Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

October 26, 2018

Nebraska Cattle and a Lemonade Stand

Along US 20 in the Nebraska Sandhills
"Pastoralists often have the same distinct qualities of personality regardless of the region of the world in which they live.  Specifically, men in a local group tend to be cooperative with each other and aggressive towards outsiders.  They usually can make important economic decisions quickly and act on them independently.  They have a profound emotional attachment to their animals."

Dennis O'Neill
(study materials for a cultural anthropology class)


Nebraska Sandhills from space, 2001 (Wikipedia).
I was flying from London to Denver, sitting ahead of two young English guys who had bought a ski-holiday package in Breckenridge. I think it was their first trip to the United States. The airplane was gradually descending over the South Dakota and Nebraska, when one of them spoke up: "What's that?"

I had a window seat, so I looked down.

There were the Nebraska Sandhills, looking like multiple loads dropped by a gigantic dump truck. Unlike hills formed by erosion, these are grass-covered sand dunes, formed by particles eroded and wind-carried from the Rocky Mountains when the last Ice Age ended.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) designated the Sandhills as an ecoregion, distinct from other grasslands of the Great Plains. According to their assessment, as much as 85% of the ecoregion is intact natural habitat, the highest level in the Great Plains. This is chiefly due to the lack of crop production: most of the Sandhills land has never been plowed. ("Sandhills (Nebraska).")

As we dropped lower, the two Brits, coming from a land of winding lanes, were equally amazed at Colorado State Highway 71, running ruler-straight for miles north of Brush and I-76.

Nebraska State Highway 2 gives the best east-west trip through the Sandhills, with US 83 the best north-south view.

For variety, this time I took US 20 west from Valentine, which brought up an old memory.

I was driving it the other way, having left southern Colorado early and hoping to make it Valentine in order to interview this staffer at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge office near Valentine before he went home for the day.

Passing through the little town of Rushville, I saw two young children sitting by the curb with a lemonade stand (it was June) in front of a Victorian house.

Wanting to become a better writer-photographer, I saw them as a perfect subject for my personal stock photos files. But there was question of photo releases—could I get one? They were out in public, so I did not really need one, but some editors were fussy.

I kept going. Had to get to Valentine. But then I kicked myself (mentally) and kept kicking myself for the next forty miles;

Forget the perfect neo-Norman Rockwell photograph, what I should have done was stop and buy some lemonade!!

So I made a vow that I have more or less kept since then: when I see a lemonade stand, I stop and buy some, even if it is crappy lemonade made from a powdered mix.

At that time in Rushville, Lenore Skenazy had not yet popularized the term "Free-Range Kids," but buying lemonade is sort of reinforcing Free-Range behavior.

October 22, 2018

Across the Wide Missouri

The bridge across the Missouri River on US 212 near Charger's Camp.
Friday found me driving through western South Dakota's buttes county. There was the famous Bear Butte — state park and ceremonial site —hazy to the south, like one of the Black Hills that had wandered out from the herd. 

Mud Butte (also the site of a famous T-Rex skeleton, but not as complete as Sue's, was close to the highway. There must be stories about it that go way, way back.
"Hey, remember the time when there was that little herd of mammoths on the north side of the butte? Crazy Kid, Many Arrows, and White Dog were going to circle around on the west side, but they bumped into some of those really big wolves that had the same idea. They about shit themselves."

"Oh yeah, those big big wolves. Haven't seen any since I was a kid."

"Me neither. Not so many mammoths either."
"That's all right. I like the taste of bison better anyway."
The story of Charger's Camp. Click to enlarge and read.
The Missouri is wide here, but what you are seeing is Lake Oahe, backed up by a dam down by Pierre, the state capital. One of those big Corps of Engineers projects from the 1960s. Still, the river was big enough for 19th-century steamboats, at least during a window of high water from late spring into late summer.

If we followed the geographer's rule that a river is named from its longest piece, not for a tributary, then the Missouri (2,341 miles/3,767 km) is the main river, while the Mississippi (2,320 miles/3,734) is, by a riverine whisker, the tributary.

Huckleberry Finn and Jim would have rafted the Missouri River. The bluffs at Vicksburg and Natchez would look down on the Missouri. Some people like that Missouri Delta blues sound, while levees keep the Missouri from flooding New Orleans.

Most of all, instead of the Mississippi dividing the 48 states into East and West, the Missouri would divide the continental US on a sort of northwest-southeast line, and I wonder how differently that would make us think about ourselves — how it would line up with cultural patterns.

For instance, "East Dakota" and "West Dakota." West Dakota would have been scenic but economically struggling until the Bakken oil came in.

October 18, 2018

Heading onto the Prairie

Northbound, breaking free of the Colorado Front Range corridor
I don't drive Interstate 25 north of Denver very often, but when I do, it reminds me more and more of Interstate 95 in New Jersey. Like how many shopping malls can there be? Or how about RV dealerships the size of Army posts?

There comes a time, though, when you leave all that behind. It's like Fort Collins just sucks three-fourths of the vehicles off the road.

I stopped briefly at the Sierra Trading Post mother ship in Cheyenne for a cappuccino and to browse the discounted hiking pants. Lots of great deals for short, tubby guys there! Bought some socks.
Somewhere south of Newcastle, Wyoming
I continued north on US 85 along the western edge of the Black Hills, Inyan Kara mountain, and so on. One of my favorite drives.

Tomorrow, some serious prairie melancholy.

October 10, 2018

Blog Stew in a Lost Landscape

Craig Childs' Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America won a special jury award at the Banff Mountain Book Festival.  This is a book that I have read once, loaned out to a friend, and may be reading again this winter. Click the festival link for more on travel, fiction, mountaineering, etc.

•  KOAA Channel 5 profiles the only wildlife rehabilitator in the Colorado Springs area who handles fawns, Linda Cope of Wild Forever Foundation.

Loved to death: You now need a permit for photography at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. Wedding photographers hardest hit.

Related to that: You have learned to "leave no trace" when camping, etc. Now there is a digital version of Leave No Trace.  It's like not writing about the pool where you caught the big trout.
People want to learn how to get outdoors and most want a blueprint for the easiest way to do this. But that’s the thing: there is no direct route. And now, Leave No Trace is confirming what many have been noticing for awhile: social media is causing significant impact on our wild spaces.

July 20, 2018

I Skipped National Grasslands Week — for a Reason


You probably missed this because you were watching migrating birds or something, but National Grasslands Week was June 18th-24th.

Or maybe you skipped it because the Comanche and Cimarron national grasslands are interesting country but it's just too damn hot there in June for recreation. Especially this year. (There are other national grasslands as well.)

I went to the Purgatory River dinosaur trackway that week in 2015, and while it was a good experience, I would much rather have gone in December. I have hunted in shirtsleeves on New Year's Day in southeastern Colorado.

January is also good, absent any blizzards. Or February. I used to take the nature-writing students out to Vogel Canyon (in the upper-left light-blue area on the map below) in early February.

It's a good entry point for the grasslands experience — all that aridity and melancholy and mysterious rock art.

It must have been someone sitting in an air-conditioned office who put National Grasslands Week in June. The bureaucratic mind at play.

June 09, 2017

It's Time to Fire Up the Coleman Lantern

Last weekend at Sylvan Lake State Park, the solar lantern just was not bright enough for both M's and my reading, so I fired up the single-mantle Coleman lantern to illuminate the trailer.

Coast to coast, this lantern has illuminated many campsites. It heated my old van on waterfowling trips in the San Luis Valley as the temperature plunged well below freezing.

As best I recall, it came from the garage of an old smelter worker's cottage on Cañon City's unfashionable south side, after a co-worker rented it.

(I lived next door. Those were not shining times.)

With new washers in the pump and a new globe, it was back in operation.

The special pungency of Coleman's blended white gas, poured through the distinctive filter funnel — bright red, so you don't leave it sitting on the picnic table, as I almost did last Sunday.

You spin the cleaning lever, pump it, light it, pump some more, open the gas — OK, I admit it sounds like starting a Model T Ford or something like that.

Apparently an ad for the British market.
I never heard of the "Empire" model.
Maybe it's that early-20th-century technology. But it works — and you don't send empty gas canisters to the landfill or let them pile up at Base Camp for someone else to deal with.
Some people say Aladdin lanterns are quieter and better, but growing up in Colorado and South Dakota, I never saw one.

Back in the 1980s when I occasionally served as a camp hand for a local outfitter in return for free outdoor adventure, I heard this story from one of the clients.

He had been looking for a little store that existed or was supposed to exist near Red Wing in Huerfano County because we were low on Coleman mantles, the original kind that you tie on with cold-numbed fingers.
 
As the client stood by his truck, he recalled, this ranchman rode up on horseback. When he learned what the problem was, the horseman pulled out his billfold, opened it, and extracted a mantle, which he handed down, saying, "Some fellows carry condoms, but up here, these are more valuable."

Or maybe he said "carry rubbers." Anyhow, if it's not true, it should be.

April 13, 2017

America's Best Outdoor Recreation Value Will Cost a Little More

Trail signs, Colorado National Monument.

America's best recreational value.
Maybe someone realized that ten dollars for a lifetime senior national parks pass was just too good a deal in 2017. At any rate, the cost is going up — to $80.

If you are 62 or older, however, there is still a window to buy the pass at the old cheap price:
But if you get a lifetime pass before the change is implemented, it will cost only $10. Passes can be purchased online for an additional service fee of $10 or at any of the parks without an extra charge.

National Park Service officials are unsure how long it will take to implement the change, but it’s expected before the end of 2017. Meantime, they are spreading the word informally.
It's one good deal. Just show that pass to the ranger at the gate, and a whole carload of people get in. Some groups have been known to rearrange themselves so that the pass holder is driving, but I don't know if that is really necessary.

Even at $80, the pass would pay for itself if you made three national parks visits in a year.

IN OTHER PARK SERVICE NEWS:  President Trump donated his first-quarter 2017 salary to the National Parks Service, according to The Hill, a website focused on political news. That sum of 78,333.32 is, what, about equivalent to the annual salary of national monument supervisor? What do they make, anyway?

It's a nice gesture — and an under-reported one — but the park system needs a lot more money than that, mostly for non-spectacular stuff like repairing water systems, upgrading employee housing, fixing roads, etc.

March 20, 2017

Let the Women Carry the Loads

Women carrying cassava root (?) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Some time ago, I blogged a fascinating tale of South American exploration, The Lost City of Z. Oh, to enjoy the bounty of "rain, unceasing rain" again, as it fell six springs past!

More recently, I returned again to that book, following trails out from it, as in reading advice on wild-country travel by Francis Galton (1822–1911), a long-time member and officer of Britain's Royal Geographical Society. Its author, David Grann, writes,
During the Society's early years, no member personified the organization's eccentricities or audacious mission more than Sir Francis Galton. A cousin of Charles Darwin's, he had been a child prodigy who, by the age of four, could read and recite Latin. He went on to concoct myriad inventions. They included a ventilating top hat; a machine called a Gumption-Reviver, which periodically wet his head to keep him awake during endless study; underwater goggles; and a rotating-vane steam engine. Suffering from periodic nervous breakdowns––"sprained brain," as he called it––he had a compulsion to measure and count virtually everything. He quantified the sensitivity of animal hearing, using a walking stick that could make an inconspicuous whistle; the efficacy of prayer; the average age of death in each profession (lawyers: 66.51; doctors: 67.04); the exact amount of rope needed to break a criminal's neck while avoiding decapitation; and levels of boredom (at meetings of the Royal Geographical Society he would count the rate of fidgets among each member of the audience).
Galton attempted to quantify everything about exploration, from daily dietary needs to the maximum feasible load for a donkey, mule, horse, or camel on different types of terrain.

You may sample his calculations in his book The Art of Travel; Or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries, available as a free download from the inestimable Project Gutenberg.

He also rated women highly as "native bearers" for several reasons, quoting the explorer Samuel Hearne on the matter:
As the [Chipawyan?] chief said . . . "When all the men are heavy laden, they can neither hunt nor travel to any considerable distance; and if they meet with any success in hunting, who is to carry the produce of the labour?" . . . "Women," said he, "were made for labour: one of them can carry or haul as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night; and in fact there is no such thing as travelling any considerable distance, or for any length of time, in this country [northern Canada] without their assistance."
"Women," said he again, "though they do everything are maintained at a trifling expense: for, as they always cook, the very licking of their fingers, in scarce times, is sufficient for their subsistence."
That was Galton quoting Hearne, I believe, but the original speaker may have been a man named Matonabbee, who has his own Wikipedia entry. In his own voice, Mr Galton comments further, videlicet:
I believe there are few greater popular errors than the idea we have mainly derived from chivalrous times, that woman is a weakly creature . . . . It always seems to me that a hard-worked woman is better and happier for her work. It is in the nature of women to be fond of carrying weights; you may see them in omnibuses and carriages, always preferring to hold their baskets or their babies on their knees, to setting them down on the seats by their sides.
So, gentlemen, if you go afield backpacking with a member of the female sex, let her carry the tent.

March 11, 2016

Don't Panic!, Mountain Biking Mecca, and Other Shorts


Outdoor Survival - Chapter 4 - Controlling Panic from Colorado Parks & Wildlife on Vimeo.

•  People outside of Fremont County, Colo., are learning that there is great mountain biking, almost year-around, on the Bureau of Land Management land north of town. Rock climbers already knew that.

• Talks are underway about extending the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument from New Mexico into southern Colorado. (Article may be partly paywalled.) 

Site of the Rough Riders reunion
• The Southwest is dotted with former Harvey House hotels and restaurants. Fred Harvey's enterprizes crosscut much late 19th and early 20th-century history:
From the manhunt for the escaped “Billy the Kid” in 1881 (a local celebrity in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Fred had two restaurants and two hotels, which Billy sometimes patronized), to the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1889 (which left from the Arkansas City, Kansas Harvey House and Santa Fe depot), to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (for which Fred helped cater the biggest lunch in American history for the opening ceremonies and parade).
There’s also the Rough Riders reunion in 1899 (held at the new Fred Harvey resort hotel, La Castañeda, in Las Vegas), and the development of the Grand Canyon as an international tourist attraction (Fred’s son Ford ran all the hotels at the canyon, and was a major player in the development of the national park system).

March 09, 2016

What Does and Does Not Happen on NOLS Planet


WMI instructor Amy Shambarger demonstrates creating a quick compression splint.

Last weekend was devoted to the two-day wilderness first aid class, taught by instructors from the Wilderness Medicine Institute, (WMI)  part of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, Wyoming.

It is an excellent course — the instructors are strong — and to quote the website, it is for "the needs of trip leaders, camp staff, outdoor enthusiasts and individuals working in remote locations."

I have taken it twice now, with two different sets of instructors, to keep on the two-year recertification for the fire department, thinking mainly in terms of accidents during wildland firefighting — I am not an EMT and don't want to be.

But there are some curious omissions and asumptions. I suspect that they derive from the NOLS model of a trip with designated leaders that goes into a designated park or wilderness area in North America.

It is assumed that Search & Rescue and/or a medical-evacuation helicoper will come. Of course, you can now be choppered off Mount Everest, for a fee.

One odd omission was our friend the rattlesnake. (I could have guest-lectured.) I do see that the advanced version of the course (five days instead of two) includes "bites, stings, and poisonings."

Likewise, does the five-day course include gunshot wounds? I know, I should have asked. But I was busy sorting gear. ;)  I am not thinking combat-medic stuff here so much as the unfortunate accidental discharge.

I suspect, however, that guns do not exist on NOLS Planet, but "individuals . . . in remote locations" maybe ought to know. Here again, some people are teaching "shooter self-care" classes, but not in my area, unfortunately. There's an opportunity for someone.

(If you think there was a golden age of safe gun-handling, read some of the accounts of mid-19th century wagon trains, for example.)

February 01, 2016

Where's That Snow Plow?

Screen shot of the area around Florence this morning.
Apparently, The Kid is paying us a visit, having dropped six inches (15 cm, 1/3 cubit) overnight with more expected today.

Out walking the dog, I could hear the rattle of a snow plow on the state highway. But I could have stayed indoors and played with the computer, where a new system lets you track Colorado state snow plows online.
The Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL), will allow the public to go online to see which areas have already been plowed in a snowstorm. 
With that information, users can see which roads are the best for driving. People will also be able to check a plow's current location and see the direction they're traveling.

Plows that haven't moved for more than 16 minutes will not be visible. CDOT says 860 of 970 plows will be outfitted with the AVL system.
Track the plows here, or go to the highway-information home page for links to webcams and other information.

September 11, 2015

A Fistful of Euros


Blogging will be light, erratic, or off-topic for the next couple of weeks. M. and I are going on a trip. Maybe we need a theme song:

It was the movie that made Clint Eastwood famous, incidentally.

March 08, 2014

Blog Stew on the Scenic Railroad

After the June 2013 fire, the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is reopening for limited hours. Meanwhile, the scenic train that goes from Cañon City up the gorge and back is upgrading and hoping to get its tourist riders back.
[Owner Mark] Greksa believes his yearly passenger counts will increase as he continues to add amenities. Last year, he let passengers pay to ride in the locomotive next to the engineer. He also eliminated the train's "concession car," which offered only vended foods to coach customers, and created a dining car where they can order hot food, and a "bar car" with bistro-styled tables. Food offerings include beef and buffalo items, organic chicken and a crafted pale ale, Royal Gorge Route Rogue, Greksa said. In the summer, the train will offer dishes made from rattlesnake, antelope and ostrich.
Managers at the national wildlife refuges in the San Luis Valley are wondering if groundwater pumping rules will affect the areas flooded for sandhill crane habitat.GQ

GQ magazine runs another art-of-manliness story on being introduced to deer and elk hunting in Montana. Actually, it's not bad; it has a Chesapeake Bay retriever in it. (Hat tip: Suburban Bushwacker)

Most water from the Fraser River in Middle Park gets sent under the Continental Divide and into Denver's water system. Trout Unlimited, however, has worked out a new deal to protect flows for fisheries by regulating when the water is removed and how much.
The deal announced Tuesday could make the Fraser the most-watched river in Colorado – and maybe in the West. It sets out an innovative, science-based plan that seeks to balance increasing urban needs for water with an imperative to restore crucial habitat for river trout.
Me, I see the Fraser only when looking out the window of Amtrak's California Zephyr and thinking, "That looks really fishable in there." Maybe I should do something about that.

November 25, 2013

I've Had Enough . . .

 . . . of the city, in this case Baltimore, and would rather be at home, where winter has arrived and the county road-and-bridge department is saying "Don't drive if you don't have to."

But I will not be there until Thursday, after three forecast sunny days. Then regular blogging can resume.

Meanwhile, Chicago is next.

September 21, 2013

Dungeness Days

At the Juan de Fuca Cottages, Sequim, Washington
Back to the travelogue . . .

We left Port Townsend last week  and drove on west to Sequim ("skwim"). While at my sister's home, I had started researching motels in Sequim and nearby Port Angeles, but M. said she wanted to find a classic vacation cottage by the sea.

Luck was with us: the Juan de Fuca Cottages in Sequim had a vacancy, and they were exactly as she envisioned — old enough to be "vintage" but clean and well-maintained — and just steps from the water.

The dark line on the horizon is Dungeness Spit. Closer, it looks like this:
Dungeness Spit
The spit is part of a national wildlife refuge, and there is a county park adjacent for camping. If you were to walk 5.5 miles along the beach, you would come to a lighthouse.

Sandy bluffs inland from the spit
This eroded bluff is what creates the spit. As sand erodes from its face, wind and tidal action move the sand along the spit's outer edge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, depositing grains as they go.

Beach shelter on Dungeness Spit
After a day in the Hurricane Ridge area (more to come), we moved on west and got serious cottage envy at Lake Crescent, also in Olympic National Park.
The Singer Tavern Cottages at Crescent Lake. There are others.
If you want to visit Olympic Park in the laid-back manner, you can rent various cottages at the old resort of Lake Crescent.
Lake Crescent Lodge
The lodge is the original Singer's (or Singer) Lake Crescent Tavern from 1916, a hotel really, back when guests arrived by ferry.

We can dream.

September 18, 2013

Port Townsend Then, Then, and Now

Late 19th-century buildings on Water Street
I first saw Port Townsend, Washington, in the mid-1970s after my dad and stepmom built a house on nearby Whidbey Island. From my Colorado frame of reference, its air of "boom days past" made me think of (pre-casino) Cripple Creek with a waterfront.

Just as bustling Cripple Creek in its 1890s heyday was served by several railroads and a streetcar system, Port Townsend's boosters saw it destined to be Puget Sound's major port.

On Port Townsend's waterfront
A thriving lumber port, its Downtown area — the waterfront — was devoted to commercial shipping and to the business of separating sailors from their money as efficiently as possible. Respectable people lived on a higher level, literally, in the Uptown area.

But the railroad never arrived, and Port Townsend stagnated, although the arrival of the Coast Artillery Corps at Ford Worden made a difference. From 1902 through World War Two, batteries at Fort Worden, Marrowstone Island, and Whidbey Island ensured that any foreign battle fleet entering Puget Sound would be triangulated by multiple guns.

On successive family visits, we would always take the ferry to Port Townsend, gawk at the Victorian buildings awaiting the restorationist's paint brush, check out the maritime restoration projects ongoing among the wooden-boat cultists, and eat some seafood.

The folks moved back to Colorado in 1990 and, in essence, gave us a vacation by flying us out to bring back Dad's Jeep, which we drove home via the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and San Francisco. But first we loaded it on the Keystone ferry to Port Townsend, ate a bowl of cioppino (me), and paid Downtown one last visit.

Where poetry is cute.
Now it is twenty-three years later. All those Victorian buildings are restored and full of restaurants and "shoppes." There is even a writers' "workshoppe."

I saw fewer wooden hulls and more expensive motor yachts. The town is now billed as an "arts community," whatever that means, and it attracts prosperous retirees—I can't blame them.

Fort Warden is —has been for a long time — a state park with beaches and trails, a conference center, and you can even rent a house on Officers Row for your vacation stay.

In a  town where "shangai" was once a verb, now it is the name of a restaurant at the marina.

September 14, 2013

Business Opportunity for Hermit Hotelier

Have you ever wanted to open a hotel or retreat center or something like that in the Back of Beyond? Here is your opportunity, which I saw as the California Zephyr whizzed through the thriving metropolis of Thompson Springs last week.

Unfortunately, the train doesn't stop there anymore.

August 16, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (3) Pagosa Springs & Assorted Mushroom Thoughts

Boletus edulis in the Wet Mountains
Saturday the 10th was our last full day of the camping trip. I put away the fly rods and picked more mushrooms (and wild strawberries) on Cumbres Pass, then drove on west through Chama, N.M, to Pagosa Springs.

I had planned to be in Pagosa the previous weekend for a state-sponsored fire class, but it was cancelled, so this was sort of a consolation visit.

In Pagosa, the weather was warm, and the San Juan River was running high and brown. Tubing outfitters were busy shuttling their customers to the east side of town so that they could ride down past the city park and the mineral springs, where the terraces were crowded with bathers.

In the midst of this "rubber hatch," I saw one guy casting a spinning rod. I thought of congratulating him for upholding the archetype of the always-optimistic fisherman, but he gave up and walked away.

We visited a couple of thrift stores—nothing exciting—where does all the outdoor gear go?—and then had a late lunch/early supper at the Riff-Raff brew pub ("Hoppy people. Hoppy earth").

I reckoned that my cabrito burger with Hatch green chiles was sort of quasi-locavore-ish.

It rained steadily most of the way back to the campground.

The next morning I observed a mulie doe moving strangely through the woods. She had her nose down like a dog following a scent trail.

Was she eating mushrooms? I had picked a few in that area, mostly Suillis  ("slippery jacks"). I tried to follow, but I could not get too close without spooking her, and there were a lot of spruce boughs in the way.

I did see some Suillis that had been scraped by what looked like a deer's lower incisors (Deer don't have upper incisors.) Were there fewer mushrooms than before? Not sure.

Two days later, having done well on a mushroom hunt closer to home, M. and I were easing down a rough forest road in the Jeep when we saw a squirrel wrestling — or something — in the road. It turned out to be trying to carry the stem of a Boletus edulis ("king bolete"), which was nearly as big as it was.

Yesterday M. was walking Fisher on lead down the driveway when he dashed into the oak brush, dragging her along. He had scented another bolete, one unfortunately past its prime. It was probably another Boletus chrysenteron, which grows under oaks, like the one he snarfed off the kitchen counter a few days ago.

Does this mean that he might have a talent for finding good mushrooms? If the French have truffle-sniffing dogs, could we have a Southern Rockies bolete-sniffing dog? Further research is required.

August 12, 2013

The So-Called Romance of Steam

Cumbres & Toltec train on Cumbres Pass. The white cloud is steam from the whistle.
I like trains and take Amtrak rather than an airplane whenever possible, but I do not partake of the "romance of steam."

Ride one of these steam-powered trains, and you quickly understand why nineteenth-century people wore a lot of black. Once they put glass in the car windows, people then had a choice between no ventilation and breathing sooty smoke while wearing cinders too.

But maybe the fascination with steam comes from its being almost as understandable as animals.

Combine fire and water and you have steam, and then it works those big external pistons, and chuff chuff chuff, the locomotive goes down the track.

M. and I were driving up Colorado 17 on Saturday, and despite the two hours of rain at our nearby campsite the night before, she suddenly stiffened: "Is that a fire?"

No, it was the excursion train puffing away as it sat on the pass, one of the stops on its scenic interstate route.

To recreate nineteenth-century industry even better, find yourself in downtown Durango on a wintry day with a thermal inversion as that steam train leaves the station, filling street after street with coal smoke. Then multiply times fifty.

September 09, 2012

On the Road: Glenwood Springs, 2

   
Footbridge at right crosses Colorado River, I-70.
Another historic hotel in Glenwood Springs is the Hotel Denver, which as the advantage of being right across the street from the Amtrak station. And next door to the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, which pairs good microbrews that is, well, hearty.

I like the compactness of central Glenwood. It looks like you could hike right out of down — or soak at the hot springs, catch the train,  dodge bears while geocaching (a frequent occurrence according to one cache log), or just dream that you were having a whiskey with Teddy Roosevelt.