By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
So who on earth would get on, or off, a bus here?
"There actually is an answer to that," says Donna Mickley at the U.S. Forest Service. "There is a requirement to find public transportation for backpackers hiking the Continental Divide Trail, which passes right through Berthoud Pass."
She doesn't have an answer -- yet -- for how the Forest Service will replace Greyhound. But she does know that, because of the federally authorized trail, hikers will soon be greeted by "significant structures" such as permanent restrooms and an easy-to-read map that pinpoints Berthoud as a high point on the stretch between Canada and Mexico. By then, the old ski lodge will be nothing but a few splinters of plywood siding and memories.
Get your brochures -- for burro rides, tubing hills and ghost towns -- at the Winter Park Visitors Center. Skiing is over for the season, but check out those competing fests, rock and jazz! T-shirts are never more than fifty feet from your wallet, souvenirs of "Ski Naked!" Day and "Spring Break 2003!"
The visitors' center is also the Greyhound bus depot.
"The passengers are young, and they have big backpacks," says the woman behind the counter. "Sometimes they leave the pack downstairs and go hiking."
Some are American teenagers, but more are Scandinavian tourists seeing the West on a budget via Greyhound's Ameripass. After this month, though, they won't be seeing Highway 40. "One person gets on the bus here, sometimes none," the woman notes. "With the price of gas what it is, the route don't make sense at all."
Tourists aren't the only ones affected. Seasonal workers -- lift operators at the ski resort, chambermaids at the condos -- will need to find another way to escape this alpine splendor for some big-city R&R, or a doctor, or an airport, or a grocery warehouse where everything can be bought cheap.
"It's going to be difficult," says Wayne Kesterson at the YMCA's Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park. "A lot of folks who work here in the summer, more than 200 of them, come in by bus. And the train is much more expensive and difficult."
The bus's demise won't make much difference to people who pay to stay at the YMCA ranch, any more than it will to the second-home owners who ski Winter Park and Sol Vista. But that should be obvious.
"Why would they get on here?" he asks. "To get to the next town?"
Or to get out of this one?
"It's a tough place to be homeless," says Jeanni Ducommun, a volunteer at Grand County's Samaritan Ministries. "We don't have a shelter, and we're the largest county in Colorado. The thing is, the Greyhound station in Denver is only blocks from several different shelters. If we can get them on the bus to Denver, we've done the best we can."
Ducommun has often pondered the chain of events that lead to a person ending up in Grand County with no place to sleep, no food and no backup plan. "People come here, but they don't have six months of rent under their belts," she says. "Or they come here with everything they own in a backpack on their back. Most people have no idea how we actually make a living in this county. We have at least two jobs, my husband and I included. Those jobs pay between eight and ten dollars an hour."
All it takes is a broken fuel pump or a broken relationship, a sketchy landlord or a sketchy immune system to throw off the financial balance. And beyond offering a meal and sometimes a night's lodging -- if a local hotel has room -- all a Samaritan can do is put that down-on-his-luck person on the bus.
"I was working in our thrift store less than a month ago, and a young man came in," Ducommun remembers. "He'd been fired from his job and told to get out. He had a girlfriend in Wyoming, and that's where he needed to go -- he'd been on his way from Salt Lake to Denver. I don't know why he got off here, and he couldn't explain it to me. So for 21 bucks, we got him on the bus to Denver, and I don't know what happened after that."
A few days earlier, Ducommun had financed a much longer trip, for an old woman who'd participated in the ultimate family squabble: Her relatives wanted her gone. "She was mentally incapacitated -- borderline Alzheimer's, I think," she says. "No one wanted her here, but someone back East did. We found the money."
It's hard for Ducommun to imagine the old lady hitchhiking east, dragging her suitcase down the road's shoulder, but after next week, that could happen. "I guess," she says, trying to see a lesson in this picture, "it's a way of suffering the consequences of the decisions you've made."
Even more recently, a Fraser woman happened to see a man jump off a coal train. She fed him, let him take a shower at her house and called Ducommun.