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Getting Out There with Outdoor Pursuits

t-OP Stories for OP Outdoors

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To suggest a story or submit a story idea email us at bfergus3@msudenver.edu


If It Wasn't a Send…

By Lizza Krell

I follow through on my figure 8 knot, tracing the rope in the opposite direction, shifting every loop so it lines up perfectly then pull it tight. I finish the knot and check my partners belay device while she checks my knot and harness. We assert our readiness with a final verbal check and then I am off.

“I have done this climb many times…”

Hands and feet in place I begin the climb. By now I know the movement and the holds well, I have attempted this climb many times. After a large huck-to-a-crimp on the right, I work my feet up the wall and then move left through a series of small but positive holds. I come to the first draw and let out a long breath. As I reach down I focus solely on that draw, exhaling the fear and distraction. The second the rope is clipped in to the draw I begin to move through in a state of flow.

two ladies rock climbling

I have done this climb many times. I know the sequence by hart. I know how to make each move as efficiently as possible to avoid using any extra energy. I know the best places to put my hands and feet on each hold and I know where my center of gravity should be for every move. I float through to the second draw, clip the rope and pause to shake out. I carry on from here, getting my foot to a small hold out right, pulling up with my left arm and rotating my body as I reach with my right to the next hold. A pinch that I grab in the exact location I had intended. From there I move through a series pinches. Straight up from there for a while, and then back to the right on a series of slopers, using a heel hook to stabilize myself. I come to the seventh draw and clip the rope.

“…I know the sequence by hart”

I shake out as best I can, switching from left to right dipping my fingers in the chalk bag on my back. This is the last draw before the anchors, my forearms are burning and I am trying desperately to regain control of my breath.  I need to move, I have 2 more meters and 4 more moves to the top and even though I am resting I am still using energy to stay on the wall.

This particular route has saved the best for last, to get to the finishing hold I have to get past the biggest and most powerful move of the climb. From my rest position I cross to a crimp and then bump my hand a bit further to a slightly higher, slightly more positive crimp. From there I work my feet up the wall and move my right hand to a side pull just above the previous two crimps. In what seems like one seamless move I reach my left hand to an undercling at waist height, I walk my feet over to the left and pull in and up with all my strength.

Rock shoe on climbing hold

This is it, the last big move, my right finger tips make contact with the bottom corner edge of the hold. I am able to hold myself on the wall for a moment, right hand almost secure on the finishing hold. But then I feel the strength in my hand give way. I fall through the air, then I feel the weight of my bleayer on the other end of the rope and I hear the sound of my knot tighten and then I am dangling.

 “I am struck by a feeling of accomplishment”

Suspended in midair, defeated once again. My belayer lowers me to the ground and I am struck by a feeling of accomplishment. No, I didn’t get a clean send this time, but I got closer. I have tried this climb many times. I have fallen and gotten back on and fallen again. Each time I eventually get to the top but never without falling. This is the closest I’ve been, and even if it wasn’t a send, it was still progress.

A Gentle Walk in Nature

(without all the hurdles)

Click for the Walk Video

By Bryan Ferguson

All too often (maybe even all the time?) outdoor educators, outdoor leaders and outdoor enthusiasts present a paradigm of outdoor participation that includes a heavy burden of gear, fitness, training and knowledge that makes it impossible for some of us get out there and enjoy nature.

Gentle walk in nature

While not everyone will agree with that premise and my proposition, I will suggest that we can and should work with intention to change this message and encourage everyone to go outside and enjoy nature.

As good as getting outside and walking gently through the woods is for me, it would be selfish of me not to share the opportunity with others, and to be intentional about not presenting barriers. Beyond that and most importantly to me is to work within my outdoor education sphere to reduce the barriers for others. It’s within that spirit that I propose barrier-free entre into the world of nature and all it has to offer.

Taking a break on a park bench on a gentle walk in nature 

For starters, we can choose to go to places that are close to home, that are not remote, isolated and scary and where no special gear is required. Just going out for a walk among trees, plants, fresh air and open space, a gental walk in nature.

So, with this in mind, here’s a gear list for a gentle walk in nature. Not essential but suggested
Practical shoes
Appropriate warm/cool weather comfortable clothes
Water bottle or bottle of water
Sun screen

Here’s my list of the essentials for a gentle walk in the woods
You
An interest
Critical thinking that supports decision making

Get hooked on movement
I’m hooked on movement and when I got sick a few years ago, that “addiction” saved my life. The notion of being hooked on movement not only provides life-enhancements on the margins but it can literally save our lives and can contribute to a life well lived.

It’s nothing extraordinary
I don’t consider anything I have done in the outdoors to be extraordinary. This despite my entire life’s experience in the outdoors, including a life spent learning and teaching in the outdoors. The only thing that is extraordinary is the profound effect the outdoors and nature has had on me and my life. A gentle walk in nature is not extraordinary, by design.

It’s not about working out, strength or fitness
We want to make sure we don’t confuse a gentle walk in nature with a trip to the gym. While there might be personal health benefits to working out, getting out there does not need to include a cardio workout to be of value. A gentle walk is not a workout, by design.

It’s not about advancing our skills and commitment
Meet yourself where you are and discover how you experience joy in nature. It is not about progressing to mountain climbing – unless that’s what you want, of course. It is about experiencing nature, engaging with nature, touching nature. There are no prerequisites or post-requisites. A gentle walk is not about advancing our skills, by design.

Get nature into our lives
Exploring and being aware of plants, clouds, the surface underfoot, sounds of birds, sounds of our footsteps, shapes and colors of leaves and flowers, feeling the breeze, smelling air that is free of city pollution, walking on a trail while mostly unobstructed by other walkers, cars, streets and curbs. Being aware of our foot placement on irregular surfaces – unpaved surfaces, gravel, rocks and roots.

Principles of a gentle walk in nature
It is a airweather activity for starters
Moving among nature including flora, fauna, ground and sky
Touching nature, literally touching trees and other plants, but not poison ivy I hope!
Observing and acknowledging plants and how they are similar and different
Becoming the foremost expert on you
Meet yourself where you are
No special gear required

Resources
Outdoor Pursuits
https://www.msudenver.edu/campusrec/outdoorpursuits/

Jefferson County Open Space Parks
https://www.jeffco.us/open-space 

Douglas County Open Space Parks
https://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/trails/open-space-trails/

Castle Rock Open Space Parks
https://www.crgov.com/1985/Open-Space-and-Trails

Denver Mountain Parks
https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-parks-and-recreation/parks/mountain-parks.html

Recommended reading:
“The Secret Life of Trees” by Colin Tudge http://www.colintudge.com/bibliography.php
“On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor https://www.robertmoor.com/

 

Stay Low for a Fall Foliage Show

Ten Denver area close-in, Front Range locations for enjoying fall foliage

By Bryan Ferguson

 

"There is still time for fall foliage at lower elevations" (as of October 10)

 View the Fall Foliage Video:
Fall Foliage

Castle Rock area

Chatfield Reservoir

Clear Creek Trail Corridor Through Denver and Golden

The Colorado Chautauqua

Deer Creek Canyon

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Goldengate Canyon

Jarre Canyon

Spruce Mountain

Waterton Canyon

 

There is just one short period of time each year when traffic on I-70 rivals the busiest ski days and that is when our beloved quaking aspen turn from green to spectacular shades of yellow – the fall foliage show. While I would never deny the value of a trip to the higher mountains for fall colors, I would like to suggest these excellent alternative (or complimentary, if you prefer) fall foliage experiences. So, stay low for a fall foliage show.

Chatfield Pond 

While going higher has its benefits, staying low and close to home saves drivetime, extends the season and helps reduce our carbon output. Staying low and close to home also allows for a quick, one- or two-hour weekday get-away. These options also avoid the weekend crowds and parking hassles at our more popular trailheads.

 Deer Creek Dogwood

High in the mountains, we often glimpse the overstory from a distance. By staying low, we still get to see spectacular overstory fall colors, but we can also look low to find special fall colors in the diverse understory. While there is much to appreciate in the vivid yellow overstory, there are many plants with changing fall foliage to appreciate in the understory; dogwood and it’s amazing shades of red, the yellows of rabbitbrush, purples of the late-blooming dotted Gayfeather, bright whites of various bursting seed pods, an amazing range of colors of Mountain Mahogany, Rocky Mountain maple, Choke Cherry, Clematis and the surprising greens of Bearberry. Be sure to pause and look closely for mosses, mushrooms, and lichens.

 

At the lower elevations of these locations, autumn canopy colors come mostly from cottonwood, willow, boxelder, gamble oak while at the higher elevations of our locations, we can spot the quaking aspen.

 

Best viewing times are early to mid-morning and early evening. The north-facing slopes tend be more lush, have more diverse plant species and therefore, more variety of fall colors.

 

It’s important to recognize times passages and to celebrate the passing of the season and the beginning of the new fall season so I hope you get out and enjoy the drama of Colorado’s lower elevation fall foliage.

  View the Fall Foliage Video:
Fall Foliage

Links to how to get there and information:

Castle Rock area
https://crgov.com/1985/Open-Space-and-Trails

 

Chatfield Reservoir
https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Chatfield

 

Clear Creek Trail Corridor Through Denver and Golden
https://www.visitgolden.com/things-to-do/outdoors/hiking/?gclid=CjwKCAjwq_D7BRADEiwAVMDdHoNKT0QdXrll3_q7hSZlEsXm46Xe5oq0zfM4qpkT1Y1iCvdqzgjVIRoCh6wQAvD_BwE

 

The Colorado Chautauqua
https://www.chautauqua.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIt4SP0s6l7AIVhYbACh0f-wKKEAAYASAAEgKoz_D_BwE

 

Deer Creek Canyon
https://www.jeffco.us/1208/Deer-Creek-Canyon-Park This link is specific to the park but it also provides the location for Deer Creek Canyon

 

Eldorado Canyon State Park
https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/EldoradoCanyon

 

Golden Gate Canyon

https://www.jeffco.us/1335/Mount-Galbraith-Park This is a link to Mount Galbraith Park located in Golden Gate Canyon

 

Jarre Canyon
https://coloradobirdingtrail.com/site/jarre-canyon-road-and-platte-river-road/

 

Spruce Mountain
https://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/openspace-properties/spruce-mountain-open-space-and-trail/

 

Waterton Canyon
https://www.denverwater.org/recreation/waterton-canyon-strontia-springs-resevoir

 

 

Web resources:

Colorado State Forrest - https://csfs.colostate.edu/

Colorado State University - https://extension.colostate.edu/

Inaturalist - https://www.inaturalist.org/

 

Recommended reading:

The Tree by Colin Tudge

 

An Opportunity

By Lizza Krell

As we walk along the path, the leaves crunch under our feet. It is a beautiful crisp morning late in fall.

Movement in a nearby bush catches Lola’s attention. She cocks her head and watches until the source of the noise is visible. When a squirrel finally leaps out, sees us and scampers away she wags her tail in excitement. Now that the mystery has been solved we continue on our walk.

As the sun grows higher in the sky and the air loses its chill from the night before I begin to notice another sound. Sounds I should say, because it is a chorus of birds greeting the morning. I can hear Black-billed Magpies Chattering in the distance, the ever-present chirping of house finches surrounding me, the occasional tweet of a Black-cap Chickadee as it fly overhead and sometimes, if I am lucky, I hear the “yank-yank” call of a Red-breasted Nuthatch. One of the most adorable birds, in my opinion.

Squirrels and rabbits rustle in the leaves and the whole day seems to be awakening from a long slumber.

Lola and I have been spending most of our mornings this way. Because I am no longer taking the hour long train ride into the city every day for school, and because most of my social obligations are now void, I have found myself with a bit more time on my hands. As daunting and empty as that time seemed at first, my view on it has changed now.

paved trail with blue sky and fall colors

I made the decision to see this empty time as an opportunity to enjoy the moment and the small things in life. Last year, at this time in the morning, I would have been waiting at the train station, nervously checking my emails, wondering if there was anything I had forgotten to do. Now I walk along the streets and sidewalks and paths of my neighborhood. I leave my electronics at home and I allow myself to unplug, if only for a little bit. I take the time to observe the things around me and I am often surprised, especially by the birds.

I don’t live in a remote cabin in the woods where I am alone with nature, I live in a booming suburb, with traffic and construction and all of the other daily noise and distraction. But somehow the birds are still here. They may not be magnificent raptors or exotic song birds, but they are cheerful, charming and diverse and they are finding a way to live in this chaos.

bench in fall trees and grass

We come to a bench and take a seat, watching a Flicker hop around on the ground in search of breakfast. The sun rises behind us, its rays warming our backs. I take in the world around me, absorbing the sights, smells and sounds.

And for a brief moment in time, amidst all the obstacles and struggles, my mind is still and I have peace.

Resources:

Denver Parks and Rec

Golden Parks and Rec

Boulder Parks and Rec

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