Bob Chamberlain’s Mountain Vision #192

Artificial Snowstorm

Artificial Snowstorm, The Beginning of The End • Aspen, 1982

The beginning of the end began with a rumor that electrified the 1950s ski underground with the smoking news that, “They’re actually packing the snow in Aspen!” And they were. And it was my first job in Aspen–packing the snow. The “packing crew.”

“We could side-step the whole mountain, from top to town, and be down and done by 3 o’clock in the afternoon. This being mid-October, there was hardly anything else to do except spend the rest of the day drinking beer at the Red Onion. Tough duty.

No such fine nostalgia attaches to the gradual insinuation of the pipes, pumps, fire hoses and gun turrets of the artificial “product.” Nor does the unremitting roar of slurry under high pressure remind you of the solitude of a silent storm of featherlike snowflakes drifting quietly down on top of  one another onto the buried shapes of once-earth-like objects all around you.

But it’s not supposed to. It’s only supposed to keep quad chairs full of bodies, at least one head on each pillow in town, and to keep the ACL ward at the hospital occupied and in demand. “Skiing for the Millions,” (a title from the 1940s) and millions it costs to do it.

No, the packing crew has gone elsewhere, places like Telluride, where they side-step uphill, instead of down, and it’s all by invitation only. Otherwise, it’s turned into a fleet of 8,000-pound machines, which doze and roll and chop ice that’s been dumped into a pile, where the water drains out of it, so it can then be moved somewhere that it’s wanted by dozer blade. But if it’s ice you want, you may as well find out what the real thing is all about; at the local rink, they can show you how to skate, how to scrape ice and how to make ice. Hijack the Zamboni, and you can re-surface the whole mountain with hot water after every hockey game, which is pretty much what you are doing already. What’s wrong with artificial snow? Very simple. It’s not powder.

Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. 

Ephedra

Ephedra Cover

With summer hitting full stride in the Roaring Fork Valley, the Ideas Festival crowd turned into more of a Mountain Fair crowd, and instead of contemplating the economic value of a human life, I find I am contemplating the value of a poetic life. Partially spurring these thoughts have been two recent local poetry readings from the late-Karen Chamberlain’s posthumously published book, “Ephedra.” While I am not the first to say I miss Karen — who served for many years as Mountain Gazette’s poetry editor — I might possibly be the first to hope she really is just late, and maybe so wonderfully late, she will miraculously appear at a poetry reading, barn raising, horse dusting or goose-inspired fly-by.

Or perhaps, while collecting stinging nettles or yarrow, or plucking small wild strawberries, which are, at this very moment, very ripe, and very very tasty, I’ll look up and she’ll be there, smiling, the dusty desert and mountain babe of my dreams, second only to the salty surf and mountain babe of my reality. Until that time when Karen might appear, I’ve been reading and thumbing through the pages of “Ephedra” the same kind of way I might be reading and thumbing my way through the West. And what I have found in Karen’s collection, among poems dedicated to James Tate, Louis Simpson and Larry Levis (I have a bumpersticker on the back of my manly black Ford Ranger 4×4 that says “I heart Larry Levis”), are poems about real places and real people. OK, maybe not “Yerokastrinos,” which I wasn’t able to find in either Google or the Encyclopedia Britannica, though it captures both Greece and the feeling of longing in a particularly sweet, dark-red-pear kind of way. And who doesn’t love poems about real places and real people?

In “Medicine Women,” Karen takes us on a rooted, ridiculous and incredibly spiritual journey centered around sponge-capsule animals, of the variety you put in a glass of water and watch the gel capsule dissolve and the sponge saturate (along with mini-stories about the healing and strengthening of the three women). In “The Holy Fool of Bahia Kino,” Karen seeks a humane, human and spiritual connection with a boy who her friend describes as the village idiot, but who Karen listens to use the language of beauty to connect with both a dog and herself. Karen ends the poem by saying: “…Hapless boy,/ wronged by wonder…/ tomorrow I must leave the sea, drive/ the road of broken glass and dead tortoises,/ turn north toward the border. Then, even more,/ I’ll want for whatever’s wrong with you/ to be what’s wrong with me.”

So what’s the value of a poetic life? Everything. And then some. And then some more. As the old adage goes, you might even be one and not know it. A poetic life is like a bluegrass band wailing away on center stage with a sweaty audience dancing their hearts out. A bottomless dish of elephant ears, sno-cones and curried lentils. The righteous and valiant forward thinkingness of Carbondale’s Green Team, bio-degradable everything and coalitions that protect us against thoroughly fracking up the environment. But I digress. “Ephedra” captures, if ever so briefly, the life and lens of one of our very own poets. If we may claim her. And I think she would be generous enough to let us. One who graced many of us with her presence, and continues to grace us with this collection of poetry.

“Ephedra” is available through People’s Press, peoplespress.org, and the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, www.aspenwriters.org.

Cameron Scott is a freelance writer, teacher, and a fly-fishing guide out of Basalt, CO. If you have leftovers, he will eat them.

Keeping It Free…

Free Concerts

Snowmass Village has a stage that uses the natural incline of the slopes for a perfect day of music in the mountains.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, nothing ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free …”

 — “Me & Bobby McGee,” by Fred Foster and Kris Kristofferson

It’s all about being free. Free Ride. Free Falling. I’m Free! Free Bird. Free your mind. Free your soul. Free love. Free spirited. Free the people. Free your heel. Free beer. Break free. Fancy free. Free agent. It’s a way of life. But, apparently, for some reason, it’s unanimously agreed that there is no free lunch. Fortunately, there are free concerts, and lots of them, for you to flee freely to throughout spectacular mountain venues where we can pack up the picnic baskets and Pibbers, the wine, the kids and the pooches and head out for an evening of social noshing and dancing. And … it’s free!

Snowmass Village has the venue with the views, a kick-ass sound system and amazing stage at their Thursday Night Music Series, which began in June and rocks the valley through August 16. Bring seats and whatever you want to chow down on, although you can purchase grilled foods along with beer and wine at the shindig. It’s kid friendly with a bouncy house and activities to amuse the little ones so you can thoroughly enjoy the music. Check out the schedule at snowmassvillage.com.

Up in Steamboat Springs, the summer viewscape is lush with five concerts, starting at 7 p.m. on assorted nights. Although pets and your personal alcohol stash are not permitted, you can buy libations there. Check out steamboatfreeconcerts.com, then head on over to Vail where Jazz at The Market in the tent at Solaris (141 East Meadow Drive) kicks off the summer through August 26, from noon to 3 p.m. Click over to vailjazz.org. Just down the road a piece, Frisco is gathering for their Concert in the Park Series at 120 Main Street. You and your leashed pet can join them Thursdays, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. through August 16. Right around the corner in Dillon, catch the Friday Night Concerts at the Amphitheatre until August 31. While you’re there, hang out for the Sunset at the Summit concert series presented by the Lake Dillon Foundation for the Performing Arts, on Saturdays at 7 p.m. from July 7 through September 1. You can find all these events listed at coloradoinfo.com/summitcounty/events.

On the Western Slope, Rob Miller of Pickin’ Productions decided there wasn’t enough free music and created three new series in Ouray, Ridgway and Paonia, splitting the summer up nicely between the towns and booking some great acts into each. You can spend June in Ouray (OK … next year, and do hit the Orvis suit-optional hot springs), July in Ridgway (Town Park) and August in Paonia (Town Park and grab some of that valley’s magnificent organic produce and wine too). All shows start at 7 p.m. And being Ridgway, not only are they endeavoring to build a real stage, they have an afterparty at the Sherbino Theatre at 10 p.m. with the opening bands. More info at community radio KVNF.org.

Want classical? Durango’s Music in the Mountains (musicinthemountains.com) offers some of their series for free, as does Aspen (aspenmusicfestival.com). Durango also has a free concert series throughout July and into August at Buckley Park, Thursdays 5 to 7:30 p.m. which you can access at durangoconcerts.com.

Hard to get to but well worth the journey are the Crested Butte concerts, both in town and on the mountain, along with down-valley Gunnison concerts.

Downtown CB’s Alpenglow series is smack in the middle of wildflower-filled vertical views every Monday at 5:30 p.m. through August 22 (crestedbuttearts.org). Chill out a few days and take the free bus up the hill on Wednesday between July 6 and August 24 for some fine performances at the Red Lady Stage on Mt. Crested Butte. Gunnison cranks out the tunes for two nights, Fridays at 5 p.m. in the Gunnison Arts Center courtyard and Sundays at 6 p.m. in Legion Park. You can check out all those concerts at gunnisoncrestedbutte.com/events/free-concerts.

High above Boulder on the Front Range, the Gold Hill Inn celebrates 50 years of food and music this summer with both down-home and uptown musical acts and free shows throughout the year. Check out their summer freebies at goldhillinn.com. And if you’re in the area, head over to Estes Park for their Thursday Night Live! free performance series, at 7 p.m. at Performance Park found at estesart.com.

Whether you’re already living in the hills or need a breather from the lowland heat, jump your favorite transport and head on up to the mountain stages to enjoy free music of every genre because the road isn’t just calling you, it’s screaming in four-part harmonies, for free.

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer and vocalist living somewhere between the alternate universes of Crested Butte and Boulder. Contact dbelloise@gmail.com   

Mountain Media #190

BOOKS: “The Responsible Company,” by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

The Responsible Company

By now you’ve likely heard the story — in the late-’60s, itinerant surfer and big-wall climber Yvon Chouinard began hand-forging climbing gear in a seaside shed under the name Chouinard Equipment. He eventually added a clothing line, which grew into outdoor apparel giant and environmental champion Patagonia, a company that now banks somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million a year. Somewhere along the way, however, Chouinard became a poster child for socially and environmentally conscious business management, and his latest book, “The Responsible Company,” distills what he and co-author and Patagonia veteran Vincent Stanley have learned on the subject throughout the company’s 40-year history.

Early in the book, the authors reveal that Patagonia’s attention-getting practices have them keeping some odd bedfellows theses days, most notably price-slashing juggernaut Wal-Mart, which Patagonia has been consulting on environmental improvements over the last few years.

It seems Wal-Mart and countless other major companies are coming to the sobering realization and fairly common-sense ideal that Patagonia has operated on for years — “doing good creates better business.” In other words, the less resources and energy consumed by a company, the more profit they will make.

Despite some modest examples of Patagonia’s successful environmental initiatives, the book isn’t rife with the kind of horn-tooting one might expect from a book on business published by a for-profit company. On the contrary, Chouinard and Stanley level the playing field by stating that Patagonia is not the model for a responsible company, and there is no human economic activity that is yet worthy of the popular buzzword “sustainable.”

In addition to an interesting state-of-the-union address on business and the environment, the meat of the book is a sort of elemental style guide for responsible business practices, something useful for not only CEOs and corporate bigwigs, but anyone looking to create a more meaningful existence at work.

So perhaps responsible is the new sustainable — any company can boast about philanthropic work or financial donations, but it requires something more to take responsibility for the inherent environmental and social damage done by your company and make steps to alleviate it.

$19.95, www.patagonia.com

-Andy Anderson

MUSIC: “A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door,” by The River Whyless

River Whyless

As if nodding to the muse of nature that inspired it, “A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door” begins with the sound of footsteps next to a nearby stream. After a few folky, fiddle-filled movements, the music gains strength, as curiosity often does when looking under the right rocks. The wandering tune reaches a celebratory high point and then gracefully descends. Such an orchestrated outline follows the full arc of an album, but this is only the first song of ten.

The River Whyless, a four-piece folk band from Asheville, NC, has created a musical wonder with their first album. Though at times sounding similar to Fleet Foxes or The Head and The Heart, the dual-songwriting efforts of Ryan O’Keefe and Halli Anderson have laid the foundation for something thoughtfully original as well as genuinely Appalachian. Underneath it all, the crisp, flowing rhythms of Matt Rossino on bass and Alex McWalters on drums both anchor and elevate the artful song structures. Freshman effort or not, The River Whyless has created a unified, coming-of-age album that’s best ingested in its entirety. For a quick taste, check out “Cedar Dream Part II,” “Great Parades,’” “Pigeon Feathers” or “Stone” … or “Unfound Door” … or you might as well just listen to it all. Go to www.riverwhyless.bandcamp.com, where you can listen to the album and name your price (hello, free music!) for an instant download, as well as check for upcoming tour dates.

— Jeff Miesbauer

APPS: Columbia GPS PAL

GPS PAL

While some branded smartphone apps seem to be little more than a thinly veiled marketing gimmick, the GPS PAL app from Columbia Sportswear stands out as a truly useful tool that just happens to be stamped with a brand name.

The GPS PAL, which stands for Personal Activity Log, provides GPS tracking with the ability to log photos, notes and videos as waypoints along the route. It tracks distance, time, pace and elevation automatically and provides a cool summary when your route is finished. The app also automatically syncs your routes and trip reports to an online journal, where they can be shared, compared and organized.

As a climber, I could see the app being extremely useful for approaches with difficult route-finding, but hikers, backpackers, runners and mountain bikers will find it an easy replacement for a GPS unit in most cases. It has already come in handy for measuring progress on training runs and relocating poop bags on after-work hikes with my dog.

Add to that the fact that it costs nothing, doesn’t require any map downloads (it maps through Google), tracks well without cell phone service and works better overall than some apps I’ve paid five bucks for, and the GPS PAL is a real keeper. The only real downside is that running the GPS for long periods of time (multi-hour hikes) seems to drain the phone’s battery quickly.

Free, GPSPAL. Columbia.com

— AA

I Want A New Drug

I Want a New Drug

A bottle of Pear Brandy made by Peach Street Distilling, Paonia, CO. “To get the pear into the bottle, the distiller drops in a lit match, sets the fruit on top, and watches while the vacuum created pulls the fruit down through the neck.” — Dave Thibodeau, Peach Street Distillers

Politics has been called the world’s second-oldest profession. If this is the case, then, in this country, the third is making moonshine. Long relegated to illegal backwoods operations by draconian federal and state tax laws that favored large producers, the art of distilling spirits was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth and the activity was kept in the shadows. There was good reason not to get caught breaking the law. Adherence to federal code governing alcohol production is policed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Trades, formerly the ATF, the same people who brought you the Waco and Ruby Ridge tragedies. Some law-enforcement agencies arrest and prosecute those who violate the law; these guys are licensed to kill. A decade ago, changes in tax codes allowed small producers to begin producing liquor and turn a profit. In 2003, the American Distilling Institute was founded to help promote the nascent industry. At that time, the association recognized 69 operating craft distilleries nationwide. Today there are more than 240, with projections of this number doubling by 2015. With craft distillers currently operating in every Western state, the movement resembles the craft-brewing industry of the early 1990s, which was a period of rapidly rising consumer interest and explosive growth.

Founded in 2004, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey can lay claim to being the oldest legally operating distillery in Colorado. A partnership between Woody Creek locals Jess Graber and George Stranahan, (also component to the reawakening of this journal), the whiskey was once distilled from mashes made at another of Stranahan’s former business concerns, the Flying Dog Brewery, when it also operated in Denver. Both have since changed hands, but unlike Flying Dog, Stranahan’s Whiskey continues to be produced on Kalamath Street in the Mile High City and distributed around the state. Having recently taken delivery of new copper pot stills and fermentation tanks, they aim to triple their production over the next year, with hopes that some of their product might actually make it out of Colorado to points far and wide.

On the other side of the state, Peach Street Distillers in Palisade first put fire under its still in 2005. Taking advantage of being located in the heart of Colorado’s fruit- and wine-producing regions, they have put together an award-winning lineup of products that include Colorado Straight Bourbon, Goat Vodka, Jackalope Gin, Jack and Jenny Peach and Pear Brandies (including the Pear Brandy pictured above with the fruit grown in bottles carefully suspended from the tree branches), several styles of Grappa and other unique products. Peach Street proudly points out that theirs was the first bourbon produced in the state. According to press release, a common misunderstanding is that bourbon must be made in Kentucky, and although there are strict laws governing what a bourbon is, the spirit can technically be made anywhere in the United States. According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, aged for not less than two years in new charred American oak barrels, and nothing can be added at bottling to enhance the flavor or color. As with all of Peach Street’s spirits, they use local Colorado ingredients, including the famed sweet corn of Olathe. This “commitment to excellence in creativity and quality” was cited as determining factor in Peach Street being awarded the “Distillery of the Year” award at the 9th annual Craft Distillers Conference held in Louisville, KY, in April of this year. Plans are underway to expand the tasting room, as well as to acquire several of the buildings that they currently occupy, as well as to put up over 100 barrels of bourbon in 2012.

Claiming title as “the world’s highest distillery,” Breckenridge Distillery operates their production facility and downtown tasting rooms up in Breck at an elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level. Breckenridge produces award-winning bourbon, vodka and rum. The bourbon is curious in that it contains a high amount of rye in the grain mixture that forms its base. This differentiates it from many American-style bourbons that might finish sweeter. They also produce an original line of bitters infused with alpine herbs intended to create remarkable aperitifs with flavors evoking the rare beauty found in the mountains around them.

Erich Hennig lives in Durango, CO, and would love to hear about hooch made near you. Drop him a line: beer@mountaingazette.com  

Bob Chamberlain’s Mountain Vision

Bob Chamberlain's Mountain Vision

When I first met her, Keeney’s highest aspiration was to move to Paris and become a Lady of the Evening, or of the Morning, for that matter. A French Afternoon was all very pleasant, but it was still lacking, somehow.

In the even, she went back to school, graduated and then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Anthropology. Her work on Pitcairn Island helped make her a world authority on the subject, with almost every citation under the heading in the Colorado University Library being, “Keeney, (such-and-such a date).” She even became embroiled politically through a BBC interview concerning child sexual abuse by elderly male island residents. As a result, several older men were arrested by New Zealand authorities, tried, sentenced and incarcerated on some other Polynesian island. No French Afternoons here.

After a couple of years teaching English and yoga in Micronesia, she can now be found in Park City, where she teaches English as a Second Language, and presumably studies the local ski culture. An Absurd princess in an Absurd world

Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. 

Mountain Media #189

Podcast: The Enormocast by Chris Kalous

Chris Kalous

Whether it’s around the campfire or in front of a computer, it’s a known fact that climbers love to talk about climbing. But with all the internet forum banter and three-minute video edits, it’s rare to hear an in-depth conversation on climbing issues and stories from an authentic, engaging and approachable perspective. Enter The Enormocast, which is the brainchild of writer and climber Chris Kalous. Kalous has been immersed in the climbing life for a long time and has climbed all over the world and throughout the Intermountain West, spending a lot of time in the Utah desert and Yosemite Valley.

The Enormocast is at its heart an informal discussion of climbing issues with the more interesting movers-and-shakers in the climbing community. The guest list has included some people who need no introduction to climbers, such as Kelly Cordes and Steph Davis, and other more undercover characters such as Sam Lightner Jr. and BJ Sbarra. Although he is certainly an opinionated host, Kalous’ gracious and genuinely funny nature keep the show light and the conversation engaging. Chris manages to navigate complex issues such as the cleaning of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre or the evolving climate of land access in Southern Utah by both choosing guests who are intimately familiar with the issues (such as Hayden Kennedy and the above-referenced Sam Lightner Jr., respectively) and drawing upon his wealth of experiences as a perceptive and well-traveled climber. The fact that beers are usually being consumed by the host and interviewee goes a long way to bring a conversational tone to issues that could get a bogged down in policy and precedent. And at the end of the day, Chris manages to remember that no matter how much we love it, “It” is just rock climbing. Enormocast.com

— Rob Duncan

Magazines: Ascent 2012

Ascent Cover

It might seem strange to review a magazine in another magazine, but Ascent 2012 is less of a magazine and more of a literary journal meets coffee table book — the kind of glossy, high-quality publication that, after you’ve read it through, ends up on your bookshelf and not in your recycling bin.

Originally published by the Sierra Club and edited by Allen Steck and Steve Roper (also authors of the legendary “50 Classic Climbs of North America”), Ascent debuted in 1967 as a visionary climbing journal intent on publishing the sport’s best stories and most vivid images. It accomplished its mission, going on to become the longest-running climbing publication ever, but after 14 issues published sporadically over 32 years, Ascent folded in 1999. After a trial comeback in 2011, Rock and Ice magazine acquired Ascent and has since revived it into an annual publication, rife with the stunning images and beautiful stories that its originators intended.

Ascent contains what most of us truly desire in a climbing publication — incredible, inspiring images and large blocks of eloquent, uninterrupted text. From Allen Steck’s detailed account of biking and climbing through post-WWII Europe to Renan Ozturk’s chronicle of recovering from a near-death ski accident to make the first ascent of Peru’s Sharks Fin, the magazine’s stories and photos encapsulate the beautiful diversity of the sport. Ascent’s pages span both generations and disciplines, but the sum is simply a keepsake collection of adventurous, inspiring and often hilarious tales from lives defined by climbing. $12.99, RockandIce.com

— AA

Books: “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” by Darren Knezek and Christian Knight

Maple Canyon Guide

A climbing guidebook exists to serve two key functions — to provide essential information about a climbing area and its routes, and to get the reader PSYCHED. “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” a new full-color guide to one of Utah’s most-popular areas, fulfills both requirements and beyond.

Tucked into an inconspicuous mountainside in the middle of central Utah farm country, Maple Canyon has grown from an obscure, chossy backwater crag to one of the top summer sport climbing destinations in the West. The cliffs, comprised of thousands and thousands of rounded cobbles glued together with sedimentary rock, makes for some of the most unique climbing around. It’s often hard to tell what kind of hold a cobble will provide until you actually touch it, making the routes there notoriously pumpy and hard to read. The book also covers a host of routes in the surrounding areas outside of the canyon proper for those looking for some added variety. Written by local and active route developers, the book features loads of route information, awesome photos and pertinent area history.

After nearly 12 years without an up-to-date guidebook, this cobble-choked canyon’s popular documented crags have become crowded and overrun, while the numerous unpublished walls often see only a handful of climbers on a busy weekend. While a flashy new guidebook can tend to increase traffic to an area, perhaps this one will serve to redistribute climbers around the canyon’s hundreds of fun, challenging and previously unknown routes. $29.95, maplecanyonclimbing.com

— AA 

See the latest Mountain Media from issue #190!

Ridin’ the Rhythm Rails

Blues Train

“Now I’ve got nothing but the whistle and the steam, my baby’s leaving town on the 2:19.”

— Tom Waits

From the time the big iron wheels first started their screech down the tracks, people figured out a way to hitch a ride on trains, creating a distinctive rail culture. During the Great Depression, when money and work were impossibly scarce, kids would jump on the rails to go pick fruit and produce wherever laborers were needed. Music was spontaneously a part of that transient lifestyle for entertainment, communication and camaraderie in clustered gatherings around campfires and boxcars with harmonica, banjo or a little guitar.

Russ Lallier of Gunnison, Colorado, a train hobbyist, historian and videographer of three documentaries about regional rail history (youtube Russy Baby, or russybaby.weebly.com), all of which feature the music of Drew Emmitt (drewemmitt.com), tells that music was always part of train culture.

“When trains were first coming out, there were tons of songs written by the old wagon-train haulers, known as wagoners or freighters, and riverboat sailors on the Erie Canal,” which were the FedEx of the old days, Lallier says.

The rivalry and angst ensued because the newfangled trains were obviously a threat to their livelihoods and so inspired many protest songs.

“Steam was the devil to the canal men and haulers,” according to Lallier.

As trains rumbled through the years, their lore became captured in musical ballads, from spectacular wrecks to affection for the locomotives. To some, trains were merely transportation, but to those singing the blues, the train was rambling down that track carrying somebody’s baby who just done left them on that southbound train.

Fast track on down the line where Casey Jones needs to watch his speed, Johnny Cash is listening to the lonesome whistle blow just outside his accommodations at Folsom Prison, the Marshall Tucker boys are rocking a southbound all the way to Georgia, and you’ll find that modern mountain railroads have discovered the perfect blend of marrying music, splendorous viewscapes and, yes, halleluiah, brews.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been in continuous operation for over 130 years (durangotrain.com). Teaming up with Durango’s Bluegrass Meltdown event in late April this year, the ride up to Cascade Canyon featured The Freight Hoppers (freighthoppers.com) and Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (jeffscrogginsandcolorado.com) playing in different cars while people strolled through chugging libations. Reaching altitude, they were then treated to a 45-minute layover concert and a blazing fire at the Canyon’s pavilion.

Telluride Blues and Brews Festival also joined up for the three-hour tour and wildly successful second-annual Durango Blues Train on June 2. More powerful than a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive rhythmically clacking down the tracks was the soulful groove of Erik Boa and the Constrictors, The Sugar Thieves, Robby Overfield, Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagen, Alex Maryol, Donny Morales and Todd and the Fox.

If your tastes run true West, you can hop aboard the Cowboy Poet Train this October 5 and experience the traditional music of cowboys, along with their tall tales as the railway has pardner’d  with the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering taking place that same week.

Blues Train singer

Jumping tracks over to Alamosa is where the Rio Grande Railroad (riograndescenicrailroad.com) rattles up La Veta Pass to their Summer Mountaintop Concert Series, all of which are powered by wind and solar energy, and which include a lot of regional brews. This month features concerts by Michael Martin Murphey with The Rifters (June 16 and 17), The Rifters with Chuck Pyle (June 22-24), Special Consensus with Anne Hills (June 29-July1) and more top-notch music weekly throughout the summer (check out the website for all the acts, bios, and dates).

Rails and Ales is a perfect hoedown for a good high-altitude buzz with a brew fest of more than 20 regional beer makers, and it cranks out the live music on a boxcar stage in a mountain meadow on June 23.

The symbiosis of song and track is something rail riders and musicians have realized for a long time, whether it’s like a lullaby or a train wreck rock finale. Paul Simon once said, “There’s something about the sound of a train that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.” Don’t miss the train.

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer and vocalist living in Crested Butte and working in Boulder. She just left on the 2:19. dbelloise@gmail.com