Keep Hessie Wild

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Alpenglow along I-70 on Vail Pass. 

On Friday I went to Vail for my final visit with Dr. Hackett. After pulling and prodding for a few minutes the doctor announced that I was good to go. The rehabiltation process, which began on May 26th and extended the entire summer and fall, is largely over. I won't be hucking 40-foot cliffs anytime soon – not that I ever did – but so long as I make reasonably intelligent choices I'm not limited anymore. He suggested telemark skiing at the resort some to build strength, and also gave a clean bill of health for spring steep skiing. It means game-on for Elaine and I. That's a beautiful thing because exploring the mountains is our favorite thing to do. 

IMG_4205Currant Creek, one valley over from Vail Pass. 

It was a long day of driving so we decided to break it up with a sunset ski on Vail Pass before heading home. The route we chose, along something called Currant Creek, was full of contrast. It was poignant because it forced the question, what was this place like before there was a giant interstate higway bisecting the land? Currant Creek is one valley east from Vail Pass. And while the drone of the higway can be heard faintly, it's a much more pleasant experience than the return trip home on a trail between the east and westbound lanes of the highway.

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Alpenglow on the Ten-Mile Range. 
 In Currant Creek the valley falls away beautifully as the silence of the winter meadow hangs over the land. One valley over, along I-70, the drone of diesel trucks drowns out the world, the snow is brown and the air dirty from exhaust. But then, there is that sky. I'm not sure what it is about the Leadville, Copper Mountain, Camp Hale area, but this zone gets better alpenglow than anywhere in the state. It was strange to be surrounded by amazing light and glowing peaks while at the same time feeling and seeing the harsh impacts of human technology on the natural environment. Because of that beauty, it was almost more painful. 

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A morning pre-work ski to a lake with a stormy view of our backyard. 

Of course, if the highway were not there, we likely wouldn't be either. I'd be willing to trade it back to its original state.  In the original plan, the builders of I-70 had actually planned to send the road straight thru Eldora town and up over Arapaho Pass. What a difference that would of made to this paradise. And because I live here, and living in a place equates to loving and defending it, I'm glad they located the highway 30 miles to the south. And yet for somebody, that valley where the highway now cuts was home, that was their place of peace and beauty, and for that person the construction of I-70 over Vail Pass – and where ever else it goes – is a loss of the greatest magnitude. It's a trading of natural beauty for human convenience and that's a choice we tend to make altogether too often.

As we await decision on Eldora ski areas expansion into the Hessie Valley, I hope this is something the decision makers take into consideration. It's much easier to destroy something than it is to go back, and for everything gained, there is also a lot of untold loss. 

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50 years ago there were plans to build an Interstate Higway here. Today, there are plans to expand a ski area down here. This is better. 

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