Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I’m 36 and I just bought a used bmx bike. It’s a little outrageous…orange frame that reads ‘General Lee’ with orange spokes. But it brings back great memories.
My first bike was a Schwinn Scrambler 33/33 bmx bike. My mom ran over the handle bars with her station wagon that had the rear seat facing backwards in the way back, now my wrists have a strong click in the bones when I strain them. We built race tracks all around the neighborhood, mostly in abandoned and unbuilt lots. We spent all day perfecting jumps and riding whoopdedoo’s. There were several yards and some wooded areas including a creek with a lot of frogs I could cut through to get to the track most directly.
A white Peugot 10 speed replaced the bmx as the main form of transportation during my teen years. I could now visit friends all across town. My sense for the geography of my hometown grew alongside an incredible feeling that bike gave me…freedom. And that freedom is fun! Whether your mountain biking a scenic double track or pounding the sandstone in Moab, bunny hopping curbs in City Park or saving the Earth by commuting to work, there is no other feeling in the world like riding a bicycle.
I invested in the new/used orange bmx because my 5 year old just figured out how to ride his bike. We are riding companions, he calls me his wing man. Bicycling is a fantastic way to connect with family and friends in the outdoors. Aim for a destination, pack a lunch, explore somewhere new. Ride the same path at different times of the year to experience the contrast in seasons. Learn some engineering and how to use tools by maintaining the bikes. Build a bike from scratch by looking for used parts across town. The opportunities for learning and growth with bicycles are endless!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Every February we all wait in breathless anticipation to see if our East-coast born mammalian weatherman sees his shadow and scoops the Weather Channel by 2 weeks. For those of us out in the West, I pose the question—what about us?
We should take heart, a marmot IS a groundhog—with both belonging to the esteemed Marmota genus. If Phil lived out west, he’d probably be a yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris), not a lowly, lowlander groundhog (Marmota monax). Yet, he’d be a marmot, just the same.
So what about the big SHADOW question that looms large on February 2nd? Do we want more winter or less?
You see, six weeks from now will be the middle of March, and the middle of March in these high western states usually means lots of sun, hiking, skiing, running, a more stable snowpack, snowshoeing, possibly good and possibly dicey ice-fishing, mountaineering, biking, and a probably a lot more skiing. And, frankly, I think we would PREFER to be able to do those things...so bring on the winter!
As a Kansas native, I understand that winter in the Midwest and on the East coast is a different creature. Cold, wet weather that chills you to the bone; high frigid winds with obscene wind chill factors; and gray, gloomy skies that seem to sit on you day in and day out. Phil's high-tech predictions are a hopeful break in an interminable progression of cold, gray, freezing, wet, and more cold.
But what would happen if we had our OWN regional brand of Phil...let’s call her Mountain Maisy...to make a weather projection for those of us in the high country?
In February, yellow-bellied marmots are holed up in long rock, grass and fur lined burrows on high-elevation slopes snoozing peacefully under LOTS of snow. By the time they come out of hibernation for good (and to find some love), it is April or early May. Thus, Marmot Day would actually have to be celebrated around the 15th of April (wouldn't THAT be a nice change--to remind us that the gift of playing in our high altitude playgrounds are as certain as taxes).
By now, as a high country Colorado native—our young Maisy is guaranteed to see her shadow, because with over 300 days of sunshine a year, she would have to come out during a blizzard to not see her overwintered, slim self. Female yellow-bellied marmots typically only breed every other year, so Maisy would be a hot commodity on the hillside...a bit like women in a ski town, I suppose. So like all mountain women, if she DID come out in a blizzard, she would simply return to her burrow, put on a few warm layers, grab her Gore-Tex jacket and head out again to check out the backcountry scene.
If she sees her shadow, that means spring has arrived and the snows will melt quickly--a reminder that water in the West is precious, so we should conserve all year round. If she doesn't see her shadow, it just means that--once again--we can all get our winter gear on clearance...because everyone else has started to buy swimsuits.
In this case, Maisy sees her shadow, and then sees the shadows of three intrepid ski mountaineers who are getting ready to hit the late spring snow fields off of Horseshoe Mountain…so she happily waddles after them, shrilly asking THEM about the weather for the day, and scrounging for a few M & Ms and bits of granola they might have left behind.
Happy (almost) Marmot Day!
Monday, February 1, 2010
I was reading the Outdoor Bloggers Summit a couple of weeks ago and saw an OBS challenge was starting February 1. The challenge sounded easy enough: The Challenge will be called “How to Get Everyone to Play Outdoors”. To participate in the challenge, all you have to do is write a post about how to get people to play outdoors. And it was very much inline with what we try to accomplish with the Sanborn blog.
Here we are now at the week of February 1. Where to start with this topic? We have posted 9 times about nature activities, 4 about camp activities, 5 children activities, 15 children and nature, 8 outdoor education, 3 outdoor play movement, and the list goes on. Reading our archives is a good place to start, but it is much more fun
We are devoting this week to the OBS challenge. Check back each day for personal stories about being outdoors, activities to do with your children outside, and the benefits of being outside.
Just a quick story to kick off the week:
I went riding with a friend this weekend on a mission – check for fence to repair and look for a couple of hiding horses. I wasn’t looking forward to fixing fence on a Saturday; however, it was a beautiful day and I always love to ride. It turned out to be one of my best weekend days in a few weeks.
I can’t even count the number of times I have taken that trail, but it was different this time. The snow was still new enough that we saw quite a few tracks – rabbit, jackrabbit, coyote, bird, mouse, and a porcupine. It is quite entertaining making up stories about where the tracks are coming from and going. I found animals in the few scattered clouds. The sun was bright and just made us happy. While we both typically have a lot to say, we were very happy riding in the peace of the outdoors, enjoying the beauty that is Colorado.
The work was easy, the company great, and most importantly it helped me appreciate the wonderful place we live.
What have you done outside recently?