Opinion: Weekend mountain hike took my breath away … literally

phjeffburkheadI know now, Coloradans are a bunch of liars. I went hiking Saturday near Glenwood Springs — yes, I actually went out of town, something people who know me will be surprised to learn — and each time I came upon a fellow hiker and asked how far I had to go, I got the same response.
“You’re almost there,” they would say.
And they were lying.
I hiked the Hanging Lake Trail and Spouting Rock, near Glenwood Canyon, which is about a two-hour roundtrip hike. So, no, this wasn’t quite a Fourteener — all right, it wasn’t even close — but it was a good hike, and beautiful.
I walk almost everywhere, at least around town, so I figured I was in pretty good shape to go hiking. But even walking up Fifth Street or Seventh Street in Meeker didn’t quite prepare me for the hike up to Hanging Lake. Let’s just say there were several times when I stopped to take in the scenic beauty — and catch my breath.
But then I would see senior citizens (OK, I guess I’m one of ’em now), and pregnant women, and dads carrying little children, and kids wearing flip flops, all walking past me on the trail, and I’d say to myself, “Come on, old man. You can do this.”
As I encountered hikers coming down the trail, I would give them that am-I-getting-close look, and I always got the same answer.
“You’re almost there.”
Now I know, “You’re almost there” is code for “You’ve got a long ways to go, but if I tell you how far it really is to the top, you’ll turn around and walk back down the canyon, so I’m going to lie to you, for your own good.”
These Coloradans, they are a tricky bunch.
Eventually, after about an hour of hiking, I finally made it to Hanging Lake, which was beautiful, by the way. Then I hiked a bit farther up to Spouting Rock, which was a “must see,” other hikers on the trail had advised. It, too, was worth the trip.
You would think hiking down the canyon would be a breeze, but I found you really have to pay attention to where you place your feet, or you can easily have a misstep on a slippery rock.
I will say this about my little excursion — the scenery really was spectacular and the feeling of accomplishment I had afterward made the hike — and the resulting sore calves — all worth it.
It made me feel like a real Coloradan.
I’m already looking forward to going hiking again. And next time, when I cross paths with some poor sap who gives me that “Am I going to make it?” look, now I will know what to do — I will lie.
“You’re almost there.”
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There’s a big weekend planned for Rangely’s annual Septemberfest event.
A rodeo kicks things off, starting Friday night and continuing Saturday. There’s a full slate of activities scheduled for Saturday at Elks Park and again on Monday, which is Labor Day. Sunday’s schedule includes the ice cream social at Rangely Museum and gospel singing at Elks Park.
Here’s hoping the weather cooperates. Last year, the weather was perfect for Saturday’s “Day in the Park” events, but it turned cloudy and rainy on Monday, washing out some of the events in the park.
“Monday (last year) was a downer. We got rain all day long,” said Tim Webber, director of Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District, which coordinates Septemberfest. “Hopefully it stays away this year.”
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County Commissioners Kai Turner of Meeker and Ken Parsons of Rangely as well as members of the Meeker and Rangely town boards met last week to talk about issues they have in common.
Previously, the governing bodies from both towns and the county met in Meeker. This time the meeting was held in Rangely, on the campus of Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Peter Brixius, town manager for Rangely, felt good about the meeting.
“I believe it was very productive,” Brixius said. “This was the second meeting this year of the combined boards. The elected officials from the county and the two communities felt it was important to get together during the budgeting process and talk about our challenges and how we might help each other.
“Fiscally budgeting for 2010 is going to be a very important process as we look to find economies of scale across the county, knowing that many of our traditional revenue sources will be adversely affected,” Brixius said.
Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge said, “It was great to have everyone in the same room to discuss pertinent topics that face our county as a whole. With the economic conditions, it is good that local government is looking for ways to be more efficient and cost-share.”
County Commissioner Parsons said it’s imperative the two towns and the county work together during the economic downturn.
“The major focus was on joint cooperation to give taxpayers the best return on their dollar in difficult times,” Parsons said. “The recent cooperation between Rio Blanco County on the west end chip seal (project) was cited as progress and a real cost saving for Rangely.”
Commissioner Turner agreed cooperation was important.
“We talked about cooperation between municipalities, special districts and the county,” Turner said. “If there were ways to help each other out, how we can do this and how to maybe be in better communication.”
Meeker Town Administrator Sharon Day said the joint meeting highlighted ways the two towns and the county can save money.
“The main topics were areas of services where the three entities could collaborate, for example, request bids together for asphalt projects, equipment purchases, to get a better price based on volume, and if there are areas of duplication of services or equipment that could be shared,” Day said.
The combined board will meet again in November.
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While attendance or money raised may not have been what some had hoped for, a sincere thank you goes to all of the committee members, team leaders, volunteers and participants in the Rio Blanco County Relay for Life.
Deserving of special mention is Holly Lepro’s team of ninth-graders, which was the top money-raising team with more than $6,000. At last report, the total amount raised was more than $11,000.
Leana Cox was chairwoman of the event, Jon Bader was luminaria chairman, Dave Jordan was survivor chairman, Joe Sears was entertainment chairman, Jim DeLong was logistics chairman and Kathleen Martynowicz was publicity chairwoman.
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Next weekend is the 32nd annual Rangely Picnic — a reunion of current and former Rangely residents — that will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 at Lincoln Park in Grand Junction.
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Meeker Drug owner Linda Blagg said she hopes the county’s only pharmacy may reopen Oct. 1.
The drugstore building has been undergoing a major cleanup and remodeling after sustaining extensive damage from a fire in May.
Blagg said she is considering selling the Rangely Drug building, which did not include a pharmacy.
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Word has it that Caryl Meitler of Greeley will be the new postmaster in Meeker, replacing Dale Hallebach, who retired in January. Meitler will reportedly start work at the Meeker Post Office at the first of October.
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September is going to be one busy month.
There’s Septemberfest this weekend, followed by Meeker’s Sheepdog Trials the next week, then the Rangely Rock Crawlers’ event, Smoking River Pow Wow and Mountain Valley Bank’s Fall Festival will all be held the last weekend of the month. Not to mention high school sports are in full swing, with games starting this week. I just hope to keep up.
Happy, Septemberfest, Rangely!

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.