Letters – September 2010

Grandpa JT

John, Just wanted to give a shout out to you about your story on JT. (Smoke Signals, “Up in Smoke” (MG #167) He was the closest thing I had to a Grandpa in my life. The things I learned from this old soul will never be forgot and passed on to all who need a little JT logic in there life. Your story brought me back to the times I have spent with JT with a tear in my eyes and thank you for that! I can’t help to have a bit of giggle in me about all the Medical Marijuana in Colorado and the conversa- tions JT would be having on the subject over some tequila and a joint.

Thanks again,

Matthew Wade

That was me!

Hey M. John: Loved the Rio Grand Article in the May 2010 issue (Rio Grande,” by Ben Woodbeck, MG #167). I was that 12-yearold with 190s. They weren’t Rossignols, though, they where hot-pink Volkls that my German Grandpa told me were what I needed to go fast. I found them at an end of season sale at a Midwest ski resort, close to Chicago, where I grew up. They matched my neon head band perfectly!

I grew up taking two trips a year to the mountains with the family, spring breaks in Summit County were always a hit. I remember rafting, while still in my neon phase, with Keystone Rafting when they still existed and being in awe of the guiing lifestyle. Years later, I was wooed to Colorado, not by a woman, although that would have probably done it as well, but to play. I told my parents the 1,000-mile distance between nest and my future was for school and life in Fort Collins. They bought it, I think. They let me go anyway.

I remember the call home the day after finals freshmen year where I hesitantly told my family that I would not be returning to the moisture-laden air of Chicagoland for the summer. I had gotten a job raft guiding with Breck Whitewater. I hung up the phone on my awe-shocked mother and headed to the mountains, no looking back! I graduated and tried the real world scene, but now, at 26, I have been wooed again away from the straight and narrow, not for a NOLS course, but for two consecutive NOLS internships. I no longer guide on the river, but I call it home, I climb at sinks after work and the respon- sibility level has gone down to an accept- able level of nil. I house sit and eat free food, have no problem raiding the Safeway dumpster on Sunday nights, and it was all because I was wooed by the West and the life she promised to deliver. Although actual women have come and gone, the true love of my life stands strong, arms wide open, always willing to give me another chance when I stray. Thanks for the smiles, Mr. Woodbeck — I enjoyed reading about your journey!

Paul Ronto,

NOLS intern!

11 cool things I’ve done

Dear John, Re: (Smoke Signals, “Listing Who We Are,” MG #166. One’s life expe- riences are unique. And though I don’t think we should entirely link our identities to those experiences, they do help us understand who we are and shape who we become. These experiences do not sum up my life, but without them, I would not be who I am. My life, in many ways, resembles a Spaghetti Western film. Here’s how…

I emerged in the late 1960s, and was co-produced by an Italian.

After completing art school, I moved to the American Southwest (go West, young lady, go West!) and, typical of the genre, became immersed in a culture of minimal funds, gunslingers, outlaws, artistic camera angles and raw, explosive action scenes.

A low-budget, highly fluid, minimalist, creative lifestyle was the result. Audiences loved it, and I have come to be held in high regard.

For me, this list of “11 Cool Things I’ve Done” (note: My list goes to 11 … one MORE than 10), has merely set the stage for Phase 2 of life’s adventures: “A Frillion Cool Things I Have Yet To Do.”

1) I have lived, for a short time, in a yurt.

2) I have eaten whale meat with an Eskimo.

3) One Halloween, a friend and I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with a sword, a hair-straightener and the rest of our costumes’ components in our back- packs. As Gomez and Morticia Adams, we handed out Halloween candy to the happy campers at Phantom Ranch. I’ve also rafted through the canyon on another occasion.

4) I have milked goats and made cheese.

5) I have held my friend’s hand while she gave birth to her first child.

6) My husband and I eloped. And to make it official, we put the inked paw- prints of our dogs, Nanook and Guinness, on the witness line of our marriage license.

7) I have worked on a dude ranch.

8) I haven’t owned a television in 20 years.

9) As a volunteer on my 40th birthday, I was stationed at a checkpoint on the remote coast of Norton Sound in Unalakleet, Alaska, during the Iditarod to help care for the sled dogs participating in the race.

10) I have helped build an Earthship and a sweat lodge.

11) I have judiciously planted cannabis seeds in a certain mountain town’s flow- erbeds that were watered and maintained by town employees.

Thank You

Amy Fortunato

Cool things I have done

Greetings: I just recently “found the time” to come up with the 10 (sorta cool) things I’ve done list. I felt like putting the thoughts, the list, the old-dredged-up memories (not “to paper”) to the hard drive.

(a) Being an integral part of each of my kids’ weddings. NOBODY ELSE CAN DO THAT (especially the first wedding for each). “Giving my daughter away” — that’s a unique job/task/experience. Also, both kids, son & daughter, asked that I don a yarmulke and preside over the Jewish wedding-tradition sharing-&-breaking- the-wine-glass thing.

(b) Free-Associating with Famous Free-Associaters:

(b1) After my “band” (for lack of a more-descriptive word — semi-coalesced- but-still-random-cacophony collective?) opened for him, later I was locked-out and trapped on the roof of Tulagi’s with John Fahey. I am somewhat above-average for the tendency and ability to just free-asso- ciate whilst talking, and Mr. Fahey and I talked about nothing and everything for several minutes until the Tulagi’s management let us back in, as John was, somehow, late for his second set.

(b2) I was wandering the seeming labyrinthine hallways of the Colo. State U. student-center trying to find where Gary Snyder was to be part of a panel discussion. I encountered another lonely wanderer, looking for the same venue. Gary and I free-associated like there was no tomorrow for many minutes until we found the correct room.

(c) Jekyll/Hyde Lothario (PG-rated version). My first two sexual experiences involving actual copulation were… one ex-treme versus the other. I carried my sleeping bag and convinced the object of my affections for a “sleepover” on a hillside outside of Boulder. When it came time for the, um, seminal event, well… it didn’t last very long. I didn’t know any better (having never read The Playboy Advisor, among other things). I asked if she “was satisfied,” and, she laughed. A few nights later, our paths crossed again. A horrible housemate of hers had given her perhaps half-a-dozen LSD-laced cookies. I decided that I’d baby sit her ‘til any danger had passed. We came back to my house, and, well, let’s just say we rocked the house from sunset to sunrise. My housemates were very, very, impressed, but I think she probably didn’t remember much, if anything, about it.

(d) One-million-millimeter midnight nude under-the-full-moon bicycle race at 10,000 feet elevation. I am fairly sure that I hold the whirled-(w)record for rid-ing a bicycle a million millimeters without clothing (*) under the July full moon at 10,000-ft. elevation. * neckties, shoes, socks, eyeglasses were allowed.

(e) Da hitches? Available upon request — and I am definitely not alone for having hitchhiked long distances several times and lived to tell about it. It’s just that I believe I have written a short story, which does an above-average job of summarizing these adventures and conveys the carefree optimistic non-paranoid atmosphere of the times.

(f) Nashunull anthemem. Like many (most?) mediocre musicians, it is really neat to have a captive audience, which HAS TO LISTEN and (generally) HAS TO APPLAUD when you play a song. I played the national anthem on the harmonica at the start of the State High School Track & Field Meet to perhaps 1,500 people.

(g) I hung-out at and spent time at many places before they “were cool” … Evergreen, Aspen, Crested-Butte/ Gunnison, Steamboat, Moab, Frisco/ Dillon (pre-reservoir!). Although I presently reside near Whitewater (and Grand Junction), I would be willing to bet money that “coolness” will not afflict those places in my lifetime.

(h) I usually run/ride/hike in places NOT in any guidebooks. I have to. When, basically, you’re vying to be the lead dog when going out with your 4 (sometimes more) canines, it’s a good idea to do the outdoor-experience thing where there are few, if any, other people. Heaven forbid that any of my “usual suspect” special places is listed in the local hiking/mountain- biking/running trail guide-books, well, I’ll look for another spot a bit farther away.

(i) And now, 60+ yr-old hockey goalie. There probably are older (and, definitely, better!) goalies, but in my local arena, I am 96% sure that I am the only 60+-yr.- old who tries to play in front of the net. Definitely livens up my dull week. “It was either that hobby or shuffleboard.”

(j) When facing total financial doom and uncertain health issues, took all of the family on a 2-week vacation to Troncones, Guerrero, Mexico. As of mid-January, 2009, we had lived the whole year thus far there.

Rosco Betunada
Western Colorado

24 Cool Things I’ve Done


1) Hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim (took off my pack arriving at Phantom Ranch, walked into the Cantina and sat down next to friends from hometown who had boated in.)

2) Decided at age 50-ish to “re-do” my math education… just for fun. Two years in… still working on it. Started with frac- tions… taking trig this summer.

3) Married an Eagle Scout.

4) Earned “A” rating in Pony Club.

5) Took a 4 year-old backpacking, carrying her own pack, bushwhacking straight up for 7 miles.

6) Illegally bivouacked midway into canyon of the Maze District of Canyonlands. (Ran out of daylight… couldn’t reach permitted camp in time. Whispered Happy Birthday to a 7-year-old… so rangers wouldn’t catch us.)

7) Caught my 1- and 3-year-olds as they were dropped off a boat, and swam them through the surf into a private beach in Mexico.

8) Decided to stop drinking alcohol for 1 year… 20+ years later I haven’t had a good enough reason to break the run.

9) Lost 50 pounds… in one consecutive dieting effort.

10) Finally got a college degree… using 30-year-old, transferred credits plus local Community College classes.

11) Jumped into rapids from a raft that was wrapped around a rock… with my kids.

12) Gone camping with 80+ elementary (and later middle school) kids… multiple times.

13) Slept on the floor of the Denver Museum of Natural History overnight… 3 times, with the above mentioned 80+ school kids.

14) Designed and drew architecturals and built my own log home (with husband, but I did the drawings).

15) Listened to my son give Valedictorian speech at high school. Graduation (hasn’t happened yet, but is impeding and I know it’s gonna be cool).

16) Walked across the Colorado River (near Moab), naked, carrying my mountain bike over my head. (Took a lot longer than any of us thought it would.)

17) Climbed Mt. Elbert (tallest in U.S. Rocky Mountains). Remember those 80+ students? About 30 of them also made the top that day.

18) Took too much LSD… once.

19) Hosted foreign exchange students… 3 years in a row. (This is cool when you live in a small mountain town.)

20) Got to see John Fayhee speak on a media panel.

21) Breast fed baby while working on a computer at the Aspen Times.

22) Saw a bald eagle swoop down and catch a fish out of the Colorado River.

23) Saw a wolf from a car near Durango.

24) Had a dog that would stand on an innertube and ride it down river.

Marianne Ackerman

20 cool things I have done

John: I really enjoyed reading this article. It got me thinking… so, I started compiling my own list. It was a lot of fun, so I thought I would submit it — as recommended.

1) Endured tough, grinding work in a family bulb-packaging factory in Holland with 50 chain smokers.

2) Connected with lost ancestors in Italy to find the best hugs on the planet… and awesome homemade pasta, of course.

3) Married in a castle on top of my home- town ski area to an illegal immigrant.

4) Started a community garden on a previously derelict site in downtown Steamboat Springs.

5) Followed childhood dream to relocate to Colorado Rockies … and never left.

6) Biked the Kokopelli Trail, a five-day trip, for my first mountain bike ride ever.

7) Skied to fish.

8) Saw the Rolling Stones in Vegas and snuck into the 8th row from Mick Jagger when I was fourteen.

9) Slept in a snow cave.

10) Went spelunking in non-commercial caves in Virginia with a federation of old men.

11) Absolutely abused my work “powder clause” during Steamboat’s snowiest year on record.

12) Played in a 24-hour Ultimate Frisbee tournament after all night drum ‘n bass rave … without drugs.

13) Learned to double dutch at the age of 27

14) Worked in a winter homeless shelter in England with heroin addicts and alcoholics and am still alive

15) Resided in a 2-bedroom, 800sf condo with my husband and high school sweetheart … for five years

16) Swam with bioluminescent organisms at night in the Potomac River, which glow blue/green when disturbed.

17) Skinned to the top of the ski area for sunrise with my dog, Shire. Made it to work by 8 a.m.

18) Rafted Cross Mountain Canyon, with serious Class IV whitewater rapids, for my second rafting experience. My first raft trip was down the Colorado River to State Bridge with a keg on our boat.

19) Completed my first lead climb in Red Rocks, NV, with my future husband as my belayer.

20) Drank a full pint of Swamp Donkey cider with “unknown” alcohol content in a small pub in England; I don’t remember what happened after that.


Caitlyn (Patrick) McKenzie

11 cool things I have done

John: A couple of months ago you wrote an article about creating a list of one’s accomplishments in life. Not just a resume, but a view of the unique things we’ve done and/or experienced. I have had a great time writing my list. It’s not something that can be written in one sit- ting. It required a lot of reminiscing and contemplation. I chose to stay away from listing peaks I’ve climbed or specific locations I’ve visited. I aimed to create a list that will lend itself to starting conversations with my friends when they read it. After completing my list, I felt much better about myself. I ended up with 26 items, but my top 11 are as follows:

1. Peed shoulder to shoulder with a United States Senator

2. Hugged wolves

3. Cursed the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square

4. Was accidentally fondled by an old woman at a funeral

5. Broke my toe doing laundry

6. Participated in an initiation ritual with Miss New Mexico

7. Ran the Boston Marathon

8. Wore a bee beard with 20,000 Africanized bees

9. Carried 70 pound dog down mountain after he hurt his paws

10. Was granted a private audience with the Bangladeshi Speaker of the House

11. Was locked in Charles Manson’s first cell.

Thanks for kick-starting this exercise.

Dennis Barrett

21 cool things I have done

Hello John: We crossed paths from time to time while you were in Frisco but never met. My wife and I taught the telemark turn to many folks in the Over the Hill Gang at Copper. Since I’ve been urged to write my memoirs, putting this list together for you was pretty easy. Here it is as a mash up.

1) Watched huge icebergs outside Illulissat, Greenland.

2) May have been first in Boulder to simultaneously wear a necktie and ride a bike to work.

3) Worked trail crew for the Forest Service in the Indian Peaks.

4) Made first tracks on a powder day right thru a band of unseen ptarmigan, which flew up all around me.

5) Made up strange stories for the kids at the dinner table.

6) Likely made second ascent of Craig’s Crack on Longs Peak.

7) Spent Army at Camp Hale as instructor in Mountain & Cold Weather Training Command, 1955-57. Taught skiing, climbing and survival.

8) Biked across Bhutan.

9) Drank the great Burgundies in the ’60s, when wines were cheap.

10) Wrote about skiing for Colorado Magazine.

11) Rafted the Hula Hula River thru ANWR from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean.

12) Offered our bored kids $50 prize for the first one to the top of Pikes Peak. Oldest son Doug organized the trip and all five made it to the top by bus and cog railway.

13) Skied Tasman Glacier in NZ.

14) Couldn’t believe forty-year-old ski shop owner could whip my twenty-four year-old self at tennis.

15) Re-read “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” late in life.

16) Attempted first winter crossing of Boulder Grand Pass, turned back by whiteout blizzard.

17) Easter Island’s huge moai pose more questions than answers. Go.

18) Crossed many, many glacial rivers backpacking 65 pounds across Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic.

19) First on the scene of a fatal plane crash on Green Mountain.

20) Lots of summer dinners on the deck talking and watching day softly become night.

21) Read Skiers’ Gazette and then Mountain Gazette that many years ago. Thanks for bringing it back.

Mark P. Addison

Boulder, CO

22 cool things that I have done, and then some

Hey John: Here’s my list — hope it’s entertaining.

1) Rode a $100 bicycle across America.

2) Ate a 32-ounce jar of mayonnaise.

3) Got a tattoo reading “A tattoo” on my ass.

4) Stood on top of Devil’s Tower.

5) Literally had the shit kicked out of me.

6) Quit a pack-a-day smoking habit by training for a marathon.

7) Read “Crime and Punishment” entirely while sitting on the toilet. Took 11 months.

8) Drank a “Smoker’s Cough,” a shot glass full of Jagermeister and mayonnaise.

9) Quit drinking.

10) Answered a pay phone.

11) Had my jaw wired shut.

12) Ate the entire Double Rhino Burger and fries at the Wooden Nickel in Sublimity, Oregon.

13) Spent a week in jail.

14) Hallucinated because of lack of sleep. More than once.

15) Ran 20 miles down Colfax Avenue in Denver.

16) Saw a Gila monster in the wild.

17) Fell asleep while pedaling a bicycle.

18) Urinated for 1 minute, 56 seconds straight.

19) Broken 3 bicycle frames (2 steel, one aluminum) while riding them.

20) Stopped on Interstate 10 and paid $1 to see The Thing in the Desert, twice.

21) Caught air while driving a car.

22) Was hit by an errant cow chip during a cow-chip-throwing contest.

What was fun about this is, when I started mentioning it to my friends, and they began to come up with their own lists. I started thinking the best thing to do would be to compile the best of all the lists of the people you know. A few:

1) Shot a shark.

2) Tuned an air guitar for an air guitar regional championship event.

3) Choked a dog while political canvassing.

4) Survived a hammer fight.

5) Saved a woman’s life with the Heimlich maneuver.

6) First experienced fellatio in a strip club with a dirt floor in Gulf Port, Illinois, in front of all the patrons in the club, on his 16th birthday.

Hope you’re well,

Brendan Leonard,

Denver, CO

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.

5 thoughts on “Letters – September 2010”

  1. A handful of cool ( and a few dumbass or unbelievable ) things I’ve done.
    1) Watched 16 mm movie of legendary conservationist/river guide Martin Litton floating down the Colorado in a wooden dorie set to the music of “the Grand Canyon Suite” sometimes in sync, sometimes not, in his living room when I was a kid.

    2) Cut down a tree on legendary conservationist/river guide Martin Litton’s property as a dumbass kid just to hear it fall. My Father, trying to make good over it offered him money or a case of whiskey, to which he repied “NO amount of money could EVER replace that tree”.

    3)While hiking a local Wilderness Study Area Cooke’s Peak with a few friends we crested a point in the narrow rocky canyon where we were ascending only to see a Golden Eagle that had just finished eating a rabbit, was bathing itself in a pool of water and the wind was coming from behind it. The only way to take off was towards us. Rather than getting the picture of my life, I had to hit the ground to avoid the resultant collision.

    4) Held a gyrfalcon on my gloved wrist.

    5) Organized a crowd to attend the County Commission and ended the County’s annual $10,000 bounty given to coyote hunters to make our lands safe for all the words critters and “hooved locusts”.

    6)Helped form the group Gila Watch in the living room of my home to stop the Forest Service from illegally creating 33 new earthen stock tanks in the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas with bulldozers and dynamite.

    7) Rented that house to gifted bicycle adventure writer Joe Kurmaskie (“Metal Cowboy”, “Momentum Is Your Friend”), and later sold the house to famed writer/editor M. John Fayhee. (When Fayhee came into the house to look at it his jaw dropped like Senator Craig’s trousers after tapping his foot in a restroom stall. On my dresser was a Victoria Christian painting of a girl riding her bike into the sunset over verdant green hills. The very same image that was to grace the cover of the next edition of the Mountain Gazette.

    8) Took a 2 day float through the middle box of the Gila River in a raft with no oars.

    9) Not once, but twice had a provocateur try to sabotage
    political activities I’ve been involved with.

    10)Rode a mountain bike “braille” a few miles with eleven stream crossings in the middle of the night with no moon and a thick menacing cloud cover. The only visible light was lightning strikes too close for comfort which only tended to blind me further. I could only guess which direction I needed to steer when I felt I was going off the dirt road. (Fortunately I was off the bike the moment I came to an area where the road was completely washed out with an immediate drop of 5 feet to rock cobble below)

    11) Performed involuntary self Chiropractic adjustment doing an endo on a Mountain bike ride which totally relieved a nagging shoulder pain I had endured for the previous month.

    12) Survived a military doctor’s misdiagnosed broken appendix for ten days before treatment began. (I still wonder whether all that Vodka the night before had anything to do with it.)(Not surviving it, but causing it)

    13)On a typical windy spring day had the roof blow off my Auto repair garage while fixing someone’s flat tire. When the roof blew off, the front stall doors had no support and fell to the ground, whereupon the two adjacent walls listed quite heavily away
    to a point where I was pretty much standing there with not much around me.

    14) Charged by an angry big badass black angus bull in the Gila Wilderness after throwing rocks at it so it would come out so we could get pictures of it trespassing there.

    15) … And Finally I’m pretty sure I can say I’m the only one to have ever witnessed the fabled Black Range Jesalope on it’s New Years eve pilgrimage, rushing in front of the few scant vehicles to reach it’s little “nicho” in the rocks in Gallinas Canyon next to the road. Of course hitting one means bad luck for the next year and I swear I missed it but perhaps I didn’t.

  2. I was cruising through the Albuquerque REI today (my girlfriend works there), and stopped to check out the rack of water filters.
    Another customer walked up, soon matter-of-factly stating that he was pretty sure Dian Fossey had been killed because she had become involved in witchcraft.
    After a couple of stunned seconds, my first thought was, “God, I LOVE this store.” My second thought, which I relayed to him, was that I was inclined to go with him on this, and in such cases I’d recommend a SteriPen.
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