A Day in the New Life

This day could be representative of life over the past several months as my partner, Steve, and I embark on this new, adventurous (some might say, ‘curious’) and sometimes arduous leg of life. By “representative,” I mean that fresh, gratifying, and interesting things happen or reveal themselves often, many of which make me thrilled to have taken the dare to move to southwestern Colorado.IMG_1875

Wallace Stegner famously said: the West faces you like a dare… I think a lot of Easterners feel that to live out this way is to go after that dare, to live adventurously, to embrace and appreciate the wilderness expanse as well as their adopted communities. Herriman was good. Mancos is much better.

Today as a representation:

It started with dogs whining before daylight. They know the routine. In fact, they dictate the routine: I grab a reheated cup of coffee and we toss hay, check the horses, and walk the length of the driveway (about a quarter mile).

It’s Sunday and I have decided to attend Mass at St. Rita’s in Mancos. Why would this devout agnostic attend Mass, you ask? Mostly karma – I got a good feeling when I passed by the small, brown and white-walled church and I also really love Pope Francis and all that he is doing with

Cattle move past St. Rita's church in Mancos, CO

Cattle move past St. Rita’s church in Mancos, CO

inclusivity, wealth disparity, the environment, etc. Call me a fair-weather fan. Also, I’m also interested in getting to know the community and St. Rita’s was one avenue of several to explore. [Other activities in the mix: meeting the library director, visiting a café, and chatting up the folks at the grocery store, the liquor store, the post office.]

Plus, St. Rita is the saint of Lost Causes. Count me in!

At 830 am, the church is pleasantly full with a mix of what seems like ranchers, white- and blue-collars parishioners. Most are my age or so and white, though there are some Hispanics and Father Pat has a faint Spanish accent. Most of the men wear button-down shirts tucked into Wranglers or Levis with sneakers or cowboy boots. Plenty of big belt buckles.

I do like the ritual of Mass, the physical up-and-down and up-and-down, the familiar phrases, and the ‘Peace be with you’s.’ Father Pat seemed alright, too.

Seated in the way back, I somehow got to talking quietyly with my neighbor about dogs. He loves bloodhounds. He and his vet were taking a road trip to Texas soon, to meet a couple driving from Arkansas with three bloodhound pups for him to check out.

After Mass, I shook Father Pat’s hand and crossed Main Street just before 200 or more head of cattle took over the IMG_1895thoroughfare. What a scene. Church goers and breakfast diners at the café up the street all stopped and watched as the cattle moved through town, bawling, shitting, and trotting up the road. It was a big herd managed by just a few cowboys and two trucks, one fore and one aft. Aside from me, I don’t think many were too impressed by the interruption; that attitude made me smile even more.

Early on in our research of the area, I discovered the Absolute Bakery and Café with its excellent breakfast burritos, sweets, coffee, and art-strewn walls. It’s my theory that places like the ABC can be indicative of a vibrant town. The theory, though, has a more gastronomical root: I love my local sweets and caffeine. The Fahrenheit, down the street, has better coffee; they roast their own.

Last week, I discovered another joint for my jones: Serious Delights makes the best blueberry muffins and blackberry bran muffins I’ve ever tasted. And that’s saying a lot, I tell ya. They may be the reason I head to the Durango Farmers Market every Saturday. Sorry, farmers.

Anyway, after church, cattle watching, and a chat (more like a 30-minute talk) with a neighbor and his dogs, I returned home to my beloved blueberry muffin before heading out on a ride.

Riding Shea, ponying Pep, and bringing along two dogs, I moved down the canyon, seeing plenty of bear scat, dodging showers, and taking in the stunning cliffs and embankments to the east and west. Mesa Verde National Park is just a few miles away, as the crow flies. We stopped for tea, water, and snacks before heading back.

A good day.


No Goose in the Kusa

The Perfect Barn Coat just found its perfect layer, now making it a four-season jacket to love and adore. The perfect layer? The new, ultra thin Kusa jacket from Cotopaxi.

llama-outerwearThe reversible Kusa weighs just 15 ounces and has an attractive quilted stitching pattern on one side and is nearly stitch-free on the other. Its thinness, slick material, and simple design (no pointless pockets or cumbersome tailoring) make it great for slipping under the Bengal, aka the Perfect Barn Coat.

We’re giving away a Bengal at the Equine Affaire. Read giveaway details here.

The folks at Cotopaxi, a Utah company with a strong charity component, introduced a revolutionary new insulation fiber to the outdoor clothing world by using fine llama fibers from Bolivia. Llamas! Those loveable, protective camelids, kissing cousins of equids. Sure, folks have used llama fiber before, but not in this

1387880technique. The hollow llama fiber has been blended with polyester to create a fill that’s warm, light, and likeable. Who likes the idea of all those geese being slaughtered for goose down, anyway? Add human and sustainable to the list of pros.

Kusa’s sizing is user friendly. The jacket is unisex, styled the same for men and women, with four brass-colored side snaps that make it perfect for riding and for anyone who is standing and sitting and standing and sitting. The Kusa in men’s small and the women’s medium.

Enter “nickernews” at checkout and receive 20 percent off Cotopaxi items!

Read about Cheri Sanguinetti, the creator of the Kusa and Bengal.

Love the side snaps!

We found great trail snacks

Here’s the thing with being outside and active: you get hungry. Read about getting out and cognitive decline.

And the more you tune into your body, the pickier you become about what goes down the gullet. If you listen, your body will tell you what works and what doesn’t.

pickybarsAnd, if research shows that being sedentary and eating fast food can become a destructive, self-fulfilling cycle (It does. Click here.), I’d like to suggest the opposite is also true: eating well and getting outside beget more eating well and getting outside.

So, I was happy to check out the food offerings at the OR. Here are two standouts:

Picky Bars might be the first bar I won’t get sick of. The Bend, Oregon company uses simple ingredients like dates, blueberries, almonds, rice cereal, and apricots. They’re flavorful without being too sweet. They have a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein that tastes good going down and doesn’t wig you out with a rush & crash or the sluggishness that comes from eating too much protein. We tried Blueberry Boomdizzle, Need for Seed (with sunflower butter), and Smooth Caffeinator (with hazelnuts and mocha. Yum.

I love oats. My horses love oats. My genes love oats (I’m fairly fit and trim, yet I still have high cholesterol. Doctors recommend Untitled-1oats.) So, I downright gravitated to the Munk Pack booth which featured single serving packs full of flavored oatmeal. I tried them on rides and hikes; they gave me instant and delayed satisfaction.

The instant element comes from yummy flavors (I tried raspberry coconut and blueberry acai flax.). The delayed satisfaction comes as you feel the nutrients begin to course their way through your system. No rush. No crash. All good.

Skeptics might balk at the packaging and texture. The Connecticut-based Munk Packs could be mistaken for apple sauce pouches for toddlers. But get over it! It’s what inside that matters. And you can tell kids it’s strictly an adult taste.

Pick either when you’re between meals and still have an hour’s worth of chores or three miles to go until you reach home. Your body will say, “Thanks!”

Read more about what we discovered at the Outdoor Retailer.

UtahOutsider braves Outdoor Retailer

IMG_8872Attending the Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City is a bit like heading to the mall on Christmas Eve: be prepared for nuttiness and overstimulation.

Read about snacks we discovered at the OR.

Read about last year’s OR visit.

That said, the OR presents much cooler stuff than any mall. Outdoor recreationalists who manage to acquire a pass (most of the 27,000 attendees are retail buyers, about 600 of us are media) can be seen drooling at the quantity and quality of goods packed into some 1,500 exhibits.

If you’re interested in the next big thing, you’ll likely find it here in a small budget booth on the outskirts of the Salt Palace. Of course, the heavy hitters are here, too, with mammoth booths and big

Altra booth featured elite athletes in action above the crowds

Altra booth featured elite athletes in action above the crowds

budgets. The Keen booth, decked with multi-levels of perfectly refashioned, reclaimed wood, must have cost $100,000. The Royal Robbins booth hired baristas to serve free lattes around the clock. The Altra running shoe booth featured a 50-foot long, elevated treadmill and hired elite athletes to churn out miles high above the masses.

Here’s a quick review of items and companies that caught our eyes:

Of the scores of knife companies, Kershaw continues to be a favorite. Why? They understand carrying a knife is something women do, too. Kershaw is virtually the only company with an entire line of knives appealing to women for their sleek design, slim fit, and utility. No testosterone here. IMG_8871Check out the Leek review.

We visited with SPOT exhibitor Jon Butcher (no relation) about the ease and fail-safe elements of SPOT, the satellite rescue service in a simple orange and black device.. The service easily exceeds the capabilities of any cell phone app and makes trail riding, especially solo outings, exponentially safer. Read about this California hiker-turned-wildfire-survivor here.

One of the niftiest items that caught our eyes was the new Tread, a bracelet by Leatherman. Yes, you read correctly: a Leatherman bracelet. Call it a mechanical aesthetics. Call it a conversation starter. Call it the Tread. It was developed by Leatherman CEO Ben Rivera, after he was escorted from Disneyland for having a multi-tool in his pocket.

The Tread has a tiny knife hook that’s perfect for cutting baling twine, a flat screwdriver head for those Chicago screws, and a Treadbottle opener, of course. You can design your own, customizing tools and wrist size.

We met with Caroline Duell of Elemental Herbs. Duell developed Goop (a fabulous blend of olive oil, beeswax, calendula, comfrey, plantain, lavender, and yarrow) while working on an organic farm in California years ago. From there, she’s grown the company and the All Good product line, which includes sunscreens, lip balms, and pain relief spray. Goop was great after the recent wreck.

We visited with the folks at ThermaCELL about their remote-controlled, rechargeable, heated insoles. These thin, orange pads have us looking forward to subzero temps spent mucking stalls and hauling hay. Bring it on, winter! We will review ThermaCELLSs as soon as the temperature drops.

All Good Goop

All Good Goop

We talked with Davis Smith, the CEO of Cotopaxi. The folks at this Utah company (which sells direct to consumer and gives generously to charities) have agreed to giveaway one of their Perfect Barn Coats to a lucky subscriber at the Equine Affaire.

Additional shout outs go to:

Crazy Creek. We’ll be offering one of the Montana company’s camp chairs in an upcoming giveaway.

Adventure Medical Kits – They’ve developed a new line for humans AND their canine companions. It’s a welcome item, since most of us horse owners have dogs. Stay tuned for that giveaway, too.

CLB2gvFWoAAoEBHZootility – They’ve just moved to a new facility in Maine. The young company makes cool multi-tools that fit flat in your wallet. We have the new Headgehog, a comb, wrench, screwdriver, and bottle opener. It’s the cutest tool on the market, hands down.

Darn Tough. Other sock companies are just playing. Darn Tough socks, made in Vermont, have brilliantly survived rigorous testing through four seasons of hiking and riding. Read our review.

MG_9889We need our feet to stay happy and healthy. Darn Tough’s seamless, merino wool socks make it happen, breathable in the heat, cozy in the cold.

Read about last year’s OR visit.

Read more OR related content.

Exploring the divide: Inside Outside

I always figured folks viewed the wilderness like I did:

IMG_9718A place to cherish and protect.

A place for quiet observation and reflection.

A place where humans could be brought to their knees by the elements or by simple wonder.

As I get older and as our population swells, I find myself craving wilderness more than any other “thing.” More than dinners out, more than bookstore browsing, more than coffee, chocolate, or beer.

I have to get out there, else my sense of being and sense of normalcy start to fray.

Credit goes to my parents and kids for instilling and perpetuating this outsider habit. Growing up, I thought it was normal. But lately, it’s becoming clear that our family is an exception to the rule in the greater American society. Fewer and fewer people want to get out. And when they do, it’s not necessarily for peace and quiet.

I talked with Ester Rivera Murdock of the National Park Service. She’s studied the connection (or lack thereof) between Arizona communities and their magnificent parks.

I visited with John Gookin, an award-winning wilderness educator for the National Outdoor Leadership School. He said fewer baland fewer students come to NOLS with previous backcountry experience.

I see trends: paved “hiking trails,” ranchers swapping horses for ATVs, a Jeep-filled, dusty, and air-conditioned Moab.

At the Outdoor Retailer, later this summer, the Outdoor Foundation is hosting a huge Outsiders Ball. It’s a party with a purpose, “the one night our industry comes together around one common cause: to tackle the growing divide between young people and nature.”

Are us Outsiders increasingly outside the norm?

Beginning today, UtahOutsider will consider and wrangle with the issues surrounding the growing disconnect between society and wilderness. Look for Inside Outside columns and the accompanying image (below). Stay tuned!

ins outside

Finding Fondness for Cheese and Chocolate

36fdb1a35cd2f54f95cf2119fb5bc7ed_MI live on the outskirts of Herriman, a fast-growing, baby-filled suburb of 30,000 on the southwestern edge of Salt Lake County. It’s a landscape devoid of independent business. Read of one restaurant that stands out.

Finding interesting stuff means leaving town.

Yesterday, it was to the Chocolate and Cheese Festival at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Beehive-Cheese-1-195x300I chatted with the Beehive Cheese folks, from Uintah. Beehive makes my favorite cheese of late: Barely Buzzed. It’s an Irish style, cheddar-y cheese rubbed with ground espresso beans and lavender. I know. Sounds weird. But it’s delicious.

Beehive started with two brothers-in-law taking cheese-making courses at Utah State University a decade ago. Now, Pat Ford and Tim Welsh employ about 17 people and boast a national distribution.

Nine years ago, they started rubbing “fun, crazy’ flavors into their base cheese, Promontory, recalled Ford. “People said, ‘you can’t do that!’ But do you like it? I asked them. ‘Yes!’”

The result was award-winning and attention-getting.

Barely Buzzed, with ground espresso beans and lavender.

Barely Buzzed, with ground espresso beans and lavender.

Barely Buzzed, TeaHive (with bergamot), SeaHive (with Redmond’s Real Salt and honey), and Big John’s Cajun have all garnered national awards and can be found across the country.


A younger company, Millcreek Cacao Roasters, caught my eye. Their small, upscale “Farm to Bar” chocolate features Ecuadorian heirloom cacoa beans. “No middle man,” said co-owner Dana Brewster, who started Millcreek Cacao four years ago with Mark DelVecchio.

Their mission and packaging are equally attractive. But, of course, none of that matters if the chocolate isn’t yummy.

377375_325282860818785_474092429_nIt is.

They start with 70 percent cacao and air-infuse it or otherwise flavor it with peppermint, tart cherry, ginger, orange and espresso. Their blog features a nifty How-To for “experiencing” chocolate. And here’s a video of how they make it.

And an even younger Utah company is Amour Spreads. Founders John and Casee Francis pair fruits with herbs for jams that make you pay attention to what’s on your tongue: apricot rose, pear lavender, blood orange rosemary marmalade. These

yummy Amour Spreads

yummy Amour Spreads

are as far as you get from those plastic units of grape jelly you see stacked by the salt and pepper in dinners.

For the savory-inclined, there’s heirloom tomato, which should permanently replace ketchup in your fridge. The three-year old company uses as much produce as possible from local farmers and gives back to named charities each year. Spreading love, as they say.


Allosaurus Art

Morrison Formation

Morrison Formation

A long time ago (about 150 million years), dinosaurs ruled southern Utah. When they died, if the conditions were right, their bones turned to fossils. Most fossils here are from the Morrison Formation, a huge swath of sedimentary rock from the Late Jurassic period, extending from southern Canada to Arizona and New Mexico.

A short time ago (in the 1970s), Charley Hafen stumbled across agatized dinosaur bone and had friends who collected pieces, too. (The Antiquities Act of 1906 requires a permit for excavating any cultural or natural resource on public lands, but only a nod from the landowner stands in the way of hunting and collecting on private lands.)

The Salt Lake City jeweler now has an excellent inventory of stunning rocks with which he makes equally stunning pieces of one-of-a-kind jewelry. Read more about Hafen here.

Agatized dinosaur highlights a custom bolo tie at Charley Hafen Jewelers

Agatized dinosaur highlights a custom bolo tie at Charley Hafen Jewelers

I stopped by to check on the process of a custom belt buckle made from some black and quartz dinosaur bone. I’m guessing it was an Allosaurus, one of the most common dinosaurs around here back then. In 1988, it was declared the state’s official fossil.

For starters, Hafen carefully sliced a section of the bone-turned-stone and reinforced it with PaleoBond, a structural adhesive made especially for this purpose. He then shaped it best for the centerpiece of the buckle, in which the sparkling quartz of the piece would favorably highlight its black body.



Hafen then fashioned a wax mold around the stone. Using the Lost Wax Casting technique, he carved and filed the wax to a precise design that would, in time, be silver.

Hafen worked the wax with skill, using three different files and a tiny Al Mar knife, blowing away wax dust while fluidly turning the mold in his hands.

“I like the idea of going as far as I can with wax,” said Hafen. “More detail will be done when it’s metal, but I can get it to nearly a jewelry finish in wax.”

charley2Once he achieved the desired look, he placed the mold in a ceramic cylinder and in a kiln. Using centrifugal force, the wax melted and spun away. Silver took its place.

The process is an expedited variation of what happened to the dinosaur bone way back when. A sort of swapping of substances. Gradually, minerals from the surrounding ground water were deposited in the big and small microscopic holes of the bone and blood vessels. The color and composition of the resulting fossil varied according to the chemistry of the water and the density of the bones, said to Dr. Randall Irmis, assistant professor of geology at the University of Utah and paleontology curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Art, history, and science all in a belt buckle.


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