Tahoe’s Tropical Side

Looking out across Lake Tahoe for the first time — its blue-green waters, mountains and beaches — was a moment of pure infatuation. I’d heard all about the water and the mountains, but who knew that Tahoe is surrounded by such beautiful beaches? I mean, it’s an alpine lake that’s at about the same altitude and latitude as Carbondale, but its attitude is more like California. It would be hard to imagine the concentration of golden sand and beach babes being any denser in Malibu or Big Sur.

I may have been the only person to live their entire adult life in the American West never having visited Tahoe before our trip. But after finally checking that box off my bucket list, I’m now wondering what took me so long, and I can’t wait to go back.

We drove the scenic route there — Highway 50 through the heart of Nevada, which has been labeled “The Loneliest Highway in America” for good reason. It’s the kind of place where you would not be surprised to see the skeletons of unlucky travelers lying beside the road, picked clean by buzzards. The route features some beautiful mountain ranges, but only about four small towns over its 500 miles, so you want to make sure your car is gassed up and running well before attempting it.

My fiancé lived in Tahoe for several years, so she knows the place like a local, and led me to and through some gorgeous places during our week there.

The lake is split into a California side and a Nevada side. The California side is sparsely populated, and features some awe-inspiring vistas. Hiking trails run all the way from the lake to the summits of the surrounding mountains. We hiked the Rubicon trail that traverses the lake’s western edge one afternoon. The trail meanders in and out of the forest, and gave us new and amazing views around every corner.

The Nevada side of the lake is much more developed, featuring the casinos, of course, but also some great restaurants and hotels, and most of Tahoe’s best beaches.

Our hotel room featured a large stone fireplace and kitchenette, and was only two blocks from the beach where we sat on our first night and watched the sun set beyond the distant mountains.

On another day we took a lunch cruise on a paddleboat across the lake and back, and sat at a window seat where we toasted our good fortune while contemplating the icy depths. Then we took a side trip to Virginia City — a real old west town with real (staged) gunfights and fake cowboys.

Back at the beach, I stepped into the cold water and gritted my teeth as I waded out until I was waist-deep. I took a moment to gather my courage, then dove in and swam like Michael Phelps until my body adjusted to the temperature. The crisp, clean Tahoe waters were so exhilarating that I decided to float there for a while, looking around at one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Red Rocks of Sedona 
Are a Place for Play

When we heard the rattle our boots skidded in the dirt like a cartoon coyote’s. The diamondback sat directly in the middle of the trail, and we had its full attention. I’d seen them alongside trails before, usually basking in the sun, but this one wasn’t doing any basking; it was coiled and ready to strike.

We’d hiked a few miles through Manzanita and piñon forests into a box canyon called Boynton, which is located just a few miles northwest of Sedona, Ariz., and has a reputation for “X-Files”-level phenomena. In other words, it’s where earthbound aliens supposedly hold their VIP parties. We figured Mr. Diamondback was probably the doorman, and he clearly wanted to keep us outside the velvet rope. With no way around, we turned back and simply found another beautiful trail to hike.

Sedona is the epicenter of a vast 250-mile trail system in the Coconino National Forest that is entirely interconnected. It is a source of tremendous pride for locals who have worked alongside the U.S. Forest Service to build and maintain it. According to District Ranger Nicole Branton, the Red Rock Ranger District logs the highest number of volunteer hours of any ranger district in the Forest Service.

But the trail system is not built purely for hikers. Mountain bikers have also played a big part in creating the trail system there, and they made sure to include everything they love. Looking for single track? They’ve got miles of it. Slickrock? It’s everywhere. You want a trail that skirts the edge of a 400-foot cliff? They’ve got that too.

Colorado mountain bikers may only dream about getaways to Moab or Fruita, but mountain bikers from Phoenix, Tucson and southern California all plan their vacations in Sedona. Every major mountain biking publication tests their bikes in Sedona, and several world-class racers train there. If you don’t know where to start, check in with my friend Jim Monahan at the Bike and Bean. He’ll send you in the right direction, and make you a great cup of coffee to get you revved up for the ride.

Of course, Sedona also has a reputation for mysticism, which in some ways is well deserved. You can buy crystals in practically every store in Uptown, and there are many stories of alien activity that get passed around. Then there are the vortexes, as they call them. There are six in the Sedona area, and the local chamber of commerce will even provide you with maps in case you want to do a tour. They are thought of as places of power, and some people spend hours at them in deep meditation. The fact that some of the vortexes are located at Sedona’s most famous attractions — like Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock — is beside the point.

The main attraction of Sedona, though, is the extraordinary beauty of its red rocks. They are geologically the same layers of sedimentary rock as in the Grand Canyon, and are every bit as awe-inspiring. Go ahead and hike Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, because those places are extraordinary. But if you want a hike that’s just as beautiful but less crowded, hike up on Doe Mountain or Brins Mesa, or into Boynton or Fay canyons. If you’re looking for a hike with a big vertical gain, go up Bear Mountain, or find a local to take you up the unmapped Thunder Mountain trail.

But beware: The Arizona desert is extremely rugged, and everything you encounter can either poke you, scratch you, bite you or impale you — so wear long pants. It’s also extremely hot and dry from March to November, so take plenty of water, a good map and wear good boots. And always keep your ears peeled for the chilling sound of Mr. Diamondback’s rattle.

Finding the Perfect Arch

The first thing we noticed upon entering Arches National Park was the enormous size of everything. Park Avenue, which, per the name, is a little like walking through Manhattan, features huge red rock walls jutting straight up hundreds of feet on all sides.

The second thing we noticed about the park, being the mountain-dwelling homo sapiens we are, was the heat. On our mid-September visit it approached 100 degrees every day, and although the nights were generally cooler for us tent sleepers at the Devil’s Garden Campground, the mornings heated up quickly, turning our tent into a sauna by 9 a.m.

But, like our fellow visitors, we developed a few strategies for dealing with the mid-day heat. Our most effective one involved margaritas in Moab, just a few miles south of the park.

“On the rocks?”  “Definitely!’  “Salt?”  “Yes, please!”

 

We also found a place to float our tubes in the Colorado River, which runs along the southeastern edge of the park, and discovered a very good (air conditioned) wine tasting room at the Castle Creek Winery, also on the river.

But like most visitors to the park, we took in the sights from our air-conditioned vehicle most of the day — stepping out only briefly for photo ops of the most scenic areas. We were able to see a great deal of the park from our car, such as Balanced Rock, and the Windows section, which features several arches that can be viewed from the road.

We also connected with our nocturnal nature, using headlamps to explore some of the park’s most scenic places by night. The trail to Landscape Arch was more like a long gravel-based pathway, so there was no chance of us stumbling around in the dark.

Another great night-hike is to the Tower Arch, located in the northwestern part of the park. It’s probably the least visited beautiful place we found, mostly because it exists at the far end of 10 miles of bad road followed by a 3.4-mile hike. But the last mile of the hike is on pure sand, which inspired us to remove our boots and take a walk on the beach.

 

But the highlight of our trip had to be Delicate Arch — one of the most famous arches in the world. It’s the one you see on Utah license plates.

We, along with dozens of others, ascended the sandstone trail to the iconic arch deliberately, like seekers on a pilgrimage through a vast desert land. Our plan was to reach the iconic arch just before the golden hour — sundown — a time when, as any photographer will tell you, magic happens.

The trail was about three miles long with an elevation gain of 500 feet — nothing at all for a pair of seasoned Colorado hikers. But the heat added an element we were unaccustomed to dealing with, the temperature being well into the 90s with almost no humidity. Luckily we were smart enough to bring water.

When park service employees tell you to bring plenty of water on your hikes, they’re not joking around. Hikers who don’t follow this advice usually end up severely dehydrated before they become disoriented and lose their sense of direction. Rescue crews stay busy all summer in the American Southwest finding people with no water, no map and stupid shoes.

When we reached the arch we joined the hundred or so people already there who were just sitting, speechless, experiencing a very special place. The arch sat on the rim of what appeared to be a large sandstone bowl like a renegade Cheerio, standing on end. But it was more than just an arch; it was a symbol of beauty in the natural world, and we enjoyed just being in its presence until the last light was gone.

Crested Butte Worth the Winter Drive

Idon’t know who was more startled, the bighorn sheep or me. I had just finished the white-knuckle stretch of our drive from Basalt to Crested Butte — over an icy McClure Pass, and a high, winding road between Hotchkiss and Highway 50. Now we were cruising past the expansive, frozen Blue Mesa Reservoir, admiring the resolve of several ice fishermen, when the sheep jumped a barrier into the opposite lane. He did have the presence of mind to stay put, and I breathed a sigh of relief as we rushed past him.

Fortunately, the rest of our three-day trip was more about gourmet dining, steaming Jacuzzis and skiing groomers than near highway calamities.

We stayed at the Ruby of Crested Butte, a “luxury” bed and breakfast near downtown, and it couldn’t have been nicer.

 There are two kinds of travelers: those who prefer hotels, and those who prefer B&Bs. After staying at the Ruby, which was rated the No. 1 B&B in the state by Trip Advisor for five straight years, we decided we’re B&B people.

B&Bs provide a more personal experience than hotels. The Ruby featured restored antique furniture, artistically painted walls and freshly baked cookies in the living room every afternoon. The owners, Chris and Andrea Greene, serve a gourmet breakfast every morning at their large, candle-lit dining table where we had a chance to get to know our fellow B&Bers. They’d come from as far as New York and as near as the Front Range, and all were making plans to return.

After breakfast we drove the mile to Mt. Crested Butte for a day of skiing. I had unwittingly left my ski pants back in Basalt, so I rented a pair from a local outfitter. To my chagrin, the snap and zipper were defective, so every time I leaned forward off the lift they threatened to give me a Janet Jackson-level clothing malfunction. I’m not cool enough for the pants-around-the-thighs style like some boarders, so lucky for me they never quite got to that point.

The mountain was amazing though — comparable to any of the four Aspen mountains. The snow was perfect, and the runs on the upper part of the mountain weren’t crowded. More than half the mountain is intermediate and advanced-intermediate terrain, which was right in our wheelhouse, but for those who like more challenging runs, the North Face, Headwall and Peak areas are filled with double-blacks.

We stopped for a mid-afternoon cup of hot cocoa at the new on-mountain Umbrella Bar, and we warmed up at the Roadhouse Bar and Grille in the base area which has a good selection of après-ski drinks.

 One of the best things about staying in town is the variety of great restaurant choices. At the Coal Creek Grill in the Forest Queen Hotel we had hot buttered rum, soft pretzel baked brie and brick-sized filet mignon with asparagus spears and baked potato pie. At the popular Brick Oven Pizzeria we had the spicy Hawaiian pizza and chose from among 30 beers on tap.

Everyone we met was friendly, but some looked at us sideways when we told them where we call home. Why would someone from Aspen vacation in another ski town? But Crested Butte is different from Aspen in more ways than it is similar. For one thing it is more affordable. Two nights at the Ruby cost less than one night at most Aspen hotels. There are no “high-end” retail stores, or restaurants whose menus inspire sticker shock; they’ve kept the downtown historic looking; and, there’s simply more of a local vibe.

As Chris Greene said: “You can judge a community by the quality of its softball league.” Apparently, Crested Butte has a good one.

ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch knows food

With its Farm to Table dinners, ACES aims to educate people about their food sources

Do you know where your food comes from? For most people in the Roaring Fork Valley, the answer is obvious: From a chain grocery store like City Market, or Clark’s or Whole Foods.

But where is their food sourced?

“If you try to trace those connections, if you look at the produce section — the potatoes are from Idaho, the oranges are from Florida, the onions from Texas,” said Aspen Center for Environmental Studies CEO Chris Lane.

“Now you go to the meat section and it gets a little harder, right? The steer that’s from South Dakota is fattened in Texas, with grain from Iowa.”

ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch is taking the guesswork out of the menus of many locavores, by growing healthy food with sustainable agricultural methods that don’t spew tons of carbon into the earth’s atmosphere.

Its Farm to Table dinners have become so popular that each of the five that ACES is hosting this summer were sold out in advance.

Lane began the June 27 Farm to Table dinner by telling diners that the source of 90 percent of the food they’d be eating could be measured in feet, not miles.

“The average meal in America travels about 2,000 miles and the average meal [produces] about seven pounds of carbon,” he said. “The meal you’re going to eat tonight [produced] less than one pound of carbon.”

Lane called the food “beyond organic,” and said that meant it was locally grown, free-range, animal welfare certified, wildlife friendly certified, non-GMO, and contained no antibiotics, no hormones, no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, no color additives, no flavor enhancers, no fat replacers, no stabilizers, no thickeners, and no binders.

“It’s a sad statement on our society that I have to announce this,” he said.

Down on the farm

Rock Bottom Ranch was originally settled by the Glassier family in the early part of the 20th century, and ACES purchased it from Charlie and Sally Cole in 1999. The Cole’s put in place an agreement to protect the property’s riparian habitat. That allowed ACES to broaden its education programs that explore the complex interaction between agriculture and natural ecosystems along the Roaring Fork River.

Its 113 acres include roughly 70 acres of natural land and wildlife areas that ACES is protecting. The rest is used for agricultural purposes.

Since 2009 the ranch has been ably managed by site director Jason Smith, who originally came to the Roaring Fork Valley to be a chef at the Little Nell. He worked there under Chef Ryan Hardy, who Smith said taught the value of locally grown food.

“We’re trying to do everything as responsibly as we can — produce good food, provide good jobs, and be a part of the community,” Smith said. “What we’re trying to do here is follow the natural cycles of nature.”

Smith explained that the rich soils in the Midwestern U.S. were historically created from large herds of buffalo that grazed on the grasses and left their manure for the cowbirds to clean and distribute.

ACES has replicated that method at Rock Bottom Ranch using a herd of sheep, a flock of chickens and mobile fencing in what is known as a multi-species rotational grazing system, a method that has recently been brought to light by Virginia farmer and author Joel Salatin. (ACES is bringing Salatin to the Paepcke Auditorium for a free lecture this Friday, Aug. 7.)

“Sheep are ruminants, so they eat the grass, which is essentially free to us,” Smith said. “Then we bring the chickens behind them and they sanitize and distribute.

“On this property we are very fortunate because we’ve got good water and good sun. And these animals convert it into meat, milk and fiber for us.”

Farm to table

Because of Smith’s background in the restaurant industry, and the existence of an underutilized 3,000 square foot pole barn on the property, ACES decided that hosting dinners would be a good way to get people out to the ranch and educate them about what they do, and where their food comes from.

“In this valley people are more willing to move around for food and drink, so we put two and two together, and with my background in food that was an easy transition,” Smith said.

“So we gave it a shot and the first year went well. We’re in our third year now and every event is sold out, and we’re very humbled by that,” he said.

Vegetables rotated in eight-year blocks

The vegetable garden at the ranch includes both “indoor” and “outdoor” vegetables, and is managed using three key components — diversity, rotation, and rest.

Diversity means that about 100 varieties of vegetables are grown. The one-acre plot is divided into eight “blocks,” and the vegetables are rotated around the blocks every year, so each variety will be planted in the same soil only once every eight years, which helps break up pest and disease cycles.

“The other thing the rotational system does is, for instance, tomatoes pull zinc out of the ground, so if you planted the tomatoes in the same place every year they would pull all the zinc out and we’d have soil depravation,” Smith said. “But if we move it and put, for instance, a carrot which is a deeper rooted vegetable, it’s going to reach down and grab for different minerals and it’s going to even out that soil.”

One of the eight blocks is “rested” every year, which means no vegetables are planted in that block. Instead, a cover crop such as wheat or rye is grown until just before it seeds, then it is tilled back into the soil.

“By the time we get cover cropped in we may supplement with compost, or bring the animals in, so we’re always adding organic matter into the soil,” Smith said.

Extending the growing season

Growing food in the Roaring Fork Valley is challenged by the relatively short growing season. With only about 100 frost-free days in the summer, Smith said they plant mostly cool season crops outdoors. But with two season-extension structures, they are able to extend the growing season for some vegetables to more than 10 months a year.

One of these structures, a mobile hoop house, is on a track system with wheels, and can easily be slid back and forth between two separate garden blocks.

“This year we started with our cool season crops early in the year, our kale, chard, beets and carrots,” Smith said. “As soon as the weather warmed up we moved the house down and started with our tomatoes. So we’re essentially using the house twice as much as we could.”

The other grow house is reinforced with 3 1/2 inches of rigid foam insulation, a project that was helped by a donation from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE). The house uses a climate battery and two tubes that are air intake ducts. During the hottest part of the day, fans are turned on that take the warm air from inside the house and send it under the ground into a grid of 40, 4-inch perforated tubes — effectively storing the heat in the soil. Then at night the system reverses, pulling the warm air back out of the soil, warming the air.

“So it regulates the temperature really well,” Smith said.

ACES is using the house to grow cherry tomatoes, and two varieties of heirloom tomatoes — Cherokee Purples and Kellogg’s Breakfast.

 

“As far as the Roaring Fork Valley goes that’s pretty good, because a lot of people can’t get tomatoes at all,” Smith said.

“With vegetable production there’s always something starting out, there’s always something in the middle, and there’s always something finishing off,” he said. “Our spring block is on its way out, this got us started with lettuces and kale, carrots, arugula, peas, cabbages, and broccoli. We’ll get one more cutting and then we’ll transition to our fall block.”

Free range is best

In addition to vegetables, Rock Bottom Ranch also harvests its chickens, sheep and pigs, and currently produces about 50-60 dozen eggs a week. That number is about to increase. With the addition of 300 laying hens in two new chicken tractors, they will soon be producing 150-180 dozen eggs a week.

The meat chickens they breed are Poulet Rouge free range chickens that Smith said take about 12 weeks to get from chick to market weight, and the ranch’s pigs are harvested on-site.

“These pigs are born on the property, and raised on the property. They never leave the property,” he said. “All of the animals we own on the property are animal welfare approved. There’s a third party certification that comes in with a list of standards that makes sure we are grazing animals in the most responsible way — they need this much space, and can only put on this much weight.”

Living the farm lifestyle

Like most good farmers, Harper Kaufman and Christian La Bar are morning people. The two ACES agricultural assistants start a typical day early by moving the chickens into a mobile paddock that the sheep had vacated the night before. Then they do rounds — feeding and watering all the animals, including 25 to 40 pigs in various areas of the property.

“The pigs are on a rotation, so there are some in the woods, and we’ll move either them or the sows — we have a big pig breeding program as well,” Kaufman said. “We have pigs with piglets, we have pigs that are pregnant, we have pigs that need to be bred, and then we have our bore.They all need to stay separate or together, and it can be complicated planning how to move those guys.”

After rounds, it’s time to start working in the vegetable garden — watering, or the twice-a-week harvesting that Kaufman said is best done before it gets too warm.

“Before 9 o’clock is ideal,” she said. “So we get the chores done, we get the harvest done and then we’re usually trying to get things planted as quickly as possible again. We don’t want to wait until it gets too hot or the plants won’t do as well.”

After all of that, the two get started on the day’s projects.

“We really don’t get started with our day until after the first three hours of our day,” La Bar said.

Some days their projects include making deliveries to restaurants — ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch sells food to a few restaurants in the Roaring Fork Valley — but they may also include washing and packaging produce, weeding, or cultivating.

“Whatever you have on your list for the day, 90 percent of that doesn’t happen, and there is that much more added to your list that you didn’t foresee happening,” La Bar said.

On the weekends, you may see Kaufman and LaBar at the farmer’s markets in Aspen and Basalt. They enjoy spreading the word about Rock Bottom Ranch’s role as a local food provider.

“ACES is a big thing in Aspen, but there’s a lot of people who don’t understand that Rock Bottom Ranch and ACES have a big goal for producing a lot of food for the community,” La Bar said. “So we get a lot of surprise for that — positive surprises like ‘you grew all this at Rock Bottom Ranch?’”

Beaver Creek on a Budget

Something seemed more than a little familiar to me about sitting around a fire ring at the base of Beaver Creek. I was certain that if I closed my eyes and clicked the heels of my ski boots three times I’d be teleported to Snowmass’ Base Village. I may have been thrown sideways by the surreal vision of skiers heading back to the lift with both poles in one hand and a stack of chocolate chip cookies in the other; or it may have just been the après-effects of the pitcher of margaritas we shared.

Doing a place like Avon/Beaver Creek at the height of ski season on a budget requires some creativity – you have to think like a local, and thankfully we had plenty of experience with that sort of thinking after two years in a tiny apartment in the Aspen core.

 The mountain at Beaver Creek is world-class. There’s a reason many of the runs are soaked with drool of FIS officials. The only problem with it is that Vail-Beaver Creek, like Aspen, knows how good their product is, and they charge accordingly. The lift-ticket sticker shock was almost enough to send us Carbondalians scurrying for Sunlight.

 

Fortunately, we were able to recoup some of our vacation cash by eating at 8100 Mountainside Bar and Grill at the base of the mountain where our pitcher of margs was only 19 bucks, and the burgers and other bar-style food were as affordable as they were delicious. There’s also the popular base-area tradition of chefs, dressed not un-like the Pillsbury dough boy, walking around with trays full of the best chocolate chip cookies this side of mom’s.

Our accommodations at the Christie Lodge in Avon were comfortably better than bohemian. I’ve stayed there from time to time for 30-odd years and witnessed a few remodels that never seemed to improve the place. The lodge features an indoor and outdoor pool, three Jacuzzis and a workout room in case your legs aren’t taxed enough from skiing. The rooms are smallish, but they do have kitchenettes which, combined with an actual full-size City Market two blocks away, helped defray our cost of eating out.

 

We did find some great places to get cheap grub, though. Having done our penance as penny-pinching Aspen locals, we tend to gravitate toward locals’ restaurants, and found two good ones right across the street from the lodge. Pazzo’s Pizzeria is a family-style pizza place with great pizza and a few video game machines to pass the time. The emphasis at Pazzo’s is on “family” though, so we expanded our search parameters to a place where we could tip back a few adult beverages with our meal. We found it right around the corner at Bob’s Place, which has nightly drink and food specials, and live music and karaoke on certain nights.

On our final night we skipped under the I-70 overpass to Northside Coffee Kitchen, which sounds like a greasy spoon but is actually a really nice restaurant. It features a three-course meal for $36.95 with several choices of appetizer, entrée and dessert. They also have a large variety of wines that you can get by the glass, half bottle or bottle. We chose a couple of glasses of pinot noir, and toasted the frugality of another great budget getaway.

Carbondale comes out for Art aRound Town

The Carbondale Public Arts Commission parades artists and art lovers around its latest exhibition.

What would it take to get more than 100 people to spend two hours on a Thursday evening walking around downtown Carbondale and gathering at 15 predetermined spots? The answer is art, of course. It seems that the little downvalley town with a huge heart and burgeoning populace of creative minds just keeps finding new ways to pique its collective consciousness.

The annual Art aRound Town Art Walk, administered by the Carbondale Public Arts Commission (CPAC), was by all accounts a rousing success, with a crowd so large it had trouble squeezing into some small spaces and at times flooded Main Street like an impromptu parade.

“This is the biggest group I’ve ever seen on any art walk, and I do a lot of programs across the state,” said artist Jade Windell, “so congratulations Carbondale.”

Emcee Heather Bryan explained that Art aRound Town is nationwide call put out by CPAC to all artists interested in displaying their work in the town. The art pieces are on loan with the town for one year and all pieces are for sale, which helps keep the commission going.

“The goal is to sell one or two or all of the pieces,” Bryan said. “We are a volunteer town-based commission that’s made possible through the town funding, generous tax-deductible donations and through the sales of all the art pieces.”

This year CPAC put out a call to local artists and Colorado artists, the result being that 12 of the 15 artists who participated are based in the state.

Zealous and prolific

Windell, who is based in Loveland but spends his summers as a member of the Marble Symposium staff, was introduced by Bryan as being “zealous and prolific.”

“I’ll have to look those words up,” he joked.

Windell called himself “a painter by trade” and explained that he’d been painting since he was 3 years old. But when an opportunity arrived in the form of a scholarship to the Marble Institute of Colorado, he took it.

“[The scholarship] had one condition — I had to do the dishes after dinner — so that was a no brainer,” he said. “But I fell in love with the 3D — being able to walk around something and see all sides of it. So when I got home and looked at my paintings — I think I was painting sculpture my whole life.”

Windell’s piece for the Carbondale exhibit is called “Protection” and he explained that it was inspired by his life-long fascination with totem poles and gargoyles.

“It’s kind of a protector of a dwelling from evil spirits,” he said. “I fell in love with the idea of a labyrinth, of the journey in and the journey out.”

The piece weighs about 800 pounds, and Windell jokingly offered the challenge that if anyone can pick it up and put in the back of their truck, without a machine, they can take it home. If not, they have to buy it.

Another artist on the Marble Symposium staff displaying his work in Carbondale this year is Nathan Slape who said he’s in Marble every summer from June until August, “throwing around stone and creating crazy things.

“I’m what you call a direct carver,” Slape said. “I never go after anything with any plan whatsoever, I just start tearing into the stone and it kind of leads me where I want to go. Marble has what’s called a bedding plane which is kind of like the layers in sandstone. The way that this bedding plane went was through at an angle, and that’s why I started working it [in that direction] because it was easier. The stone tends to dictate my design.”

He said his piece in this year’s exhibit, called “TWL #1,” was an experiment not only with textures but with light and shadow.

“If you look at this at different times of the day you’ll see something different every time — the way that the shapes and shadows play in the void.”

Slape conservatively estimated that it took him 200 hours to make the piece, because he said he obsesses over his finishes.

“I used mostly power tools [to make it], but when it comes to finishing it’s all by hand.”

From up on Missouri Heights

Two of the artists that give the Carbondale exhibit its local flavor this year are James Surls and Charmaine Locke who create their public art pieces at their studio in Missouri Heights.

Surls is best known locally for his sculpture, “Sewing the Future” that graces the Carbondale roundabout.

For the Art aRound Town exhibit this year, Surls designed a piece, called “Hanging Flower,” that he said was inspired by a walk through an aspen grove.

“One of the most amazing things about being in a forest is looking up through the canopy to the sky and seeing limbs that make patterns,” Surls said. “It’s very much like looking at the earth and conjuring images out of it, or like conjuring images out of clouds – you make something out of your vision.”

He explained his process of walking through the aspen grove and cutting small limbs off of the trees.

“Down at the bottom the limbs will die and turn dark and look very much like a drawn line in space,” Surls said. “So I took the limbs and made patterns, then molds, then waxes, then invested it, then burned it out, poured metal into it, then made it out of bronze, then welded them back together to a different shape.

“I operate under the premise that life is made up of art and science and philosophy, and mostly there is science, and hopefully there is a lot of creativity in it. There is also some philosophic message in there somewhere. Looking at limbs will always give you that.”

Locke’s piece, called “Open Book,” is of a woman who appears with open arms, and a welcoming stance.

“Her hands are holding universal symbols of giving, and nourishment for our ideas of mind, body and spirit,” she said. “When we have the elements here, why can’t we find the path to peace when it’s right in front of our eyes? Why does mankind have to squash other people to make their selves better, their lives better?”

Locke said that the calligraphy on the sculpture is in French, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, and she had friends help her translate it into those languages.

In response to a question about why the woman has multiple eyes, Locke said “It’s kind of like that saying we heard as children: Our mothers have eyes in the back of their heads. I like that sense of full awareness. They are fully aware of our surroundings, our internal being, and how we connect with other people.”

Unintended inspiration

Artist Tiimo Mang says he creates furniture, functional art and sculpture in his Lakewood studio. His sculpture, called “Risen From the Ashes” grew from his education at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University which led him to create a series of sculptures that were based on birds with segmented bodies.

“The first ones I did were sandhill cranes, and I wanted to continue with that, so I did an origami crane with a segmented body. I started doing it just to do something different,” Mang said. “It came to mind to ask, what is the origami crane all about?”

Mang said that, through his research, he found out about a 2-year-old Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, who had been one mile from Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. She survived the blast, but ten years later she died of radiation-induced leukemia. Through the process of her illness and her passing she tried to fold 1,000 origami cranes, which is supposed to bring good luck, health and healing to the body.

“She only made it to 644 when she passed, but the unintended consequence of her death was that it turned the origami crane into a symbol of world peace. This sculpture honors Sadako Sasaki because this is the second time she has risen from the ashes, and it also pays tribute to world peace.”

One of the few art pieces in the exhibit from an out-of-state artist – “Dude Ascending” by Joe Forrest Sackett of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was inspired, Sackett said, by the famous painting “Nude Descending a Staircase” by French artist Marcel Duchamp.

“I got the idea to transfer that into some sort of 3-dimensional idea,” Sackett said. “I first made a little model of this about 3 feet high so I could work out the geometry. I wanted to make something that was curvilinear out of entirely rectilinear stuff – so all the lines are straight, but the piece itself curves.”

He said it’s the biggest thing he’s ever made, “and it may well be the biggest thing I ever make because it was a lot of trouble.”

Sackett said that many of his neighbors in Albuquerque actually have his art pieces on their lawns, so they call it “Joe’s little wonderland.”

Aspen legacy

Carbondale artist Jack Brendlinger is well-known in Aspen as he, along with his wife Marsha, were the original owners of the Applejack Inn which featured Aspen’s first indoor swimming pool. The couple were also well-known pranksters, and, in fact, Brendlinger wrote a book called “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even – Stories of the Aspen practical joke years.”

“One of the things that we did when I first came to Aspen was get into a lot of trouble,” Brendlinger said. “But that changed rapidly when we found out that we knew all the policemen, so they wouldn’t throw us in jail. The things we did in those years would get us thrown in jail if we did them today.”

He said his sculpture for the Carbondale exhibit, called “Pirouette,” is one of his favorite sculptures.

“I have some 300 sculptures in my house, so it was difficult to choose just one for this display.”

Brendlinger said “Pirouette” is in the style of renowned Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti whose sculptures are very narrow and thin.

“I became a big fan of his early on and started trying to do something using that style.”

One of the challenges of creating sculptures so thin, he said, is that it requires him to sculpt over an armature to stabilize the piece.

“I sculpt in wax rather than clay, but even with the wax it would fall apart easily if it didn’t have an armature in there.”

One of Giacometti’s sculptures, called “Walking Man” sold for $104.3 million in 2010 – a new record for an art work at auction.

“So I’m very glad that I’m doing this kind of art,” Brendlinger said. “My price is quite a bit lower than that.”

Civic Pride: A 2-wheel-drive clunker conquers the Potash Road

It was one of those classic desert dirt roads — the kind where you can imagine seeing the skulls of long-dead animals strewn about and buzzards looming overhead. The sun beat down on the Civic’s already weathered roof, nullifying any benefit we got from its air conditioning. It had been miles since we’d seen another car, and I nervously checked the dashboard gauges while trying to remember the last time we’d had the vehicle in for a tune-up.

It’s called Potash Road and starts innocently enough as Highway 279 — a paved road along the Colorado River that starts about four miles northwest of Moab. But the road eventually becomes dirt and then becomes a borderline 4-wheel-drive road shortly after a sign that says “Welcome to Canyonlands – Visitor Center 22 miles.”

We stopped frequently along the road to take pictures of the desert landscape, which featured numerous red rock formations, gardens of octillos and a lot of dust. When we came upon the blue potash evaporation ponds that give the road its name, they were like the physical representation of a non-sequitur. The blue of the pools contrasted so starkly with the parched red desert that we began looking around for Mulder and Scully, and searched the skies for the Mothership.

A few miles past the ponds we rode up on an area of the Colorado River called the Goose Neck. We’d seen it the day before from high above at Dead Horse Point Overlook, and if we squinted really hard we could see tiny tourists far above looking down on us. Canyonlands is a vertical landscape like few others with sheer cliff walls jutting up hundreds of feet from the Colorado River basin. It’s the kind of place where you can easily imagine Wile E. Coyote falling with his failed Acme rocket into the depths of oblivion.

The view of the Goose Neck from up close was even more spectacular than from the high perch, though we were still more than 100 feet above the river. We stopped at several viewing points to take pictures, and we did finally encounter other humans, in Jeeps, who flashed skeptical looks at our little car.

Undaunted, we left the Goose Neck and continued up the road, which now wound its way through a tight canyon that featured an arroyo. It wasn’t the kind of place you’d want to be during a heavy rainstorm, but on such a hot dry day, its rugged beauty was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Potash Road eventually came to a T with Shafer Trail Road, which climbed more than 1,000 feet out of the canyon. If you’ve ever dared to drive up a one-lane dirt road with switchbacks climbing a sheer cliff wall with no railing, this is the one for you. The pucker factor alone was off the charts. The only thing working in our favor was that we were headed up, not down, so we had the right of way, and SUVs were stacked up at every corner waiting for us to pass.

Near the top the road smoothed out, got somewhat wider and actually provided some pullouts for photo-ops. We shook our heads in disbelief while gazing out at the canyon and our little road, which seemed to stretch out forever.

When we pulled back onto the paved Highway 313 and then into the visitor’s center, it seemed like we had finally returned to civilization. We approached the park ranger to buy our day passes and told him about the route we’d taken. He gave us a sly grin and said, “Well, you two have already had quite an adventure.” We didn’t tell him we’d done it in a Civic.