Posts Tagged With: Rocky Mountains

The Naming of Names

With all the bad publicity about the name of the team, it astonishes me that the Washington Redskins haven’t changed their name yet. Maybe the problem is trying to find a new name that won’t be received even more negatively than the old one. The Washington Politicians? The Washington Congress? Not likely to get high approval ratings.  The Washington Gridlock has a nice ring to it, though. There’s a hint of power and manliness about the Washington Filibusters. Or, if they want something ominous, meant to strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams, how about the Washington Big Brothers?

It isn’t just sports teams. For several decades now, states and other governmental bodies have been working on changing place names that are offensive, historically inaccurate, or modern overlays of much older names. From McKinley to Denali National Park. From Custer Battlefield to Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.

But then there are other names that, oddly enough, no one seems to have a problem with. Like the Grand Tetons. There’s a name that would have been changed long ago if it were in English instead of French. Just try naming some mountains the “big breasts” today and see how far that gets you.

On second thought, though, maybe there’s another option, one that sports teams are already using. It’s based on the theory that, if you pay enough for the privilege, you can have your name on almost anything.

Instead of renaming, maybe the National Park Service should be looking at an untapped funding source—selling naming rights in the Grand Tetons National Park. “Maidenform Trail.” “Underwire Gulch.” “Lingerie Lake.” “Victoria’s Secret Uplift.” Since limited budgets are always a problem for national parks, there are possibilities here for a lot of support.

Then there are names that are certainly not offensive or inappropriate; they’re just boring. Like the Rocky Mountains. Really? Isn’t that a little obvious? Is it truly the best designation for some of the most spectacular scenery on the North American continent? If the person or persons who came up with that had been in charge, our maps would be full of designations like the Flat Plains, the Sandy Desert, or the Wet River.

Somebody should do something about that. They should look into options for something more dramatic. More descriptive. More exciting.

Like, say, the Black Hills.

Um. Well. Never mind.

Categories: Just For Fun, Words for Nerds | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Flat Green Tomatoes

Despite the belief of my sister's neighbor, who is "kind of different," the United States government does not control the weather. All those jet trails that crisscross South Dakota's expansive skies really are not part of an elaborate weather-manipulating grid that is managed from a secret bunker hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

I find it reassuring that we haven't yet managed to control the weather. It's a reminder that, no matter how high-tech and sophisticated we humans may be, we and the planet we inhabit are still subject to powers greater than ourselves.

Somehow, though, this philosophical point of view wasn't much comfort on Wednesday afternoon as we stood in the doorway watching a hailstorm pulverize our garden. It poured rain (I'm sure I saw a couple of Chihuahuas and a Siamese in there somewhere) for almost half an hour, and it hailed steadily for ten to fifteen minutes.

We could have gone kayaking down our driveway or in the fast-moving miniature river that flowed around the corner of our neighbor's house and filled the gully that separates the two properties. By the time the storm was over, our yard was covered with an inch of hail. Much of the grass was still white the next morning, and on Friday morning one shady spot still held a drift of hail several inches deep.

Of course, half a dozen destroyed tomato plants and a few stripped chokecherry bushes doesn't exactly count as a major life event. We weren't watching the destruction of crops we depended on for our livelihood or even a garden we were counting on to feed a family. The minor pang of a lost garden isn't anywhere close to the heartsick discouragement of a farmer who sees hail or wind pound a year's potential income into oblivion.

Still, the storm made me wish, for just a moment, that my sister's neighbor was right. Then I had a truly terrifying thought.

Maybe he is.

Maybe the government really is controlling the weather. You have to admit it's a bit odd that just around the curve, not 100 yards north of our house, there was hardly any hail at all. A paranoid person might find the apparent targeting of our property more than a little suspicious.

Do you suppose somebody in that secret weather-control bunker knows I voted Libertarian in the last election?

Categories: Food and Drink, Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wolf Creek Pass, Way Up On the Great Divide

If you're young enough or sophisticated enough that the title of this post didn't trigger a tune in your head that involves trucks and chickens, you might want to do an Internet search for C. W. McCall. Another choice would be to call me and have me sing you the chorus. I recommend the first option.

For the rest of you, feel free to hum along while you read. You can thank me later for getting the song stuck in your brain for the rest of the day.

Traveling spontaneously, without a schedule or advance reservations, can be wonderful. It gives you the freedom to change your plans, go where your fancy takes you, and follow your impulses.

After a hike down into—and back up out of—Canyon de Chelly on the Navaho reservation in northeastern Arizona, we headed for Colorado. Our plan was to spend the night at Durango and then head east and north in a relaxed and spontaneous manner. It was an excellent plan, made in blissful ignorance that on Labor Day weekend there is a motorcycle rally in the southern Rocky Mountains.

When we ambled into the Comfort Inn at Durango about 7:00 p.m. and said we wanted a room, the young woman at the desk was too polite to say, "Are you nuts?" She merely explained that every room in Durango was full. She suggested we might find one 60 miles east at Pagosa Springs.

A bit discouraged but still spontaneous, we drove on to Pagosa Springs, where we trotted into the lobby of the first motel we came to. "Sorry," the clerk said. Everything in town was full. He did think, though, the very expensive lodge just down the street had a couple of suites left.

We negotiated our way through a maze of service roads to find the very expensive lodge, screeched to a halt in front of its very expensive looking lobby, girded up our wallets, and hurried in—just in time to hear a biker tell the desk clerk, "Your last room? We'll take it. Guess it's our lucky day, huh?"

Certain that this same biker had passed us on the road a few miles outside of Durango, and wondering why there was never a highway patrolman around when you needed one, we went back to the car.

According to the map, the next town was South Fork, 44 miles away. The road, up and over Wolf Creek Pass, was marked as a "scenic route." Since it was after 8:30 and full dark by now, this designation did not cheer us. We were tired, cranky, and carefully not thinking about either the possibility of sleeping in the car or the intermittent grinding noises the brakes had been making all day.

In a dogged but spontaneous manner, we headed up Wolf Creek Pass. It was a classic mountain road, winding its way higher and higher around sharp curves and steep grades and switchbacks. There was an occasional scenic overlook. We didn't stop.

Finally, near the top of the pass, we did pull over and get out to stretch and wake ourselves up with a little fresh air. It felt fresh, all right—about 40 degrees fresh. Still, we stood outside for as long as we could, looking at the scenery.

Yes, scenery. Stars. At that altitude and distance from any town, the stars were visible in a way most of us in our street-lighted communities rarely see. The Milky Way was a bright path across the sky. Constellations were vivid shapes against the darkness. It was (at least to the non-geologist in the party) even more awe-inspiring than the grandeur of the canyon we had explored at the beginning of the day.

Eventually, shivering, we got back into the car and headed down the mountain. A few miles further on, we found the elderly but clean Wolf Creek Ski Lodge. It had one room left. We settled in gratefully and slept the sound sleep of those who enjoy relaxed and spontaneous travel.

We were even more grateful the next day that we hadn't had to drive another 120 miles to Walsenburg. They were hosting a classic car rally.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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