Five stay warm tips

  • Car rides with the windows down
  • Tall, ice-filled drinks
  • Swims with your horse

The pleasures of summer seem far, far away.

IMG_2844At my place, pasture walks are slow, laborious efforts of postholing, walking in snow that goes to my thighs and fills my boots. I’d like to say “I Love Winter,” but, truth be told, I’m not a huge fan. It does have merit, though:

Animals tracks tell stories we’d otherwise never read.

Hot pie and cocoa taste better.

It makes me really appreciate the other three seasons.

This year, Father Winter seems to have moved on from last year’s hobby of tormenting New England. (Read more here) Since November, he’s been schooling the Rockies with major snow dumpage. Ski slopes around here have had over 200 inches of snow (two hundred!). Parking lots consistently have two-inch layers of ice. Coyotes, deer and even bunnies are gravitating towards plowed roads and shoveled paths instead of suffering the aforementioned postholing.

dogs and meFor many of us, staying warm is the make-or-break element that determines whether these months are ones of enjoyment or drudgery.

Here are some toasty tips:

Layer up: long underwear tops and bottoms, hats and hoods, thermal insoles in your boots. Wool is a great layer and thanks to Ramblers Way can be worn right next to skin.

Turn on the heat: hand warmers, heated insoles and gloves, even hot beverages help out when and where layers cannot.

Eat well: substitute a protein bar for that donut and skim the sugar and syrup in your coffee. Your body will thank you.

Stay active: embrace shoveling as an aerobic activity and avoid the temptation to hibernate. Higher metabolism = more blood pumping (and that’s a good thing!)

Bath time: You’ll find a good soak will stay with you for hours, heating core to toes. It’s leverage that for a warmer morning or bedtime.

A coyote travels down road

A coyote travels down road

Little cheats: heat clothes in dryer or near a space heater, splurge on an electric blanket to take the chill of your bed before turning in, pick To Go mugs that aren’t so insulated. They can’t double as handwarmers.

At lastly…

Hug a horse. When the wind is howling and the temperature is heading downward like a kid on a playground slide, this method may be the most satisfying one for taking off the chill. Watch our happy video.

Tempest Williams wows OR crowd

The Outdoor Retailer is all about the selly-selly-sell. Thousands of outdoor gear exhibitors tout their latest socks, stoves,

image_previewskis, shoes, snowshoes, and shovels in the effort to wow thousands of buyers (or not). Increasingly, however, it’s also about organizing and affirming the outdoor industry’s growing political clout in order to tackle some serious and pressing issues of our generation: preservation of open space and public access to wilderness.

That’s why hundreds of OR exhibitors and attendees packed the 7am breakfast to hear Terry Tempest Williams give the Outdoor Industry Association’s keynote address.

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Last year, former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, urged the OR audience to coalesce in the fight against the development, extraction industries, and the Bundy element. This year, Tempest Williams sent out a similar message, but with more passion, fewer stats, and a different (but equally troublesome) Bundy.

Tempest Williams traveled extensively to research her upcoming book, “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks” (savvily timed with this year’s centennial celebration of the park system). The book promises to be “a meditation and manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America,” says one press release.

At the podium last week, the author of “Refuge” and “When Women Were Birds” presented a map (complete with hashtags, search terms, and theme music) and emotional call for outdoor activism. Some highlights from her 50-minute talk:

  • The outdoor industry needs to return to its roots. We all need to return to our roots, as human beings who care about place. In a word: wildness. In two words: protecting wildness. With three words: protecting public lands.
  • It is not enough to see these lands of portals of recreation and retail, commodities and commerce, but the open door to awe and wonder and acts of imagination that create hope for humanity, not just the isolation and promotion of the individual.
  • Remember not only what it means to be human but that we are one species among many.
Banner at the OR industry breakfast

Banner at the OR industry breakfast

Tempest Williams mentioned her recent visit to Paris, during the climate talks. She was particularly impressed by young demonstrators, who insisted they be heard, despite crackdowns by police after the city’s terrorist attacks. She marched with them.

“They said, ‘we’re in another state of emergency and in another state of terror and it’s called climate.’

…The young people were outraged. They marched. There were tens of thousands of them. They had huge red banners that said, ‘Keep it in the ground’ and ‘This is up to us.’”

Near the Eiffel Tower , she asked one of the demonstrators why he was there. He was a wildfire fighter from Fairbanks, Alaska, who witnessed six millions acres burn last summer. “I had to do something,” he told her.

“I returned home to Utah and I said, ‘what can I do?’…We can shut down these oil and gas leases on public lands. That’s what I’m going to do.”

She stepped down from the podium to a standing ovation.

Hashtag: keepitintheground

Music: Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Season.

SEO term: E.O. Wilson, half, earth (which discusses the author’s posit that half of the earth must be set aside as wilderness in order to have a sustainable, viable future for all living things. It also references the tentative title of Wilson’s upcoming book: Half Earth: The Struggle to Save the Rest of Life.)

Bits of Winter Wonder




Winter has come and I’m determined not to bring bad juju (ie, snarkiness) to the season. As in: “Brrr, I don’t want to do _______ (fill in outdoor activity) because it’s too dang cold.” or “I’m just going to sit around the space heater and not do ______ (fill in outdoor activity) because it’s dark already.”

The inspiration of the week actually came amidst and because of the cold and dark. We were headed to the airport at 430 am and a few inches of fresh snow covered our gravel road, Road 46. We saw two sets of coyote tracks that ran the course of the road for more than a mile. They braided each other, sometimes became one, then deviated separately. At a few points, it looked like they played or rolled, maybe stopped to scratch an itch, or sat for a spell. The tracks were so fresh.IMG_2305

On the return leg from the airport, still in the dark, I got to view and contemplate their meandering paw prints once more. The snow was so crisp and dry it seemed illuminated by the moonlight and by the truck lights. Driving through it felt a bit like night swimming through phosphorescence (something I did as a kid in Maine).

Winter does seem to be the quietest season. While animal tracks are, obviously, more obvious, other evidence seems to diminish and become subtler. Smaller birds are quieter and seem to stick to the underbrush more. Others have migrated, of course.

A Golden Eagle, spotted earlier this year in the canyon

A Golden Eagle, spotted earlier this year in the canyon

Once again, I had the fortune of spotting a Golden Eagle in the area. There is nothing subtle about its appearance and nothing quiet about the neighborhood protest it raises from ravens and hawks. I watched as two hawks from clear over the other side of the canyon made a B line for the soaring giant. They positioned themselves above it and dove down a few times, like flies on a horse’s butt. It’s funny to think of red tailed hawks as big birds and then to see them as just lil’ fellas up against a Golden.

Not many birds have discovered or trust the porch bird feeder I installed. A lone junco, though, likes to just sit and eat. It practically tucks itself into the nook of the feeder, surrounded by seeds, while looking out and staying safe.

Mancos continues to interest and impress:

P & D’s is the local grocery store. I go there often for a quick slice of pizza to break up my workday at the library. I work there because I have no Internet at the house and because it’s a cool library with cool folks. Over Thanksgiving week, I discovered that P & D’s throws a big Thanksgiving Day meal for the community. For free. It’s not a feed-the-hungry type deal so much as a just a really lovely community tradition. As many as 500 people show up, I heard.

IMG_0111How cool is that?

My son and I checked out a new local gym, called the Grand Gym (it’s on Grand Avenue). They have lots of different yoga classes as well as circuit training (weight lifting and such). We did a circuit class led by a college football player turned circus acrobat, David Stickler. Very knowledgeable trainer. Yesterday, I returned for a seminar led by an accomplished physical therapist/instructor, Beth Austin. Instead of exercising, we’re learning about how to use our body correctly when we exercise and even when we’re at rest. The class was full; we were young, old, male, and female.

All in this tiny, blip-on-the-map town.

Read more about Mancos here.


The Shine of Newness Officially Off

The glisten and novelty of living in this new place is officially off and over. I no longer skate above the surface of a beautiful, iced-over pond. I’m swimming in it. (And, yes, I’m cold. With dastardly electric heat, I’m heating the house as conservatively as IMG_2305possible. Sixty degrees is the new warm.)

To Note:

— I met an older gentleman who owns a great deal of land (nearly 1,000 acres) in the canyon south of our place. Apparently, I was trespassing. But, jeepers, in my defense: you need a GPS device with public/private boundary indicators (and cell service), or an old-timer escort (like this fellow) to know one way or t’other. Land may or may not be fenced. Neither public nor private land is marked. From the Internet map, the county assessor’s plots, and the BLM map, I know that land around here is a crazy hopscotch of public and private acreage, but the learning curve is decidedly steep.

He indicated that while he was fine with my riding there, others would probably shoot my dogs. The man told me about timber rattlers, too – another possible avenue of untimely death for the dogs.

He was negative but nice, and promised to chat with the neighbors about letting me ride through occasionally.

— We had our first snow. I’m learning that weather seems to be more highly specific and fickle than anywhere I’ve lived. It snowed up on the ridge, but not so much here. On the trip to Durango (about 25 miles, going from 7,400 feet elevation to 8,500, down to 6.500 in the Big City), the road conditions varied every few miles.IMG_2286

However, the scariest moment came on foot. I headed up our gravel road for a late night walk as snow began to fall again. I hadn’t realized that I was walking with the wind and that it was ramping up, along with the snowfall. Turned around after a mile to face snow and wind so forceful in my face that, combined with the darkness, I could hardly see. Goggles would have been nice. I walked backwards, trusting the feel of gravel under my feet as my sole compass. The dogs soundlessly disappeared and reappeared and, finally, they stopped at our driveway, giving me a turn signal.

That night stands in contrast to the usual starlit show here. The Milky Way is clear and shooting stars seem closer and brighter than anywhere else. One night, I kid you not, I saw a shooting star so bright and close that I mistook it for a crashing plane.

Being alone in the relative wilderness and knowing not everyone is kind and well-meaning is a thought I return to occasionally. I’m learning to relax, to learn, and to keep my senses and mind keen. It’s a mental juggle.

Progress in fits and starts


Trail clearing has its challenges

I’ve now put about 30 hours of trail work into the Lollipop Loop. That’s what I’m calling the trail that goes from our back pasture, down a southeast draw, up along a modest cliff face, then back along a northeast draw. It’s been a helluva task. My goal was to make it horse-friendly as well as hike-friendly. I finished up with stronger arms and scratches on the face and took Pep to see just how horse-friendly it was. Turns out, not so much. There were passages she slid down (I had to make sure I got out of the way. She may be the little, but she’s still 800 pounds or so.), and others she could not scale. Too steep and sketchy. So, while it will work for a keep-you-honest hike, I will have to blaze a gentler, more gradual route for riding.

IMG_1643A few days ago, while working at the computer, I watched a bobcat meander down the pasture, toward the house. It then nonchalantly nabbed a mole, ate it, and sauntered off. Meanwhile I was hurriedly sequestering the dogs so they wouldn’t see it and flip, grabbing my camera, and trying to capture the scene. Like the one time I saw a bobcat in Utah, I was shaking at the thrill of it.

Not so much of a thrill for the locals, I guess. I chatted with a local contractor who said bobcats have pretty much eliminated all his barn cats. With his two dogs riding shotgun in his idling truck, he said the younger one loved to chase bobcats. Once, the dog treed one in a short cedar. He got swatted with one lil’ cat claw. It left a deep gash above its shoulders. The dog leaves bobcats alone now.

I took another long, exploratory ride further down the neighborhood canyon. I headed uphill a bit, crossing a creek, working through some timber, and ending up on a mesa of sorts. What beautiful country. We moved along for a few miles, taking in wide views in all directions, before returning to the creek and environs. The footing is a pleasant change from the rock, ledge, and scant vegetation of the Oquirrhs – nice-n-sandy here. It was fun following a fresh elk track a mile or so. All told, we covered 11 miles.


The Wobble Board of a New Place

Moving to a new place where you don’t know a soul, don’t know what the weather will do, and don’t know where to buy stuff is a lot like riding a new, fresh horse. Or, it’s like being on a balance board. It’s a delicate balance of energy and thought processes,

joleneFor me, it’s about being ready for anything and tamping down the fear.

Friends say ‘how adventurous!’ and, indeed, it’s adventurous and fun. But along with the curiosity and excitement, there is fear and self-doubt. Those negative feelings sit on the back porch of my brain. Most days, they knock to come in. I wave – which is to say, I acknowledge them – and move on.

It dawned on me one day as I was repairing fence that what I feel is precisely the alert state of mind described in the BestHorsePractices article on optimal learning. It’s midway between relaxed and panicked. It’s out of the comfort zone, as the article explained.

Interesting things happen out of the comfort zone as I meet people, explore new territory, and ask questions:

— My eyes and ears are more open.

— My attitude is inquisitive.

IMG_1702And yet, there are moments when I simply strive to stay busy, keeping rushes of adrenalin, nausea, and anxiety at bay.

— When your windows face wilderness, do you draw the curtains?

— When you get lonely, do you have longer conversations with animals and with yourself?

— Do you wonder what strangers and acquaintances really think of you?

I tend to call friends and family more often. When I call, I pace around the mostly empty house, trying not to hear the echo of my voice.

I have conversations with people working cash registers, with fellow coffee drinkers at a local café, with the UPS guy. I ask their names and try to commit them to memory for the next time. I extend myself.

It’s like:

  • Putting an energetic horse into a long trot
  • Doing big turns in an open field with this same horse
  • Reminding the horse that a one-rein stop is still there.
  • It’s singing and smiling while galloping.

These are all exercises I use to relax and connect.

Do you have some of these ?

Do you “extend yourself”?

“Struggling” with hypnosis of outdoors

Not everything is wonderful at this new place and with this new living arrangement: Winter is coming and with it, the need to prepare (More hay to put up. Fencing and gate work to do. New tires to buy, etc.). Living, eating, being alone so much are new

Peeko balances on one of the MANY fallen trees during trail clearing stint

Peeko balances on one of the MANY fallen trees during trail clearing stint


Every day, I clear trail on the eastern end of our property. It’s hard going. I envision a nice loop trail that heads out one draw, crosses a ridge, and returns via the other draw. It seems even the deer abandoned the trail ages ago. The way is thick with deadfall, scrub oaks, and brambles. The dogs have learned to plant themselves and nap since I manage about 100 yards per hour and hope to be done by November.

Being alone in the relative wilderness and knowing not everyone is kind and well-meaning, I find I can get spooked occasionally. I debate (with myself, of course) the merit or pointlessness of locking doors at night or while I’m gone. To break in, one must first travel great distance with the potential of no reward (especially with our house standing as the undoubtedly the most modest in the IMG_0578neighborhood). So, really, if a ne’er-do-well is going to make that much of an effort, is a locked door really going to be much of a deterrent? This morning, I jumped when I heard boots stomp, stomp, stomp across the porch. Someone coming to rape and pillage at 5 am! It was Jolene, impatient for hay, kicking the bunk feeder in perfect rhythm.

So, yeah, I’m learning to relax, to learn, and to keep my senses and mind keen.

But every day, I “struggle” with a certain hypnosis of the outdoors and the urge to be out in this stunning territory. It’s like staring into a fire or watching waves, but with action mixed in. It’s a lucky problem to have: balancing work with getting out. I’ll do my best.

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