Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Frozen Cows

Now here's a problem you don't run into every day.  Last fall a rancher that had cattle grazing off an allotment in the Gunnison National Forest (think Crested Butte) reported 29 of his herd missing.  Well, they were located this Spring in and around a cabin at the Conundrum Hot Springs here in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness (think Aspen side of the mountains).  The animals took quite a scenic tour of the backcountry before meeting their icy fate sometime this Winter.

US Forest Service Photo
No big deal right?  Just dispose of the carcasses you say.  Not so fast Einstein.  The Hot Springs are in the middle of nowhere.  Literally.  They're eight MILES up a singletrack trail at 11,200' elevation.  And it's a dead end trail that still has large snowdrifts scattered about.  For those of you not familiar with the mountains, these are just hot pools of water geothermally heated from the ground.  Other than the cabin you see in the picture, which is just for bunking overnight, there is nothing commercial about this location.  No signs, no stores, no motorized traffic, heck, usually no clothes either (in the springs).  You hike in, you hike out.

So that leaves a bit of a problem.  And with the very mild Winter we had,  a perfect storm is brewing as pointed out in this quote from the U.S. Forest Service:
"Hungary bears, human bathers and thawing cow carcasses aren't a good mix"

No doubt.  The Forest Service is also concerned about contamination into the Hot Springs.  Makes sense.  They took some water samples for testing so we'll see. 

But the thing is, they can't actually 'close' the Hot Springs.  They can put signs up, but they can't man the place or very well enforce it's vacancy.  Hopefully they just need to shut down temporarily for the cleanup and people will do the smart thing.

Now about that cleanup.  That's the head scratcher.  With just a single track trail and no motorized vehicles allowed (not that anything but a dirt bike could get up there in the summer anyway, and it's too late for snowmobiles) hauling them down out of there is just not an option.  Okay, so what are the options?  These are the three being talked about:
  1. Dynamite the carcasses.  I'm not so sure about this one, I think the Ski Patrol Avalanche Team is just getting a bit excited to use their explosives.  Besides, just imaging the friggin mess.  No wait, don't imagine that, let's move on.
  2. Burn them.  The Forest Service actually took samples of the cabin (a few of them apparently made it into the building itself) to see if it has asbestos.  If not, then trying a controlled burn seems reasonable.
  3. Clean up some chainsaws, grease them with cooking oil, go up there and have a big time BBQ party.  This would be the best use of the meat of course, but with potentially 29 cows up there you would literally need to have a thousand person BBQ.  And this is just not the locations for that.
Too bad though as there is quite a booty of grass fed meat up there.  If you figure I paid about $650 for a quarter of a pastured cow last summer, that could add up to like $75,000 worth of meat.  Geeeezzzz.  For that kind of money you would suspect some ranchers would look into getting GPS chips for their cattle or something.  Actually, now that I think about it, there's probably not a lot of places in this country where you can just lose a herd of cattle.


Chuck said...

crazy story.

$650 for a quarter? man, i am happy i can get the prices i get. here in ohio, it is about $5.40/pound take home frozen and packed. and that price is up about 15% in the last couple of year.

Aaron said...

It was 100 lbs, so with that price including tax it was $6.50/lb total.

If you think that's pricey you should check out our housing/rental prices. In order to stay here in paradise I lived in a 80 sqft 'apartment' for the first 4 years. Yes, that is a double digit number. On the plus side, everything now feels really, really big to me.

The Primalist said...

80sf? You've gotta be kidding! I think the micro apartments in Vancouver are 250 sf if not bigger.. And those are a novelty.. If u wanted a decent 1 bedroom apartment there, what would the rent be?

Aaron said...

$2,000/mo for a 1 bedroom in town.

Yeah, 80 sqft is in prison cell territory. Of course there's no kitchen, just a room with the smallest bathroom in history. Have you ever seen the movie 'The Blues Brothers'? - it's sorta like Elwood's place.

The Alpina Haus has 40 of these small units under one roof (a converted old house) and is a unique place in town. A lot of 'worker bees' that end up staying in Aspen more than one year inevitably due a tour of duty there.

If that's not your thing you have to have a bunch of roommates (sharing rooms of course) or rent a room in a house with communal kitchens and bathrooms. And even these options are not that cheap.

I've been here long enough that I qualify for 'employee housing' and rent a 400 sqft studio for $750/mo. But of course there's not enough of these to go around.

Like I said above - you will never, ever, hear the words 'this place is too small' come out of my mouth :)

The Primalist said...

I guess I should be comparing Aspen to Whistler, and not Vancouver. The housing market in Whistler's pretty insane also.

Aaron said...

I believe the old saying is: 'location, location, location' Or maybe I have that backwards.

Karen P. said...

Whoa, dude. You should tell them not to dynamite! Town officials somewhere on the West Coast did this with a beached whale years ago and it was a DISASTER. I think you can even see the video on YouTube. It just made a bunch of smaller pieces go all over the place and the smell was atrocious. That wouldn't really help with the attracting bears problem, now would it? ;)

Aaron said...

I've seen that on you tube ... it was actually in Oregon. I think some people just get excited to blow things up.

In the paper yesterday they announced that they're going to cut up the animals and spread the pieces out, away from the springs. Sounds reasonable - and like a lot of work.