• (Reprinted from Dec. 30, 2014)

    The birdfeeder below my window is still bringing a variety of birds into view. One of these is the tiny, beloved pygmy nuthatch. Almost daily, a few of these tiny guys are busy gleaning the ponderosa pine above the feeder, gathering insects, which keeps the pines healthy as well as the birds.

  • The Courant takes a look back at the local stories that made headlines in the past year.

    Highway 103 bridge over I-70 quietly reopens

    An expanded Highway 103 bridge in Idaho Springs reopened late in February 2015 without fanfare.

    The bridge at Exit 240 — a major access point into Idaho Springs from Interstate 70 — closed Oct. 19, 2014, and was closed for about 120 days through the holiday season, angering local business owners and officials.

  • Last month, nearly a dozen sturdy men of the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office put down their razors and picked up the country-wide No-Shave November gauntlet to benefit Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice.

  • Clear Creek seventh-grader Isis Wales will have a chance to show off her musical ability in a big way with the Colorado middle school all-state choir.

    Isis tried out for and was the only Clear Creek Middle School student accepted into the prestigious choir performance, which showcases the talents of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The choir concert will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5, in the Bellco Theatre at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

    Six Carlson Elementary sixth-graders are in their second year of performing in the all-state choir.

  • Once a month, Scott Courson takes a break from corporate America by helping out at Carlson Elementary School.

    Last Friday, he helped a kindergartner read in Kathy Lewis’ classroom.

    Courson is among 25 local dads who volunteer at the school as part of the recently started Watch D.O.G.S. program, or Dads of Great Students. The program is a national effort to bring more fathers into schools.

    Carlson social worker Lauren Courtney said the program has become a surprise hit among fathers, students and teachers.

  • Clear Creek exchange student Madelyn Fahnline woke the morning of Nov. 14 and saw dozens of messages on her phone from friends and family asking if she was OK.

    The high school junior is staying with a host family in Lorraine in northeastern France about 90 minutes from Paris. The previous night, extremists had killed 129 people in a series of coordinated attacks across Paris.

  • With a cloud of dust billowing behind her, Deb Zack drove her black Jeep along the narrow dirt roads high above Idaho Springs. She navigated the sketchy dirt lanes on the north side of Virginia Canyon with familiarity.

    Zack is a project manager and reclamation specialist with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety’s inactive mine program.

    And she’s been quite busy.

    It’s estimated that Clear Creek County has some 3,000 inactive mines, with 22,000 abandoned mines in the state.

  • Looking to escape the small town where she grew up and see the world, Tina Barber-Matthew joined the Air Force in 1989.

    What she described as a fairly normal office job in the military changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001. In the subsequent years leading up to her retirement in 2011, Barber-Matthew, 48, deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Sometimes under fire, the mother of two young children worked with translators and taught American-style journalism to Afghani reporters.

  • After warming up by dancing like angry leprechauns, it was time for the serious business of rehearsing the works of William Shakespeare.

    Well, maybe not quite so serious.

    On Oct. 28, Clear Creek High School students practiced their lines for the fall production of "I Hate Shakespeare!" The play is a parody of the works of the legendary bard, yet the cast also hopes it serves as a gateway to his more famous works.

  • Every morning before Steven Zacharias comes to work, he walks 2 miles up Guanella Pass to get ready for his day, which entails walking around Idaho Springs.

    “I just got in the habit of doing it when I first moved here,” Zacharias said. “It gets my day started. I get a clear head. … I like to get the cobwebs out first thing in the morning.”

    Zacharias, Idaho Springs’ new code compliance officer, spends much of his day moving at a brisk pace through the city’s streets and alleys.

  • Classes at the Edgar Mine in Idaho Springs offer a hands-on experience for the estimated 250 Colorado School of Mines students who attend each semester.

    Most of the students who come to the mine these days are majoring in petroleum engineering, while the mine was originally built to produce gold and silver. But the skills the students learn and the projects they work on at the mine are similar to what they’ll need in their own industry, according to School of Mines professor Bill Eustes.

  • “Love what you do and do what you love.”

    — Ray Bradbury

    Retired Clear Creek High teacher Conradt Fredell willingly gave up his hobbies —woodworking, gardening and music — for seven weeks to return to his other love: teaching.

  • The mood-altering, atmosphere-warping sounds of club music spilled onto 16th Avenue moments before the Idaho Springs block party started on Sept. 24.

    Surrounded by a group of fellow high-schoolers, 15-year-old disc jockey Josh Reagon tested his equipment while several people in Citizens Park began to dance.

    Josh, a Clear Creek High School sophomore, was recently hired by the city to DJ for the block party. Josh started DJ’ing almost two years ago.

  • Editor’s note: Clear Creek County is home to a budding recreational marijuana industry — an industry that has blossomed statewide since recreational sales became legal on Jan. 1, 2014. Since then, the state has received $76 million in fees and taxes from this burgeoning business. This is the fourth installment of a series that will trace the marijuana process over the next several months from seedling to sale, and will follow the money that flows into state coffers.

  • Idaho Springs resident Amadee Ouellet calls herself a "homeless business owner" who makes and sells artistic wands and hunts mushrooms in the woods.

    In the summer, Ouellet said, she "moves around" — living out of her tent on U.S. Forest Service land. In the winter, when it gets too cold to live in her tent, Ouellet said she lives in a motel where she can pay rent by the week. (People are allowed to camp at a Forest Service site for 14 days, by law.)

  • In the mid-1800s, quilting bees were an important social event, with women chatting and laughing as their sewing needles worked in the fabric.

    Fast-forward to 2015, and the Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice angel-making workshops also are important social events, with women chatting and laughing as they spread glue, cut cardboard and prepare handcrafted angels.

    In addition, angel-making helps Mount Evans continue to provide services to area residents.

  • Moments after a raucous, patriotic-themed Clear Creek High School homecoming parade in Idaho Springs on Sept. 11, soldiers, police and state and local officials gathered near the Veterans Memorial Tunnels to commemorate the project’s completion and renaming.

    The recently widened and renamed Veterans Memorial Tunnels on Interstate 70, formerly the Twin Tunnels, underwent the name change last year after local veterans took the plan to the state legislature.

  • Following are short profiles of area workers encountered doing their jobs around Clear Creek.

    Fred Nelson, snowplow driver for the Clear Creek County Road and Bridge Department

    If the road is clear of snow and ice the morning after a storm, thank Fred Nelson and the other snowplow drivers at the Clear Creek County Road and Bridge Department.

  • A small army of marching groups, a battalion of vehicles, squadrons of mules and clowns, and thousands of bright-red fezzes gathered early Saturday morning on the north side of Idaho Springs.

  • A Clear Creek County donkey recently captured the prestigious triple crown of burro racing, the first time in 15 years a local animal has held the title.

    Runner George Zack and 18-year-old burro Jack won the 29-mile Burro Days in Fairplay to the summit of Mosquito Pass on July 26; the 12-mile Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race on Aug. 2; and the 20-mile Boom Days Pack Burro Race in Leadville on Aug. 9.

    For the tenacious donkey and the Broomfield resident, the third time was the charm, having narrowly missed out on the triple crown twice before.