Hemp farmer takes root in SE Colorado
CRESTED BUTTE – Ryan Loflin, who lives in Crested Butte, returned to his roots recently in southeastern Colorado. There, near the town of Springfield, he began planting what is believed to be the first hemp grown in the United States in 60 years.
While legal in Canada, U.S. federal law bans production of hemp, which contains trace quantities of THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana. However, the new state constitutional amendment adopted last November legalizes possession of marijuana as well as production in small quantities. It also allows production of hemp without limitation.
Springfield, the setting for this 21st century precedent, in no way resembles the John Denver image of Colorado. Some of the worst storms of the Dust Bowl occurred here. It’s a half-hour from Oklahoma and Kansas, just a little farther to New Mexico, and even Texas is just 80 miles away.
Earlier this year, Loflin, 40, began growing 450 hemp plants at his shop and imported 70 pounds of seed from Europe.
With this, Loflin and a business partner planted a quarter-acre of hemp last week, and the seeds are already coming up, he reports. By June, he hopes to have planted 66 to 70 acres.
“Things around here have been hurting,” he told the Crested Butte News, describing his boyhood hometown. “I really think hemp production could be one of the things that brings an economic recovery to rural Colorado, and next spring I think more people will be planting it.”
Blistered by drought, eastern Colorado has suffered in recent years. Hemp only needs 8 inches of water, but it does better in 10 to 14 inches. The average precipitation there is 17 inches. Too, hemp doesn’t need fertilization or pesticides.
One question is how much flouting of federal law drug agents will tolerate. Banks have refused to float loans to retail dispensaries, for fear of harmful repercussions to their access to the federal banking system. For much the same reasons, Colorado State University has refused to conduct research that could help promote hemp. The school fears loss of federal research dollars.
Loflin told the News that he doesn’t worry much about federal drug agents stalking his plot. Too much else is in play, including larger cultivation of marijuana with high concentrations of THC. “I doubt they’ll bother with a little hemp growing operation,” he says.
But if the crop gets harvested, Loflin and his partner will have buyers. Whole Foods, the national grocer, has contracted to buy seed from 50 acres. Oil constitutes 30 to 35 percent of seeds and contains high concentrations of essential fatty acids. Another 10 acres of seed is earmarked for Dr. Bronner’s.
Too hard for bears, but easy for humans
ASPEN – Is there a better trash receptacle? Aspen thinks so, and it had good reason to find out.
The Aspen Times notes that police responded to 1,040 calls last year regarding problems with bears. While some bears roamed alleys at night, others climbed downtown in broad daylight. Others pillaged the town’s street-side trash receptables.
Some thought was devoted to the design of those trash receptacles, to allow people to deposit trash easily enough but without allowing bears to get in. But the bears have outwitted the designers.
So, it’s back to the drawing board. Aspen city officials tell the newspaper that they do believe they have a new design that strikes the proper balance: too hard for bears but not too hard for humans.
What law of universe explains tragedy?
WHISTLER, B.C. – You’ve got to wonder about still-undiscovered laws of the universe when you read stories like this. Pique Newsmagazine tells of a father, aged 49, and his 10-year-old daughter, both from North Vancouver, who had decided to spend a weekend backcountry skiing near Blackcomb Mountain.
But when they failed to connect with others, as scheduled, search parties were dispatched. Searchers found their tent, located at the base of a 20-metre rock face. As best could be determined, a large boulder fell from the rock face, crushing the father and daughter.
Galloping Goose back in retirement
TELLURIDE – After four years of the railroad equivalents of hip-replacement surgery, new knees and a facelift, Galloping Goose No. 4 has returned to its retirement location in Telluride.
This Goose was among a gaggle of six like-named geese that once roamed the rails of the San Juan Mountains. Completed in 1890 by Otto Mears, the rail network loops around from Durango to Cortez, and north over Lizard Head Pass to Telluride and then Ridgway.
Conventional trains once hauled silver and gold ore from the mining towns to smelters, in Durango and elsewhere. By 1930, however, mining had fallen off. In response, Rio Grande Southern had the idea of creating gas-powered vehicles, more like buses than heavy-duty trains, to deliver mail and passengers.
The idea worked well enough, but by 1950 highways had improved and most people had their own cars and trucks. In 1952, Telluride Volunteer Firefighters bought one of the six geese and set it up between the New Sheridan Opera House and the San Miguel County Courthouse, reports the Daily Planet.
And so it remained until deterioration forced a relocation to Ridgway, where it was originally created, for restoration, at a cost of $27,000 in materials. Curators did the work at no extra cost.
Survivors recall historic Everest ascent
JACKSON, Wyo. – This May marks the 50th anniversary of the first successful summit of Mount Everest. Many members of that party remain alive, among them Dick Pownall.
Growing up in Iowa, Pownall was too young to fight in World War II, and instead went to the Grand Tetons, where his uncle was a park ranger. In successive years, he made some of the most notable first ascents in history.
And so it was in 1963 that he was roped to Jake Breitenbach as they attempted to navigate the treacherous Khumbu Icefall on their way to the South Col of Everest.
“The mood was perfect,” Pownall recalled at a gathering of the surviving Everest veterans in Jackson Hole recently. “What a great time we were having.”
It was on the second day that Pownall and Breitenbach were picked as the strongest team for a summit bid. Pownall said he took hold of the rope. The way ahead “looks spooky,” said recalled telling Breitenbach. “Take a look around that corner.”
Breitenbach advanced. The icefall shifted and collapsed. Breitenbach was crushed, and Pownall was buried by snow, with only his hand betraying his location. He was covered for 30 minutes and did not gain consciousness until the next day. “It happened so suddenly,” Pownall said. “The was no pain, no emotion.”
Jim Whittaker ended up with the distinction of being the first American atop Everest. He was also the first full-time employee of REI and in the 1960s was the chief executive.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide says that Kit DesLauriers, with legendary mountaineering achievements of her own, including a ski ascent of Everest, moderated the forum attended by 400 people. She asked how if the Everest expedition changed the survivors?
Whittaker recalled seeing beauty in a single blade of grass after living for months in a world of ice, snow and rock. “What a beautiful damned planet,” he said. “Get the kids out. No child left inside.”
The Everest expedition, he said, gave him “the sense of the importance of life and friends.”
As for not being the first climber on Everest, he admitted to disappointment. In Jackson Hole, he put it another way. But for fate, he might have been the one crushed by ice. “You’re looking at the luckiest climber on the expedition,” he says.
A more permanent place for scientists
TELLURIDE – Just 18 scientists showed up for Telluride Science Research Center's first workshop in 1985. It has since blossomed into a major gathering, with 1,200 expected at 48 meetings this year.
The TCenter could get bigger yet. It recently appeared before Town Council with plans for a 30,000-square-foot facility. The center wants to use town-owned land for a 200-person auditorium, five classrooms and a café.
– Allen Best