This editor’s note, for the feature “Unite and conquer,” appeared in the Mar. 2, 2015 issue of High Country News:
On Jan. 1, I joined 15 friends on a raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. That morning, our boats were covered in snow; the canyon’s red cliffs, capped with white, looked like giant slabs of frosted carrot cake. The ranger said locals had never seen the place so wintry.
So we were delighted to return to Colorado — thousands of feet higher, where the river’s Rocky Mountain headwaters lie — and find no sign of winter. “Mountain biking in a tank top. Suck it, New England,” one of our trip leaders crowed from Durango on Facebook as a blizzard battered the East Coast.
But as the endless warm days slushed snow into mud and turned mud into hardpan, a growing alarm replaced our lizard-like impulse to bask. Between Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, 174 Colorado communities met or broke high temperature records. A few on the state’s eastern plains even neared or surpassed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. More…