Alta Lakes Road

Thanks to a combination of exhaustion, minor injury, and EMT class, I wound up staying home for most of Spring Break. Fortunately for me, my break overlapped with Instagram friend Katie’s break. Katie and I have known each other on Instagram for a long time (in fact, I can’t remember exactly what permutation of events actually lead to us connecting) but we’ve never met on person. That didn’t stop Katie from reaching out and seeing if we could hang out for a few days.

We were short a pair of snowshoes and I have an old dog in tow who hasn’t had much exercise lately so after some early spring trail brainstorming, I decided we should go up to Alta Lakes road near Telluride. Katie had never been to Telluride and because the road is used for snowmobiles I figured that it would make for easy walking (it did).

As is usual when you’re hiking south of Telluride, the mountains in front of you are gorgeous but then you turn around and see the Wilsons. (I don’t know, that turn around suprise just gets me every time.)

The lakes were buried under snow so I think the highlight was checking out the ghost town of Alta. (Alta was the first industrial site to receive AC power!) We didn’t end up checking out much of town because the post holing off of the main snowmobile track was real—I tried to get off the road a little bit for a better photo and ended up buried to my hips…

After the hike, we headed into Telluride and had lunch at the Phoenix Bean. Sprocks was exhausted but he gamely walked to the restaurant with us and slept under the table dreaming of cheese falling from our plates. (Katie made sure his dream came true.) Back in Ridgway we chilled out and watched the light change as the sunset before getting to bed early. (I got lots of sleep over break.)

Telluride Historical Museum

I have a weird relationship with museums. Sometimes there are things there that are cool enough to justify going but usually I just find them expensive and wish I’d applied my entry ticket to buying a book that would have given me deeper information than I got on the informational posters in the museum. That being said, since 2017 is going to be busy with non-travel stuff, I’ve decided that I should at least visit the Telluride Historical Museum, the Ouray County Museum, the Ute Indian Museum, and probably the Ouray County Ranch History Museum.

Luckily, for the cheapskate in me, the Telluride museum is free to locals on Thursdays! It was really important to me to make it there this winter because they had a special exhibit called “Treasure Maps: Cartography of the American Southwest.” Since I love maps and history it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Not to bury the lede: I loved it. The maps were arranged in chronological order and I poured over them seeing the deepening understanding of the Southwest’s geography. Some of the maps were particularly amazing, the Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco map of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition was probably my favorite. I’m not sure how old each of the map prints were at the exhibition but I loved the whole thing.

The other exciting piece of the museum was seeing the Telluride Blanket, an intact Anasazi blanket dating from 1041-1272. The only known intact Anasazi blanket in the world, the blanket was in gorgeous condition. (For lots more information on the blanket, check out this PDF from the museum.)

I really enjoyed the Telluride Historical Museum. I saw some awesome historic local photos that I hadn’t seen before. The museum was easy to navigate, it was fresh and modern. The museum is only $5 (and for locals, it’s free on Thursdays!). It’s definitely worth a visit.

On The Page: Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle

I finally go smart this summer and made a box specifically of “books I haven’t read” since I’m on a strict “you can’t buy any more books until you finish the ones you already have” budget. One of those books was Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle by P. David Smith. I bought this book back in 2013 when I first moved to Ridgway and it just never seemed to be accessible when I needed a book. I definitely missed out due to my procrastination!

Smith’s history of the San Juan Triangle, the area roughly bounded by Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton, is an excellent crash course in the history of settlement and mining in the region. The first chapters of the book describe the histories of the main towns in the region: Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, and Telluride. (My beloved Ridgway sits just outside the triangle and has some definite ranching vs mining roots.) Just a few pages into the history, as Smith described how miners started to drift into the San Juans while they were still officially Ute lands, I realized I know nothing really about this area. Since the book is written partially as history and partially as a travel guide there was some emphasis on the locations (past and present) of key buildings but I really enjoyed that since I could picture each of the towns.

After the histories of individual towns, there is a series of chapters that give a fairly exhaustive explanation of mines and ghost towns that existed along Jeep routes in the area. I can picture many of the places he mentions but I’m just itching to get back out and check out the rest of them! In addition to covering the “classic” routes (Imogene, Black Bear, Cinnamon, Engineer, etc.) Smith talks about spur roads and lesser known routes as well.

Beaumont Hotel Ouray,CO

As I mentioned, the book is written as a guide to travel so sometimes the narration is a bit clunky. Dividing the history up into specific locations is helpful when you’re driving or visiting one of the towns but sometimes that also makes for a bit of repetitiveness to the history. That being said, however, if you like history and context for your exploring and you plan on visiting the San Juans (or if you need some inspiration to come check out my gorgeous mountains), Exploring The San Juan Triangle is an excellent place to start diving in!

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 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.

Telluride with Kristin

Kristin and I need to be better at taking Selfies apparently because this whole post looks like it’s all about SP and me. Luckily, she was kind enough to share some photos of our awesome day in Telluride here on the blog. We headed to Telluride via Last Dollar Road to enjoy the last of the fall colors, walked around downtown Telluride, gorged ourselves at Brown Dog Pizza, and rode the gondola to Mountain Village for a little extra scenery.

Colorado 14er: Wilson Peak

For my birthday weekend peak I decided to take on Wilson Peak (14,017′) the third of the 14ers in the San Miguel range. In addition to being a 14er, Wilson Peak is the San Miguel county high point.

I got a bit of a late start on Saturday but fall promised a high likelihood of a thunderstorm free day so I hit the trail from the Rock of the Ages TH at 9am enjoying the last of the morning chill.

Wilson Peak from Rock of Ages Trail:

Lower Silver Pick Basin:

Selfie time!

Upper Silver Pick Basin:

Approaching Rock of Ages Saddle:

From left to right, Gladstone Peak, Mt. Wilson, and El Diente.

Wilson Peak summit:

This short snowy section turned several parties in front of me around. I found that when I took it slow and careful it was pretty much a piece of cake. The snow wasn’t slicked out by the big guided group in front of me; instead, they’d made really nice flat foot spots to pair with pretty sold hand holds the whole way across.

Final scramble towards the top:

Summit of Wilson Peak!

Looking down on Silver Pick Basin and the trail:

Hello Lizard Head, some day I will climb well enough to summit you…

It felt so good to be out on such a beautiful fall day! The day seemed so leisurely since I wasn’t getting chased out of the high country by lightning—fall hiking in the San Juans might just be the best!

Mileage: About 10mi RT
Elevation Gain: About 4000′
Time: 5.5 hours

Mom Visits Colorado!

Last week, my mom came to Colorado for a visit. It was awesome to show her around the San Juans and Western Colorado. We spent some time in Ouray marveling at the scenery and catching up:

We even spotted some bighorn sheep along Highway 550 between Ridgway and Ouray:

Then we took Sprocket to Telluride for the day. You’d have thought he rode the gondola all the time!

Then we headed up to Grand Junction and visited Colorado National Monument. The day was a bit grey bit doing the Rim Rock Drive was fun anyway!

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