Dave Shively: End of the canyon | SteamboatToday.com
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Dave Shively: End of the canyon

The cool mud penetrates the space between my toes, and the sun cooks barren shoulders as I begin soaking in the canyon.

It’s easy to loose myself in the timelessness of sandstone walls when I stare up to an odd petroglyph. Images of the hunt. Violent patterns and god-like deities stare back as I try to piece together a collective understanding of the place. I hear a theory that this was the northernmost stretch of the Aztec Empire.

Even without the historical takes, the odd canyon at the northwest reaches of Colorado’s northwest corner still has a strange vibe. And then at the end of the canyon, the item is spotted that’s more of an anachronism than this random gouge cut in the rugged badlands.



There it is, from an ancient carving to a waterproof, insulated, zippered jacket. The embroidered logo reads Griffin Oil and Gas Services. No wallet or identification in the pockets, just a $2.99 pack of Trojan-ENZ, still unopened. The presence of a developer’s employee at such a remote and culturally significant locale is cause for raised eyebrows.

Things only got weirder on the hike back. A thunderous reverberation, like a revved Harley, bounced off the walls for at least 20 seconds. Then a boulder the size of a backpack shot down from above and crashed into the creek. I didn’t see it from below the cliff ban blocking my view, but three hikers in the party who did, including the man it landed 10 feet from, insisted it looked nothing like a normal, gravity-fed trundle, but rather the arc of a projectile from some sort of seismic activity in the ground.



An awareness clicked and all anyone could say was, “Wow, that was wild.”

Before I jump to conclusions about the noise, I’ll just stick with “wild” occurrence, because that is precisely the point. The opportunities to find yourself in an untouched area far, far from any medical facilities, where a natural process of the earth can sweep you away and instantly humble you, are shrinking.

As Luke Schafer put it, the Little Snake Resource Area is “an island in a sea of oil and gas development. There’s tens of thousands of wells on the north, west and south. It has become the de-facto refuge of open space and healthy wildlife.”

Not that I want to be Aron Ralston-ed, but it was a reminder to me there are still lands humans don’t really belong in (probably one of the reasons why the State Land Board restricts access to Vermillion Canyon).

But an untapped 9.9 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas reserves in the Little Snake Resource Area is an estimate that cannot be overlooked. The question is how we become involved in land management policies now if we want to ensure that the end to every canyon is not signified by much more than a developer’s jacket.

– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com


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