What a week it has been. One thing certain about working for a newspaper— small or large—it is not often a boring proposition. And for as small a county as this is, this past week has been amazingly busy.
Starting on May 20, right after last week’s newspaper was sent to press at about 11 a.m., let it be known that I was up at the 10,000-foot-plus summit of Ripple Creek Pass by 12:30 p.m.
I accompanied Scott Nielsen, the Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge Department’s superintendent for the Meeker District in his (thank God) well-equipped four-wheel-drive pick-up truck all the way up Country Road 8 as far as the Trappers Lake turnoff, but we kept going up past Ripple Creek Lodge by about two miles on clear roads.
Then we hit snow. Then we hit lots more snow and continued around one bend when we saw a snow plow plugging away at clearing the road, and the snow was towering above the plow.
When Scott and I caught up with the snow plow, we were, I would guess, about 300 yards from the summit of Ripple Creek Pass.
The idea for the day was to break through the snow up past the summit by three miles and punch a path all the way down—about three more miles—so there would at least be a trail opening up the road from just outside Meeker, a couple miles into Routt County, freeing up a trail that would allow four-wheel-drive vehicles through to where they could drive to Yampa.
That I can tell you, was a chore.
In the fewest words I can use, the county used two plows to open a trail along the road that was covered by between four and eight feet of snow. When we were taking photos near the summit of the pass, in the midst of a storm that was snowing so hard at times you could barely see the snow plows that were, by my estimate, about eight feet wide, with blades of seven feet in height and a cab that put the drivers at least 10 feet high in their seats—if not even higher.
These plows are huge, powerful and, at times limited to clearing only about four or five feet forward at a time.
To get the photos we wanted, Scott and I had to climb up the road to get ahead of the plows, and we were at least seven feet high when climbing ahead, using really shaky footing in the semi-plowed snow that also had large open air pockets in the banks.
We got the photos we wanted, the road and bridge crew got the trail punched through and the road open, although I use that phrase with a caveat.
I will not be bringing my 2006 Sebring convertible through there any time soon.
The banks of the trail are at least seven feet tall. The trail punched through is less than 10 feet wide, there is still a lot of snow and ice on the road as the plows were not able to get down to the ground in a lot of places, and if the snow has continued to fall like it did on Wednesday, then there could be another foot or more where the snow had been plowed.
Unless you have a very reliable four-wheel-drive vehicle, I wouldn’t attempt it, and I wouldn’t guarantee the ability to get through. The snow has to quit falling for a couple days, sun has to get in there and melt the snow and ice where the road was cleared, then the road will need to dry out before I would recommend driving the road.
Good luck, drivers. I will even add that the bull moose we saw was located below the turnoff to Trappers Lake, where he could get some good footing.
That same night was the Meeker School District’s 2015 Spring Concert, in which the bands and choirs from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades at Barone Middle School each performed, the various bands and choirs at Meeker High School each performed then all of the groups got together for a finale.
There was truly some impressive music performed, and it is quite obvious that MHS/BMS music coordinator Jeff Hemingson is doing one crack job with all the students he has under his tutelage.
Obviously, the older and longer the students had been together, the more sound—so to speak—the bands were. But it was highly obvious that the bands this year, particularly those from Barone, where much better taught and accomplished than they were last year.
Hats off to Hemingson and the musicians.
In the midst of the 2015 Spring Concert, 24 new members were inducted into the Meeker High School National Honor Society’s Scholastia (sic) chapter.
The National Honor Society is made up of well-rounded students where not just athletics or scholastics are looked at.
The NHS was begun in 1919 to recognize the well-rounded student, and membership is a big feather in any students’ cap.
Congratulations current and new members. The National Honor Society is not a breeze to get into and you had to have accomplished much to have been inducted.
Thursday and Friday were fairly routine, which means rewriting press releases, writing up news briefs, going through photos and getting them ready for print, dealing with those who walk in the front door of the office on Thursday and helping those who come to the back door on Fridays even though the newspaper office is officially closed.
I awoke about 8 a.m. on Saturday to the message on my phone that staff writer, photographer, ad rep, and former editor Bobby Gutierrez had suffered a heart attack on Saturday night and been airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
I immediately wanted to find out how he was doing, but all I had was his cell phone. I kind of thought it would be a silly maneuver to try and call him.
Then someone sent me his wife Wendy’s posting on email that stated he had a mild heart attack, had been flown to Grand Junction, that she was quite happy they had Dr. Albert Krueger intervene and that Bobby was doing well and, quite calming to her, was snoring and that the brown had returned to his face.
His condition was, of course, a major concern.
Later in the day, I did actually send a message on Bobby’s phone wishing him the best and a speedy recovery, and around mid-afternoon Wendy returned the message and said he was doing much better and still sleeping.
(I just saw Bobby on Monday afternoon in Meeker, and while I am sure that all the health suggestions, medications and advice will figure into his post-attack life, he looked really good and was laughing, but he did acknowledge there may be a few life-changing moves forthcoming.)
Good luck, Bobby. Get well and stick to the doctor’s advice.
On Saturday at 10 a.m. was the Meeker High School graduation, or commencement exercise.
There were 38 graduates, plenty of speeches, I took more than 80 photos of the event and the nearly two-hour event concluded just before a good soaking hit Starbuck Stadium.
Kathleen Sullivan Kelley, as commencement speaker, awoke a few of the souls in the class with talk of those who went on to fame from right here in Meeker with the theme being it doesn’t matter where you are from or how big your school is, you can go on and make a difference in this world.
The weather cooperated for all but about the last 10 minutes, but those in attendance were likely able to escape before the rain actually hit.
Congratulations to the MHS Cowboy Class of 2015.
The next stop was the upper auditorium at Rangely High School on Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m. The Panther Class of 2015 was holding its graduation or commencement exercises to a full house for its 29 graduates.
I didn’t have to take any photos at this one, but I had to report on the graduation itself, which tugged at the heartstrings at times.
The two most touching moments came when Rangely School District Superintendent Matt Scoggins embraced his son, James, as he was handed his diploma and when Rangley School Board member Sam Tolley embraced his graduating niece, Jessica.
Great speeches were also given by Salutatorian Mitchell Webber and Valedictorian Ethan Allred.
Commencement speaker Alan Ducey struck some strong chords of wisdom with his presentation of “I Hope You Dance,” where he challenged the grads to challenge themselves, starting off as a good employee, not a slacker, and to work hard to keep their sights focused in the right direction and to do the best they can. Sage words of advice, Alan, and delivered in a way the grads could easily understand.
It was a great, cozy ceremony.
Congratulations to the RHS Panther Class of 2015.
After a couple days of graduations, I found myself waking up on Monday realizing I had to get into the office, write my column, go through probably 150 photos and start working on this week’s paper.
I got up at 5:30. My wife usually gets up at 7 and I am at work by 8. She hadn’t emerged by 7:15, so I woke her up. About five minutes later she emerged and said, not too enthusiastically, “Why did you wake me up; I don’t work today.”
Oops. Double oops!
Not only did she remind me that she wasn’t working, but that reminded me that it was Memorial Day and that the Meeker VFW and American Legion had Memorial Day ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. on the bridge to Circle Park, but that they also had the usual Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Memorial in Highlands Cemetery.
So, I hurried into work to start this column at about 7:30, got through some of the photos until 9:15, when I went to the bridge, where I realized my camera card was still on my desk.
I hurried back to the office, thankfully only about five blocks away, got the camera card and arrived back at the bridge just as the ceremony was starting. That lasted five to 10 minutes while a wreath was released into the White River and the VFW fired a 21-gun salute.
After that, everyone converged on the cemetery for another ceremony led by the VFW. Members of the VFW and American Legion watched as another wreath was laid by the memorial in the cemetery, another 21-gun salute was fired off and the ceremony ended with “Taps.”
Really, and some people say there is nothing to do around here! Not sure where they get that impression.