Monday, August 2, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : The Rio Grande Starts Here

Falling For the Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is one of the most famous rivers in the world. "The Big River" has been memorialized in John Wayne movie classics, Johnny Rodriguez songs, and literature. Texans think of the Rio Grande as a border between the Lone Star State and Mexico, where it's known as El Rio Bravo del Norte. But it's much more than that. Modern history shows that the river has been used for irrigation since before 1540 when Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado set eyes on the Pueblo Indians doing just that near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Some folks will be surprised that the Rio Grande begins as a trickle high in the mountains of Southwest Colorado in Rio Grande National Forest. Located four hours southwest of Denver and four hours north of Albuquerque, Rio Grande National Forest is an outstanding place to hike, camp, cross country ski or snowshoe, depending, of course, on the season. According to the website : "The 1.86 million acre Rio Grande National Forest is located in southcentral Colorado and remains one of the true undiscovered jewels of Colorado. The Rio Grande begins its 1800 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico high up in the San Juan Mountains in the western most part of the Forest. The Continental Divide runs for 236 miles along most of the western border of the Forest and the jagged tops of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains form the eastern border.  In between these two mountain ranges sits the San Luis Valley which is the largest agricultural alpine valley in the world. The Forest is composed of a myriad of ecosystems ranging from high elevation desert at 7600 feet above sea level to rocky crags at over 14,300 feet in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  Portions of four Wilderness Areas (South San Juan, Weminuche, La Garita and Sangre de Cristo) make up almost ¼ of the Forest." Rio Grande National Forest is a more than worthy addition to any vacation schedule. I plan on taking my family on a cross country trip in the next few months and Colorado was on the list because my Mom lives there. The Rio Grande National Forest is not on the direct route home for us when we head back to Maine, but having discovered such a place as RGNF and its incumbent Natural Splendor, I think we'll take the long way home.

Maine Minutiae : Carrabassett Valley

Mount Bigelow*
 I often say that I'd rather be lucky than good. Today I was lucky. I found out about Carrabassett Valley. Read on. As you may have correctly surmised by now, I am an outdoors kind of guy...especially if there is fishable water in the general vicinity. Fish.Fear.Me. Using my 5th Degree Black Belt in Google-Fu and blazing speed of hand, I round-house kicked and back flipped my way through the deepest, darkest, most villainous part of the internet like Jackie Chan through a beauty parlor full of hairdressers with dull scissors. The result of this death-defying dive into deviousness was to find one of the coolest websites I have ever seen.. Not cool because of the technical aspects of it (which are 1st rate), cool because of the content. If you are like me and see God's Handiwork and in it, God Himself, please click this link and thoroughly peruse the site about Carrabassett Valley. You will not be disappointed. I promise.  And to think this place is only 74 miles from where I live and is open year round.  Chances are that you'll never be able to make it to Maine to behold this masterpiece, perhaps however, you can use your own Google-Fu to find something just as breathtaking near you. Maybe you'll, like me, get lucky and discover a Carrabassett Valley in your neighborhood.

Texas Tidbits : The Law West of the Pecos

The Law West of the Pecos*

 Other than Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and a handful of other famous Texans, perhaps none is quite as famous (infamous?) than the man who was self-anointed as "The Law West of the Pecos" - Judge Roy Bean. When it comes to separating fact from fiction regarding Phantly Roy Bean, Jr. (1825-1903), the line is, put mildly, blurred. It is said that Judge Bean held court in his saloon and passed sentence on defendants by bellowing, "Hang 'em first, then try 'em". Smithsonian Magazine by way of further informs us "By Gobs! There was nothing judicious about Judge Roy Bean "Doffing his saloon apron,  the grizzled barkeep dons a dirty alpaca coat,  sits himself down behind the bar, draws a pistol and bangs for silence using the butt as a gavel.   "Order, by Gobs!   This honorable court is now in session, and if any galoot wants a snort before we start, let him step up to the bar and name his pizen." The good judge had never seen the inside of a law school.  His only law book was the 1879 Revised Statutes of Texas.  But the self-styled "Law West of the Pecos" knew how to hold court. There, in his Jersey Lilly saloon in the minuscule West Texas town of Langtry, Roy Bean doled out drinks and his own brand of justice for more than 20 years." You. Can't. Make. This. Stuff. Up. For this tale of Law West of the Pecos-style "justice", we go to : "One of Bean's most outrageous rulings occurred when an Irishman was accused of killing a Chinese worker. Friends of the accused threatened to destroy the Jersey Lilly if he was found guilty. Court in session, Bean browsed through his law book, turning page after page, searching for another legal precedent. Finally, rapping his pistol on the bar, he proclaimed, "Gentlemen, I find the law very explicit on murdering your fellow man, but there's nothing here about killing a Chinaman. Case dismissed." They say justice is blind. Could it be that Judge Roy Bean was blind to justice? You decide. You don't need my help. Here's a good, one page bio of Judge Bean. Like George S Patton said about some Russian general, "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son f a bitch". Thus it is with the Law West of the Pecos.

*Judge Bean photo courtesy of


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