Mountain Town News: Author, musician died in exceptional setting |

Mountain Town News: Author, musician died in exceptional setting

JACKSON, Wyo. – John Byrne Cooke died, and that’s too bad for the written word. He was a writer, and a good one. He was a musician, too, and as he died he was surrounded by the music of his friends.

The son of Alistair Cooke, the long-time host of “Masterpiece Theater,” Cooke lived in Jackson Hole, where he had moved in 1982 after bucking hay bales one summer on a nearby ranch.

He had grown up in New York City listening obsessively to Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and Burl Ives. Later, studying romance languages at Harvard, he joined a band as a guitar player and singer. That led to engagements at a famous folk club in Cambridge, where he began photographing Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and other emerging stars on the folk circuit, which in turn put him at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. That’s where he first heard Janis Joplin.

“I was just drop-jawed from astonishment at this woman’s vocal power,” he told an interviewer many years later. He became her road manager and, in 1970, was the person who found her dead of an overdose in her hotel room in Los Angeles.

His writing had great span. One of his books, “Snowblind Moon,” was a novel framed in the mountain man era of the northern Rockies. He also wrote about his work with Janis Joplin. One of the members of her back-up band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, had this to say: “Most, most important you get Janis right, and I can feel her and she is alive when I read your book.”

He also wrote book reviews for the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide says he was a regular as a musician in Jackson Hole, performing in the house band at the Stagecoach, a bar.

For his own passing, musician friends gathered around his hospital bed as he died of cancer, playing his favorite songs. He went out as they sang “Love at the Five and Dime.” Then they played “I Shall be Released.”

More talk in Banff about how to live with grizzlies

BANFF, Alberta – Town officials in Banff have started talking about putting the kibosh on crabapple trees and other things that attract wildlife. The neighboring town of Canmore, located at the gateway to the national park, already has.

“I’m hesitant to say you can’t have a bird feeder, a Halloween pumpkin outside, or fruit trees, but they are a problem and can attract wildlife. We have to find a way to manage that better,” Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. But for laws to have value, she added, they must also be enforced.

Once bears get a taste of fruit trees and then human food, it’s a one-way street, said Steve Michel, a human-wildlife specialist for Banff National Park. “Ultimately the bear can end up being destroyed.”

The discussion was precipitated by the unsettling experience of Bear 148, a sow grizzly. She spent nearly all of her time in Banff National Park. She seemed to have her favorite fruit trees in Banff, the townsite, although she did not visit every year.

During the last two summers she migrated to Canmore to feast on buffalo berries in areas heavily used by hikers, bikes, joggers and people walking dogs.

There, explains the Outlook, she encountered people daily this year. When she bluff-charged a jogger, coming within 3 feet of the man along a trail near a powerline, wildlife officials decided the bear had to go. They reached this conclusion knowing that there are just 60 grizzlies in the Banff area, and the species has a slow rate of reproduction.

Transplanted to the Willmore Wilderness Area, north of Jasper, the sow has been grazing on berries, working her way back and forth across the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia. There is little chance for incidental contact with humans, as there are very few people there. But trophy hunters pose a risk if she stays too long in B.C. The provincial ban on trophy hunting will not take force until later this year.

There is also concern that she will wander her way back to the Banff-Canmore area, as many older relocated bears have a hankering for the familiar. At six and a half, though, this bear is relatively young.

In Banff during late August, there were two other wildlife interactions of concern. A bull elk charged a jogger on the recreation grounds in the town. The jogger grabbed the elk by the antlers and tried to push it away, but the elk pursued the jogger until he was able to take shelter.

The bull was, in the parlance of wildlife officials, destroyed. An adult female that hit a backpack of a person hasn’t received the death penalty — yet.

Snowmobilers get no invite to Jackson Hole

JACKSON, Wyo. – Jackson Hole can afford to be selective about who it invites to come visit. Whether it is prejudiced in such matters is another discussion.

The town council there voted 3-2 against allowing a major snowmobile race at the in-town ski area, Snow King. Promoters expected to draw 5,000 people and had secured national TV coverage. Snow King estimated the event would generate $2 million in Jackson during early December, a traditionally slack time of winter.

But the mayor, Pete Muldoon, said early December should remain quiet, and two council members sided with him. Implicit in his remarks were complaints about the fumes and roars of snowmobiles and the sometimes rowdy behavior of their drivers during another snowmobile race on the ski hill during spring. The ski hill is just across the street from houses.

“I think the public cost of producing a loud and disruptive event like this outweighs any public benefit that I see,” said Muldoon, according to a report in the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Another councilman, Jim Stanford, said tourism promoters have been pushing too many special events. “Enough is enough,” he said.

Councilman Don Frank articulated the minority position. “Although I am not a snowmobiler, there is a very large community of people who love the adventure and excitement of operating a snowmobile, and that culture should not be diminished or discredited, nor should it be mischaracterized,” he said. “Most of them are just regular folks.”

More questions about role of internet rentals

KETCHUM, Idaho – It’s all connected, isn’t it? The economy, the jobs, the housing.

In the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, an economic consultant has told business leaders that local economic growth in 2016 was just 1 percent, after adjustments for inflation, when he contends it should have been 2 percent.

Harry Griffith, executive director of Sun Valley Economic Development, blames the slow growth on lack of employees. Unemployment was at a record low of 3 percent last year.

“Labor is limiting everything,” said Scott Burpee, chief executive of Safe Haven, an assisted living center. The Idaho Mountain Express says that Burpee got agreement from John Curnow, general manager of the Limelight, the hotel in Ketchum owned by the Aspen Skiing Co.

Are internet rentals to blame? That’s one view. But another view is that 90 percent of short-term rentals in Ketchum and Sun Valley are offered by owners who do not live in the valley and therefore would be expected to live in those units part of the year. If they’re not taking long-term rentals off the market, in this argument, they do not explain the labor shortage.

Top ice-age discovery, but too costly to create exhibit

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. — Remember when the bones of dozens of mastodons, plus mammoths and a bunch of other creatures living before the last ice age were found at Snowmass Village?

That discovery was made during excavation of a small reservoir in 2010. Since then paleontologists have described it as one of the top five ice-age finds in North America, on par with the tar pits of Los Angeles.

The finds seemed like a bonanza for the Aspen-Snowmass area, and some saw these exceptionally well-preserved bones as a way to talk about the new era of the anthropocene where humans are altering the environment and the climate as never before.

But as the excitement of that find grows in the rear-view mirror, the difficulty in capitalizing on it has become more clear. Just how difficult became evident last week when the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies refused the offer of presenting the finds to the world. After deeper investigation, said director Chris Lane, his organization believes it would take $8 million to $10 million to stage exhibits at the Discovery Center, not the $4 million to $6 million earlier estimated.

The exhibit was to have been at the center of the emerging Base Village, a sort of new bigger and better complex at the base of the Snowmass ski lifts. The developers — Aspen Skiing Co., along with East West Partners and KSL Capital Partners — have designed a building to house the Discovery Center. They still plan to build it, but it has a flexible design.

Meanwhile, boosters of the idea insist that they retain hope of creating something of lasting value. The game is not over, says John Rigney, board chair of Snowmass Discovery. Time will tell.

But the larger stories here may be that Aspen, for all of its great wealth, is not without its limits. And the second point is the enormous expense of creating museum exhibits in this day of intense hyperactivity. It’s much harder than in the era when putting things under glass and behind ropes was enough to draw a crowd.

Vail, the town, designated as a sustainable destination

VAIL, Colo. — Vail, the municipality located at the foot of the eponymously named mountain, has been named among the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

The designation was based on a week-long assessment of wildlife protection, transportation, water quality, waste reduction, and greenhouse gas emissions, among other criteria.

Critics will note, as others already have, that a town that depends upon people flying across the continent to walk on streets that, in at least one area, are heated to melt the snow, can hardly be called sustainable. Kim Langmaid, a town councilwoman who has been a driving force for the destination as well as other sustainability efforts, readily concedes the point. Sustainability is, she says, a journey.

Backpacker killed by rare case of altitude sickness

ASPEN, Colo. – Mountain sickness afflicts about a quarter of visitors to Colorado’s higher mountain resorts, but the outcome isn’t all that serious. Rest and hydrate for a few days, physicians say, and be sure to lay off the hard drinking.

A more serious problem is called high-altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE, which produces fluid build-up around the lungs. The common remedy to that is supplemental oxygen.

Then there’s something called high-altitude cerebral edema, or HACE, or swelling of the brain. It’s so rare that one of Colorado’s experts on high-altitude medicine could recall only a half-dozen such cases — at all.

HACE is what felled Susanna DeForest, a 20-year-old backpacker from Pennsylvania in August as she made her way up the trail to the Conundrum Hot Springs between Aspen and Crested Butte. Dr. Steve Ayers, the Pitkin County coroner, last Friday issued a cause of death.

He said her personal physiology masked the symptoms. After flying to Denver, she spent one night in Golden, and then two more in Dillon before traveling to Aspen to backpack to the hot springs, which are located at about 11,200 feet in elevation. As she and companions hiked up the trail, she did not exhibit the typical symptoms. She was sluggish, needing to rest often, but she did not breathe hard, nor did she cough or turn blue.

As her condition deteriorated at a campsite along the trail at about 10,300 feet, help was summoned. The helicopter arrived at 1:30 a.m., but couldn’t land, because it had too much fuel and hence was too heavy for the location. It returned several hours later. But Ayers says a time-reconstruction put together by his deputy coroner shows it probably would have made no difference. The woman died just about the time the helicopter tried to land.

Headwaters river gets a bit of reconfiguration

FRASER, Colo. — Bit by bit, the hydrology of the Fraser Valley is becoming ever-more artificial. The latest tinkering is a reconfiguration of the Fraser River, to function better for trout and other fish living in depleted flows.

The river originates at the foot of Berthoud Pass, near the Winter Park Ski area, flowing about 20 miles to a confluence with the Colorado River, not far from its own headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park.

In 1936, Denver began the first of many major water diversions. The hijackings have increased over the years, so that now about two-thirds of the water gets drawn through the tunnel instead of being allowed to flow naturally.

The result in the Fraser River has been a channel too wide for the water it carries. It works well enough during spring runoff, but by August and September, the water is thin and prone to getting hot.

Recently, work began on reconfiguring about a mile of the river near Fraser, the town. Kirk Klancke, writing in the Sky-Hi News, explains that the deeper, narrower channel will provide lower temperatures of water, as needed by trout. The deeper channel also helps flush sediment down the river.

The ratio of riffle areas to pools is also being adjusted. The former create habitat for bugs, and the latter give fish cooler, deeper places to hang out.

Klancke also notes it’s just not water diversion that has altered the river. Vegetation that shades the river has been removed by ranchers over time. To remedy that, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, of which Klancke is a member, has planted over 30,000 willow and 100 cottonwoods. The river’s re-configuration, however, is the result of a co-operative effort by Denver Water and those on the western side of the Continental Divide called Learning By Doing.

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