Colorado Mountain Adventures
by Jenny Cole -- June 9th, 2015
There are so many fun things to do around Boulder I don’t know how I’m going to focus on things I actually need to get done this summer! Like work, and training for the Houston marathon which I’m doing next January, and researching PhD programs…
On Saturday, I had the opportunity for my first hike of the summer. The other RMI interns and I went out into the James Peak Wilderness, a natural area southwest of Boulder. We were aiming for a trail that led to two lakes in the mountains. We didn’t make it to the trailhead though because there was too much snow on the country road leading there, even for my friend April’s four-wheel-drive SUV! So, we ended up parking and walking along the road over snow banks that got increasingly taller the farther up we went. We never reached the lakes but got some nice mountain views, as you can see in the picture above!
It was great to spend time with the other interns outside of work. RMI recruits from Duke, the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. All three programs are considered very similar, so it’s a nice opportunity to meet and spend time with peers studying the same topics in different settings. In the pictures you see here, Ben is from Yale, Matt and Divyesh are from Michigan, April and I are from Duke’s Nicholas School, and Yifan and Aziz are from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. This gives you an idea of the variety of backgrounds I get to work with at RMI.
About an hour into our hike we stopped for a water and bathroom break, and good thing we did. Our voices woke up a man who was sleeping in his car nearby because he’d been stuck in the snow since the previous day. We all worked for a while trying to get him out, alternating digging tracks for his tires in the snow, piling rocks on the snow to give his wheels traction, and pushing his car while he pressed on the gas. We’d been making a little progress when luckily a man in a Jeep came along who had the right tools to pull him out of the snow. Even though we weren’t the ones to ultimately get him out, he offered us free dinner at his casino that night!
I didn’t get to take him up on that offer though, because after the hike I had plans to go to The Wild Animal Sanctuary with my brother and his friends. This is a huge property to the northeast of Denver, about a one hour drive from Boulder. They rescue and home wild predators that come from circuses, abusive zoos, and other unfavorable conditions, and some have even been kept as pets. We saw bears, tigers, lions, mountain lions, wolves, and several other species. The Sanctuary has a two-mile walk on raised paths through the habitats so we got to see all the animals from an up-close birds eye view. This is the best way for the animals, as people on the raised walkways seem just like “birds” in the sky, while on the ground we’d seem like threats.
It was truly an amazing place, and hearing the stories of where some of the animals came from made me realize how little respect and care some people have for animals, unfortunately. I’m glad there are places like this and people out there who care for these animals and work on habitat preservation.
So that was Saturday! On Sunday, I went rock climbing with my brother and his friends. We went to Boulder Canyon, to a crag called Sherwood Forest. We had to cross Boulder Creek, which is really high right now because of all the recent rain. For me this was scarier than climbing! I’ve been climbing outdoors since my freshman year of high school, but have never crossed a river on a Tyrolean before, which you can see in the picture below. It’s a rope strung between trees or rocks on each side of the river. To cross it, you clip your harness onto it with carabiners and pull yourself across.
The hardest part was clipping in and unclipping on the closer end in the picture, because we basically had to stand six to eight feet up in a tree, on a small branch, while clipping onto the rope. Pretty nerve-wracking!
Regardless of the Tyrolean, I’m excited of all the hiking and rock climbing I’ll get to do this summer in the canyons and mountains around Boulder! What an amazing place to be! Surrounding myself with nature is another reminder of why I’ve dedicated my career to the environment. There is so much natural beauty around us that many people forget to experience and connect with, and our built society is so out of sync with the natural world. I don’t think this has to be the case; I think there must be a way we can structure our society so that we meet our needs without sacrificing the needs of the Earth. This is why I study energy efficiency and sustainability!