If there's one thing that crosses the desks of newspaper editors with more regularity than complaints, it's probably solicitations to promote books. Given that most of these tomes are hewn from the dull stone of agenda-driven politics, they're often greeted by editors with about as much enthusiasm as a libel suit.
Fortunately, there are exceptions, and sometimes most welcome ones. M. John Fayhee's latest effort, "The Colorado Mountain Companion," is among the latter.
Fayhee's name is familiar to most who have spent - or misspent, as the case may be - any appreciable time kicking around the Colorado High Country. A writer for the Sky-Hi News in the early 1980s, he is now editor of the Mountain Gazette, a former contributing editor to Backpacker magazine and otherwise possesses a curriculum vitae that spans the West's newspaper and magazine universe. Fayhee's columns even graced these pages briefly back in 2008 before the Great Recession came sauntering along like a carnival bully and poked the newspaper industry's pretty red balloon with a lit cigarette.
Before I go further, full disclosure: I have not yet read the book cover to cover. In fact, not having to do so in order to enjoy it is among its manifest beauties. Being a compendium of "useful miscellany from the highest parts of the highest state," it is one of those books that can be consumed in brief but intense bursts, the perfect nightstand or bathroom companion.
With nearly 100 chapters in its 330 pages, "The Colorado Mountain Companion" takes on topics ranging from cloud seeding to Superfund sites to mountain license plates to the Laramide Orogeny (which, by the way, has nothing to do with orgies or erogenous zones). As fate would have it, many of these topics touch on aspects of life right here in Grand County.
And so we learn the issue that gave rise to the book - a barroom disagreement about what town can lay claim to being the highest incorporated municipality in the nation - in fact has Grand County ties. Turns out that when the Town of Winter Park annexed the entire ski area in 2007, it took in the top of the resort at 12,060 feet, thereby acquiring the distinction as the nation's highest town.
Speaking of Winter Park, according to Fayhee, it is to demonyms what James Dean's rebel is to causes: without one. A demonym is a label used to describe denizens of a specific locale, such as Coloradan (not Coloradoan, FYI: Read the book's compelling rationale).
Thus, Grand Lake has Grand Lakers. Granby is populated by Granbyites. Fraser by Fraserites. Winter Park by ... hmm. What? In the interests of fun, elsewhere on this page we have asked a few people their opinions. Readers are hereby invited to share theirs. My personal favorite so far: Winter Parkas.
The book is chockful of all manner of high country arcana, presented in Fayhee's eminently readable and entertaining style. And Grand County, enjoying some measure of preeminence among Colorado high places, crops up repeatedly. A few tidbits, according to the book:
• Berthoud Pass is listed among "CDOT's Most Dangerous Passes," with 26 avalanche paths, eight of which are "controlled."
• Grand County makes to the Top 10 Colorado counties for avalanche deaths between 1950 and 2010, with seven. Pitkin County, by the way, leads the pack with 40, followed closely by Summit County with 37.
• From the often hilarious Mountainspeak: Skiing Lexicon - "Maze Rage: Losing your temper while waiting in line at the base of ski lift, especially when someone cuts in front of you while you weren't paying attention because you were in a safety meeting." And, "Safety Meeting: What outdoor people like to call getting high together, typically at the end - or the beginning - of a long day."
This could go on for quite some time, and far be it from me to spoil anyone's potential reading surprises. Suffice it to say that Fayhee's book would make a great gift for that hard-to-buy-for person who has everything. Or, better yet, who thinks he or she knows everything.
And while the book was ostensibly penned in order to lay to rest an amicable argument, judging by the few encounters I've provoked with people about some of its contents, I suspect it may engender more arguments than it settles. What could be more fun?