Lessons From Wyoming

Or, Four Things I Learned Today


1. How to nest search.

In a nutshell: walk through the wild, look for bird nests. Record on nest card. Simple. (More on this later).


Female yellow warbler on nest, Magee Marsh, Ohio (an excellent place for warblers in the spring). 


2. That I will always want to spend more money than I currently (or will ever) have on books, and that going into a bookstore “just to look” is never a good idea.

I don’t go into bookstores for the same reason I don’t buy Oreos, bags of Pirate’s Booty, containers of ice cream, or jars of Nutella: because I’ll eat it all at once and get sick (or because I’ll spend lots of money and expand my mind and entertain myself quietly and learn something interesting. Which isn’t exactly like eating an entire jar of Nutella in one sitting, but the two activities do tend to be tied together. Reading books, I find, is typically closely tied to consuming Nutella on Maria cookies– try it– and drinking copious amounts of tea, and then holding it as long as possible because I don’t want to stop reading long enough to pee. Perhaps the only good thing about driving across Texas twice with someone who doesn’t like stop was that it trained me to hold it for extended periods of time).

Okay, this one I knew before, but I was wandering around downtown Jackson this evening and found a really neat bookstore, Valley Bookstore, and ended up wandering in and making a short-list of about 30 different books I wanted to come back and buy once I get paid.



3. I also found out that many people are into birds, including Mike, who helped me select a good trail/topo map of the area at Teton Mountaineeringwho also told me I need to go to Bird Club meetings, first Sunday of the month at the Visitor Center parking lot, and the man working at the Thomas Mangelsen gallery, who told me about how the crows that nest in his backyard occasionally leave food bits in his bird bath, including cookies, dead bird nestlings, and the head of a lovebird (probably someone’s pet who got loose and got eaten). His neighbor puts out bread, which attracts the crows to their yards. Last summer he had a cedar waxwing nest in the bush just outside his door, but he didn’t take any pictures because he didn’t want to tip off the crows as to the location of the nest. We chatted a while, if you couldn’t tell.


And when not eating other birds, crows also will eat gummy bears.


4. That I should get a mountain bike.

And that I actually kinda want to use it on a mountain. Biking on inclines isn’t exactly my thing (I grew up biking on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath, where elevation gain is described as “minimal.” I love mountains, but they are primarily for climbing up using either two or four limbs, not two wheels. However, the hills are calling, and I think my leg muscles might be able to answer. Or at least they’re seriously considering it.

I also learned that there is a trail called Putt-Putt that’s easy but “you’ll be feeling it after,” according to the guy at Sports Authority who told me where to go to buy a bike (not Sports Authority, though the bike he recommended will be going on sale soon but I didn’t hear it from him).


Yeah, this one’s not my picture either. It’s from the Bridger-Teton National Forest website

From Trails.com:

“Imagine combining a roller-coaster ride and a bobsled run—the result would be the Putt-Putt loop.”

Um yeah, maybe I’ll stick to the paved multi-purpose trail for a little while…

Boulder, Colorado

Welcome to Boulder, Colorado!

Boulder, Colorado is a mix of all sorts of things, but most of them have to do with being outside. This is a town where one can buy oxygen*, grass (wheatgrass or marijuana), and water at exorbitant prices, but can also be immersed in all three for free in any of the more than 40,000 acres of protected green space in and around the city.

Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Boulder is the image of the Flatirons, rock formations located just west of town. Named by pioneer women who thought they looked like irons (not especially creative, but an apt description), they are conveniently located a few minutes from downtown. The Third Flatiron stands 1,400 feet tall, and was first climbed by Floyd and Earl Millard in 1906, the earliest recorded rock climb in Colorado. Since then it has been climbed thousands of times in a number of fashions, including by two men wearing roller skates, by only the light of the full moon, and naked.

The Flatirons

The Flatirons

Boulderites like to play hard. The city hosts a “robust biking culture,” and many take advantage of the roughly 300 miles of bike lanes and paths, which are used year-round. On an average day, city employees counted 3,574 bikes in the downtown area. About 15% of the city’s annual transportation budget goes towards bike programs, and about 10% of all work commutes are made by bike, almost 20 times the national average.

The first people to live in the Boulder area were Native Americans of the Arapahoe tribe. Then in 1859 came the white men and the Boulder City Town Company, who divvied up the land into parcels and sold them for $1,000 per lot, later lowered to attract more buyers. The Territory of Colorado itself wouldn’t be established for two more years. Prior to 1861 Boulder was part of the Territory of Nebraska, which probably has nothing to do with the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes / University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football rivalry. The University of Colorado has been up and running in Boulder since 1877, and today hosts about 30,000 students.

The University of Colorado Boulder campus

The University of Colorado Boulder campus

Without Pearl Harbor, Boulder might not have grown into the town it is today. During WWII, the US Navy located its Japanese school at UC Boulder, which brought people from all over the country to the area. After the war, many of them came back, increasing the population by about 10,000. The 300 days of sun a year probably had something to do with it. Today, the population is just under 100,000.

According to a mile-high list of publications, Boulder is an ideal place to live if you are: a woman executive, innovative, a biker, happy, a foodie, well-read, an in-shape baby-boomer, educated, brainy, raising an outdoor kid, an artist, someone who works for a technology start-up, part of a LGBT family, or someone who likes trees, among other things. Says one local, “I love Boulder, sure there are a lot of people who are weird as shit (last night I had a 50 something hippy tell me she could teach me yoga while having sex with my girlfriend) but that’s half the fun of living here.”

Frosty Flatirons

Frosty Flatirons


10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Third Flatiron. By Amanda Fox, Climbing Magazine. http://www.climbing.com/climber/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-third-flatiron

The Best Bike Cities in North America: Boulder, Colorado. By Sarah Ripplinger, Outside Magazine. http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/north-america/The-Best-Bike-Cities-in-North-America-Boulder-Colorado.html

The Best Cities to Raise an Outdoor Kid: The Winning 25. By Jason Stevenson, Backpacker Magazine. http://www.backpacker.com/august_09_the_best_cities_to_raise_an_outdoor_kid/articles/13125

Boulder, Colorado: The City Everyone Loves to Love/Hate. By Ryan Krogh, Outside Magazine: http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/best-towns/Boulder-Colorado.html

Boulder, Colorado USA (Boulder Conventions & Visitors Bureau): http://www.bouldercoloradousa.com/

*Boulder’s Tonic Oxygen Bar goes ‘herban.’ By Alicia Wallace, The Daily Camera. http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-business/ci_13248260

City of Boulder, Colorado Homepage: http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/

The Gore-Tex Vortex. By Marc Peruzzi, Outside Magazine.  http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/north-america/united-states/colorado/boulder/The-Gore-Tex-Vortex.html

Mountain Project Boulder page, submitted by John McNamee: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/boulder/105801420

Oxygen bar’s clients are encouraged to inhale. By Barbara Hey, Denver Post. http://extras.denverpost.com/life/oxygenbar0328.htm

Wikipedia: Boulder, Colorado. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulder,_Colorado

Wikipedia: Colorado-Nebraska football rivalry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado%E2%80%93Nebraska_football_rivalry

Picture Attributes: 

Boulder postcard: http://www.yoganonymous.com/

CU Boulder campus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CU_boulder_campus.jpg

Flatirons images courtesy of the author