Peace, Play and ‘Questionable Amusements’ on Phantom Lake

As I packed to leave Phantom Lake YMCA Camp at the end of the 1968 summer sessions, I told more than few co-workers, “See you next year.” A false statement, I would discover, although not intentionally so as these were times of many surprises.

What looked to be a fun summer on a Wisconsin lake began with a predawn wakeup in New Mexico on June 5 for a trip down Interstate 10 made anxious by my pending first time in the air, American Airlines El Paso to Chicago. I preferred trains, but after solo rides the two previous summers, the Santa Fe that spring annulled our passenger train after 87 years.

As my mother cruised past a commercial truck mangled overnight in the median, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy lay on a surgical table in Los Angeles with bullet fragments in his head. I only learned of this latest political shooting after a 100-mile bus ride from O’Hare to where a cousin from my Illinois hometown could pick me up. By then Kennedy had only hours to live.

Counselor Keith Christensen on the ground and Phantom Lake YMCA Camp director Sir Gerald Carman on the ladder place the canvas top and sides on a new tent floor and frame. Summer 1968. Photo © William P. Diven. (Click to enlarge)

Counselor Keith Christensen on the ground and Phantom Lake YMCA Camp director Sir Gerald Carman on the ladder place the canvas top and sides on a new tent floor and frame. Summer 1968. Photo © William P. Diven. (Click to enlarge)

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Hang on Tight as Your Train Wiggles Through an Autumn Slide Show

Coal smoke, chill air and rampaging color. Can’t beat the high country as your train whistles and chugs above 10,000 feet and through the aspen groves on a splendid fall day.

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Each aspen stand is its own little family with their DNA determining the remaining color as photosynthesis ends and the green drains away until next year. Photo © William P. Diven.

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Openness cures ills unless government blocks the sunshine

Who loses when supposed leaders don’t get the big picture? We the people, of course.

So, how to explain denying our history, ignoring the First Amendment on public lands and cloaking yet another attempt to dam the free-flowing Gila River?

Gila River Lower Box in the dam project area. Photo © William P. Diven.

Gila River Lower Box in the dam project area. Photo © William P. Diven.

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Singers, Fans Win As Railroad Takes On Rocky Mountains

The show must go on, even if a mountain rockslide stops your train carrying a Grammy and CMA winner and the entire audience.

That’s what happened on Saturday morning nearing 9,000 feet elevation in the Colorado Rockies where the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad curves into a crumbly cut through layered rock and dirt far from the highway and any quick help.

The rockslide. Photo © William P. Diven

The rockslide. Photo © William P. Diven

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Sniping At Our Newest National Monument

The negative spin on the new Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument suggests we’ve thrown the door open wide to terrorists and narcotraficantes while stomping all over New Mexico’s already abused cattle ranchers. That’s easy to believe, too, if you see no good in anything Barack Obama does or only watched the Fox network covering the story.

The moon rises at sunset over the Organ Mountains and Las Cruces, N.M. © William P. Diven

The moon rises at sunset over the Organ Mountains and Las Cruces, N.M. © William P. Diven

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The Great Taos Pot Raid

Somewhere New Mexico native Smokey Bear is hiding in a den and wishing he worked for the friendly folks at the National Park Service rather than the U.S. Forest Service.

On a Saturday not quite three weeks ago four USFS law officers rolled into the Taos Ski Valley with their drug-sniffing dog disrupting the skiing, boarding and Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The show of force ended with a few piddly violation notices for possession of marijuana, one for prescription drugs and another for an equipment violation later called a cracked windshield.

Employee and visitor complaints about the officers ranged from lack of respect to rude and out of line. One parent said he was accosted with his 11-year-old daughter, and others alleged the dog that got in the face of young children had to be muzzled after it bit one of the USFS officers.

Here you have the perfect storm of a public-relations nightmare with USFS backpedaling and covering its como se llama. Continue reading

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Where have all the snowflakes gone?

The weather cooperated nicely this weekend for a hike in the Sandia Mountains. Sunny with tolerable wind and the thermometer dangling from my pack reading 60 as I shuffled up Tunnel Springs trail. Even the East Coast news guy on morning TV checking the national forecast map said, “It looks like the Southwest is the place to be.” Well maybe, maybe not, since our mountains again show only white tips instead of the deep snow cover ready to feed streams, rivers and irrigation systems with the spring melt.

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