Carnes: Let’s just stick with ‘Happy’
Both east and westbound lanes of Pottery Pass were closed last week due to heavy snowstorms.
Those who made it west before the closing had snowy views of Shining Mountain before continuing down past Scottsville and on towards the rugged flats of DotZero, perhaps on their way to Orestod.
A tradition to some is still calling the eastern side of Eagle County the Eagle Valley, yet for the last four or five decades, most refer to it as the Vail Valley.
Arguments either way usually fall on deaf ears, both sides ignoring American frontiersman Jim Bridger’s tribute to the drunk Irishman, Lord Gore, by naming it the Gore Valley, even though the Utes obviously had first naming rights.
And it was because of those same Native Americans that Pottery Pass was the earliest recorded name for what is now Vail Pass, on account of all the pottery shards found littered along the way.
The Utes (not to be confused with multiple youngsters from Brooklyn) referred to our major dumping area for snow as “Shining Mountain,” which almost became the actual name of the ski area up until Pete Seibert had the foresight to realize the word “shining” was perhaps a bit too reflective of a name for a powder-filled ski resort.
Those wild and crazy Utes, according to folklore, gave the name “Eagle” to the river because “it has as many tributaries as an eagle’s tail has feathers.” This was certainly their prerogative, and pretty much the process they used to name everything and everyone they saw (Two Elk Pass, Sitting Bull, Chief Running Mouth, Drinks Like Fish, etc…).
Just think, the annual Duck Race could easily be held along the banks of the “Always Cold Creek,” and none of us would ever be the wiser.
When Pete and Earl went hiking to find that perfect spot for ski runs, they did so in what was at that point called the Gore Creek Valley.
In the past, I could simply look in a phone book and see which name had the most listings, but seeing how they’re as rare as no lift lines the morning after a 2-foot dump, I used good ol’ reliable Google as my source.
Searching specifically for “Gore Valley” I receive around 8,000 hits, including the very active Gore Valley Citizen’s Alliance.
For “Eagle Valley” I had to add “Colorado” as there are “Eagle Valleys” in seven different states and even one in Canada, and had a little over half a million hits.
Just “Vail Valley” registers about 1.4 million.
It should be painfully apparent that proper names can evolve over time to better fit the cultural climates of the day.
Put it this way — I’m sure there are a few residents of Beijing who still call it Peking along with a few in Istanbul that insist upon using Constantinople.
Either way, people know what they mean.
Hopefully settling this superfluous dispute once and for all, some can stop pretending that the evolution of proper names is a disrespectful act towards their personal heritage, but personally, I’ll continue to stick with “Happy Valley,” as that seems to cover all the bases.
Oh, and most real estate types will know “Scottsville” is basically west Edwards, and Orestod, a confluence of rail lines up near Bond, was Dotsero spelled backward.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.