February 2024 Newsletter

the power of PLACE

Ore House in winter


To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour. (William Blake)

For better and worse, Gothic is no longer the Brigadoon of the West Elk Mountains. Located in the Scottish Highlands, an enchantment froze the original Brigadoon in time, rendering it invisible and protecting it from change. The mists lifted once a century. Visitors were allowed in but departures would cause the village to disappear forever.

Decades ago, the number of visitors passing beyond Gothic for an entire winter could be counted in the tens. Now, on sunny days with no avalanche hazard, the track to Gothic is a skiers’ highway, with upwards of a hundred individuals daily. However, a visit to Gothic in winter still involves piercing a veil of snow to reach the edge of a hidden world. Inaccessible by car and largely closed to snowmobiles, the journey can be as simple as a 45-minute ski along a well-trodden track. But when the big storms roll in, Gothic recedes, and the journey extends.

Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL


Gothic field trip

Force of nature

Never underestimate the power of family vacations to shape a child’s future. For Dr. Pat Magee, Professor of Wildlife Biology and Conservation at Western Colorado University, childhood family trips always led to the great outdoors. Growing up in Littleton, Colorado, he and his six siblings would pile into his parents’ Volkswagen bus and head to campgrounds throughout the Colorado Rockies, up to Yellowstone, Wyoming, Montana, and everywhere in between. Vacations meant hiking, exploring, listening to interpretive talks by national park rangers, and being immersed in the natural world.

In high school, Pat joined the Youth Conservation Corps with the US Forest Service and dreamed of being a park ranger. But he followed another path in college, studying wildlife biology and eventually earning a PhD in wildlife ecology. Now he teaches that and related courses at Western. Every other year for the last 24 years, he has taught a mammalogy course that features an intensive, three-day, two-night field trip in late January. He and two dozen or more students snowshoe into Gothic, stay in large group cabins, and learn how mammals adapt to and survive the winter.