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  Time Off

Evan rafts the Roaring Fork River

Independence Pass near Aspen, Colorado

Duckies and bears

~Evan Belknap

It’s my last day in Colorado. I’m writing this from the bank of the Roaring Fork River in Basalt. I have a throw bag and a camera, and I’m waiting for my company’s inflatable kayakers (we call them “duckies”) to come floating down and flip in these monster waves. Its important that I get the shot of them right as they fall backwards out of the boat, the wide-eyed expression on their faces—one foot high in the air—and then the gasp as they pop back up. We call it carping—the icy-water, pop-up inhalation—buuuaaaahhhhhh. Hilarious. People are always fine and smiling at the end, that beer in their hand, looking at the photos I’m about to take.

I’ve worked so hard this summer, I’ve hardly had a chance to walk around town, or explore the mountains much, or even write a Time Off. Rafting in the morning and rafting in the afternoon and sleeping and eating heartily the rest of the time to make up for all that rafting. I hang out with my rafting co-workers after work, and often times, if there’s still daylight, we’ll go rafting.

I’ve done a few other things, climbed a few days, sat in Penny Hotspring, learned how to kayak, made some lifelong friends, and explored Independence pass. I lived in a nice two-bedroom apartment for a couple months with four, sometimes six, people. And I’ve slept in my car for the last three weeks, ever since the bear scared me out of the tent at the boat yard.

There are abundant blueberries at out boat yard and twice a momma bear had found our garbage bins not emptied. For a week or two—because of those things—our boat yard became her favorite nighttime hangout. I hadn’t seen her but I cleaned up the knocked over recycling bins in the morning. I figured she was a little black bear, and everything I knew about black bears told me that they were skiddish, shy, and that if I hollered at one, it would go away.

One night, at 1:14 a.m. (I checked my watch), I heard our empty trash bin bang to the ground right outside of the large party tent that was my bedroom for a few days. “Hey bear!” I yelled, “Get outta here!”

Then I heard footsteps coming towards my tent, loud, slow crunching in the gravel. I went silent and stuck my head to the ground so I could see under the six-inch gap on the bottom of the door. The footsteps came closer and closer and then giant hairy feet came into view—ten feet from my face—the biggest bear I’ve ever seen. My heart beat so hard and fast I thought the bear might hear it. The bear paused for a moment at the door of my tent—and I thought that I was the next Grizzly Man for sure—and it then continued on.

A few seconds later a cub followed behind her and I saw its little furry feet run by, and it was the scariest cuteness ever. I didn’t breathe for what seemed like a long time. It’s one thing to be upright in the daylight and thinking about bear, and it’s another to be alone in a sleeping bag in the middle of the night, in your underwear, as one sniffs the wall of your tent. The incredible power and strength of that animal was obvious and I knew that if it felt threatened and attacked, I wouldn’t have a chance.

I waited a few more minutes, and then as silently as I humanly could, got out of my sleeping bag, collected it in my arms, slipped out of the tent and ran to a van, where I slept for the rest of the night—after watching mom and cub lumber across the lot and then head back up into the mountains.

I’ve heard that lots of bears have been out wandering about, up here in Aspen, and down there in New Mexico. We’ve been very careful about putting up our trashcans since the bear, and we haven’t seen her since—only her big steaming piles of poo from time to time, full of berries. It’s important that we take care of our bears. That we take in our trash bins and pet food and bird feeders at night, so they still get the chance to head back up into the mountains and be bears in the place they were born.

Ah! My duckiers are coming around the bend. Gotta go.

Nature hike at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

~Las Placitas Association

On September 24, at 8:45 a.m., a community nature hike will set off from the Merc parking lot and head to Tent Rocks. Wear good hiking shoes/boots, sunscreen, and a hat, and expect to return by 2:00 p.m. Water will be provided.

The trail is made up of two parts after the first half mile mark. You can do the 1.2-mile Cave Loop Trail—which is easy and returns you back to the parking lot at the trail head after viewing a cave from the pathway—or the more difficult, but certainly worth the effort is the 1.5 mile hike up the Canyon Trail—which is a slot canyon with unique geologic features found only here and in Turkey. From there, hikers can retrace their steps back to the parking lot or continue to climb some 630 feet to the mesa top to get some great views of the Jemez, Sangre de Cristo, the Sandia Mountains, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Placitas Rock Fest, nature talks, and LPA hike in the Open Space

~Las Placitas Association

There will be a Placitas Rock Fest at Placitas Community Library on September 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All local rock hounds, amateur miners, and stone seekers are encouraged to gather up the best of their collections of locally collected Placitas rocks, minerals, and stones and bring them to the Rock Fest for identification and explanation by a group of geologists. There will be rock swapping, a children's program with kiddie packs of identified rocks, minerals, and fossils, and kid-friendly geology handouts to take home; maps and books about Placitas geology, rocks and minerals, handouts listing references available about local geology and talks by experts about our geology. 

Dr. Jayne Aubele, Senior Geologist and Educator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, will give a talk about the geology and history of mining in the northern Sandias. Rock and roll music will be provided by DJs from community radio KUPR. Water and refreshments will be served.

In addition to the Rock Fest, on September 30, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library, local naturalist Michael Crofoot will address erosion control, ecological restoration, and planting outside of your courtyard walls in Placitas. The talk will draw from experience, successes, and failures in the Placitas area, and on recent scientific research heavy on a select group of hardy plant species, and proven techniques and strategies. There will be a Power Point presentation and handouts to take home.

Michael will also lead his last nature walk down in the Open Space from the east entrance on September 23, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Join him for a fun and informative walk. It is recommended that you bring water and wear a hat and sturdy shoes.

“Barbed Wire Pioneers” plays at Historic Site

~Charron McFadden, Friends of Coronado

On September 17, at 2:00 p.m. the Friends of Coronado will host a movie screening at The DeLavy House (Sandoval County Historical Society Museum). They will be playing the award-winning documentary, Barbed Wire Pioneers.

The film was created by graduate students at Northern Illinois University under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Chown. The Ken Burns-style film won a 2nd place award, biography division, at the 1998 Silver State Documentary Film Festival. It tells the story of barbed wire from its invention in the late 19th century to its continuing and lasting legacy.

If you've relocated to New Mexico from Illinois or other mid-west state, you're sure to enjoy this film. Admission is $5; Friends of CHS are Free. For more information, visit

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