Stories by Paul Tolme

  • Mountain Highs

    Thrill-seekers are discovering the joys of zip lines, rides that zoom over treetops at high speeds. Riders wear a harness that clips to a cable, and automatic brakes prevent crashes at the bottom. Popularized in Costa Rica as a way to tour the forest canopy, zip-line rides are popping up elsewhere around the globe.The newest is at California's Heavenly Mountain ski resort, where riders hit speeds of 80 kilometers per hour and enjoy views of Lake Tahoe ($30; ski heavenly.com). On the super-steep zip line at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, riders can watch Nordic ski jumpers launch from the 120-meter jump that runs parallel ($20; utahathleticfoundation.com). The zip line at Alaska's Icy Strait Point, popular with cruise-ship customers, is more than a mile long. Suspended 162 meters in the air, riders sometimes look down to see bald eagles flying below ($90; icystraitpoint.com). The operators of the ProNutro 2000 in Sun City, South Africa, bill their zip slide—as zip lines are...
  • A Tragic Wrong Turn In the Snow

    James Kim couldn't wait another minute. Lost in a blizzard while driving home to San Francisco from Seattle, Kim had been stranded for a week with his wife, Kati, and their two young daughters inside their Saab station wagon. Kati had been nursing 7-month-old Sabine and Penelope, 4, and doling out crackers, while she and James subsisted on berries and melted snow. To stay warm in subfreezing temperatures, they ran the car's engine; after the gas ran out and the battery died, they burned the car's tires, hoping the flames would be seen by helicopters they heard above the densely forested ravine where they'd been stuck since making a wrong turn onto a logging road. On Saturday, Dec. 2, Kim lit one last fire for his family, loaded a backpack with a pocketknife, extra clothing and an Oregon map. At 7:46 a.m., he left to look for help, telling Kati he was headed for a nearby town and that he'd be back in four hours.Instead, Kim embarked on an odyssey that gripped not only San Francisco...
  • OUTDOORS: CARRY-ON CRUISERS

    If you still haven't mastered origami, try folding a bike. The portable rides have long been favored in Europe and Japan, and now U.S. bicyclists are hopping on. The JetStream XP ($1,200, dahon.com) relies on shock-absorbing suspension to soak up bumps caused by jumping curbs in Manhattan; it's unlike other small-wheeled foldables that deliver a bone-jarring ride. The seven-speed Halfway ($550, www.giantbicycles.com), which weighs 28 pounds, is a sturdier foldable popular among boaters who want to explore exotic ports of call by pedal power but can't fit a regular bike below deck. And with 27 speeds and high-end components, the Rolls-Royce of foldable touring bikes is the New World Tourist (from $960 to $1,575, bikefriday.com), which fits in a standard-size suitcase and assembles in minutes. With wheels this convenient, who needs to rent a car?
  • Scrambling For Shots

    On Thanksgiving, 20-month-old twins Dezmond and Diego Huckabay of Pueblo, Colo., were happy, playful and "full of pumpkin pie," according to their father, Brian. Six days later, Dezmond was dead and Diego was in a hospital ER, both victims of the influenza outbreak that has reached epidemic proportions in two dozen states, killing at least 25 children and an undetermined number of adults.As frightened Americans waited in long lines last week for influenza vaccines that were in painfully short supply, health officials across the nation did their best to prevent panic and inform the public about the realities of this year's flu. Influenza hit earlier and harder this season, in part because it "drifted," or mutated, from the bug that the latest vaccine crop was designed to fight. "This mutation has increased the number of susceptible individuals, and that's why we're seeing a lot more disease," says Walt Orenstein, director of the national immunization program at the Centers for...
  • Hiking: Just Lighten Up

    You call this "roughing it"? Today's hiking and camping gear is much lighter and more luxurious than ever. With tents that have built-in air mattresses and backpacks that blast your favorite MP3s--no wonder a record number of Americans are hitting the trails. Tip Sheet takes a walk on the wild side, testing out the best new gear.PACK RATS: For overnight excursions, look for a back-pack of 3,000 cubic inches or less, and don't feel compelled to fill it. Meanwhile, manufacturers have finally realized that no amount of adjusting will ever make a man's pack fit women hikers properly. The shoulder straps on the Badlands 65 are tapered for women's smaller frames ($179; thenorthface.com). Or try the Matrix Harmonium pack with its portable sound system. Just slide your CD or MP3 player into the padded pocket, plug in the speakers and the hills are alive with the sound of music ($225; eaglecreek.com).GIMME SHELTER: If you're backpacking, look for a tent that weighs less than five pounds. At...
  • CELEBRITY: IN KOBE'S SPOTLIGHT

    With as many as 400 members of the media descending on tiny Eagle, Colo. (population: 3,000), the scene of the alleged Kobe Bryant attack, the town's teens have become media darlings. Acquaintances of Bryant's accuser have flown, all expenses paid, to New York to appear on NBC's "Today." Tabloids have offered cash for copies of the Eagle Valley High School yearbook that contains the former cheerleader's picture. Teens who call themselves the woman's friends have purported to divulge intimate details about her, from an alleged drug overdose to supposed mental breakdowns to stories that she regaled guests at a party with descriptions of Bryant's anatomy. "You start to wonder, does anyone care if any of this is true?" laments Sienna LaRene, a lawyer hired by the family of a local girl who was misidentified in photos on the Web as the alleged victim. T shirts from the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, where Bryant is accused of assaulting the woman, are a hot seller, and the lodge has been...
  • Smoking: What A Drag

    With the end of indoor smoking, building entryways have become de facto smoking lounges, prompting some colleges and universities to boot smokers farther afield. With winter coming, the policies give new meaning to the phrase "You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers."
  • Building Blocks

    The West was won, but now it appears to be in a losing battle. In recent years the Main Streets of resort towns in the Rockies have been invaded by real-estate offices. In Crested Butte, Colo., nine offices pitch million-dollar vacation homes along half-mile Elk Avenue. In Aspen, Colo., more than a dozen storefronts have been transformed into property-sales or time-share offices. This has prompted shopkeeper Barry Gordon to spearhead a drive to ban the offices from the ground floor of buildings in the town center. The proposal is being studied by Aspen officials--and by the mayor of Park City, Utah, where 18 offices have opened in a three-block area of Old Town. "It's ruining the character of our downtown," says Gordon.The people buying land--retirees who want to ski or golf, or mountain bikers looking to blaze through the great wide open--are fueling an "amenity migration" that's helped make selling second homes a major component of Rocky states' revenue streams. "In many resort...
  • The Stripper-Turned-Mayor Faces A Recall

    The mystery of what happened to Mayor Koleen Brooks the night of Feb. 16 has riveted Georgetown, Colo., a historic mining town deep in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.Brooks, a former stripper in a Denver nightclub, says a fiftyish man smelling of cigarettes and whiskey hit her on the head as she walked home from her hair-and tanning-salon business that evening. Brooks fought back and the individual fled when a neighbor turned on a porch light. But two weeks after Brooks filed a police report and showed off scratches on her neck and arms, she was charged with faking the attack and tampering with evidence.Local prosecutors aren't talking about the case. "We're trying to protect her rights to a fair and impartial jury," says Karen Romeo, deputy district attorney. "I can't discuss it. Goodbye." But the mayor's lawyer, Michael Andre, says the charges are deeply political. "Koleen is a threat and this is a way to get rid of her. Koleen's story is an expose on small-town politics."...