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It had already been a long day when Hanne Strong invited me to watch a sacred dance at a Buddhist retreat center above Crestone.

My initial "I can't" turned into "Maybe," which later twisted into "Why not?"

A short time later, I walked up a dirt driveway past flags welcoming Gangteng Rinpoche, the center's spiritual head, to this country from Bhutan. Maroon-robed monks greeted me at the top of the drive, and then students on retreat at the center filed out of the temple for dinner. When they went back inside, I piled my shoes next to theirs. The evening became dizzying even before masked men in elaborate costumes started their fantastic, spinning dances.

Traveling to Crestone for a cover story on plans to seek natural gas under the nearby Baca National Wildlife Refuge, I imagined the standard elements of an energy company's collision with a "last best place": pristine public lands, captivating mountains, a crowd of people shouting, "Not in my backyard!"

What I didn't imagine was finding yet more in this state to make the idea of another gas field just sound ... tragic and dull.

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