Friday, January 17, 2003


OK, raise your hand if you are currently plagued with hilarious visions of twelve bundled up, slightly toasted ice fishermen engaged in a stumbling, bumbling, moderately violent, Thunder Road-like footrace from the shores of Saratoga Lake to the Chamber's brand spanking new tent, beating each other off with hand-cranker ice augers, golden rainbow trout tucked under their arms.

Anyone? Anyone?

Well, I'm used to being a majority of one.

Yup, it's ice fishing derby time again, and in a fit of sheer schnapps-inspired madness last year, we decided to add a new prize category, which we dubbed "bounty fish." A secret variety of fish not normally found in Saratoga would be introduced, in very small numbers (12), and the first one of these brought in to the headquarters tent during derby hours would win $500, the second $250, and any more that came in would be worth $50.

In other words, if you catch one of these babies, haul ass to the tent.

To try to prevent, or at least drastically minimize, sneaky cheater types from bringing along examples of their own to try to pass off as something they caught in our lake, we kept what kind of fish it would be secret until the last minute, then spammed everybody with images and descriptions of the quarry.

Hence the above described scenario, currently on constant repeat in my mind's eye. I can just see it happening at, say 7:05 a.m. tomorrow, just as we're up and out and open for business.

Blood may flow. Egos may be bruised. Prats may fall.

There's still time to join the fun, by the way. We'll be selling tickets throughout the tournament out there in the tent.

You can do it, too; it's not a show!

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


...To convince you people that there is, in fact, ice on Saratoga Lake? And plenty of it. Honestly. Really. Umm... what do you think is holding up the skiff of snow currently falling not-so-gently on our heads?

I'll repeat it again, for those of you who care. There is between eight and 14 inches of ice on the lake. Just go look HERE to see some PROOF!

I give up. I'm going home. I've got journalists to shepherd around town tomorrow. They're finally interested in the fact that the saw mill is going kaput!

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


Like so many of us here in the valley, I have been, since the day I moved back here in late 1999, vaguely and yet very much aware that your U.S. Forest Service had finally turned its baleful, Sauronian eye upon our little valley and its surroundings (for we are surrounded on three sides by the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest) and realized it was high time they Did Something About Us.

I felt the ominous shudder behind the words “Draft Forest Plan” like all of you, but like all of the other hobbits in the Shire, here, I just let the shudder pass as something presaging a greater evil than ever I would be able to fight and went about my hobbit business, voting for a third, even a fourth time to go ahead and buy that goddam ozonator for the water plant, already! here and cooking up another hare-brained popcorn party there and fighting off various nasty little microbes that kept trying to take up residence in my tonsils. In other words, I simultaneously had bigger and smaller things to worry about, and let the shades of the Forest Plan pass like so many storm clouds that, after all, tend to blow us off on their rain delivery routes. No rain, no rain, that was my problem - are we gonna need to buy water from Cheyenne to keep our (necessary!) showers running? But Forest Plan?

And now it’s here. The Forest Plan. Announced to the general public in a cute, innocuous little newspaper circular, printed, no doubt, on environmentally friendly recycled paper in soy-based blue and green ink and sharing with us that the mighty Forest Service (originally started, please remember, by Theodore Roosevelt to help the country cope with a possible timber shortage, not to keep those nasty loggers from ever cutting down timber again) had chosen the helpfully titled “Alternative D” as its guiding blueprint for how it was going to “manage” the timberlands around us.

For the record: I did, in fact, write a letter personally in support of the “Recreationists Alternative”, which came to be known as “Alternative C”, and also wrote to support this proposal on behalf of our chamber of commerce. The Town of Saratoga, of which I am an elected official, has also made its preference for the Recreationists Alternative known to the Forest Service through the long planning process. For those not familiar with this proposal, I’ll quote a summary from the Recreationists of the Bow web page:

“This Alternative would modify the current Land and Resource Management Plan by increasing emphasis on recreation. The Management Plan would address sustainable multiple-use recreation and apply management tools to address the needs for each recreational activity. Vegetation, wildlife habitat and watersheds would be actively managed for forest health. Inventoried Roadless Areas would be managed as semi-primitive, multiple-use, Backcountry Recreation Areas. All current recreational opportunities on the forest would be maintained with winter and summer uses being managed as separate entities. No new Research Natural Areas (RNAs) or Special Interest Areas (SIAs) would be proposed. No new Wilderness Areas would be recommended for designation.”

So my prior mea culpa in this essay is not entirely accurate; I have written and I have sort of casually kept one facet of a mosquito’s eye on the process. I do not, however, fool myself that I’ve actually had any impact on that process. It’s just too big.

So it was with a heavy heart and the knowledge that I do, in fact, have easy access to a dolly that I headed up to the Brush Creek Ranger District Office just outside Saratoga (heretofore chiefly a source, for me, of aggravation at that agency’s refusal to hook into city water and sewer, and to allow any lines for same to cross its property) to pick up my copy of the Draft Forest Plan.

I didn’t quite need a dolly, but I will say that I am now the proud owner of more wood product, in the form of paper, than the total volume of stud lumber produced at our (soon-to-be-closed!) (largely because it can’t get access to enough timber to be a viable business anymore!) sawmill here in Saratoga yesterday.

OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but honestly, I couldn’t help snorting a bit when I hefted the load of materials, maps, executive summaries, outlines and appendices which, printed on letter-sized high quality copy paper, measures nearly a foot thick! Some private paper mill that owns its forests in Maine probably did very well out of this Forest Plan publication...

Note I have yet to comment upon the contents thereof. Nor shall I for a few days at least, as I have only begun to sift through the layers, trace through the diagrams and tables (with shockingly wide margins on all of the pages; one would think this agency had set out to produce a set quota of pages whether the material warranted it or not!) (OHHHHHHH... You don’t think? Surely... They wouldn’t have done this for... for... intimidation value, would they?) (Oh, just slap me silly for even suggesting such a subversive and heretical notion. Just don’t burn me at the stake - wouldn’t want to sacrifice any partially burnt, sick or beetle-infested trees just to get rid of my carcass, would you?).

But rest assured, gentle readers, Your Humble Blogger, who has no life and no other purpose but to entertain and enlighten you (and maybe occasionally piss you off), will eventually get through this thick, squishy, brown, smelly document and will doubtless have a thing or two to say about it when she’s done.

Incidentally, should you want a gander, the thing is available, in PDF form, online at: Click HERE for a hot link. Beware, though, if you have low bandwidth. OY!

And should you care to add your voice to the chorus of last-minute protests, there’s a chance in Saratoga on Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Fireman’s Hall, and on Thursday, Feb. 20 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Encampment Town Hall.

(And yes, I know I've used horribly inflammatory and impolitic language in describing a process, the final result of which I've not yet read, but I've already seen the fruits of bits of it, and they are all wholly rotten, if not singed, if not beetle-infested, if not maggot-ridden, if not entirely foul and unwholesome like the innards of a road-kill rabbit not yet picked clean by the vultures)

I’m sure the USFS will be so glad to see you.