Flight Across America over the San Juan Mountains Jane Pargiter, 2015
Bruce's Latest Captain's Log - October 2015
Captain's Log Starship 1XE, Day 12 in the month of October in the Earth Calendar Year of 2015. It was one of those idyllic fall days in Aspen, Colorado. The Roaring Fork River was rushing from a recent passing storm; the golden leaves of aspens cast a spotlight on a man passionately speaking to a group of students. Tourists visiting the spot began to congregate around the discussion and the speaker found himself in the middle of a crowd like John the Baptist collecting souls. I was the speaker, the topic was the creation of our Flight Across America Program (FLAA) as John Denver and I first envisioned it, and the gathering crowd was made up of fanatical John Denver supporters, celebrating the 18th anniversary of his death at a beautiful spot along the river, called the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen. What a coinkidink.
Eight handpicked college students had just arrived to participate in our FLAA program and we were getting to know each other and outlining the next 4 days of intense flying, studying, experiential learning and presentations. Our topic this year was Mega Drought: Exploring the Future of Water in the West, and we had lined up twenty experts from the diverse community of stakeholders involved in water issues of the West. Our students would trace the Colorado River from Glenwood Springs into the heart of the Colorado Plateau in Utah, and downriver to Page and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, studying the river and the threats to and the over-allocation of this important resource.
Three airplanes filled with students and press, and conversations broadcast from plane to plane, looking out on a landscape that begs for water and is serviced by this thin ribbon of life called the Colorado River. From the air it is apparent just how much our health, recreation and our very lives are contingent on this artery of pulsing water. Our magic carpet ride, helped by calm winds and clear skies, took us over the watersheds leading to the huge containment reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead and on the way we saw clearly the human footprint and challenges of resource extraction like oil and gas, coal, and uranium mines.
We toured the Glen Canyon Dam and talked with the National Park Service. We met with impassioned Navajo spokespeople and had an enlightened discourse with mine engineers at the Canyon Uranium mine on the rim of the Grand Canyon. We listened to government representatives dealing with the recent Animas River disaster (acid mine waste broke through the containment barrier of the Gold King Mine, sending unknown quantities of wastewater into the heavily used Animas, and subsequently into the San Juan River). Meteorologists, conservationists, ranchers, Navajo and developers all gave their valuable time to speak to our students, who responded with respectful, thoughtful and provocative questions.
The 1,200 mile journey culminated with an auditorium presentation by the students and more speakers, including a second generation rancher explaining the workings of water law, a vice president from the Aspen Ski Company talking about climate change, a heralded conservationist and owner of a river running outfit, and last but far from least a presentation from our student participants. Our college students' presentation was in the form of an open letter to the students of the Roaring Fork Valley, who packed the Aspen High auditorium, representing six high schools from the valley. I strongly urge you to read it. The letter is incredibly moving and inspiring. Exactly what we had hoped for.
I can just see my old buddy smiling down on us and saying...."Far Out". Best,