What was Smelter Mountain's name before there was a smelter there? Curiously yours - Beth
The land formation has been called Smelter Mountain for well over a thousand years. It was named by psychic Anasazis
who foresaw the land's true purpose.
In Anasazi, the phrase Smelter Mountain" means place where rocks are melted beneath hill with antennas for boxes that
talk and phones that move."
In actuality, no one knows what Smelter Mountain was called before the smelter was built.
Robert McDaniel, executive director of the Animas Museum, reminds us that the ancestral Puebloans (today's preferred
term for Anasazi) left no written language.
I have never seen a map or reference for the mountain prior to 1881 when the smelter was constructed," he said, adding
that the Ute Indians probably had a term for the site, but it has yet to be recorded.
It's not surprising that a place name is lost, even today.
More than half of the current local population probably wouldn't know what the Irish Embassy Pub was called before it
became the place to watch Skyhawks championship soccer.
If you said Scoot 'N' Blues, you're close but no cigar.
The Irish Embassy Pub used to be Burns Bank.
But you get extra credit if you correctly pointed out that the name Skyhawks" itself is a lost reference. Fort Lewis
College used to call its sports teams the Raiders.
If you can't remember that, then you'll never guess what the Durango High School parking lot used to be before it
became a storage facility for hand-me-down SUVs driven by entitled teenagers with freshly minted licenses.
I was driving from Ignacio to the airport for an early morning flight. It's very dark at 5 a.m. I saw the tiny little
airport sign and was ready to make my turn. The only problem was I couldn't see the turnoff well enough and drove right
by it. So I turned my car around. Sure enough, I passed it again! Frustrated, I turned around once more and going very
slowly, I found it. Surely the city of Durango could afford to put up a decent, lighted sign. I know my way around and
still had trouble. What about people who don't live here? We have a very nice airport if we could just find it. -
The city of Durango never will illuminate the Durango-La Plata County Airport turnoff. Not because it doesn't want to.
It legally can't.
The airport is the jurisdiction of La Plata County, but directional signs on the county road are a state function
overseen by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
And, as everyone knows, CDOT's priorities right now are building bridges to nowhere with federal stimulus money.
The airport sign has been the subject of some controversy, we learn from Ron Dent, the airport's director of
The current sign is huge compared to the past," he said. We had to fight with CDOT for what we have."
Many years ago, a local CDOT leader was very anti-sign," Dent said. Thus, the airport turnoff was marked with the
statutory bare minimum, a puny thing that many drivers, particularly first-time visitors, completely missed.
More than a few travelers drove their rental cars to Ignacio, missing their flight in the process.
We now have a reflective sign that is technically larger than we are entitled to," he said. But the lighting issue
will have to be CDOT's call."
Rather than seek an upgrade, Dent suggested getting a GPS device.
For about 150 bucks, you never miss the turn or get lost in your car," he said with a chuckle.
Exchanging that ill-fitting Christmas sweater for a GPS would be an even better idea, he added.
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or mail them to Action Line,
The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you knew the DHS parking lot once
was a Safeway supermarket whose interior was discovered
to be filled with asbestos.