also share their knowledge of the Colorado River’s history, environment and geography. Tourists sometimes arrive with ideas that need more context, to put it mildly. One passenger asked river guide Shyanne Yazzie, 28, who was born and grew up on the Navajo Nation, this doozy: “How did John Wesley Powell get his boat over the Glen Canyon Dam?” Probably the same way dinosaurs crossed the Grand Canyon: They had the foresight to travel before it existed.

Every visitor to Colorado has heard some classic weather-related axioms: “You know it’s windy when a chain blows out flat,” or “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it’ll change.” According to the Colorado Sun’s Jason Blevins, the state boasts 12 temperamental seasons: Winter, Fools Spring, 2nd Winter, Spring of Deception, 3rd Winter, Road Construction, Actual Spring, Summer, Fire, False Fall, 2nd Summer, Actual Fall. What he didn’t mention is that residents experience three or more seasons on any given day.

In Hailey, Idaho, the Idaho Mountain Express facilitates lively exchanges between anonymous locals through its “Miscellany” column. Hailey residents Irene and Mike Healy noticed one testy exchange, which began with a complaint: “Groups of women running in our neighborhoods at 5 a.m., chatting about Pilates and avocado toast: Stop scaring the wildlife!” Response: “Dear 5 a.m. eavesdropper … you are missing out on better conversation. Get your lazy butt out of bed and join us! The elk barely look up from their grazing. They aren’t complaining. ...”

MONTANA
Last summer broke records as people sick of lockdown headed West in droves to national parks and rivers. This summer, even more of us are likely to hit the road, which likely means another bout of “Rivergeddon,” as writer Todd Wilkinson dubbed it in Mountain Journal. Rivergeddon means traffic jams on rural roads as people in waders line up side-by-side in the Madison and other iconic Montana rivers, all of them casting for fish in willy-nilly fashion. You’ve got to feel for fish that get caught and released over and over again. Meanwhile, float trips can so clog the river that passengers might as well be crammed onto the same boat. Hilary Hutcheson, a longtime fly-fishing guide, told the Associated Press that last summer brought a lot of first-time anglers as well as first-time campers: “Montana was their third choice after going to Disneyland or going to Europe.” That required her to employ some diplomacy, “telling people that bear spray isn’t a repellent you spray on your kids like insect repellent.” Often, visitors wanted to replicate what they’d seen in movies like A River Runs Through It, i.e., the “full wader set-up,” as opposed to fly-fishing from rafts. As Jim Robbins reported in The New York Times, “gridlock in a natural paradise” may not be new to the West, but it has definitely accelerated, leading some residents to question whether tourism’s benefits outweigh the impacts of too many people.

ALASKA
Betsy, the elusive 600-pound cow that escaped a Father’s Day rodeo three years ago, used to be glimpsed wandering the countryside around Anchorage, reports the Anchorage Daily News. But her owner, rodeo promoter Frank Koloski, believes those days are over: “I think she’s moved on to greener pastures, if you know what I mean.” It wasn’t for lack of pursuers that the legendary bovine remained at large: Anchorage police flew a drone over Far North Bicentennial Park, state troopers, police and fire departments conducted searches, and even the FBI became involved — sort of. “She walked right up to the front doors of the FBI building,” Koloski said. But when he got there “to lasso the errant cow, all he found was marks on the glass left by Betsy’s breath.” Way to go, Betsy. Live free or die.

CALIFORNIA
Admittedly, having 10 or 15 enormous carrion-eating California condors camping out on your roof and loitering on the railings has its drawbacks, what with their primitive table manners. As Seana Quintero, daughter of homeowner Cinda Mickols, put it, “My tiny little mom was staring down a bunch of birds half her size …(and) they kept messing stuff and pooping everywhere.” Still, Quintero told AP that her mom remains in “awe” of her uninvited guests, knowing their extraordinary comeback from near-extinction. She understands why they’d want to visit their historic hunting grounds, but wishes they would find another restroom: “Trees are fine but not the house, please.”   

Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected], or submit a letter to the editor