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The water impact: Looking at how the drought has ravaged the Roaring Fork Valley

The Lake Christine Fire was the most dramatic product of a hot, dry, smoky summer in the Roaring Fork Valley, but the grip of drought extended well beyond three destroyed houses and a charred hillside.

Mother Nature served a triple whammy this year with low snowpack, lack of monsoonal rains in July and high temperatures.

That created moisture levels in trees, brush and vegetation that fell to 8 percent, matching record low levels and setting the stage for the Lake Christine Fire. The fire burned 12,588 acres after starting July 3 due to human activity. It will cost an estimated $18 million to fight by the time it is extinguished.

Parched pastures and reduced hay production is forcing some ranchers to face a tough choice of paying more to feed their livestock this winter or selling off some of their herd.

Anglers were asked to voluntarily avoid fishing some stretches of the valley's gold medal trout streams in the heart of summer because of high temperatures in low-flowing waters.

The rafting industry limped into a season where peak flow occurred before anyone noticed.

Aspen instituted its first-ever watering restrictions.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation struggled to get Ruedi Reservoir beyond 90 percent of capacity. Diversions to the East Slope slowed to a trickle much earlier than normal. Some streams and rivers were reduced to levels that someone with long legs could jump across.

There was no comparison between this year's drought and the last severe one in 2012, according to Bill Fales of Cold Mountain Ranch south of Carbondale in the Crystal River Valley.

"This was 100 times worse," he said.

A consortium of Carbondale-area cattlemen relies on collective grazing grounds in the Jerome Park area before U.S. Forest Service grazing allotments higher up in the mountains become available. Ponds that were always dependable in the past were bone dry this year, said Fales, a rancher for 40 years. He had to truck water in for the livestock.

Fales was able to reap close to normal amounts of hay from irrigated fields in the valley floor but land he leases in the vicinity of Jerome Park west of Carbondale ran out of water early. Fields that typically produced 160 round bales of hay produced only eight this year.

"I'm lucky. I have quite a bit of hay left over from last year," Fales said.

That's critical because hay prices have soared to between $200 and $300 per ton. Meanwhile, beef prices have dropped for a variety of reasons, including retaliatory tariffs by China on U.S. farm products.

Any rancher who has to pay high prices for hay to get through the fall and winter is in a tough financial spot.

"That's a losing proposition, from my way of thinking," Fales said. At $300 per ton of hay, he doesn't see his herd making money.

Felix Tornare said he wasn't able to get any water to portions of his Milagro Ranch in Missouri Heights this summer. He had limited water from Cattle Creek and Spring Park Reservoir. It wasn't enough to irrigate all his lands so he had to decide how best to dole it out.

"We were out of water from Cattle Creek June 1," he said.

It was an incredibly dry year piled on top of a prior year that wasn't all that great.

"I've never seen it this dry, really," Tornare said.

He downsized his grass-fed beef operation two years ago, in part because of concerns about the risk with a larger herd. He has about one-third fewer cows now, so he can absorb the reduced hay production. Other ranchers and horse boarding operations aren't so lucky.

"I've seen a lot of semis pull in with hay," Tornare said.

Roaring Fork Valley native Retta Bruegger works with ranchers all over the Western Slope as a regional specialist in range management with Colorado State University Extension. Bruegger, who is based in Grand Junction, helped coordinate a workshop in Delta last month for ranchers dealing with drought. More than 100 people attended, including ranchers from the Roaring Fork Valley.

"The prime issue is not enough forage," Bruegger said.

In some areas, grazing allotments on national forest were too dry to sustain herds. Hay production in the Grand Valley was 80 percent of average.

"They have an array of bad choices," Bruegger said of ranchers. Selling off cattle is a bad option because that reduces chances for future revenue and rebuilding a herd could be more expensive down the road, she said. But paying high hay prices can be a killer for small family operations, she added. It's a decision ranchers occasionally must juggle.

"Drought is part of the reality of ranching in the western U.S.," Bruegger said.

The Cap K Ranch in the Fryingpan River Valley faced an unusual challenge this summer. Its grazing allotment on the White River National Forest is high on a ridge east of the Lake Christine Fire. The threat of the fire making a run and endangering the cows was too risky in the early days of the fire, so Cap K moved them closer to the valley floor, said ranch owner Lynn Nichols.

They were forced to use pasture that would typically be relied on later in the summer and fall, so that reduces their options.

"Fortunately we have hay left over from last season," Nichols said.

Plus, irrigators in the Fryingpan Valley were better off than most because the area had a higher snowpack than other parts of the Roaring Fork River watershed. Cap K's hay production was about normal.

"There's a lot of ranches out there that ran out of water in June," Nichols said.

Fales said the big concern in the ranching community is persistent drought. Without normal snowpack this winter, many of the springs that ranchers depend on for their herds will dry up even sooner than this summer.

The Aspen Global Change Institute is hosting a workshop on drought this month for researchers and policy makers.

Angeline Pendergrass, a project scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, is a co-organizer. She said it is clear that the climate is warming. It's less clear how that will affect precipitation.

As the climate gets warmer, it increases the evaporative demand so it's drier. One outcome could be less precipitation but more intense events, such as deluges of rain and fewer but larger snowstorms.

"One of the concerns in Colorado is having enough water," Pendergrass said.

The state's water supply depends on snowpack. Warmer conditions could result in more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow, leading to quicker runoff and potentially drier summers.

"It just might mean that conditions get more drought-y in general," she said.

However, she doesn't believe this year is necessarily a new normal.

"Every year is not going to be like this going forward," she said.

Anglers wade it out for health of fish

As renowned as the Aspen area is for its skiing and snowboarding, the Roaring Fork Valley also can lay claim to some of the best fly-fishing to be had on this side of the Mississippi River.

Angling and skiing, as different as they are, also share some such common allures as enjoying the outdoors and solitude, provided Mother Nature is agreeable.

But she wasn't this past year, registering historically low snowfall in the Aspen area that had a trigger effect on late spring and summer fishing conditions.

"This has been a tough year, a very tough year for our rivers, streams and natural resources," said Mike Porras, spokesman for the northwest region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

A combination of high temperatures and low water flows prompted the CPW in the summer to implement voluntary fishing closures, from
2 p.m. to midnight, throughout
the state.

Some rivers and streams in the Roaring Fork Watershed ran 30 percent below their average, while temperatures hit as high as 68 degrees and even 70 on the Colorado; that created a recipe of stress for trout because of the lack of oxygen in the warmer waters.

"It's all tied to our previous winter when we had low snowpack and a lot of runoff that ended about a month, a month and half earlier, than the hottest part of the year," Porras said. "And we'd already gone through our runoff, and that led to our concerns."

The CPW lifted its restrictions on parts of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers Sept. 1, yet it still is cautioning anglers to avoid the lower Crystal River at all times of the day. Closures are available at the CPW's website.

Fishing activity has picked up in recent weeks, said Cameron Villa of Fryingpan Anglers in Basalt.

"For the last couple of weeks it's been good," he said. "And actually the Colorado is fishing really well, and the bugs have been coming off the Fryingpan. … Pretty much every kind of bug is coming out — midges, blue-wings, PMDs and green drakes."

The voluntary fishing restrictions had meant early morning for anglers and their guides, Villa said.

"We were just getting out really early as opposed to starting at 7:30 and 8," he said. "We were starting at sunrise."

The drought's impacts will have a long-term effect on the fish population, Porras said, noting "we're hoping the weather turns soon."

"We're starting to get moisture and that can certainly help," he said. "Our fish have been under a tremendous amount of stress, and it will take awhile for them to get back to normal."

City of Aspen remains under strict water restrictions

Unprecedented water restrictions were enacted in the city of Aspen last month, and users have reduced their consumption by 12 percent.

"The community is really responding," said Margaret Medellin, the city's utilities portfolio manager. "It's a great indication that the community takes this water shortage seriously."

In August of 2017, city water users consumed an average of 6.8 million gallons a day. This year, it went down to 5.9 million gallons a day.

Aspen City Council enacted a Stage II water shortage on Aug. 13 due to extremely low water levels because of low snowpack and little summer precipitation.

The goal of the restrictions is to protect the health of city water sources — Castle and Maroon creeks, which were running at only 30 percent of average in August — while maintaining Aspen's municipal water at levels that can meet customers' demands.

It's the first time that the city has entered into a Stage II water shortage. Other communities in the Roaring Fork Valley, such as Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, have done the same, Medellin said.

The restrictions further increase billing rates for the highest water-use customers, as well as prohibit watering lawns more than three days a week and over 30 minutes per sprinkler zone.

Stage II also means no watering native areas more than two days a week and no watering lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or anytime it is raining.

In addition, the restrictions mean no watering that results in ponding or flowing onto paved surfaces. Washing sidewalks, driveways and patios also are prohibited.

Medellin said enforcement has been mostly complaint based, or through city staff's educational efforts.

If people see any violations, they are asked to email watersave@cityofaspen.com

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"That goes to people who are in the field so if they see something they can send us an email," she said.

Medellin said last week between 20 and 30 emails have come in, with violations mostly being broken sprinkler heads that were spraying water onto paved surfaces.

Other common infractions have been people washing sidewalks and watering during the day. But once they are informed of the restrictions, they comply, Medellin said.

"We haven't had to issue any tickets," she said.

The dismal snowpack also has negatively affected the rafting industry this summer.

Vince Nichols, owner of Blazing Adventures, said his guides had to stop running sections of the Roaring Fork River on
June 1 when they are typically going through July.

"For our bread and butter, the Roaring Fork, it was a rough year," he said, adding his guides did take customers down lower sections on the Fork in duckies when possible.

Fortunately, a dam controls the Shosone section on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon so there were higher flows in August and there will be for the next month.

Nichols said he has been able to keep his business afloat with the Shoshone stretch, as well as other activities that Blazing Adventures offers like biking, jeep tours and hiking,

"Fortunately we have backup activities for years like this," he said. "It was an interesting season but we were prepared."

Wahoo! Fashion and function found in the Wallaroo hat

Protecting our skin is a full-time job when playing under the sunny skies of Colorado, so having a good hat on your head is key.

It's always been a baseball hat or visor that I turn to when heading out for a hike, bike ride, river float or a golf outing.

And a cowboy hat or fedora are always my go-to when I'm heading out for an outdoor concert or festival.

But then the Wallaroo Hat Co. came across my radar. I regarded them more as a fashion statement and something for a social outing rather than active wear.

The first time I put a Wallaroo hat on was earlier this summer when I was heading out on a three-day trip on the Colorado River.

I have the "Kristy," which is described as fedora style with a 3-inch brim. Even though these hats are designed to fold up, smash down or pack up and not lose their form, I was too timid to do so.

So I wore it the entire trip, and I couldn't believe how light and airy it was. It was the perfect hat to block the hot, blazing and unforgiving sun on those cloudless days; the hat's UPF 50+ fabric blocks 97.5 percent of the ultraviolet rays.

I have a small head and this hat's adjustable drawstring works really well. It's hidden in the brim and you don't feel it all.

But even better, the Kristy hat blows the "fashion before function" mantra out the window. Every time I wear this hat, someone wants to try it on, or borrow it, or take it. It's very classic and fun.

I did eventually test out the hat's crushable function — I packed it in a backpack while traveling recently. It bounces back right away and keeps its form.

The Wallaroo Hat Co. has what seems like a zillion different styles of hats — in men's and women's. However, many of them are androgynous.

I tested out the men's Avery, which is super lightweight and allows air to flow in via metal eyelets. It also has an adjustable elastic strap so there is no fear of it blowing off when I'm heading into the wind.

And it looks really cool, with its leather band and 100 percent Japanese glazed paper on the exterior.

Whatever style, these Australian-inspired hats are functionable and fashionable. Wallaroo, a Boulder-based company that has been around for almost two decades, has found a niche.


Book Review: ‘Tear Me Apart’

Mindy Wright has a shot at being a top skier. During a critical race, she hits a spot near a flag incorrectly and ends up face down in the snow with a broken leg. Doctors insert a pin in the leg but discover something far worse when performing the surgery: she has leukemia and needs a stem cell transplant.

Her parents take the test, but data shows they have no genetic markers that match with her. The revelation that they have been hiding the truth hurts Mindy almost as much as her fractured leg. And to stay alive, she needs to find her birth parents to determine if they can provide the stem cells she needs. Of course, it isn't as simple as tracking down the people who organized the adoption or looking up names on the internet.

Lauren, who considers herself Mindy's mother, had her reasons for keeping the truth from Mindy. Exposing the facts behind the deception might save her daughter's life, but at what cost?

The author crafts a compelling mystery that slowly unravels like a spool of frazzled yarn, leaving both the characters and readers emotionally spent. A quarter of the way into the story, a new character is introduced that throws everything into turmoil in a significant way.

Dark secrets and how they can destroy a loving family carry this tale to a startling ending.

The study that was a major buzzkill for drinkers

A few weeks ago, a study was released to the world that told us just how much alcohol we should be drinking in order to stay healthy. The amount? Zero. Or "none," as the researchers put it.

"Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none," the study stated.

This wasn't just a brief survey conducted at a mall or a college. According to an article in The Guardian, this research was the largest and most detailed to be conducted on the effects of alcohol.

The research was released on a Thursday in late August. The following weekend in Aspen (and probably throughout the rest of the country) it was business as usual at the restaurants, bars and clubs. Drinks were being served generously and we, the patrons, gratefully accepted them and poured them right down our throats.

This rather dramatic study is by the Global Burden of Diseases, and it was conducted at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It attributes almost 3 million deaths across the globe in 2016 to alcohol use. These deaths include short term, or "communicable diseases," such as injuries (including those from transportation) and also "non-communicable diseases," or chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer. The study estimates that more than 2 billion people worldwide were drinkers in 2016. Out of that number, 63 percent were male.

To get this research, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation didn't conduct any new studies. They looked at more than 1,000 studies conducted between 1990 and 2016. These studies included millions of people and 195 countries.

The takeaway message from all of this research seems to be that governments need to suggest lower levels of alcohol consumption. "These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide," the study states.

For those who enjoy alcohol, this news is a bit of a buzzkill. Many studies have shown that a drink or two of wine or beer each day is supposed to be good for us. A glass of red wine? Well, it's great for the heart. A pint of beer? Same thing. We do it for the heart health (wink, wink). The study acknowledges that there may be some benefits for the heart from a daily drink, but said the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Now, to be fair, there was a decent amount of pushback on this study's results and overall message. Experts were critical because this is an observational study, meaning it didn't look at precise causes of disease, it looked at association of alcohol with disease. So there could be other factors besides alcohol consumption affecting people who are dying from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer. Stanford meta-researcher John Ioannidis, who was interviewed by Vox about this study and has also written papers critiquing nutritional studies in general, wrote this, "Individuals consume thousands of chemicals in millions of possible daily combinations." He said that singling out certain ingredients and pegging them to particular health outcomes can be "challenging, if not impossible."

Regardless of the exact particulars, it's not a secret that alcohol isn't exactly a health drink. It's also no secret that Coloradans, and valley residents in particular, enjoy consuming it. Based on research from the Center for Disease Control, compiled by 24/7 Wall St., Colorado is the 15th "drunkest state" in the country with 19.1 percent of adults drinking excessively (the national rate is 18 percent). And Aspen and Carbondale often come up in those silly listicles online as the biggest drinking cities/towns in the state. Even if we want to question those listicles, there's no doubt that drinking is prevalent in this valley because people come here for vacation. We're living in a destination resort that likes to party.

But I really don't think this study should have come as a surprise to anyone. We don't drink alcohol for its nutritional value. We drink it because we enjoy the way it tastes and how it makes us feel. We like that it makes dance moves a bit smoother and conversations slightly bolder. We appreciate how it pairs with our eggs benedict in the morning, our truffle fries at après and our filet mignon at dinner.

My point is that, as much as some of us may not want to think about it, alcohol is a large part of many of our lives. One study may not change our day to day, but it should be taken as evidence that what we're indulging in comes at a risk.

So, while it's easy to blame the study or critique the method, it's also important to listen to our own bodies and take the necessary measures to remain healthy. This doesn't mean we have to pour our booze down the drain or cancel happy hours with our buddies. It simply means that we should be aware of what we're consuming and how it can affect us.


Barbara Platts took this study to heart, but she still enjoys a nice glass of red wine from time to time. Reach her at bplatts.000@gmail.com or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.

Aether Games

It's safe to say that all had a ball at the field day competition last weekend during the second annual Aether Games. Teams registered for $500 a pop to take part in the spirited afternoon benefiting the Aspen Youth Center (AYC) and their free after-school and all day summer programs for local youth. Aspen clothing store AetherMTN served as the host sponsor, taking over Rio Grande Park with stations such as tug of war, obstacle courses, sack races and more. As AYC typically has kids play games that are overseen by adults, this time the tables were turned with adults at play and AYC kids as the referees.

Everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch buffet from Home Team BBQ with canned brews from Roaring Fork Brewery plus gift bags including a commemorative cup and an Aether T-shirt. Following the awards ceremony and the presentation of the trophy to Team 17, Aether co-founders Palmer West and Jonah Smith treated all to drinks at an after party at Jimmy's Bodega and an invitation to come back next year for round three!

To reach May with invites and insights, email allthewaymaymay.com

Meet Sopris Health & Wellness: Where Whole Plant Medicine Matters Most

"But does it get you high?" It's the question I am asked every time when recommending CBD products to friends, family and colleagues. The reassurance in which I answer is always questioned again with an, "Are you sure?" Yes, I promise.

The clearest comparison to a CBD supplement is that of a daily vitamin. Short for cannabidiol, it's the compound from the cannabis plant that does not have a mind-altering effect, but is widely believed to effectively and naturally soothe pain, insomnia, inflammation, stress and anxiety.

In 2017, the CBD industry grew by 40 percent and hit $367 million in sales, according to New Frontier Data. In a new report, the independent, neutral-stance cannabis research firm says the CBD segment of the cannabis market alone is expected to grow to $2 billion by 2022.

As the CBD wellness craze continues to sweep the country, one local company is aiming to shift the zeitgeist of the industry toward the importance of using full-spectrum extractions. Carbondale-based Sopris Health & Wellness uses the whole plant versus most products that are produced using CBD isolate.

Founder Bryan Ward explains, "Full-spectrum CBD creates an 'entourage effect' for maximum efficacy by preserving the fullest range of secondary cannabinoids, terpenes and other nutrient compounds from the plant."

That effect causes a synergistic, powerful phenomenon on the human body, which for Ward means whole-plant medicine matters most.

Officially launching Sopris Health & Wellness late last year, the recent Roaring Fork Leadership Academy graduate traded a tech career in Boulder for a cannabis startup in Carbondale to pursue his passion for helping others.

"I am a serial entrepreneur and knew I wanted to have my next business be in the cannabis industry. I had become painfully aware of how pharmaceutical 'solutions' — especially opioids — were ravaging large portions of our population. So Sopris Health & Wellness was born to provide alternative, all-natural remedies to elevate the quality of life for as many people as we can."

Ward enlisted John Lee, founder and manager of Providence Apothecary in Glenwood Springs, as his partner and product manager. Together they have developed a portfolio that includes full-spectrum CBD gelcaps, oils and a salve — all of which are produced using a patented, low-temperature, lipid-infusion extraction method sourced from a partner organic cultivation facility in Boulder.

While CBD is also found in marijuana plants, Sopris Health & Wellness sources its oil solely from hemp plants due to the higher concentration of the non-psychoactive compound and because hemp CBD is legal in all 50 states, so products are shippable nationwide.

Dr. Andrew Cunningham, a Denver-based consulting board-certified MD and herbalist, was first alerted to the product line through a friend and was immediately impressed. Now on board as the brand's medical consultant, he sees a particular benefit for those who engage in higher intensity activities.

"We see CBD as a neuromuscular tonic. Everyone is susceptible to inflammation just by interacting with our everyday environment. I think taking CBD daily complements eating an anti-inflammatory diet and consuming anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger," says Cunningham.

"It helps create the space to be more mindful of the present," Ward adds. "Studies have shown CBD encourages your body to produce GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), which has been known to have a calming effect on the brain and central nervous system. Both meditation and yoga encourage your body to produce GABA as well, so it is my belief that CBD combined with either activity can be a natural solution to work through periods of anxiety and depression."

However, Cunningham cautions, "It isn't the cure for everything. There are conditions for which CBD has been studied and shown effective, and then there are conditions for which we have a lot of anecdotes from people who use it with benefit. I feel safe recommending quality CBD products liberally as it minimally interacts with other medications and herbs, and it is very well tolerated by most. And as with any new supplements, any specific questions should be directed to your primary care providers before taking."

After a successful soft launch this summer, including activating an information booth during First Fridays in Carbondale, Sopris Health & Wellness is available locally at Mana Foods and Bombshell Salon, at Providence Apothecary in Glenwood Springs and in the Fahrenheit Body Spas boutique in Basalt, where you can also add on its salve or oil to any massage.

And because they're on a mission to help through healing, 5 percent of sales are donated to opioid addiction and mental health-related charity partners (Aspen Strong Foundation is one local recipient) with progressive pricing plans available for lower-earning customers.

Next month, you can learn the ABCs of CBD in-person at a special seminar hosted by Sopris Health & Wellness at the Third Street Center in Carbdonale, where the founders will give a short presentation about the research and science-backed health benefits of CBD, the difference between hemp and THC extractions and where the industry is headed.

Katie Shapiro takes a 25 mg gelcap every night and has never slept better. She can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com or followed on Twitter @kshapiromedia.

2001 Cinq CépagesThe Gift of the Summer

Wines resonate for different reasons. Of course, a wine that makes an impression must be delicious. But there are other things that make wines memorable, as well.

Such was the case with my favorite bottle of the summer of 2018, a 2001 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County made by one of the premier winemakers of our time. Yes, it was an amazing wine to drink — more on that later — but there were a plethora of reasons why this particular wine delivered both emotion and happiness.

Start with how I got the wine. So often I drink for purpose. As I write a wine column, companies either send wines for review or I am buying wines to try for a specific reason. Something that requires attention and some effort rather than just serendipitous enjoyment.

But this wine was a gift. An extraordinarily generous gift from Laura Werlin, my extraordinarily generous friend. She has a cellar filled with wonderful wines, many of which I have had the pleasure of consuming over many memorable meals. But on this occasion, at a dinner at my home, she outdid herself bringing this bottle of Cinq Cépages. She did not know that I have a history with Chateau St. Jean, going back many years. One of my favorite wines of my youth were their chardonnays sourced from the Robert Young vineyard.

So it was serendipitous from the start.

I put the Cinq Cépages in my wine rack with the idea of enjoying it with my favorite, a grilled ribeye steak, on a summer's eve. Alas, with this year's drought and fires, it was not to be, as a stage 2 fire ban put the kibosh on my charcoal grill for the entire summer.

I would have saved the wine for later had I not walked past the wine rack and spied a drop off wine on the floor. Yes, in the heat of the summer one of the bottles in my rack had begun to leak through the cork and drip. As bad as that was, it became worse when I realized it was the 17-year old Cinq Cépages. Fearful that the wine had gone (or would go) bad before I could drink it, I resolved to open it that night. As there was no ribeye in my fridge, I opted for the next best thing: a homemade BLT with farmstand tomatoes and Elevation Artisan Meats bacon from Meat & Cheese. Perhaps not the most appropriate meal for a wine of this pedigree but it was what I had …and it turned out great.

Now, about the 2001 Cinq Cépages. As you may know, it is a Bordeaux-style wine made from, as the name implies, five grapes. It gained a reputation back in the mid 1990s when the '96 vintage was named as Wine Spectator's #1 wine in the 1999 Top 100 list. It was made by Margo Van Staaveren who, this year, will mark her 38th vintage at Chateau St. Jean where she is now both winemaker and general manager.

And the grapes for this wine were harvested shortly after 9/11, the darkest day in our generation's collective history. There is a poignancy, at least for me, that comes from the idea of drinking a wine born at such a distinct moment. The idea that, on that day, we did not know what the future would bring, remains with me. Drinking the wine offered me a chance to reflect.

So generosity, pedigree, serendipity and history. That is a tall order for one bottle of wine.

But oh did it deliver. When I opened it, the sediments were thick and the wine dark as night. Fruits, blackberries and dark cherries from the early moments of the century, still flourished on the nose, the wine was soft, round and silky in my mouth. Far from being gone, it felt like just the right night to drink it. It was the treat of my summer.

Thanks, Laura.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at malibukj@aol.com.

From the Vault: Fire season

"Campfire ban has been lifted," announced The Aspen Times on Sept. 21, 1939. "The Forest Service order banning campfires in forested areas outside established camp grounds was lifted last week by orders from Holy Cross Forest headquarters, according to an announcement made by Ranger Fred Cook, who is in charge of this district. The order prohibiting camp fires was invoked during the middle of July, when practically every forest was in the 'extreme' fire danger period due to an unprecedented drought which parched the Rocky Mountain region at that time. Rains during the past few weeks have reduced the fire hazard to 'low' and from now on until the snows come cool temperatures will prevail thus practically ending the fire danger period for this year. However, an exceptionally dry fall will bring the danger back again, but not to the degree which prevailed during the past summer. Fire losses in the Aspen district were kept at a remarkably low mark this year despite the fact that the fire danger reached the highest point in history, Ranger Cook said Monday. Close cooperation on the part of the tourists and especially the residents of this community made this possible. Local fire crews were called out on five fires and managed to keep the burned-over acreage at a very low figure. Many other fires were reported to the ranger's office after they had been extinguished by ranchers and passing motorists before spreading beyond their control. Aspen's fire crews were called out once to assist in bringing a fire under control near Glenwood Springs and, according to forest officials, did an exceptionally efficient piece of work on the job." The image above shows a campsite in the wilderness in the 1920s or 1930s.

This photo and more can be found in the Aspen Historical Society archives at aspenhistory.org.

Anthology ‘Vantage Point’ collects ’50 years of awesome’ from Climbing magazine

In a new anthology, Climbing magazine collects the best first-person reports and essays printed in its pages since the magazine was founded in 1970.

Inspiring, funny, challenging and at times wistfully sad, the reports in "Vantage Point: 50 Years of the Best Climbing Stories Ever Told," published in September by Falcon, are written by the climbers who were there on the big walls and summits, clinging to rocks and ice and boulders around the globe and here in our Colorado backyard.

These dispatches are typically written with the stoic cool that distinguishes men and women who spend their lives gripping and slipping on rock. The book is broken up by decade, with introductory essays for each from a climber who was there, setting the scene for each distinct era as the sport and the dirtbag climbing lifestyle have evolved and exploded in popularity.

"Vantage Point" features two early stories from Michael Kennedy, the climbing legend who now lives in Carbondale and who began editing the magazine in the mid-'70s when it was owned by Aspen's Bil Dunaway and operated out of The Aspen Times building here on Main Street. Kennedy later bought it himself and kicked of its golden era as the world-renowned climber's bible. Kennedy sold it in 1997.

Kennedy's 1975 piece titled "Climbing and the Alpine Environment: Ethics of Preservation" is a call to arms for the climbing community to police itself and not to accept the physical damage to the climbing environment.

In it, he offers something of a mission statement for climber conservationists: "Climbing is about two things: ascending direct, natural lines with a minimum of technical aid and protecting and preserving the climbs through the use of the least destructive methods possible."

The book also includes a short dispatch from Kennedy about his failed attempt, after 26 days, to summit Latok 1 in Pakistan's Karakorum Range with a team that included the recently deceased Jeff Lowe. This brief one-pager is a dismissal of the very notion of adventure writing, a rejection of the self-aggrandizing suffer-fest narrative.

"How does one write about a twenty-six day climb?" Kennedy asks. "To describe each pitch, each day would be tedious, and the experience was so overwhelming and so ultimately disappointing that I'm not sure I could, even six months later."

The book includes dispatches from climbing and mountaineering giants like Jeff Achey and Conrad Anker, it shares tales from the early days of the modern era to today's feats – from a 1973 report from Kark Karlstrom about a treacherous ascent of the Painted Wall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison up through Tommy Caldwell's dispatch from his historic 2015 free-climb ascent of El Capitan's Dawn Wall.

In an introductory essay about the 2010s, free-climber Chris Sharma details the rise of the climbing gym and its effect on the sport, calling on today's gym rats not to lose sight of the climbing's spiritual roots.

"It's important for us all to see climbing as a personal journey and to realize how it can be about reaching for something just beyond your grasp," he writes. "As the level gets higher and we get more gym crushers, it's crucial to understand why we climb and also to share that journey with the next generation."

Current Climbing editor Matt Samet, in an introduction titled "50 Years of Awesome," comments on the seeming inherent futility of writing about climbing, a sport that must be experienced to be understood. The written word can't quite put you there. But a thoughtful first-person account — like the ones in "Vantage Point" — can come close.

"Climbing is an immersive, sensory, visceral sport," Samet writes, "one with high stakes at every turn (gravity doesn't sleep); it is, like the best things in life (sex, fine dining, sleep), best experienced for oneself. But since no one will ever have the time or ability to do every climb everywhere, the next best thing is reading and seeing photos of others doing it. And the best writing is that which puts you there on the rock, ice, Himalayan big wall, or desert tower with the author, feeling his or her fear as your own."


Book Review: ‘Vox’

Can you imagine a time when women aren't allowed to speak more than 100 words per day? What if excessive communication results in increasingly painful shocks, training females to remain silent? Can the world continue to run if the power of speech is taken away from half the population?

Christina Dalcher brings this scenario to life in her debut novel "Vox." Fueled by the disorder and turbulence of America's current political climate, Dalcher creates a world in the not-so-distant future, that introduces a new president, a charismatic reverend, and a Pure Woman movement built to remind females that they are to be seen and not heard.

Dr. Jean McClellan spent most of her career developing a cure for aphasia. Her life shifted seemingly overnight when she was removed from her lab and escorted out of the building, never to return again. All females across the nation were eliminated from the workforce. Each woman and female child was fit with a counter on her wrist, tallying each word uttered. Just one expression over the 100-mark and an electric shock jolts through your entire nervous system.

Jean is certainly not a Pure Woman. She doesn't enjoy baking or gardening, but she knows how to play the game. Unfortunately, her young daughter is growing up in a world where her voice is forbidden. Controlling a babbling toddler was bad enough, but having to persuade her now 6-year-old to save her words in case of an emergency is excruciating. Especially since her oldest son is completely brainwashed by the reverend and his ridiculous stance.

Opportunity presents itself when the president's brother suffers brain damage from a skiing accident. The government knows there's only one doctor who can help. Jean is ushered into a state-of-the-art lab and put to work. Now that she's in the hub of the Pure Woman movement, without her word counter, she knows she can no longer stay silent. In fact, she will do anything to be heard.