What our society is most lacking, I believe, is a sense of community. Maybe that’s why I love reading the Allenspark Wind, which calls itself “a journal of the life and times of Allenspark, Ferncliff, Longs Peak, Meeker Park, Peaceful Valley, Raymond, and Riverside, Colorado.”
In an age where most people get their news from the Internet, it’s a pleasure to hold the Allenspark Wind in my hands and read about the barbecue lunch held at the Hilltop Guild or the most creative costume at the Halloween party (dressed as the Allenspark Wind) or read about the pet of the month.
You won’t find the kind of news you find in most newspapers: new laws being passed, people being arrested, or tax revenue down. Instead, local groups, such as the Hilltop Guild, report on their latest activities, which usually center on quilting, garden programs, and planning for future events, such as classes on decorating gourds and making sugar-free jellies and talks on horticulture in the mountains. This is not trivial stuff. This is the stuff that knits the community together.
The Wind (named for the ferocious gusts that drop over the mountains from the west) usually has one or two obits, written in depth and with love. In a community as small as Allenspark, this is important news, because this is someone you know or a neighbor or someone who had a vital role in building and maintaining the community.
Any real “news” comes in the form of lengthy articles about the pine beetle, its progress, and the latest theories on how to fight the bug that is killing off our forests; or in the “AFPD emergency calls” column (“September 6, 12:55 p.m. Lost party, party found on Lab Road, 9 Allenspark personnel responded. Incident terminated at 1:45 p.m.”).
Most of the Wind, which is in the form of an 8 ½-by-11 inch newsletter, consists of columns. One of my favorites is “Weather Talk” by Dr. William Rense who tracks the temperatures and precipitation on a daily basis in the valley, compares it to historical patterns and comes up with a prediction or conclusion about our current state, such as whether we’ve received enough precipitation to make it through the summer.
The pastor of the New Covenant Church writes a column about religious matters, touting, in one issue, the benefits of prayer, while a local rancher relates stories, written in a folksy cowboy style, about ranching life in the valley—like the time he helped reunite a mother cow and her calf, even when it made no economic sense.
My favorite articles are about local history, like the one in the June 2009 issue by a woman who spent childhood summers at a souvenir store run by her parents, just down the road from Allenspark. “We played outside all day, building forts, damming the nearby creek to make splash pools and just wandering through the woods.” These stories evoke for me a different time, when life was slower and simple things, like playing in the creek, were fine amusements.
Another issue related the life of a local photographer who took photos starting in 1913 at age six and didn’t stop until one week before his death in 2000. In the intervening time, he documented decades of change in the Estes Park-Allenspark area. The picture of Lily Lake, which graces the cover of the December 2009 Allenspark Wind (above), was taken in 1922 and shows a very different lake than the present one: a lot fewer trees and what looks like a beaver house on one end, which is no longer there. I know this because I walk and kayak around Lily Lake frequently.
So these photos are a reminder that even nature changes. And these articles about Allenspark’s history not only give me an appreciation of what life was life but add to the complexity of this place, add layers to my knowledge of people and places no longer here.
My favorite column is by David Steiner, a thoughtful and elegant writer: In “My Mountains,” last April, he talked about the founding of the Allenspark Wind 35 years ago, spurred, it seems, by the Estes Park papers ignoring Allenspark and the surrounding area. The paper’s readers consist of 160 local subscribers and 500 from all over the country.
“It’s safe to say that the
I find it intriguing that the number of readers outside of Allenspark exceeds those living in the area by almost four to one. I’m guessing these are summer visitors who want to stay in touch all year or people who lived here but, for whatever reason (old age, sickness) had to leave. I think it’s an indication of the draw of this valley, of the love people have for it, that they want to stay connected. They want to know when the first bear sighting is in spring (and see the picture), find out what ‘s going on with their former neighbors, and how much precipitation we got last month. Or the Hilltop Guild’s theme for the spring fashion show.