Aspen’s 2016 News of the Weird
Editor’s note: The following stories made The Aspen Times’ list of weird and unique news in 2016.
Dirty dancing was taken to a new level one night at the Bootsy Bellows nightclub, where one patron busted a bowel movement on the dance floor.
A mass exodus ensued, with some 75 patrons scrambling out of the establishment during the early morning hours of Oct. 30. Call it a Code Brown.
The culprit was never found, but Bootsy Bellows owner Andrew Sandler, who was traveling at the time, had his own theories.
“I thought maybe somebody did too much coke that was cut with Babylax,” he said.
Bear shot at Sundeck
A young bear that was routinely fed by visitors to the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain met a tragic fate on a July day.
An employee of Aspen Skiing Co., which owns the mountaintop restaurant, shot the 70-pound bear after it charged him. Later that day, Parks and Wildlife tracked down the injured bear and euthanized it.
Authorities said the bear shooting was justified because it had posed a threat. Even so, Parks and Wildlife officials were adamant that it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
“This bear had been getting fed and was getting rewarded by coming back to the restaurant,” a Parks and Wildlife authority said.
Skico also responded with a statement that said: “This is a tragic outcome and not one that anyone wanted. We have a company policy that prohibits firearms in the workplace. There were extenuating circumstances in this particular case. We were not aware that this employee had the weapons and we have spoken to him about this.”
Mulcahy banned from APCHA offices
Whether he’s a true activist or simply someone starving for attention, Aspen resident Lee Mulcahy made headlines in 2016. Again.
One incident rose above the others when it came to Mulcahy’s theater of the bizarre.
In September, City Manager Steve Barwick notified Mulcahy he was banned from being on the premises of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s offices.
The reason: Mulcahy allegedly threatened to punch Mike Kosdrosky while the Housing Authority director was dining at a Basalt restaurant.
Mulcahy has been fighting the Housing Authority, which has said he is ineligible to live in employee housing at Burlingame Ranch.
He played down the incident, saying: “We’re in the Wild West, and if a man can’t express his opinion in a bar …”
Apparently he couldn’t, as his self-proclaimed “opinion” was perceived as a threat by Kosdrosky, who reported it to Basalt police and the city of Aspen.
“Your verbal assault of APCHA Director Mike Kosdrosky and threat of physical violence towards him at a restaurant in Basalt, and your bragging about it on social media, has indicated to us that you cannot control your anger and are a potential danger to every APCHA employee,” said Barwick’s letter to Mulcahy.
Million-dollar-plus employee housing
“Only in Aspen” might be an overused phrase, but it applies to the city’s housing project at Burlingame Ranch.
The ranch is home to hundreds of worker-housing units, but four new residences, advertised at more than $1 million each, raised a few eyebrows.
Home sizes will range from 2,472 square feet to 2,856 square feet of total heated area. The cost of the homes was originally projected to be $1.3 million each but were lowered to $1.2 million.
The homes will be sold as resident-occupied, which are intended for residents who can’t qualify for category housing but don’t have the means to buy a home on Aspen’s free market.
Man to Aspen cops: ‘I own you all’
A 39-year-old St. Louis man flaunted his family’s wealth and verbally abused officers after making a scene at a local restaurant in November.
“I pay your f—ing salaries,” Joshua Gerchen told Aspen police officers after he was thrown out of Mezzaluna restaurant. “I own you all.
“Don’t worry, my rich daddy will take care of this f—ing bill and I will be suing all of your asses.”
Gerchen had been abusive to staff and other customers at the restaurant before officers arrived. His credit card was then declined, and he had to call his mother to pay his $134 tab.
Officers, however, did not arrest him until he returned to Mezzaluna and “began dry-humping (simulating sex) with the fence in front of the restaurant windows while ‘flipping them off’ and mouthing the words f— you,’” according to a police report. He was charged with harassment.
“This town f—ing sucks,” Gerchen told officers on the way to jail. “I am just here to do drugs.”
Mom saves 5-year-old from jaws of mountain lion
An Aspen-area mother was called a hero in June after prying her 5-year-old son’s head from the jaws of a mountain lion.
The woman told Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies her two sons were playing in the front yard of their Woody Creek home in June when she heard the older boy screaming. She rushed outside to find the lion hunched over her younger son, according to a deputy.
The mother ran to the boy, pulled one of the lion’s paws from off him and saw the animal had the boy’s head entirely in its mouth. The mother then reached into the lion’s mouth, pried its jaws off the boy’s head, scooped him up and ran away, the deputy said.
The boy received a deep laceration to his cheek and part of his scalp was pulled back, but he was not seriously injured. The mother also received minor injuries.
State wildlife officials later killed the lion, which they said was a juvenile.
FJ Cruiser flips 250 feet down mountain, driver survives
A 31-year-old Denver man in a modified Toyota FJ Cruiser rolled about 250 feet down the side of a tight switchback near Montezuma Basin on Forest Road 102 on July 1 and walked away mostly unscathed.
James Scully was heading up to the Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak trailhead outside of Aspen and said he wanted to get to as high a campground as possible before starting his hike early the next morning. His quest to save his legs from several hundred feet of hiking nearly cost him his life.
Scully was on Forest Road 102 and passed two Denver men, both 19-year-old students at the University of Colorado, in a Jeep Wrangler before quickly approaching a tricky switchback on the four-wheel drive road. The driver of the Jeep, Parker Tinsley, got out to talk to Scully about how to maneuver through the switchback, which was a thin spot with a big snowfield, said the Jeep’s passenger Ben Crabb.
“He eventually got his (FJ Cruiser) up it,” Crabb said. “We started placing rocks on the snow for traction and then we got up that part.”
But that turn was just the beginning. Not much farther up the road, Tinsley and Crabb watched Scully attempt to cross another narrow section of road covered in snow, but this time there was a “harrowing exposure on the left,” Crabb said.
“We told him it was really risky,” Crabb said. “It wasn’t teetering, but it was steep.”
But Scully said he was just focused on getting his truck out of the situation. He heard Tinsley and Crabb tell him it was a tough spot, but he was determined to get out of it.
He got back in the FJ Cruiser and tried to back up and that’s when it started to slide down the steep slope to the left. Scully wasn’t able to put his seatbelt on when he got back in because it had locked up due to the position of the vehicle. So there he was, tumbling down the side of a mountain with no seatbelt.
“The weirdest thing was I just remained calm the whole time,” Scully said. “The biggest thing I remember was looking up at the ceiling and every time it hit the ground, seeing it slowly crushing in on me.”
Scully, who said he’s lived in Colorado for eight years and often heads into the mountains for various adventures such as climbing, skiing or biking, was feeling especially grateful for running into Tinsley and Crabb that day. His FJ Cruiser was totaled and his insurance company recovered it from the scene, he said.
“I’m getting another FJ Cruiser after it saved my life,” he said. “I rolled it eight times and didn’t get hurt that bad — it’s a pretty good truck.”
Mountain lion kittens close Rio Grande Trail
A section of the most popular pedestrian trail in the Roaring Fork Valley was closed for three weeks during the busiest time of the summer after three mountain lion kittens were spotted hanging out.
Wildlife officers and officials with Roaring Fork Transportation Authority were concerned that the kittens’ mom might be nearby and would become protective if humans got too close to her charges. They closed a 3-mile section of the Rio Grande Trail along Rock Bottom Ranch in the midvalley on June 28. Numerous cyclists and hikers were heading to the section specifically to see the kittens.
The trail was reopened July 19 after the kittens weren’t spotted by wildlife officers or motion-detecting cameras. However, it’s unknown if there was a happy ending for the kittens. It was unknown if the mom moved the kittens or if she abandoned them and they fell victim to a predator such as a black bear.
Shih tzu lost in the woods for a month
A 11/2-year-old shih tzu named Wyatt survived nearly one month alone in the mountains.
Pitkin County Animal Safety Director ReRe Baker, who has worked in the local Animal Control Department for more than 30 years, said that Wyatt is both the smallest and the youngest dog she has ever seen “disappear and reappear.”
The pup lost more than half of his body weight — dropping from 14.5 pounds to 7 pounds — throughout the 27 days he was missing, said Wyatt’s owner, Darryl Rowe.
Rowe said Wyatt ran away from their home in Diamond J Ranch around 3:30 p.m. on May 27.
On June 23, Woody Creek residents Ty Burtard and Kelly Potter found Wyatt on a trail in the area.
Aside from being “extremely emaciated,” the pup suffered a 103.5 temperature at the time he was found, according to Baker.
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.