May 21, 2016

My wife and I went to a party this afternoon—an outdoor party given by a company devoted to fitness.  They wanted to show their appreciation for allowing their clients to beat them up several times each week.  (We even pay for them doing this. Go figure.)  Great party and it made me realize what a marvelous country we live in.  There is room on top of room if you happen to be in the right “neck of the woods”.  We traveled only thirty-five (35) minutes to Jasper Highlands, Tennessee to enjoy the day and say hello to our friends.  The location was on the top of Jasper Mountain.  Take a look.

Looking West

This is looking West from the top of the Highlands.

Looking South

Looking South from the Highlands.

It got me to thinking: Just how big are we in this country?

Together, the forty-eight (48) contiguous states and Washington, D.C. occupy a combined area of 3,119,884.69 square miles (8,080,464.3 km2), which is 1.58% of the total surface area of Earth. Of this area, 2,959,064.44 square miles (7,663,941.7 km2) is land, composing 83.65% of U.S. land area, similar to the area of Australia.  Officially, 160,820.25 square miles (416,522.5 km2) is water area, composing 62.66% of the nation’s total water area.

The contiguous United States would be placed 5th in the list of countries and dependencies by area; the total area of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, ranks fourth. Brazil is the only country that is larger in total area than the contiguous United States, but smaller than the entire United States, while RussiaCanada and China are the only three countries larger than both. The 2010 census population of this area was 306,675,006, comprising 99.33% of the nation’s population, and a density of 103.639 inhabitants/sq mi (40.015/km2), compared to 87.264/sq mi (33.692/km2) for the nation as a whole.

If we just look at Alaska, we see the following:

According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately sixty-five percent (65%) of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as public lands, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (35 million hectares), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is the world’s largest wildlife refuge, comprising 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares).

Of the remaining land area, the state of Alaska owns 101 million acres (41 million hectares), its entitlement under the Alaska Statehood Act. A portion of that acreage is occasionally ceded to organized boroughs, under the statutory provisions pertaining to newly formed boroughs. Smaller portions are set aside for rural subdivisions and other homesteading-related opportunities. These are not very popular due to the often remote and roadless locations. The University of Alaska, as a land grant university, also owns substantial acreage which it manages independently.

Another forty-four (44) million acres (18 million hectares) are owned by 12 regional, and scores of local, Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. Regional Native corporation Doyon, Limited often promotes itself as the largest private landowner in Alaska in advertisements and other communications. Provisions of ANCSA allowing the corporations’ land holdings to be sold on the open market starting in 1991 were repealed before they could take effect. Effectively, the corporations hold title (including subsurface title in many cases, a privilege denied to individual Alaskans) but cannot sell the land. Individual Native allotments can be and are sold on the open market, however.

Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about one percent of the state. Alaska is, by a large margin, the state with the smallest percentage of private land ownership when Native corporation holdings are excluded.

To get an idea as to just how big Alaska is, take a look at the map below.

How Big is Alaska

OK, now let’s look at our biggest state within the contiguous United States—Texas.


Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2). Though ten percent (10%) larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany or Japan, it ranks only 27th worldwide among country subdivisions by size. If it were still an independent country, Texas would be the 40th largest behind Chile and Zambia.

Now if you really want to talk about the wide open spaces, take a look at the area around Telluride, Colorado.  You would think enough room for the entire nation.


Colorado (2)

We are a vast country with something to satisfy every taste. You can travel to Manhattan where the population density puts you right on top of everyone else or Alaska where you nearest neighbor may be twenty miles away.



April 11, 2016

One of our favorite places on the globe is Telluride, Colorado.   It is a very unique place and the anticipation of another visit brings a BIG smile to everyone’s face.   For spring break this year, my wife, our oldest son, our oldest grandson and I made the trip.  Getting there is a task for the stout hearted due to the remote location but it is definitely worth the time, effort, and money.  As you can see from the map of Colorado below, Telluride is located in the southwest part of the state.  Telluride has an airport but we felt the best plan was to fly into Montrose, then rent a car.  This is due to frequent inclement weather and cloud cover.   The trip from Montrose to Telluride is a little over an hour so, basically one long commute.

Telluride Map


Telluride is the county seat and the most populous town of San Miguel County in the southwestern portion of Colorado. It is a former silver mining camp located on the San Miguel River in the western part of the beautiful San Juan Mountains. The first gold mining claim was made in the mountains above Telluride in 1875 and early settlement of what is now Telluride followed. The town itself was founded in 1878 as “Columbia”, but due to confusion with a California town of the same name, was renamed Telluride in 1887, for the gold telluride minerals found in other parts of Colorado. These telluride minerals were never located near Telluride, causing the town to be named for a mineral which never was mined there. However, the area’s mines for some years provided zinc, lead, copper, silver, and gold ores.   The Telluride Historic District, which includes a significant portion of the town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also one of Colorado’s twenty National Historic Landmarks. The town population was 2,325 in the 2010 United States Census, but during the winter ski season and the summer the population increases substantially due to tourism.

The first ski lift was installed by Telluride Ski Resort founder Joseph T. Zoline and the Telluride Ski Corporation (Telco). Zoline bought the land for the development of the future resort in 1969 and at that time began to profile the slopes. Along with his mountain manager, Telluride native Bill “Sr.” Mahoney, slowly and thoughtfully put together a plan for sustained development of Telluride and the region. As you can see from the JPEG below, the ski slopes are well defined with everything from “green” to double-black diamond.

Ski Slopes--Map

Beyond the ski lifts, Telluride is now widely recognized as an all-season resort. Telluride Ski Resort is definitely the main attraction in the winter.   When summer comes around, Telluride transforms into an outdoor recreation hot spot, with tourists visiting to enjoy mountain bikinghiking, river rafting, sightseeing and more.  My family and I have visited in the winter and the summer and both seasons offer a remarkable and diverse variety of entertainment.  You do not have to be a skier to enjoy Telluride.

What I would like to do now is give you a tour using digital pictures I took during our visit.  Let us start with a great picture of our son and his son.

Nick and Greg--Gondola

Greg is a skier and Nick is the snowboard champion.  They hit the slopes each day from 0900 hours to 1600 hours —did not miss a minute of the great weather.  It snowed just about every day with accumulation one day amounting to approximately six (6) inches.  From the map above, you can see they had their choice of slopes.

Lift 7

Lift seven is across the street from the condominium we rented for the week.  It is a chair lift.  A block away, is the gondola ride to the Mountain Village.  From there, you can take additional lifts to greater altitudes and slopes with increased difficulty.


As I mentioned earlier, Telluride is one of the most unique towns you can imagine.  No fast food, no bowling alleys, no video or gaming arcades.  There is a theater, and when we were there, the kids and their parents were lined up to see Zoolander.  The JPEG below shows the main street, Colorado Avenue.


If it were not for running water, indoor plumbing and store lights, you would think Telluride is right out of the late 1800s.  It is a remarkably well-preserved frontier town and the permanent residents want to keep it that way.  It’s really laid back and certainly casual.

Telluride Downtown(5)

The most prominent landmark is the mountain just north of the town.  It certainly marks the location as you can see from the JPEG below.  A huge peak that stays snow-covered nine months of the year.



The buildings are rustic but well-kept.  You can purchase everything from a Band-Aid to a complete set of ski equipment including the lift ticket, but as I mentioned, no McDonalds, no Hardees, no Sonic Drive-In.   The number of SUVs in the town must be fifty to one in comparison to regular automobiles.  The residents are equipped for the ten to twenty inches of snow frequently had during from late December to mid-February.

Telluride Mountains(2)



Typical House

Most houses and commercial establishments are frame-type with some brick found, but not that much in the downtown area.  You do find brick and stone in the high mountains around the Mountain Village complex.

We were there over Easter Sunday and attended the First Presbyterian Church of Telluride.  That church is shown below.  The membership is less than one hundred but the service was excellent.  The music was exceptional—really exceptional.  At the beginning of the service, the children are asked to gather around the bell rope.  They ring the bell signaling the beginning of services.  Ten o’clock sharp.

Presbyterian Church

We are now going from church to the Sheridan bar. Quite a leap but both are must-see when you visit Telluride.  The bar was initially designed for mine owners and high-level mine operators in the town.  The bar (and brothel) down the road was for the miners themselves.  Apparently they did not mix during after hours.  The bar is oak and mahogany and is huge.  The JPEG does not do it justice.  (Sorry about the lighting.  It’s very subdued. Hopefully you can get an idea as to the construction of the bar.)

Sherridan Bar--Telluride

Sherridan Bar--Telluride(4)


When you take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain, the very first thing you see is “The Beach”.  This is the gathering point for all lifts going from the Village.   From the JPEGs to follow, you can see Mountain Village is an extremely modern collection of condos, restaurants, retail shops and other commercial establishments.  Not much in common with downtown Telluride with the exception of “tons of fun”.

The Beach

Mountain Village

As you can see, Mountain Village is extremely modern and caters to every personal need of the visitors vacationing in the facility.

Mountain Village(2)


One of the “coolest” places we found was the Black Iron Café.  This establishment serves gourmet meals to the hungry crowd seven days a week.  The fire pits are established to drive off the cold after hitting the slopes.

Black Iron Cafe

On the flip side, is the Diggety-Dog Café. It’s a hot dog place that’s over the top.  Greg and Nick met up with a home-town friend Duke Ritchie.  If you can see the menu, you will notice a sandwich called the heart attack.  (Stay away from that one.) Take a look.

Duke,Greg & Nick


One morning we decided upon a field trip to the towns of Ridgeway and Quray.  Both are northeast of Telluride and about an hour’s drive.  Quray is noted for its natural hot springs.  You can tell when you are close; the steam coming off the springs is very discernible, especially when the air temperature is in the low thirties.   Both towns, as we will see below, are right out of the 1800s.

Rocky Mountains

As you can see from the digital photograph above, the scenery on the way is spectacular.  After leaving Main Street, most roads are dirt and gravel.


True Grit Cafe

We discovered the movie True Grit was filmed in Ridgeway.  From that name came the True Grit Café. Notice they are now serving breakfast every Saturday and Sunday from 0900 hours till 1100 hundred hours.


One very unique thing about the fire hall is the sophisticated telecommunications equipment behind the building.


Every town MUST have its own brewery and Ridgeway certainly does.


As with Telluride, Ridgeway is tucked solidly in the mountains.


Quray is much like Ridgeway as far as mountains and general topography.  Main Street is paved but most of the side roads are again dirt and gravel.


Mule Deer

In driving from Ridgeway going back to Telluride, we stopped to say hello to one of the local residents.  We do NOT see many mule deer in downtown Chattanooga.

No Smoking

You have to love this one.  I think they mean it.


The last night of our visit we were invited to dinner by a longtime resident of Telluride.  The following pictures were taken from their rear deck.  As you can see, the view is breath-taking.

Rocky Mountains(2)

We were told this mountain range is the most photographed range in the world.  It is shown on bottles of Coors Light Beer.

Backyard-Stewart House

Backyard-Stewart House(2)

I hope you enjoyed this post and certainly recommend you put Telluride, Colorado on your bucket list.  It is definitely worth the visit.

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