WCWS: Chimney Rock National Monument

The places nearest to where you live always get ignored. As I left Durango, I saw a sign reminding me about Chimney Rock National Monument. I’ve driven by the sign several times but never actually stopped. In fact, I wasn’t even sure why the Monument existed…

I debated for awhile and by the time I reached the turn off just shy of Pagosa, I’d resolved to stop. Unfortunately for my happy pup, the main part of the Monument can only be visited on a tour and dogs are not allowed. They do have a three dog kennels near the cabin where I signed up for the tour. Sprocket, as you might expect, was sad to be left but he was resigned to his fate. I waited until the last minute to put him there and then hid from him…

I hopped in the Forest Service van to head up to the ruin site (yes, this is a Forest Service National Monument!). We started at the lower site. Our tour guide, Rick was great and did an excellent job of tying the story of Chimney Rock in with Chaco (spoiler: they’re very closely tied!).

Since Rick was also a geologist, he was sure to point out cool geological features like these shrimp burrow fossils:

The hike to the upper part of the ruins was slow going since most of our crew was slightly older than me (as one might expect on a Tuesday!) but I was definitely into the improving views of the South San Juans (including Summit Peak that I summited a couple years ago!).

Finally, we reached the Great House near the top of the mesa. The very impressive rock work is Chacoan in nature and even more fascinatingly, is in signalling distance of a mesa that stands above Chaco.

At the very top, we discussed a proposed (and mercifully failed) proposed hotel project for the top of the mesa. (Thanks Peregrine falcons that nested here!) Our guide gifted us these nifty “I made it to the top” cards that made me laugh.

After the tour, I headed back down to the visitors center and retrieved my only slightly grumpy pup before we headed back down the road.

I’m glad I paid the $12 for the tour. After being in the region for a few years I’m starting to piece together the parts of the Chacoan story and every place I visit helps out a lot. Be sure to support all of our National Monuments these days; they matter. A lot.

TED Talks: TEDx Telluride Live

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Tuesday TEDx simulcast sessions of the TED Conference. TED, “Technology, Education, and Design”, brings together a whole lot of ideas to be shared and discussed. TED talks have become really popular because they have a maximum length of 18 minutes, which means pretty much anything can be an interesting topic. TEDx events let those of us who aren’t able to go to Vancouver join in on the fun.

I was really impressed with the event in Telluride. (I was also very thankful to have a town like Telluride close enough so that I could attend a TEDx event!) There were snacks and refreshments at each break as well as smart attendees ready to talk about the sessions.

The theme of the 2016 TED Conference was “Dream.” (I swear the themes are general enough that they’re all but irrelevant.) The sessions I attended included “Radical Repatterning,” “Imagination. Invention. Ingenuity,””Life Hacks,” and “Deep Memory.”

I’m so glad that I went to the simulcast. I had a lot of fun and got the opportunity to listen to a lot of wonderful ideas: some of the things I’ve heard have already made their way into my classroom (Tim Urban’s Panic Monster is one of them) and others have just percolated in my mind, especially those with which I disagreed.

Feeling inspired about government?

I really really wish Haley Van Dyck’s presentation about the United States Digital Service was available on TED.com. I actually left her presentation inspired about the potential for government to improve and enter the modern era. Van Dyck talked about how USDS is revolutionizing government websites with a small team dedicated to making things work without bloated taskforces that spend billions of dollars without getting things done. She was also amazing, awesome and I immediately walked out of the theater and followed her on Twitter. (In lieu of the awesome talk, check out this Medium Backstory interview with Van Dyck.)

The importance of really caring

Franz Frudenthal’s presentation about the invention of a non-surgical method to treat infants with patent ductus arteriosus, a hole in their heart caused when the blood vessel connecting mother to fetus does not heal properly after birth, was really moving. Frudenthal is from Bolivia, a country where PDA is particularly prevalent (there is a correlation between altitude and PDA and also between infant mortality and poverty). Frudenthal spoke in broken English about the device that he invented to close the hole in the hearts of infants—a device knitted by Bolivian women. It was clear that Frudenthal truly cared about the problem at hand and I totally got emotional listening to him speak.

How does the sharing economy impact me and my community?

In two of thes sessions there were talks that were sort of “paired” to either give two sides of the coin or two approaches to the same problem. The first pair was Joe Gebbia, founder of Airbnb, and Travis Kalanick, found of Uber. Both Uber and Airbnb have been the focus of some interesting discussions surrounding the fairness of the “sharing” economy. Gebbia focused on the importance of creating trust between individuals, especially with something as intimate as a home. I found his thoughts about sharing of space really compelling; especially because I have had several great experiences with Airbnb (sadly, only one was not for the whole house so I haven’t had too many interactions with hosts). The rise of short term rentals has been partially blamed for housing issues in some Colorado mountain towns so it was interesting to really ponder the positives of Airbnb; I’m reticent to rent a private space with it as a matter of social responsibility but it might be really interesting to meet people staying in an extra bedroom. Kalanick’s talk focused on the use of data to streamline transportation of people building from the jitney in 1914 to discussion of UberPool, a service to match riders heading in the same direction. Similarly to Airbnb, I saw UberPool as raising issues for mountain towns (mostly, are we dodging the important discussion of affordable housing that leads to really long commutes) but also as having the possibility of immediate applications—what if there was an easy way for people commuting from Montrose to Telluride to find each other and share driving responsibilities?

Worth every bit of time

I have pages in my notebook scribbled full of ideas and thoughts raised by the talks. Cédric Villani saying that mathematics is responsible for “replacing a beautiful coincidence with a beautiful explanation” spoke volumes about what I love about science and math. Adam Savage discussing costuming, creating, and becoming was lovely and inspired me to think creatively. Brian Little has me pondering, nearly two weeks later, “Am I an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert? Am I being my true self?” I hope to be able to attend TEDx Telluride again next year, it was truly time well spent.


*Airbnb has come under fire for safety concerns and for turning long term rentals into more profitable short term rentals (an issue in my home county here in Colorado). Uber has been criticized for putting risk on the shoulders of drivers instead of absorbing it as a company.

Learn To Hunt: Hunters’ Education

This is the next post in a series about learning to hunt in partnership with Cabela’s. I’ve been fitted with a bow and have been practicing (more on that soon!). Since I really love learning about new things, I was really excited to take hunter’s education. Back in early May I took Hunter’s Ed and had a great experience.

In Colorado, everyone born after December 31, 1948 is required to have a hunter’s education card to purchase a hunting license. I vividly remember my cousins taking hunter’s education one summer while we were camping. Excited about hunting with their dad and other family members (including my dad) they dutifully studied their pamphlet textbook and excitededly hopped in the car to interrupt our camping adventures for that week’s class session. I was sort of jealous that they were getting to learn things over the summer so I studied over their shoulder but really never thought that I would take the class.

When it came time this spring for me to take hunter’s education, I opted to take an in-person class rather than taking it online with just one “field” day. I’m really glad that I chose to do this. For someone who has a family member or hunting mentor, it would probably be easier to just ake the class online but since I’m sort of launching into this venture independently, I figured that I would take all the personal interaction that I can get!

I think I was totally right about this decision. My course was taught at the Montrose Rod and Gun club by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife volunteer, Rick, who was assisted by his wife, Dawn, and a friend, Charles. I felt like I was a little bit out of place rocking a lot of neon Columbia gear in a sea of camo and khaki but I just rolled with it. I was also one of a very small number of adults taking the class (I’m sure most opt to take it online) but the kids were so much fun to be in class with! They were excited about learning everything were so ecstatic about getting to go hunting.

My absolute favorite part of the class was getting to handle the dummy guns. I’m pretty comfortable with a bolt action (thank you single-shot .22 time at the cabin! …man, I miss that gun…) but beyond that I haven’t had much experience. We passed the “guns” around demonstrating proper technique for assuring that the chamber was clear. This meant I had the chance to gain at least some familiarity with lever action, pump action, break action, shotguns, and semi-automatic rifles. I’ve always found it really stressful to shoot a new gun even though I love shooting because it’s a gun. This was a great environment to carefully and deliberately practice appropriate handing. Besides, I’m never going to forget learning that “a safety is a mechanical device that sometimes fails” and always treat a gun as if it’s ready to fire.

Taking the course in person made for a busy week but it was totally worth it. Just like each step in the journey, it got me excited about beginning this new hobby!

This post is part of an ongoing series in partnership with Cabela’s, however I paid for hunters education myself and all opinions are my own.

Learn To Hunt: Bow Fitting

I’m pleased to announce that 3Up Adventures is partnering with Cabela’s as I learn how to hunt! I’ve been wanting to get into archery for awhile now (more on that in a future post) and I’m really excited to get started with such excellent support!

Last week, my new bow, a Cabela’s Instigator by BOWTECH, arrived at my house along with a bunch of awesome accessories, a case, and a couple of targets. It was so hard to be patient all week as I waited to head up to the Grand Junction Cabela’s store to get everything on the bow adjusted and to have my arrows trimmed. Finally, the weekend rolled around and I was walking into the store!

The store manager, Debbie, met me at the front and walked me back to the archery area. She was super friendly and happy to have me in the store. She introduced me to Cody, the archery technician, chatted for a bit and then let Cody and I get down to business. We started by measuring my draw length. Draw length is theoretically a function of your wingspan but as it turned out, I needed a little bit of extra adjustment and we found that a 29″ draw worked well for me.

While making the adjustments to draw length and draw strength, Cody checked to make sure everything was straight and level after shipping. He also installed the stabilizer, a sight, and the wrist strap. At each step, he explained to me how I could make these adjustments on my own if I needed to.

After all the adjustments were done, it was time for me to finally be able to shoot my bow! Cody showed me how to notch the arrow so that the fletchings (the “wings” on the arrow) would pass through the bow cleanly. We made a few adjustments to my draw length, sighted it in, and made sure I was comfortable with shooting.

I don’t have a very relaxed Katniss Everdeen concentration face yet:

Finally, we cut all of my arrows and assembled most of them with field points. Cody explained that he always saves a quiver full of arrows so that he’s always prepared with straight and undamaged ones for hunting.

Thank you so much to both Cody and Debbie at the Grand Junction Cabela’s. I’m so excited to get started with target shooting and hunting preparations. I had only shot a bow a handful of times before so I was a little nervous but the whole process was really painless and a lot of fun. Just shooting that handful of times in the archery range was almost meditative. I can’t wait to take the bow outside and get some more practice in on my own!

The services and products in this post were provided to 3Up Adventures by Cabela’s however all opinions are my own.

Avalanche Safety Course

Saturday, Forrest and I had the opportunity to attend an avalanche safety course at the Smelterville Ranger Station. The course was taught by a couple of rangers who are in charge of going out to measure snow conditions for part of the Idaho Panhandle and Western Montana regional avalanche danger forecast. The free course included a morning classroom session and an afternoon field session. What an awesome public service!

Turns out we practically had a private class. Chris & Katie, new friends of ours who have a vacation house in Mullan, were the only other people there! (Free people, FREE class!) Avalanche danger was high and it was raining and gross making the class the place to be (or so we judged).

We talked about the avalanche triangle and what it means when avalanche danger is “high.” We discussed a few cases where it really boiled down to human judgement error. What really got me was the documentary called “A Dozen More Turns” (it can be watched here); it told the story of a group that did so many things right knowing avalanche danger was high and then pushed the limits just a little bit and caused a major slide. I thought, and I think almost all four of us were thinking, that the one little mistake is something we could all do.

Avalanche triangle
Avalanche triangle

After an awesome Pizza Palace lunch, we headed up to Lookout Pass to learn some practical tests for the snow and to do some practice with the avalanche beacons.

We need a couple of these…

In the end, we both learned a lot. I’m really glad we went; hopefully this will help us be safer in snow adventures in the future.

Be safe…don’t start stuff like this… Yikes.

Adventures in Snowmobiling

I fully admit that I was terrified of the red beast on the trailer. Today, my grace period for getting used to the idea of riding the snowmobile ran out.

After I briefly entertained the idea of refusing to go, ever, I was persuaded to give it a shot. Then I had to eat my words because the whole thing was less than scary right from the start. I managed to make my way up to the top of the hill just fine (although every time I thought I was going fast, I’d look down and the speedometer needle hadn’t even moved Forrest just informed me that my speedometer is broken).

Continue reading “Adventures in Snowmobiling”