Bob Chamberlain’s Mountain Vision

Lito Tejada-Flores. Telluride, 1978

Somebody once said to me, “You sure do a lot of things you don’t want to do!” Well, I don’t know, last week I had my feet up, cruising on Trout Lake in my little slip of a sailboat, and now I’m looking at a sign pointing out the trail to Hope Lake. Great! That’s me, Hope Lake!

So it’s Hope, hope hope, “the Boys are Marching!” Hope, hope, I hope it’s not too far! I hope, hope hope it’s really worth it! I hope there’s snow, I hope the wildflowers are out around the lake. I hope there’s not a lot of mud from the run-off to slog through, I hope there’s a rock to sit down, so I can put my ski boots on. I hope no one has to see this grizzly knee brace I have to wear. Hope I can hide my shame from the full, bright summer sunlight.

It’s okay, Peter is already near the top of the couloir, he won’t see a thing! I hope I can catch up. Catch up, up, up, and wipe the sweat out of our eyes. Hope, hip and a hop, and we’re on the top!

Peter goes first, so I can shoot a pass-by, my un-favorite type of ski photo. The Nikon goes into my jacket, and then I’m off!  What a relief just to let ‘em run, after a whole winter of squeezing through the trees! I  pass Peter by, because it’s just so easy to keep on going, over the sun-cups freeze-melt, long, wide turns — “SVOO-pers!” — and then you’re down. Right to the edge of the scree. But how could it be over so soon? There’s got to be more!

That’s Hope Lake — hope, hope, all the way home! What’s “Hope”? Hope is just having a project into the future. Something like, “Live to Ski Another Day.”

Dog Days of Summer

Jess Wojcik enjoying a cold one in the backyard. Photo: Erich Hennig

Writing a column in late May destined for the High Summer issue in July while watching flakes the size of coasters build to a soggy eight-inch-deep mess on the front deck is no easy task. On the radio, the talk is of serious snow in the central Rockies, and the possibility that the intrepid souls at CDOT may not have some of the seasonal high-alpine passes open for the Memorial Day weekend. Independence Pass is 25 feet deep in places, but the locals in Aspen still hope for a regular start to summer, hot on the heels of near-record skier visits this past winter.

I haven’t been up the Roaring Fork Valley in years, not since Widespread Panic and Ratdog played something called the “Howling Wolf” at the base of Buttermilk in the late-’90s. At that time, the Flying Dog Brewpub still operated in Aspen, though the bottling operations had been moved down to Denver. The larger production facility allowed owner (and MG founder) George Stranahan, (also producer of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey), to distribute his flagship Doggie-Style Pale Ale and the rest of the lineup in 45 states. I’m a big fan of Doggie-Style, and I always wondered at the connection between the beer, Aspen and the unique artwork on the labels.

As it turns out, George was the owner of the “Owl Farm” property in Woody Creek that was the long-time residence of the late-Hunter S. Thompson. He leased it to Hunter, and through his acquaintance, was introduced to artist Ralph Steadman. When Flying Dog began bottling beer for distribution, Ralph agreed to design the labels. His first label, for Road Dog Porter, contained the scrawled slogan, “Good Beer, No Shit.” The Colorado liquor board, apparently concerned that adults over the age of 21 would be irreversibly harmed by this bold stroke of marketing genius, pulled the beer from shelves. A four-year legal battle ensued, during which time the words, “Good Beer, No Censorship” replaced the original moniker. Flying Dog prevailed in court, and the label art was restored. Today, it can be found in any decent liquor store across the country, with the notable exception of the State of Texas, whose mixed-up liquor authorities still can’t handle that shit.

With the closure of the brewpub in 2000, Aspen was without a true local brewery until 2008, when the Aspen Brewing Company opened up shop. The brews are served in the on-site tasting room, and at notable venues in and around Aspen. I was lucky enough to run into them at a beer festival on Earth Day in Boulder. I enjoy India-Pale-Ale-style brews, and found ABC’s offering, Independence Pass IPA, to be a crisp and refreshing hop experience, and a welcome break from the current trend of double- and triple-strength concoctions out there, many of which drink like chilled Robitussin, and hit like a full bottle of the same.

That same summer, a friend and I hiked the Lost Man trail over the 4th of July, from the top of Independence Pass, to where it again intersects the highway, seven or eight miles below. Standing on the side of the road in a sweaty tie-dye with my thumb out, none of the 13 out-of-state minivans grinding up the pass in a slow line behind an RV would stop and give me a lift. As I watched them pass, a jet-black Trans-Am skidded to a stop on the gravel shoulder. Jumping in to the black leather seat, the driver, wearing aviators and a silk shirt, looks over to me and says in a Swiss/South African accent (a combination possibly heard only in Aspen), “I just watched them pass you. I used to ride up here. Now we pass them all”! Burying the pedal, he proceeds to tear up the narrow lanes of the pass with complete disregard for solid yellow lines, speed limits, other vehicles, sheer drops or blind curves. As we recklessly swerve around them, the honks and shouts from the flabbergasted minivan drivers are drowned by the deep-throated roar of the big-block, and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which the driver has turned up to 11. At 70 mph, he makes his move on the rental RV, and with open road now ahead, I see the hairpin just below the top of the pass where our car is parked. Not wanting to get behind the RV again, he slows to a roll and I jump out with a shout of thanks. As he screams away, I stand at the inside of the hairpin as the RV and all 13 minivans that had refused to give me a lift, roll slowly by. The shocked looks on the face of the Midwestern wives and children was great. The last guy in the line shouted as he passed, “Nice choice of Rides!” Priceless!

Erich Hennig, an avid home brewer, is the Four Corners columnist for the Rocky Mountain Brewing News. He lives in Durango, Colo.

Rednecks Everywhere

These guys speak fluent redneck — the Honey Island Swamp Band.

Honey Island Swamp Band claims its Bayou Americana makes you smarter, thinner and better looking — but frontman Aaron Wilkinson also admits to being a fifth-generation North Florida redneck.

The musicians have traveled from their home base in New Orleans throughout the West to play in such fine establishments as The Goat Soup & Whiskey in Keystone and Whiskey Jacques in Ketchum, Idaho; this Fourth of July, the band, voted Best Roots Rock Artist in OffBeat’s 2010 Best of the Beat Awards, hits the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore.

Wilkinson wasn’t sure what to expect when the band began touring Colorado’s mountain towns, even though now, after years of traveling, they’re all beginning to blur together, he said.

“First time I’d ever really seen mountains, so I was all wide-eyed and full of wonder,” Wilkinson said. “Guess I kind of had an idealistic vision of what it would be like, nature and all.”

About six years ago, he and his crew followed a Telluride-area local to “secret” hot springs back in the hills.

“The city slickers in the band were huffing pretty heavy,” he said about the hike, which was a piece a cake for the locals. “You’re not prepared for that thin air, and we don’t exactly lead the healthiest lifestyles anyway. But after about an hour and a half of stopping every 50 yards so that my 55-year-old emphysemic drummer didn’t keel over and die, we come upon the spot.”

Situated at the bottom of a rocky bluff, it was gorgeous, just as advertised. Only problem: It wasn’t so secret; a rather portly man soaked in the pool with his cluster of kids — and at least a case of empty, crushed Busch cans beside him.

“He had on this bright red bandanna and a pair of those heinous reflective Oakley Blades,” Wilkinson said. “He’s all, ‘Come on in and join us,’ and we probably would have, given what we went through to get there.”

Just as the band was about to join the pool party, a train appeared on the ridge across the river, and the 6’6” man stood up, hollering and flipping off the train.

“Turns out, he’s butt-ass naked,” Wilkinson said. “Proud of it too. With his kids right there in the pool with him. Giving that train all he’s got and all God ever gave him.

“Needless to say, we didn’t join him, but then and there I realized something: Florida, Louisiana, Colorado — there are rednecks everywhere in this world, God bless ’em.”

Kimberly Nicoletti is the entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Silverthorne, Colo.

Movies: “Cold” by Forge Motion Pictures

A good adventure-sports movie, no matter what sport it covers, usually accomplishes one thing: It makes you, the viewer, want to go out and do whatever it is those athletes are doing on film in that beautiful location, at your own speed — mountain biking, climbing, skiing, whatever. “Cold” is an achievement in that, instead of inspiring you to climb an 8,000-meter peak in winter, it makes you want to go home, curl up in the fetal position under a down comforter, and not come out.

The film begins with photographer and climber Cory Richards hunkered down in a tent at 21,959 feet, as the viewer is informed that the temperature is -51 degrees F., and can see that the inside of the tent is covered in snow. Richards asks, “What the fuck am I doing here?” And over the next 20 minutes of the film, you will ask the same thing. Richards and mountaineers Simone Moro and Denis Urubko summited 26,362-foot Gasherbrum II on Feb. 2, 2010, succeeding in the first winter ascent of an 8,000-meter peak in the Karakorum Range.

“Cold” gives you an up-front seat to all the post-holing, avalanche burials, whiteouts and the high-altitude coughs. Anson Fogel assembled Richards’ tirelessly filmed footage, and, with writing help from Kelly Cordes, won the Best Adventure Film at the 5Point Film Festival this spring. This is not three guys smiling for one moment in a summit photo. It’s real pain, cold, suffering and misery — high-altitude winter mountaineering at its best. It may not be inspiring, but it is amazing. forgemotionpictures.com

Books: “The Way Home: Essays on the Outside West” by James McVey

In his third book, author and University of Colorado professor James McVey takes the reader along on his experiences in the backcountry — hiking, running rivers, backcountry skiing and fishing — and provides scholarly depth in each experience, weaving history, ecology and philosophy into classic nature writing. McVey draws on 20 years of venturing into Colorado’s backcountry, from places as popular as Boulder’s Chautaqua Park to the solitude of a post-rafting season run of the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.

The collection of essays in “The Way Home” provides rich writing with a solid balance of adventure and nature, and the question of our place in all of it. McVey writes of a day of backcountry skiing on Wolf Creek Pass: “But the truth is, something else drives us out here to the geographic backbone of the continent. What lurks there in our tangled psyches? What genetic baggage left over from the days of sabertooths and woolly mammoths?” $19.95. uofupress.com

 

Books: “The Quotable Chongo on How To Be Bitchin, Volume One” by Chongo

Charles “Chongo” Victor Tucker III is one of the most legendary dirtbags in the history of dirtbags, and probably the most-famous dirtbag in the history of Yosemite. I paid full price for his book instead of asking for a free “review copy” (as is the standard) because as Chongo says, “I live outdoors, which I guess you might call a homeless lifestyle.” He sleeps outdoors in Sacramento because, in 2005, a two-day court trial ended with Chongo being removed from Yosemite National Park, guilty of three misdemeanor violations of camping regulations.

As far as I know, this is the first-ever review of his book. What is the book? Somewhere between the “Tao Te Ching” and the “Tao of Willie”: An 89-page collection of maxims from Chongo on being bitchin’, one per page. Example: “The road to not being bitchin is paved with illusions of being so”; and “If it was bitchin once but not now, then it was never bitchin in the first place”; and “Pride derived from power is cowardice disguised as courage.” If you can’t meet Chongo — and I haven’t, besides reading his profile in the New York Times and the YouTube video on him from ad agency Ogilvy & Mather — I would guess this is the next best thing. Spiral-bound copies are $20 plus $3 shipping. chongonation.com

 

The Wild Side of Life: Roadhouses, Honky-Tonks and Dives

The Almont Resort, between Gunnison and Crested Butte. Photo: Dawne Belloise

You’re sitting on a stool in some mountain dive bar where the music is beyond the aural spectrum your ears can handle, which is OK, because the melodic nuances were lost at the bottom of that fifth pint and shot you ordered. In this scenario, it’s not likely that you’d be musing about the origin of your historic watering hole and the various music genres that have bounced around the dance floor, but it’s staggering in more ways than the obvious to visualize what may have come before. Tap into the collective wildness of its previous incarnations and perhaps in your elevated consciousness ask yourself, “Where am I?”

… a roadhouse, honky-tonk or just a dive?

According to Dr. Chani Marchiselli, a Colorado mountain native and now a Professor of Communications at New England College, “Roadhouses developed outside of municipalities that had been subject to zoning and regulatory acts put forward by Progressive Reformers who were interested in saving cities and towns from the scourge of noisy, drunken dance halls and their attendant business and prostitution. Roadhouses developed in the teens and 1920s when they wouldn’t allow dance halls and sometimes alcohol consumption so houses moved outside (of town and city limits) to avoid regulations. They were made possible by the invention of the autos.” Although given an understandably bad rap, Dr. Marchiselli explains that teetotalers shouldn’t be bashed since their main thrust was to curtail the exploitation of women. “They were interested in banning alcohol in cities because husbands would work in dank, dirty factories, get drunk and then beat the shit out of their wives. So a lot of the Progressive Social Reformers were concerned about how wives were treated.”

Honky-tonks came later, as did the music so associated with those venues that it eventually came to bear the name. Jazz came out of the brothels of New Orleans and the nastiest honky-tonks of the West. Dr. Marchiselli adds that honky-tonks get “blamed” for some of the raunchy influence on American music, mostly ragtime and jazz. “Roadhouses were out of town; honky-tonks were basically filthy folk-music saloons and, like roadhouses, were associated with prostitution and suspension of social order. Honky-tonks were usually associated with out West and a particular kind of music and they were really rowdy … and mountain honky-tonks were way off the maps (as far as unruliness). Hymnals actually influenced country and blues.” Country music didn’t show up in honky-tonks until the 1930s.

Craig McManus, a popular KBUT radio (kbut.org, Crested Butte) country music DJ and bass player in rock-and-roll bands for a couple of decades, thinks the true honky-tonk is either dying or just plain dead and, if nothing else, on its last breath in the mountains. “The road house is usually in between two small towns, like the Almont Resort between Crested Butte and Gunnison or The Sleepy Cat between Meeker and Buford,” both of which McManus has frequented. Although The Sleepy Cat was turned into a private residence by new owners, long-time owners of the original roadhouse, the Wix family, plan to eventually build another close by to appease the pleas from area locals who miss the joint’s good times. The Almont Resort, with some of its cabins dating back to the late-1800s, is still a place for a raucous evening of drinks, live music and dancing.

Between Bond and Wolcott, State Bridge was another off-the-beaten-path roadhouse with all the fixins’ of music, dance and rowdiness that unfortunately burned to the ground in 2007 when a vexed burglar doused the resistant ATM machine with gasoline and set it ablaze. Scott Stoughton, the current Social Chairman of the newly rebuilt Eagle County lodge, says it was once a haven for trappers, traders, miners and cowboys. “Before the fire, since the early days, it was a little hotel, a brothel, a trading post and later a speakeasy during Prohibition. It rebounded with rafting and music throughout the 1980s and ’90s for bikers, rafters, fisherman and hippies. It was rocking until the fire.” Its grand reopening last month (June 2011) included concerts and music on the newly rebuilt stages.

McManus observed that there weren’t really any rules for roadhouses and honky-tonks unless patrons went past the unwritten allowable, and you could get away with even more after midnight. “These were venues where the people living out in the rural mountain areas could meet, listen to live bands, drink and not worry about the laws and the rules. On most occasions, you could find a crap game or two going on in the bar.” Music that was played in more-isolated honky-tonks tended to be good-time country bands. “I talked to somebody who played rock-and-roll in a country bar and every time they played that type of song it would rain beer bottles. They had been hired by mistake because of a misunderstood name the band had. But if you’re musically inappropriate in a place like this, the audience will let you know physically that you’re in the wrong place. I have played behind a caged stage to protect bands from flying burgers and beer bottles.”

McManus feels the death of honky-tonks is because of several reasons, “One reason is the DUI, but that’s one of the reasons they had their own cabins. Secondly, country music — true country music — has lost most of its venues and there are less country bands regionally. People aren’t going out as much anymore, either. I remember the honky-tonks’ hardwood floor with sawdust, a lot of dancing and drinking and you wouldn’t dare ask for a martini because it was a shot-and-beer place … American beers, thank you. And you better not talk to any pretty girls unless you know who their boyfriend is or was because he may still be there and it doesn’t matter if he ain’t seeing her anymore — you ain’t.” McManus describes the basic difference between a roadhouse honky-tonk and a dive as, “The number of Harleys out front. If it’s a honky-tonk, there would be pickup trucks in the parking lot. If you see one SUV, move on … it’s been turned.”

Although true mountain roadhouses and honky-tonks have either transformed or disappeared into the setting sun, saloons with their odoriferous air of fermentation, dance floors and music are still alive and well at high-altitude locales and worth much exploration … which surely means a future Mountain Music story of its own.

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living in a tiny cottage with a ginormous cat on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte’s paradise. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact dbelloise@gmail.com

Way of the Mountain #179

After being named poet laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope, it’s been wonderful to hook up with poet laureate of the Colorado Springs region, Jim Ciletti. David Mason of that same area is Colorado’s state poet laureate. My good friend Joan Logghe is poet laureate of Santa Fe (her new book, “The Singing Bowl,” from the University of New Mexico Press in Albuquerque, is a dazzler). California’s poet laureate was a classmate of mine in the writing department of San Francisco State, Carol Muske-Dukes. And finally, Elle Metrick of Norwood (who’s editor of the local paper, the Post) has taken the baton from Rosemerry Wahtola-Trommer and is the new San Miguel County poet laureate. It’s a nice way to honor poets who are often invisible to the community at large. This puts them out in the public eye. If your town or county wants to create such an honorary position, get a hold of me at poetry@mountaingazette.com and I can send you some draft resolutions.

This month’s featured book and poet is Norman Shaefer’s “The Sunny Top of California: Sierra Nevada Poems & A Story (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2010). It’s beautifully designed by master bookmaker JB Bryant, has an Obata woodblock on the cover and lively poems (and a story) that will charm lovers of mountains and verse in the same way that Chinese poets memorialized the mountains of their land.
— Art Goodtimes

Caveat

My stubble grows white
among a hundred granite peaks.
Passions are never easily put aside.
Edging across a narrow arête,
manteling an airy summit block;
the same thing that makes you live
can kill you in the end.
Norman Schaefer
from “The Sunny Top of California” (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2010)

Two-liner

Easy to say,
hard to clean
— Jack Mueller
Hermit of Log Hill
Colorado

Visible

I see you. Yes. You are
the impossible route
up granite, seen only
one move at a time,
found more by fingertip
than eye.

I see you. Yes. You are
the line through trees
in deep powder, seen
then lost, visible
to the knees, a sense
of give, then ground.

I see you. Yes. You are
the smooth tongue,
the reflection of sky
leading the way through
white churn water
where the line is fine,
a single oar-dip
between slide
and flip.
— Elle Metrick
San Miguel County Poet Laureate
Norwood, CO

At the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival

like wild hummingbirds
we gather at the feeder
gulping poetry
— Carol Bell
Haiku a Day Practice
Fort Colliins

The Road

May the road
rise up to greet you
as you face down
fall upon it.
— Danny Rosen
Stargazing Mage of Lithic Press
Fruita

Beer at Altitude – Mountain Brewfests Kick Off Summer

Late Thursday evening, early spring, van driving hard toward Pagosa Springs on the yearly penance run to the Front Range for a weekend of old friends, bluegrass, weirdness and beer at the Boulder Theater.

Telluride local/pirate Hawkeye Johnson and the author pause for the cause at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, 2009. New Belgium's brews are on tap at the festival in June, and the adult sippy-cup is a free upgrade.

No snow yet in the graying sky, but “The Wolf” to cross — Wolf Creek Pass, among the upper class of high-mountain passes in the West, and no interstate or magic tunnel to guide us into the night. Stones wailing in our ears, the yet-frozen forest of the high-alpine passes into night as we careen down into South Fork, Del Norte and on through forgotten space towards Saguache. Darkness takes the snow-bound heights, clouds descend and snow flurries scatter in the metal-halide glare of the state prison as we enter Buena Vista.

Our destination this eve is the Eddyline Brewery, a newer participant in the Colorado micro-brewing movement. Located on the banks of the Arkansas River in the “South Main” area of B.V., it is a partner organization to the Socorro Springs Brewing Co., in Socorro, NM. (Author’s note: Fayhee gives Socorro Springs a hearty thumbs up, as he has found himself dry-of-mouth in Socorro on numerous occasions.) You ain’t late if you make last call, and doing so, it was beers and wood-fired pizzas all ’round. The brew was solid, and following the opening of an additional production facility this spring, will be available in 16-ounce “pounders” by high summer. It is always good to find a friendly brewery after an arduous drive, and even better to find one with nearby riverside parking for “stealth camping” in the van (which was kindly pointed out to us by the lovely bartender). It is this type of experience that defines the mountain-town vibe for me, and awaking to the glory of the Collegiate Peaks shining in the mountain sun across the valley the next morning, I needed no explanation why the motto in B.V. is, “Life is Better When You’re High.”

By June in the High Country, the clear snowmelt is running from the peaks, and beer is flowing in the hills at the many brewfests that grace the region. To begin, the 17th Annual Mountain Brewers Festival will be held in Idaho Falls on the 4th, featuring eight breweries from Idaho and a host of others from the Pacific Northwest, Montana, Utah and Colorado.

Depending on where you are in the state of Colorado on June 11, two festivals, both celebrating their second anniversary, require attendance. The first is the Boulder Sourfest, hosted by Avery Brewing. Think the kool-aide that Lindeman’s mass-markets as a Lambic-style beer is authentic? Well, stop by Sourfest, and think again. Celebrating all things wild, as in wild yeast and “spontaneously fermented” beers, this event will introduce the participant to flavor components of beer described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay and my personal favorite, horseblanket. Not for the faint of palate, Lambics, Guezes and sour beers are a connoisseur’s delight.

The second event is Silverton Rockin’ Brews, taking place at 9,318 feet of elevation up in Silverton, CO. The organizer, Silverton Brewing Co., was damaged when a tragic fire burned several historic buildings in town this past spring, including the brewery and taproom. This event will coincide with their reopening after being closed for repairs. Breweries from across the Western Slope will be pouring, and music will be playing under the big top tent.

June 24-26 is host to four events. Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula, MT, will host its annual BBQ Festival on the 25th. Less about beer and more about meat, last year’s event pitted BBQ cooked up by eight local restaurants against discerning BBQ aficionados from all over Montana. Big Sky’s offerings will be on tap to cool the heat, with live music throughout the day.

In Summit County, CO, look for the Summit of Bluegrass and Brews to take place over two days on the 24th & 25th at the Lake Dillon Amphitheater. Featuring national bluegrass acts and beer from breweries from all over Colorado, the event is a fundraiser for the Colorado Brewers Guild.

The 22nd annual Colorado Brewers Festival hits downtown Fort Collins on the 25th & 26th. An old favorite of mine from my days at Colorado State University, this is a full-on party that consumes Old Town.

And finally, the Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival will take place at Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff, AZ, on the 25th. Featuring 50 beers from across the Southwest and around the world, this is the place to be if you’re down in the A-Z.

Got any brew-related news to share? Fire it off to me at beer@mountaingazette.com.

Erich Hennig, an avid home brewer, is the Four Corners columnist for the Rocky Mountain Brewing News. He lives in Durango, Colo.