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Contrails send Durangoans into a whirl

Here’s the view Sunday morning from north Durango of an odd, swooping contrail, looking toward Missionary Ridge. Courtesy photo

Dear Action Line: I was out walking on Sunday (May 2) and saw this interesting curving flight pattern in the sky above Missionary Ridge. I am used to seeing a linear flight pattern, so I’m wondering if you can find out what’s up in our Durango skies? Did the pilot possibly change his mind? Or possibly have a case of vertigo or whirling disease? – Curious Sky Watcher

Dear Sky: Well, if a coronavirus can jump from a bat to a human, then certainly whirling disease can jump from a fish to a human.

Although pretty satisfied with that explanation, Action Line decided to search for another possible theory, and gave it a whirl and contacted Tony Vicari, aviation director at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

He had a different hypothesis, which, truth be told, might be just a little bit more believable.

“Severe thunderstorms in the Denver area on Sunday resulted in several commercial aircraft being diverted to DRO,” Vicari said. “This is a common situation when a large hub airport must restrict inbound flow. Aircraft that are unable to gain clearance into the metered airspace must find an alternate landing site if their fuel falls below a certain threshold or their crew is near timing out.”

The aircraft might have to set up a holding pattern at an alternate airfield while waiting to see whether it can go ahead to the planned destination or must land at the alternate site, Vicari said. A SkyWest plane from BOI (Boise) to DEN (Denver) diverted to DRO (Durango) late Sunday morning. Vicari shared a screen shot tracking that flight.

So, just how dizzy were the passengers on this SkyWest airplane from Boise? Here’s the track of the Sunday morning flight. Photo: FlightAware

“One of these loops looks like it just may match up with that photo looking east over Missionary Ridge,” he said.

Whirling disease or simple aircraft diversion? You decide.

Dear Action Line: Is there a speed limit for cyclists on the Animas River Trail? Would it be safer to wait and walk the trail when I assume some of these athletes will be, or at least should be, competing at the Summer Games in Tokyo? – Peter Pedestrian

Dear Pete: Durango contains a plethora of cyclists, and some go fast: actual racers, lots of racer wanna-bes and dreamers racing themselves on Strava.

Action Line falls into the latter category, but has matured over the decades into a cautious, concerned rider on public trails and paths. Action Line slows to a track-stand for pedestrians, dogs and deer; uses a bell as a warning; stops to help old ladies cross the railroad tracks; and asks everyone off their bike if they need mechanical help. Action Line has become very boring and annoying, and might not be that much help with your broken-down bike anyway, but let’s move on.

Pete, assuming the Olympics go on as scheduled July 23 to Aug. 8 despite COVID-19, locals are hoping that road cyclist Sepp Kuss, 26, and mountain biker Christopher Blevins, 23, both Durango natives, will ride for the U.S. But that will take away only two people and perhaps their families (if they’re even allowed to attend) off Durango paths.

To answer the first question, there is no official speed limit on the city’s hard-surface trails, said Cathy Metz, Parks and Recreation director. The city advises to keep your speed under 10 mph, and to “slow down and use caution when approaching other trail users and blind turns.”

Last fall, a good friend of Action Line’s was injured in a head-on bike-on-bike wreck on a blind curve on Sidewinder trail.

Action Line’s sermon: If you can’t see what’s up ahead, slow down. Regardless of fault in a collision, a speeding cyclist does more damage than a speeding walker, and arguably has a greater safety responsibility. On the Animas River Trail, walkers and runners can play a big part by paying attention, not veering from one side of the path to the other, and keeping pets on a tight leash.

Durango Trails (formerly Trails 2000) is big on trail stewardship, which is partly about appreciating and maintaining trails, but involves being courteous to other users as well. See DurangoTrails’ etiquette webpage: www.durangotrails.org/trail-etiquette.

Durango Devo, the incredible local organization that gets youths on bikes and schools them on various cycling aspects, including how to have fun and be good citizens, “prioritizes teaching our kids to be safe and conscientious riders,” said Devo’s executive director, Levi Kurlander.

That covers the bike path, the street or single-track trails.

“We encourage kids to be ultra-patient when commuting on the bike path, knowing that we share the trail with others,” Kurlander said. “We like to educate kids about how not everyone is as comfortable on and around bikes as we are. A kid growing up in Durango Devo feels right at home on a bike; the idea of being scared of a cyclist sounds foreign to them. But recognizing that fellow River Trail users don't always share the same trust of cyclists helps kids slow down and empathize.”

Both Kuss and Blevins, incidentally, rode with Devo.

Kurlander concluded with a message of peace:

“If you're a frequent River Trail walker, remember that no cyclist is out to get you. We're out to enjoy a beautiful day in Durango, just like you. Smile and wave, and we'll smile and wave back!”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301.