Boulder

The podcast episodes in this section are focused on Boulder, CO.

One of Colorado’s fastest growing towns, Boulder really has something for everyone and these interviews highlight some great people, companies, and activities to make the most of your visit to Boulder.

#019 Roofnest – Getting Off The Ground With Tim Nickles

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast for this episode with Tim Nickles of Roofnest.

Roofnest is an emerging player in the roof top tent niche and is based right here in Boulder, CO.  As usual, the story behind how Tim was inspired to start Roofnest is one I think you’ll enjoy.

Online, you can find Roofnest at Roofnest.com  and on Facebook and Instagram @roofnest.

If you can leave a review on iTunes, that really helps get the word out about the show and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, apple podcast, Stitcher, or however you like to listen to podcasts and signup for our email list as well.

Thanks a lot.

 


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Show Notes

[03:00] How we met – Maria at Smak Strategies (what’s up!)

[06:00] What inspired Roofnest

[10:00] Refining the product

[13:30] Startup vs Outdoor communities in Boulder

[16:00] Why Roofnest is different

[21:30] The product – features and what’s new

 


Relevant Links

Roofnest.com

Smak Strategies

Laws Whiskey House

Meteorite PR

 


Related Episodes

Eric Larsen – A Life of Polar Exploration

Joshua Berman – Colorado Camping and Purposeful Traveling

Jason Sperling – Family Nature Club

 


Transcript

 

It’s been really great to dig back into this project as I mentioned, had some great interviews already lined up and we might even have to bump up the frequency a little bit. We’ll see. But right now it’s great to get this next one out. Keep the, keep the streak alive. Anyway, in this episode I am speaking with Tim Nickles, the founder of roof top tent company Roofnest. And so they are local Boulder brand and you know, I had the pleasure of meeting him actually through another guest on the podcast. I’m through my interview with poler adventurer, Eric Larsen, so you know, that whole thing of starting this podcast and getting out there and just, you know, kind of expanded my local horizons and getting in touch with people, doing cool things in this area is really kind of paying off.

And that’s how I met Tim. So we kind of get into that a little bit. But uh, you know, for now the rooftop tents, you know, they’re pretty unbelievable if you camp at all, it’s pretty easy to see how it would be amazing to just pull into your spot and in one minute have your no camper all set up basically as opposed to, we’ve all set up tents in the dark and in the rain and the wind gets a little hairy but you, it’s really, really an interesting product in and he’s getting some great press and some great reviews on, on the Roofnest. So we get into that a little bit. And of course if you’re in Colorado right now or if you’re even thinking about getting up here, it’d be a beautiful time to test out one of these. I mean, you know, the weather just follow appear spectacular.

 

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We talk about what he’s trying to do with this company, how he’s a little different than some of the other brands, how we got started, you know, what inspired it. And it’s just a great, it’s a great story. You seem to be doing well and it’s, you know, it’s really cool to watch. So as always, links to a him. You can find Roofnest at Roofnest.com and on instagram at roofnest and we’ll put links to anything we speak about in the show notes. I also just wanted to mention that I did start up a new page on Colorado.FM. There is a shop page and if you go on there you can find links to a lot of the brands that we’ve either spoken to or even people that we hope to speak to in the future. Just cool local companies. Um, you know, it’s a good way to find them and support them and you’ll be supporting the podcast and the process. So, uh, let’s get into it.

Go my conversation with Tim Nickles of Roofnest.

Alright, we’re recording. Nice. Tim Nichols. Doug, thanks for showing up man. It’s good to see you again. Yeah, likewise man. Great scene.

And you know, just I was thinking when back to like how we even met, I definitely wanted to give Maria over at Smack strategies like a call out up and little call out because um, we met at her Christmas party and she does some, some great things and represent some cool people. So I was actually curious how you got even dialed in with her. Well, Maria and I have known each other for Gosh, 10 or 15 years. She’s part of a crowd of friends that I’ve known in boulder for. Yeah. 15 going on 20 years. Some of them. So yeah, I’ve been knowing her for a long time and we just got to talking one day and I knew that she was in pr and I started to need that and uh, you know, met at a coffee shop and, and didn’t even really start to talk about her really working for me.

But she said, hey, I’ve got someone I could send your info to it Outside. And that ended up turning into like one of our biggest splashes in terms of pr, but you know, and it was a supernatural to hire her. Just given common friends and interests and she does a great job. So yeah. Well, she um, has, you know, she really hooked me up too because she reached out and had her husband, Eric Larsen. Yeah, I’m over on the show and that was like cool, amazing for his grade and to have started this little project and next thing I know I’ve got like, you know, this polar explorer the couch, right. So, uh, so that was awesome. But, so I did want to give her a little bit of a shout out in, uh, in uh, her Christmas party was Super Fun and there was lots of Bourbon as I remember.

Yeah, it was at a bourbon distillery. Yes. So a cool, awesome. Well, um, you know, you mentioned being around for awhile, like one of the, you know, we’ll, we’ll definitely get around to talking about roof nest and, and, and things. But I am, you know, this is a show about Colorado and one of the common threads is that we’re all here and that this place is pretty embarrassing and yeah. And not all of us have been around for 15 or 20 years. So, uh, so what brought you here in the first place? Yeah, I came to boulder in August of 1990 to start graduate school at the University of Colorado. I was studying molecular biology and biochemistry at that time I was Kinda in line to be a scientist and yeah, came here pretty, pretty, pretty bright eyed about Colorado. I was pretty stoked on it. And um, you know, Grad school didn’t go quite as planned.

I left with a masters from a doctoral program Kinda abd as they say and um, but yeah, ended up really loving boulder and have stayed here pretty much ever since with some stints in other places. Was in Jackson, Wyoming for a few years and yeah, I gotcha. Yeah. So it’s one of those come to see you and I almost never leave. Yeah, I constantly storage and yeah, exactly, exactly. And uh, you know, I could only imagine what this place was like. I mean going on 28 years ago, eight years ago, it had some of the same features, but quite a bit different. Quite a bit different feel. Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s cool. Well, um, I’m guessing, you know, it’s funny, I was thinking about, so I’m guessing you liked camping and, or maybe you hated trying to sleep on the ground, you know, it’s not always easy to get a good night’s sleep when you’re canceling.

So, so roof nest. I’m like, how did that come up? Kind of a kind of a funny story really. Um, I spend a lot of time in Chamonix France. Um, I’ve been going there for about 14 years and actually headed there and a couple of weeks. Um, but, uh, I have a buddy over there, Jim Lee who had a rooftop tent, a hard shell rooftop 10 on his vehicle and you know, had camped with him and my other buddies, they’re quite a bit and always thought that was a pretty cool setup. And a couple summers ago I was starting to think about building up an adventure rig and kind of didn’t have much of a budget at all. I was um, you know, not, uh, not, not flush. And so I bought a astro van Chevy Astro van for a 2,700 bucks. Super great condition. I got really lucky with it and um, my plan was to kind of build out the inside a little bit, but then put a rooftop tent on top, you know, as a way to like have a full on camper rig without having to like totally trick out the interior.

And um, what I found was it was pretty difficult to get a, an rtt for in my budget. I mean my budget was like, you know, one to $2,000 and you know, I was, everything I was seeing was like four or five, stuff like that. So I had done a lot of, or some sourcing of manufacturing in China for the bike industry. I kind of had a little stint where I was selling pedals that I designed and you know, had bought parts, bike parts and built bikes from stuff over there. So had some experience. And so I started looking into whether there was manufacturing in China and found some okay options and kind of got some tense shipped over. And um, you know, some of those initial ones were okay but not a definitely needed a lot of improvement. And um, what happened was I had never really thought about starting roof nest directly, uh, but once I had got the 10, I was like, oh, this might be a thing I could sell and thought maybe I could get 10 of these and, you know, make up some name and, and sell them and then kind of put that idea to the side.

But I had taken a craigslist ad out, um, for rooftop tents just to test the market and got some responses. So I was like, ah. And then coincidentally, like two months later, someone just sent me an email at random was like, Haiti, are you still selling those rooftop tents? And of course I just had one on my van. So I was like, oh yeah, well, um, yeah, I have a prototype model that’s not branded. But, uh, you know, I’ve been using it as a demo. But yeah, I could sell that to you for $2,000. And he said, done, I’ll take it. And he lived in Grand Junction and it was getting on December and I, um, met him at the copper mountain parking lot at, went up with four friends in my van and we skied copper and I quit early, came down to the parking lot, uh, we just pump the thing off my van and put it on his four runner and he gave me two.

Granted, I was like, this is a business, this is on, you know, and I promptly like started brainstorming names and looked into building a website and uh, um, yeah, it was kind of off to the races from there, you know, I maxed out a couple of credit cards to get the manufacturing up and running and then it’s just been a constant iteration of, of trying to improve the product and, you know, get the message out to more people that are for sale. And I’ve been lucky. It’s been very well received and it’s been an easy business to, uh, to grow.

Right. Wow, that’s great man. And it’s a little of that story and it’s just so kind of Colorado. I love the deal in the copper part. Totally down is just its roots, but that’s, so that model was kind of more like off the shelf of something you found and then so then you started iterating on it to improve it and bump up the quality. Because, I mean, one of the things I noticed is, I mean there was one of the videos on your website. I think there’s a lot. I loved it. There was these two people setting it up on the side of a road and the wind’s howling so bad that you clearly can’t even hear them talking or anything like that. It’s just like,

yeah,

and you know, you can still pop it. So I’m, I’m assuming that, you know, those first ones that you ordered probably weren’t up to snuff. They were

okay. But yeah, just so many of the features, I mean it’s a simple thing really is just two shelves with hinges and gas struts with a mattress on the inside. But as, as everything, I mean there’s so many details that go into making it a, a nice product. And I was, uh, I, I found a factory that I was able to create an exclusive relationship with and really start working on my own designs and um, and that’s been super productive because, you know, I’ve been over there a couple times and you know, I’ve met the people at the factory and you know, have a really good open communication with them and we’re constantly talking about improvements and you know, it’s always a struggle. You want to keep a sort of set feature list on your product so that you don’t have a bunch of different models out there.

But, you know, we’re constantly making improvements. And um, now we have, I think a great product. It’s super competitive quality wise with the other kind of top brands out there. And that’s been a lot of work to get there. Right. Well, and I, you know, it’s funny, I haven’t written down to ask you about that process of finding the manufacturing and everything because you have a lot of people you talked to are dealing with like digital projects these days and things like that. And you just don’t get like these, like, or people manufacturing locally where you can control a lot of that process, but you know, finding that manufacturing overseas and things like that can be a real deal breaker for a lot of people. And so, you know, having established that relationship I’m sure is pretty clutch to for sure. Maintaining everything. Yeah. And, and like I said, I think I was very fortunate with what I was able to find and create.

But it, it’s been constant work. I mean, I, I think last year, you know, uh, my factory, uh, the context of their wake up at about five or 6:00 PM Colorado time, so pretty much all last year and most of this year, uh, and, and still to some degree, but I’m, you know, I work all day on the business and then I work all night, uh, communicating and, and uh, stuff with China. So it’s been, yeah, it was a difficult, uh, last year and the start of this year, we’re, we’re a pretty tough on the old social life and everything else, you know, just like pinning it. Just a burnout espresso machine. Totally, well, what about like, um, like locally, I mean such a great, you know, startup infrastructure in boulder and such a great community especially for such, for a gear type product and things like that. Like how has that been?

Like, what, you know, aside from knowing people like Maria, I’m like, what has it been to be part of that kind of more like a startup thing in boulder? Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. There’s two elements that you spoke of. One is the startup community in boulder and the other is the outdoor community and those two don’t really overlap a ton. I mean there’s outdoor startups here. We’re one of them, but for the most part, you know, a lot of the startups or tech companies and then the outdoor brands are, they have presences here, presence here. Like, you know, Dina fit has offices here, Selayla and lots of other companies obviously. So it’s been really great to create some local partnerships for both, like branding, getting the word out, doing events together and um, and then, you know, as far as the startup infrastructure, you know, I’ve definitely attended a lot of talks and events and stuff to learn what people do when they’re starting a business.

And, you know, it’s interesting. I think so much of what I’ve done has been. I’m just making it up as I go along because some of the challenges I’ve faced are different than the challenges other companies have faced. And I think especially in the tech world, the whole kind of startup thing, you know, uh, you know, startup, even just that phrase is somewhat new. I mean we used to call that a business when you created a business, now it’s a startup and now it’s like a, you know, there’s all venture capital and all this stuff. And you know, I basically self-funded, like I said, I’m maxed out a couple of cards. I actually borrowed some money from my mom and you know, it was a little. I actually took a loan out on my car. I didn’t even know you could do that. I owned my old Volkswagen Jetta and I called the bank and I was like, I need money. They’re like, well, what do you got? You got a car? I was like, yeah, I got a car. It’s like, well, let’s, let’s put a loan on it. So yeah, it got some. Got some capital there and so yeah. And it’s, you know, so, you know, I haven’t been in that infrastructure of the startup community as much, but uh, you know, it’s been good to be here. I definitely have friends and a context that have provided a lot of assistance and advice and that’s been helpful.

Right, right. Well, you know, it was funny, we were just starting to talk before we even hit the record button and we had to, I had to stop us, but um, you know, so you’ve created this company, we won’t call it, you know, so start up. It’s real one. It’s like, thank you. We’ve got a, you know, a, a cool product in and there’s. But there are other people doing what you’re doing. There are, you know, some of these other brands out there and uh, you know, I do see the difference between your, the hard shell ones and kind of those soft ones and, but I am starting to see you around town man. I definitely see roof nests out there. But, you know, one of the things that you, you mentioned that was, that, you know, you’re, you’re different, you know, like you’re trying to be not only like a different product and different companies. So like let’s kind of talk about what you’re trying to do with it.

Yeah. So I’m pretty frugal person and I, I always like to find the best value in things that I purchased myself, cars, bikes, whatever. And uh, what I’ve wanted to create is a company that can sell a really good value to customers. And I, again, as I said I, you know, I’m kind of making all this up as I go along, but what I understood the way to do that to be was to sell direct to consumers, kind of control as much of the distribution supply, etc. Etc. As I can intErnal to the company. So I can kind of save costs at each stage and not have to pay third parties some of my margin. And uh, you know, I, I worked on this company by myself for a long tIme and now I have several really great people working with me, but I in the beginning, that was part of it too.

And I think one of the big features of roof nest is that direct to consumer thing. I mean, we don’t have a dealer network that we need to build in a margin, uh, to sell a, at a higher price. And, you know, I, I, you know, I, I, I always tell people we’re selling wholesale to the public, which is true. I mean we, um, uh, you know, we get the proceeds of every sale, so that allows us to put that back into the business and keep our prices really competitive, which there are several companies making not only hard shell but softshell rooftop tents and, you know, as a new brand, I think we’ve had to offer pretty competitive pricing just to get out there until now. I think we have a pretty good reputation. You know, there’S a lot of revIews and discussion on the web and we have a super good customer user community that’s very supportive and I think that’s helping us.

Um, you know, people aren’t sort of saying like, who the heck is roof nest and you know, why should I buy their 10? But um, but, so that’s the main thing. And then like I said, keeping all the processes of, you know, creation, supply, distribution, warehousing, we’ve, we’ve set up all those things to be as inexpensive as possible. You know, we’re warehousing in los angeles, all of our ocean freight goes right to there and get stored and um, you know, we ship all over the country and even north America from there, uh, you know, we used to do that in Denver, but it was really expensive to bring the tense, all of them, overland storm in Denver. And so, you know, this is just all to California where they had then. Yeah. And then sell it to someone in la. Wow. It’s just, they’re kind of silly.

But yeah, it’s been. Yeah. And that’s all, like I said, been stuff I’ve had to learn on my own. I haven’t had anybody to sort of teach me how to do that, you know? Yeah. Well, and now you’re like a employing some locals too. you just got to be a good feeling. Jobs, man. Totally, totally, totally contributing to the local economy is. Yeah. My first hire was my next door neighbor. Right. All I didn’t have to go far. Just like conversation in the parking lot. You already saw them standing there. It’s like, I know you’re not working, man. Yeah, that was perfect. That’s awesome. So like you said, you’re not, it’s all direct sales. So are you doing even anything like, uh, you know, it was at the outdoor retailer show here. I mean, but for most people that’s just about landing, um, you know, you’re not really meeting direct customers there.

You’re meeting retail outlet. So I don’t know if that was a big deal for you or I’ve, I’ve, I’ve gone to a couple out to our retailers, that’s where I met you really associated with the first one last winter. And um, yeah, it’s not really our show, we don’t, we don’t buy space there or anything. I mean, I go and I, I talked to people and meet some folks and stuff, but um, yeah, not, not our gig grade now, you know, we thInk about distribution as channels, retaIl channels and online channels and this and that and the other thing and you know, it, it’s just in today with the technology and people using the web for so many things. People buy a lot of things off the web. I mean, that’s nothing, that’s not news. Not mad. I’m not, you know, making news here. But uh, it, it’s been really effective for us to set the company up to sell to people online, you know, getting information out there online, getting video content, that’s always a challenge. But, you know, just making it easy for people to make that call.

Cool. Well, let’s, um, so let’s talk about the product a little bit. We talked about, you know, a lot, you know what I mean? It looks like you’re getting some great feedback and great reviews out there. I mean, I read some of the articles that you have online on, you know, you know, some great magazine. yeah, kind of feedback and uh, so how are you loving this thing? I mean it’s just the rooftop tent thing, just the idea of getting off the ground and getting caught up in the air. It seems to me like the only challenges, making sure your is like in a level spot. Yeah. Other than that, I mean,

yeah, you got no worries. Yeah. The nice thing about our tents is they pop straight up so you don’t need any thing to the left or right of your vehicle and you’re kind of self contained, just like a, an old westfalIa camper van type thing and you know, the sprinter craze that’s going on now, you know, it’s all just, you know, right in that space where you park and, and yeah, I mean leveling your vehicle. Really nobody mentions that. I mean, you know, a lot of overlander have these uh, you know, a little plastic things that they bring with them to level their vehicle. and of course if you get way out in the back country, you know, that can be an issue, but you know, a lot of our market is people that are, you know, just using these things for weekend getaways and they’re not necessarily going up to a mountaintop to camp, you know, they’re kinda near some infrastructure and so pretty easy for them to find flat ground.

But yeah, I mean the beauty of a hard shell rooftop tent like roof nest is you can literally park your car, you undo a couple straps, they pop up on gas struts, you can be inside the thing within a minute of pulling your car over, which is unlike any other camping experience other than a camper van or a our rv or that sort of thing. You know. And these, they go on any car, we’ve got them on cooper mini’s and prius’s and that sort of stuff. So it’s really open to anyone. You don’t need to buy another vehicle, you just used the vehicle you have and you don’t need another parking space for an extra camper vehicle. It’s like, you know, and they’re pretty easy to put on and take off. I mean, I think normally if, if somebody’s got a decent rack and there’s enough clearance to kInd of access everything, you can get these on in 15 minutes. You know, I had a guy come to my house to borrow one the other day and we popped it off my jetta and popped it on his truck. Took us less than 10 minutes, you know, all said and done. So you know, you can take them off if you want to use the car for something different or, or seasonally or whatever.

Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s amazing because uh, you know, I did some road trips with my two little kids and I was like, thinking that would have been killer. It would have been perfect for that situation. You know, you’re just like boom, pop the thing up. and uh, you know, it stores like, you know, everyone talks about, you know, a lot of the bedding and things like that are kind of in there. So it’s just like literally ready to go. Which kind of begs the question of whether I could just like leAve my kids in there like, or even like, like you know, men, you go camping long enough. Even like a regular adult campIng partner, you might want to just close them in there for like a few days, but if it’s too long you can get on each other’s nerves lately. You need to stay on the roof, man.

You guys just put your headphones on. Yeah. Now it looks like pretty. I mean the benefits seem pretty obvious even compared to like um, you know, the westfalia type type things. The one thing people kind of complain about in that whole setup scenario is that, you know, if you’re kind of parked here and you want to go drive even just a couple of miles away to whatever the actual feature of, you know, that you came to see is that it takes you an hour to actually pack the whole van backup, go over there, you know, for the day and kind of come back where it seems like um, you know, with if it’s just your 10 on top and not like a whole bunch of other stuff. Like yeah, like a little less of a deal. You can just like slammed that tent down and like get out of there in a few minutes and come

certainly compared to like a ground tent or any other kind of camping setup. And you know, a lot of places, uh, I camp and other people camp. I mean you can leave stuff set up at your camp site and just take off for the day. And so yeah, pop in the tent down and driving somewhere pretty easy. Yeah. Yeah. It looks like fun, man. It looks like a good way to camp, that’s for sure. And I’m sure it’s been a fun thing to be involved with. That’s the cool thing about running a, an outdoor business, especially one involved with camping is, you know, everybody I deal with is pretty chill. I mean there’s always the exception, but like most of the people uh, are out there trying to have fun trying to get more adventure in their life and you know, it’s, we’re just sort of facilitating that and it’s a cool thing to be doing.

Well. It’s funny, I was just thinking, uh, you know, speaking of erik larson, when is he, when we were speaking, he was saying how when he was growing up, all he wanted to be was a, like a professional camper basically. Yeah. I’m like, well that’s kind of funny and I think maybe you’ve pulled it off. Yeah, like a, you. Yeah. I have a, like a 10 company that I may be a professional

camera, might be a professional camera. That’s awesome man. Anything else? Anything coming up for like new year, like I know you’re trying to, it seems like you’ve, you’ve got, you know, ford models or something like that, you know, you’ve got the basis covered as far as size and different vehicles. We’ve got some new stuff that we’re working on that hopefully will be telling people about this winter, you know, get ready for 2019 spring and stuff. We’ve, we’ve introduced some accessories, you know, just other products that go with the whole car camping thing. We’ve got a 12 volt fridge that was branded roof nest and we make this a down blanket that’s actually a super cool piece of kit. It’s like a seven foot by six foot big puffy down blanket, like a technical sleeping bag with no zippers, you know, so it’s great for the roof nest and also just great to have around the camp where you can just pull it out, wrap it around your body, go look at the stars, whatever.

So it’s a pretty cool, a cool thing. So we’re experimenting with that kind of stuff. Stuff like the accessories that fit perfectly and all that. That’s all those things make the experience totally. All right. So we’ll keep our eye out for stuff like that is, is there anything else? uh, you know, you wanted to mention man? No, no, I’m good. Doug’s super nice talking to you. Thanks for letting me on your show. Yeah. Well there’s one last thing that I like to ask people. Uh, and I didn’t give you a heads up so this is going to be a, you know, a real. It’s not like anything crazy but like I do like to ask people who they’d like to hear on, on this show and I get some great ideas from, from my guests, you know, somebody like around here and they don’t have to be in your field like anywhere in Colorado.

I mean it is a Colorado show, but people doing cool stuff, somebody doing something really, you know, whether it’s for the community or business wise, I don’t know. I meAn, I don’t know if you know Eric Henderson, you know that guy? No, he’s a, he’s an old buddy from jackson and uh, he’s lIving here with his wife and family and um, does sImilar stuff to maria, you know, works wIth brands and, and she’s just super cool guy. Tons of energy. Great to talk to. He’d be, he’d be a fun guy to have on the show. There you go. That’s all I’m looking for. Perfect. Alright, well thanks agaIn man. I appreciate you making some time and coming over. My pleasure, man. Easy trip is a trip across town for me. awesome. All right, thanks. See you doug.

Right everyone. Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Tim from Roofnest. Again, you can find them at Roofnest.com. Again, a great local brand and doing some great things.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, go ahead and subscribe, you know, whether it’s on apple podcasts, android, stitcher, you listen on any one of those devices and also join our email list if you are interested in that.

Thanks again and we will speak to you soon.

 

#017 Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge With Lauren Steele of Motherboard

Hey everyone, Doug Stetzer here. Thanks for tuning into Colorado.FM the Colorado podcast.

So I’ve spoken a lot about how this project has already taken me down paths that I couldn’t foresee and this is another one of those kinds of episodes. It all started when I received an email from Vice Media. Yes the Vice Media found the podcast and reached out to us, and you content creators out there would know that that was a pretty exciting moment.

But what does that have to do with Colorado?

Well, Vice has sponsored an article by freelance writer Lauren Steele titled “Reclaimed Land: Inside Colorado’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge a former Superfund site that embodies the painful past an uncertain future of nuclear cleanup in America.”

Now most people here in the Denver Boulder area know all about Rocky Flats, but in case you’re not familiar, Rocky Flats is a superfund site located pretty much within eyesight of these two major metropolitan areas where during the Cold War plutonium triggers among other things were made for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, and I think you can see where this is going, let’s just say the waste was handled inappropriately.  I’ll leave the details for Lauren and her really amazing article.  But be warned you’re going to get angry it’s just really maddening.

Now despite this history and a half life of plutonium of 25000 years or so the area around Rocky Flats is already being redeveloped. Those of us who drive down Colorado 93 are on our way to Denver or shoot out to 70 are familiar with the Candelas housing development that’s right there. Additionally over 5000 acres of Rocky Flats is about to be reopened to recreation under the supervision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

So is a former Superfund site ever really clean and is the government data trustworthy?

As far as the safety of living conditions in the area there are two sides to this story and I think Lauren does a really great job of making sure that they’re both represented. I also really want to give kudos to Vice Media for sponsoring this type of long form investigative journalism in our world of 140 character tweets and 30 second videos. This article really stood out.

About Lauren Steele.

Lauren is a freelance journalist who has contributed to publications such as Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine, Men’s Fitness and more.

he has held the title of director of toughness for Columbia Sportswear and aside from writing this article that is relevant to all of us in Colorado. When she’s not traveling for work she spends a lot of time specially in the summers here in Carbondale area training for ultra-marathons and things like that.

And this actually is where she stumbled upon this story which is no she gets into which is a cool story in and of itself. Online you can find Vice Media at vice.com and on Instagram and Facebook also @vice.

And of course we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find vice, Lauren’s writing or anything else we mention in the show.

So here we go. My conversation with Lauren Steele, contributing journalist to Vice Media.

 


Show Notes

[02:30] Who is Lauren Steele and what led to this story?

[08:30] Rocky Flats will be a place to play.  Should it be?

[11:35] Why push this on US Fish and Wildlife Service?

[19:00] Description of Rocky Flats; What is the Central Operable Unit.

[24:30] Touring the area; A sneak peek.

[30:00] Making choices – Why save this site instead of something pristine?

[35:30] Conversations with people in the area – what that reveals.

[41:00] Site meets current standards, but standards change over time.

[43:20] What would you ask Dominick Sanchini?

[41:00] What’s next for Lauren.

 


Relevant Links

Reclaimed Land:  Inside Colorado’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, a former Superfund site that embodies the painful past and uncertain future of nuclear cleanup in America.  – Vice Motherboard

Vice Motherboard

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge – US Fish & Wildlife Service

Dept. of Energy Office of Legacy Management

EPA Superfund Record of Decision

CaldelasLife.com

CandelasConcerns.com

Carbondale, CO

 


Transcript

 

Hey Lauren. You know I really appreciate you taking the time to join us on this show and you know reach out and to talk about this amazing story that you did.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about this article. It is called Reclaim Land. It’s on Vices Motherboard and it’s you know the subtitle is Inside Colorado’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Now this really hits home. I’m in Boulder. It’s right down the road. And when I moved here people told me about that very casually. Oh yeah that place over there used to be a toll toxic waste dump. So you know what I’m really curious about is is this what led you to this story what you know were you assigned this story or did you teach it. Did you seek it out. Like what. You know it really brought your attention to Rocky Flats?.

Read More...

So the genesis of a story is usually a very interesting one.

I’m freelance reporter so I am constantly seeking out things that interest me and I also happen to be a very active outdoors person and I usually come out to Colorado specifically Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley area to train during the summers for ultra-marathons and different races but I’m doing throughout the year.

I have just fallen in love with the valley and this area and wherever I’m traveling rather I’m going just because I happen to be and insatiably curious person. I always tap into the local news and like all refresh the local page on my phone for news and kind of read bulletin board the coffee shop and see what’s going on because you never know what you’re going to find out and you never know what is going to come across.

And actually while I was here last summer it was and was actually in late June I found a news story about a new lawsuit I come home about this Rocky Flats place.

I had never heard of Rocky Flats. I live in York City. I grew up in rural Missouri. And Rocky Flats was meaningless to me. But there was the headline from my local Denver outlet and it was talking about this huge lawsuit about this nuclear waste land. And this former Superfund site. And the fact that it was becoming a national wildlife refuge.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

How can some place that used to have plutonium on it be a national wildlife refuge especially in Colorado especially in Boulder?

I have a lot of friends.  I very much know the community there and the values that they hold in the belief system there. And so I was intrigued from the very get go are diving in a little bit more about it that a lot of google searching. Like I think that there’s something more here. I don’t know what it is. I don’t even know what a Superfund site is. But there’s something here and I’m curious. I’m curious and I am kind of afraid and I’m kind of just completely swept off my feet by this and I know other people will be too. And that’s usually the guiding light for me with stories as if this is intriguing to me if this is mysterious to me.

This is like inflaming some sort of passion in me that I know that it will mean something to other people.  And just like keeping that human thread running through stories like whether they’re environmental or they’re you know athletically driven or whatever. Whenever I’m working on, if it makes me curious and I’m like there’s something here that when I heard of Rocky Flats I was always like wow.

After a quick google search I realized that there were there was really no national coverage of Rocky Flats, which is also shocking to me especially with like the state of our current political climate regarding the EPA.

How can we just be ignoring on such a national level?

With funding being cut and all the Superfund sites after Hurricane Harvey leaking and not getting the funding that they need. How can we just be ignoring on such a national level?

These places that could cause huge issues for decades or centuries to come we don’t really know. So for me like thank god my love for Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley and running and being in these mountains and just playing out here actually led me to the story. Which is a really intriguing angle because you know the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is going to be a place where people can play and run and bike and all these things.

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is going to be a place where people can play and run and bike and all these things. But should it be?

But should it be. And those are the especially whenever we have all this land out here to enjoy. And that was kind of the thing that piqued my interest the most was like in this place that I love so much and have given so much to me as an athlete and outdoors person.

How can our wild lands and our public lands, the kind of give us our human rights, you know it’s like there’s all this contention around being there and publicly and in general and it’s like what about when the land isn’t serving the public well what when public lands are hurting the public and why are we trying to protect the land that could help the public.

So those kinds of questions are really what led me to writing the story into really pursuing it and it was actually after a few days of going over who I should bring the story to who would be the best fit. I actually had taken it to a different publication prior but they didn’t want to run it as a feature and I didn’t want anybody to have to google Rocky Flats like I did after reading my story.

I wanted to really talk about the issues here and really talk about the issues on a national scale not just on the Colorado scale because Rocky Flats has been a huge source of contention in the Denver metro area for decades. And I wanted to talk about that for everybody in this country and how it affects all of us. So I finally ended up selling the story to Vice motherboard.

And in September and they were full throttle, let’s do this let’s make it happen in as many words that it need to tell a story less inform people, and I am beyond privilege that I had an editorial team in a publication that was so supportive of us telling the story as thoroughly as we could.

Right. Well you know as you know there’s a lot of things in there that are super interesting. First one when I got the e-mail from you guys about you covering the story and talking to you. You know I was wondering what your angle might have been on that. So it’s really interesting to hear that you spend so much time out in Colorado and it was really a personal find for you.

And there was a couple of things that I was thinking when you said that that that triggered some thoughts my mind.  First of all, I live right here and I didn’t know that this park was opening up in the next year. It’s just kind of taken for granted story like everyone kind of knows about it. But like you said there’s not a whole lot of coverage and conversation about what’s going on over there probably because it’s been like that for so long.

You know and in your story you see how some of the most active opponents of opening up this refuge and everything like that you know they’ve been at it for decades so I can only imagine the energy that is as taken to just kind of maintain that fire, right. So that just came across as really interesting.

And then you know the other thing about this idea that it really does affect everybody and not just people in Denver because of not just the site. And you know what might happen environmentally but because of how it reflects on the process what’s going on with the Superfund program. Who are these sites are getting dumped on. You know your article really was super informative and like you said I mean these long form articles are kind of a rarity these days as you know really special for Vice to just encourage that because you know.

I just thought it was amazing. And so you know one of the things speaking of that process is how these sites. You know I’m speaking of the budgetary process and everything like that so Superfund itself is being defunded and then they’re pushing these sites on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And when you hear that you’re just like well how does that make any sense. And then of course I mean there is not one park type service. You know a Department of Interior group that’s not just being axed as far as budget. So how are you. You know how are they defining superfund and then pushing it to the Fish and Wildlife Service that just blew my mind.

Yeah yeah. So kind of jumping and right there I mean that is the meat of the story. And I think that’s the meat of a problem. And because the story I wrote it not to talk about the controversy of the site. I wasn’t trying to say the government strong activists arrived the activists are right. The government is wrong.

There has been such a state of contention around who’s right and who’s wrong for so many decades with the story and the way I saw it is that the only reason that there there is controversy is because there’s bureaucratic red tape. You know I don’t want to talk about this controversy I want to talk about the bureaucratic red tape that causes controversy at all Superfund sites.

But my mission with the story and the coverage is to make Rocky Flats a microcosmic example of a larger issue that we have nationally because what’s going on there is going on and a lot of other places and we need to reignite the passion about you know asking for answers having definitive information having these safety standards that mean something to people you know you’re kind of going back to just the U.S. Fish and Wildlife sampling of all of this.

It’s incredibly, incredibly astonishing to me that a sector of the Department of Interior whose actual mission statement reads and I’m reading quote unquote their mission statement.

“Our mission is to work with others to conserve protect and enhance wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

That is a mission statement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So how can the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency say you know what a former Superfund site a site that is absolutely needing an imperative imperatively seeking continuing remediation and treatment for nuclear and radioactive contamination. Yeah that goes you guys. You guys know what to do with you know deer and prairie dogs and I think there are some deer prairie dogs here so take care of it.

We’ve already cleaned it up that mindset.

I mean everybody’s of law and that’s the issue here is the Department of Energy doesn’t want to have to deal with grasslands and the EPA is getting their funds cut. Day after day and the Department of Energy doesn’t want to have to deal with grasslands.

And then there’s the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and they’re forced to put on a good face and say we’re taking care of this. We are monitoring it we’re working on it. And the thing is that they don’t have the tools to deal with land that has been contaminated with radioactive and nuclear waste. And that’s a hard part is that we don’t have a plan that mitigates on a national level these Superfund sites because once they’re cleaned up the EPA kind of dust their hand off and says OK we did our job.

We spend our money we spend our time. But the thing is is this land will never be the same the half life of plutonium 239 which was the most rampant contaminant at Rocky Flats the half life of 24000 years. So no matter which way you like that’s not going to disappear right where the going how are we continuing to monitor it.

Like maybe there maybe there is no plutonium right now at Rocky Flats. But the thing is how do we prove that to the public how can we give them the assurance that it is safe. How can the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service be confident in their testing.

There’s a lot of kind of secular conflict of interest throughout all of this because the EPA is one of the government agencies along with the FBI who initially raided Rocky Flats whenever they were found in you know in the very beginning back and let me see what year it was. I think it was 89 whenever the raid actually happened. They were the ones who raided Rocky Flats and then you guys are doing a lot of stuff that is not OK. You’re dumping plutonium you’re spraying radioactive waste unpeeled there is toxic waste being dumped into water drainage is like this isn’t OK.

And then later on the Department of Energy is the one who’s tasked with running the central operable unit now and the EPA is the one tasked with testing the central operable unit. And there is no independent testing happening at any Superfund sites across the country right now. And I think that’s definitely something that citizens and people and government officials should be questioning of every single agency that was allowed to test Superfund sites and residually monitor them after their deemed clean has to be certified by the EPA.

And I and that’s not independent testing that’s not conflict of interest free. You know the houses. How can we prove that the system is good enough to protect us. Because the fact of the matter is plutonium of their radioactive waste hasn’t spelt and it’s not going anywhere. So how can we be sure that it’s safe. How can we be sure that the process is working great.

And just to kind of back up and clarify in case people haven’t really read the whole article one of the things that really makes you think about what’s going on out there is this central operable unit the structure of it.

 

And so why don’t you kind of explain a little bit about what that is inside the refuge for people who haven’t read the article yet.

Right. So Rocky Flats excuse me Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a newly designated wildlife refuge that’s opening in June 2018 so set to open next summer to the public.

It is over 5000 acres of public recreational land. It is also the site of a former plutonium and nuclear weapons production facility and one of the biggest in the U.S. ever.

Rocky Flats had a hand in producing at least one component of all 70000 nuclear weapons that have ever been produced in the United States.

So it was running full throttle during the Cold War and after it was closed down due to an FBI and EPA raid it was people can start to discover how bad it really was and the place where it was the worst is at the very center of this actual site.

Now so that entire site is a little over 6000 acres. The acreage of the part is going to be open to the public at a little over 5000. But that leaves 1000 acres still not going to be open to the public and that is known as the central operable unit.

So that is the area of the site where the main production facility was and still is. And that’s a very shocking realization to people is all of the foundational structure of the original production facility is buried the concrete foundation is buried right now underneath the central operable unit. And that was the site of the most contaminated areas Rocky Flats where it was in production.

So during the time of production and shortly after closing the EPA and now Rocky Flats was home to five of the 10 most contaminated buildings in America. This is not a thing to really be proud of and that those buildings and their foundations are still buried underneath that site and are required to continually be monitored for the next half century.  So that central operable unit as it’s now known is fenced off. Locals like to call it the doughnut hole doughnut hole in the middle of it is going to be off limits to the public.

Nobody’s going to be allowed to say that it’s still being monitored and that is the only area of the entire site that right now is still owned by the Department of Energy because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can not monitor and cannot operate something that still has unsafe levels of contamination and a need for continued monitoring treatment.

So huge question there is if there is still a 1000 acre area of the site that people cannot be on then why can they be on the rest of the 5000 acres.

One great quote from this story.

One of one of the most vigorous activists in this entire process for the past 35 years is Paula Alaafin guardian and she’s kind of been leading the charge for quite some time now she’s been on this since the Sunday she grew up in an armada. And she looked at me one day and she just goes you know plutonium doesn’t care about fantasy.

And we like to believe that if the government tells us that something is safe that it is but nuclear production is only 65 years old and these contaminants have a half life of 24000 years old 24000 years excuse me.

And so it’s just this idea that how can we be sure that this is safe. We haven’t even had enough time to figure out that it’s not it’s only 65 years old. So what about the next 50 years. What about the next hundred years what about the next 200. So why choose to have people on this say whenever there is a large swath of land that is still incredibly unsafe for people to be on like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t even allowed to be honest and proper operable unit.

So it’s just those kinds of questions that poke their head and say you know is this may not be wrong. This may not be illegal because it’s all falling within the standards of the government that the EPA has said that the Department of Energy has said. And just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean that it’s right.

Right. Well and also it raises the question you know right now 50 years away seems like a long time. What happens if 50 years if they just go in there they pull that fence out and then the lines blurred even more. than we still really know very well was for a long time frame of what any repercussions might be.

Right. And your memories were kind of short. So it’s. Just you know really interesting that definitely stood out now. Now you had a chance actually to go into their refuge with the U.S. most of us guys and trying to tour it ahead of time I guess you’ve had the early preview so.

An Early Look At Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge

So what did it feel like to kind of walk around next that that fence I mean was it kind of eerie was it you know of any new toes started on your feet since you visited it?

When I was going near the site I was actually with my dear friend and a photographer for the project Forest Woodward who is beyond qualified to be asking questions and telling these environmental stories and these large scale stories.

We had a mini van during our time here while we were reporting and we were sitting in his minivan getting ready to drive to the site of a bike. So you think this is going to be OK. And you obviously have reservations –  like plutonium is scary and cancer is scary and the idea that may be unsafe is really scary.

But there are these men and women working there every single day. There are these people that are living there every single day.

And so there’s just a very desperate like attitude toward how you should feel about that land. And I’m we’re like an outsider you know I was flying in from New York City.

I obviously had researched the heck out of all of this. But I don’t have this childhood history of being told that this place is unsafe and will give me cancer. I also don’t have this experience of seeing a sick by being deemed clean and being so proud of the work that’s been done and excited about the opportunity to share it with other people.

No those are the two attitudes that are being directly applied to the opening of the site. So I just try I I as a reporter and as a conveyor of information I will going in here to be like let’s see what happens. I am I want to tell a story about my ability. I want to ask questions. I want to find out information. I want to hear what the to say like I’m not the expert here. I never have been.

I never will be but my my strength and my skills for this story really live and the ability to be curious and just to listen and to convey all the information to the best of my ability. And so while we are in there you know like I’m with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guys and I’m with David Abel and who is the head of the Rocky Fire Stewardship Council and these are people who are so proud of what’s going on here and are excited about the opening and have really like pioneered and championed the opening of this place.

And talking to them and seeing them come upon the site you know you kind of have a hard time not allowing for that.

But at the same time they’re sitting here saying you know we are scared for the next year that we don’t know what the next hundred years will be like and that was my final question to able and was you know what.

What is your biggest regret with Rocky if you like what is your biggest fear. Where with Rocky Flats. And he said not knowing what’s going to happen in 100 years. And and that’s that’s something that no matter how you feel about the site today that doesn’t give you a great feeling about tomorrow because we can’t answer those questions. We literally don’t know because like I said earlier please.

Nuclear development is a new thing worldwide and I think we need it instead of questioning what’s happened that day we really do need to focus on tomorrow and the next day and the next and next year and next century because nuclear isn’t going away. Obviously we see the headlines every single day about North Korea, and Donald Trump and all this scary stuff.

Superfund site than the EPA and budget cuts and all these things.

Whether you’re in Colorado or you’re in Missouri or you’re in New York or you’re in Washington say all of these places have Superfund sites.

This is something that’s affecting everybody like. And we need to be aware there are you know over there right now there are over thirteen hundred Superfund sites on a national priority list of all across our backyard of the country and we’re probably coming into contact more often than we even know. And for me walking on that land and like driving through it and being around it like it doesn’t look special.

And sorry for all you front rangers out there, gorgeous but the plains are the plains. You know Colorado have the Rocky Mountains and have just gorgeous terrain all the way across the state but probably the least impressive part of the entire state is the plains.

And that’s where Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is. It’s 5000 acres of Great Plains sandwiched in between Denver and Boulder.

And so after we left that night for the photographer and I we were on a run in Boulder on one of the trails and as we were running along he jumped at me. He called behind himself and asked me, “why out of all the land in Colorado are they trying to save this for recreation. This place that’s flat that’s nearly urban.”

You can see Denver and you can see boulder from sight. So why. Why funnel your U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service money and budget into this place. And I think those are the great questions like What land are we trying to save here. You know what land are we trying to maintain and advocate for.

You know the former Superfund sites are not pristine in any way shape or form like that that’s not I mean that can be argued.

So why are we trying to save the land that is tainted.

It’s like a piece of paper. You know you can. You can take a piece of paper and the minute that I get crumpled the minute that I get crazy you can never take that creep. You can still write a story on it but that paper is never going to be perfect again. So why are we trying to write a beautiful story on a piece of crumpled paper.

That kind of attitude I took towards is what is the point of making U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service answer to that. This piece of paper that the Department of Energy crumbled. And so I think that question that we need to be answering and acting right now and the hard part is that there are no answers because there is no there is no agency within the Department of Energy that or the Department of Interior that is specifically tasked with maintenance of former Superfund site.

So there’s no actual plan on how to maintain the site once they’re deemed clean. But the fact is is that are they ever really clean. They may be more safe to be on but are they ever clean. And I think that’s the question that Rocky Flats has presented. Better than any other city in America. And I think that’s what really drew me to it and I think that that’s what’s going to continue to allow rocky but to be an example or even like an anti example of how we need to approach that because like I said earlier nuclear isn’t going anywhere.

So how can we how can we handle that process from a to z as a country?

Yeah like you’re saying and there the option there is just why didn’t they just put a fence around all 5000 acres and be done with it. Right. And they can monitor the whole area and give you another forest service or fish and wildlife. Just keep working on either new land or whatever are already huge portfolio of stuff is that they can barely cover.

You know I think the answer there and like the really hard part is it’s money like they answer there is money.

So why would you and the government agency that getting funds cut every single year. Why would you send something off and have to spend the money to monitor it whenever it’s not bringing you any money whenever you can open up the public and have recreation fees and bring more.

Urban center and urban commercialism to the area because of its faith that people can be on it and they can build around it in the community. They knew that it increased the land value of the houses that are being built around it and in turn the houses that are being built around it increased the value of that national wildlife refuge because it is the only land that isn’t commercialized in that area.

So it’s you know hate it or love it money really is the answer here.

And it’s how we kind of use money in the right way and ask the right questions that I can be allotted and the correct way. But you know whenever we prioritize money which as a country we obviously do whenever you prioritize them and do what is most monetarily beneficial and putting a fence around it especially when the EPA and the DOJ tells you it’s safe putting up and saying I am going to cost them money.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but you know we’re just not sure where it is going to slash our money down the toilet. And and do do some testing every year and kids keep not getting anything back for them. They’re not going to do that whenever they campaigned over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife arrest. And this is clean because they tell us it is. So we’re going to make the money because we’re not going to slash our budget down the drain here. And that’s a really hard position to be in.

And it is in. But at the same time your economic benefit you also comes from people’s willingness to you know accept what you know they’re being told as far as being safe and everything like that.

And so you know like you mentioned that when you went into this article that there are two sides to this story including you know that the people who have cleaned it up are the people who are monitoring the land and the people who have chosen to live right there and say look I’ve got this amazing space in my backyard you know I’m I’m comfortable with what I’m being told and being presented and the evidence that’s being brought forth and I’m comfortable living here. And you did.

You make sure you spoke to those people as well which is you agree for the article. What was it like to you. You have those conversations with people where did they feel the need to lie, were they defense were they you were they just like look you know we’re being told it’s safe and you know so I’m here.

Yeah. So. That’s a really great question and kind of pulling the lens back in a little bit like I went to the University of Missouri School of Journalism and I am very proud of the education that I received there and my characteristics and the skills that they taught me when being a reporter.

The thing is that I knew I had to talk to everybody. I knew I had to talk to people who are opening it, I needed to talk to people who are protesting, if I knew to people who are living on the other side of the fence of the Rocky Flats. I knew that as government officials I needed to talk to whoever I could to get any information that was available. And my job really is to listen and everybody we have free will and everybody who is a part of the story has their own story that has led them there and for people who live around the site in the Candelas community.

So there’s a 2000 home suburban development of going up all around Rocky Flats and I was able to speak with Kim Griffiths who has been living in the Calndelas community now for two years and you know Kim has her own story and I know I never come into an interview thinking that I need to lean one way or another.

I’m like hey I’m here to listen. Like why are you here. Do you like your home life. Tell me about your story your past like your experience or at least hear your experience. And then I kind of just shut up and let people talk to me because that’s my job and the talk in a can was so incredibly enlightening because whenever you think about a story like this you don’t really think about the people you think about the people who have been negatively impacted who have gotten sick.

You think about the government you think about protesters don’t really think about the people who are just going about their day to day lives in this environment and can have that voice I’m sorry.

And we’re speaking with her. You know it’s been a very rollercoaster like very much a roller coaster ride for her to be in the Kandos community because at first she wants to live. Kim is a highly educated very smart with smart woman. And while we were talking she had a lot to say and one of the biggest ones she wanted to get across is I’m not misinformed I’m not some government lackey. I’m not I’m not a dumb woman who wanted to live in a big house when I had so much respect flashy.

Absolutely conveyed to me that she felt very informed that the government had been transparent with her that she had signed an affidavit saying I know about the land I’m about to live on.

I’ve been informed that I’m making this choice and I’m making it feel like I’m able to make an educated choice. And she worked and the health field for a very long time. So this is not a woman who doesn’t know the facts of plutonium contamination and radioactive contamination on a human body. So walk with her. I just wanted to hear her speak her speak her piece.

And I think that she honestly believe in what she’s doing actually. Kim recently emailed me to tell me in full transparency that she’s become a member of the board of the Rockies Stewardship Committee. So there’s little woman who really does believe with all her heart that she’s will in the place that she wants to live and she’s got a great set up and she’s excited about the land she lives on.

All that being said she is very much putting her face into the facts and the test x and the testing that is being presented to her from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Department of Energy and from the EPA who have you know for decades now been very upfront with providing public information to the testing of the site the levels and the management plans of Rocky Flats.

But you have to look a little bit deeper you know and that’s what I attempted to do is say OK that’s all fair like you feel that it’s safe that you feel out of place based on this fact that was provided to you it’s not just a feeling you have like you have done your research but what is beyond that research and that’s never I started to learn a little bit more about the fact that the standard for the tests have been by the upper and lower limits of these these contaminated levels have been moved by the DOJ and EPA over the years.

You know we have changed as a country are entered for with acceptable contamination as Superfund sites and former Superfund sites. So even though this is testing within safe limits. Now is that really a safe limit. Is that going to be in five years that I can be away from it in 20 years. It’s already been moved around.

We’ve already changed what our standards are because we don’t have all the information about what these contaminants will do over the course of many many years just because we can’t they’re not even that old yet. So I think it’s about allowing people to be informed but allow them to be informed the utmost level and that’s what I was trying to do with my story specifically was like I said earlier not talk about the controversy of a site not talk about who is right or who’s wrong.

But talk about that bureaucratic red tape. The shifting standards the lack of information the information presented why the information presented. Who’s running the show. Who got the money. You know talking about that and allowing ourselves as a country to talk about the larger issue of our management of former Superfund site is a microcosmic example that everybody within Rocky Flats who has experience living on a site working on a site advocating for a site processing site. They all have a vital voice in talking about the larger national conversation of how ship me change this moving forward. Let’s not do Rocky Flats again.

Right. Well you know I think that you know it’s complicated. And the article really shows those you know the various constituents really wealth from from each of their angles and so. You know it’s it’s worth a read. I think you know obviously we’ll put the links to everything in the shown us the podcast where everybody can find your story and everything like that.

One last question.

My last question is you know right at the beginning you mentioned you know so the manager in charge of this facility at the time when it got right in everything was a guy named Dominick Sanchini, who has since passed.

What would you ask that guy if he was still alive when you were able to do this story.

Are you scared of what could happen? I think that’s the only question I have. Because America America as a country we have this rhetoric that has got us through so much as a young country. You know like the American dream the classic rhetoric. It works. We prosper and we’re going to deal with the consequences later.

You know like we’re but we’re going to make it work right now. And I think we just have stamps that onto an issue that we should have never stamp it onto.

Nuclear consequences aren’t consequences that you can deal with later. So prospering now what is that going to mean for every generation after this. This rhetoric does not apply to nuclear waste and contamination. And I think that we just need to flip the script on ourselves and ask these questions.

Now like I’m very much for living in the present. I very much about having a good time and not having to worry. I think that worrying about the future is one of the worst things a person can do honestly like I try not to think about it too much myself but as a government.

You have to look forward and you have to think about the future of your nation. And so I think that like my challenge to Dominick Sanchini and the Department of Energy back in 1989 would have been are you thinking about what is going to happen later. And I want to pose that same question to the government now.

Right. Right. Well you know I think that’s a great place to leave it. And you know I just have to say you know I really appreciate you writing the story and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and experience on you know on investigating this story with my audience. So thank you so much again for being on the podcast. And so so what’s next for you is there. You know you’re you’re spending more time out in Colorado are you still. Are you looking for the next big story or do you know what you’re going with this next.

Yeah. So Colorado man I love you guys stay and surprisingly are not surprisingly enough my summers spent in this beautiful place has morphed into a winter spent in this beautiful place. Surprise. I actually just moved and to a nice little townhouse in Carbondale and I am madly looking forward to spending a season out here in the valley on the slopes skiing in Aspen with all my buddies and just really making the most of it now from a place as far as stories I am always looking for the next thing like Rocky Flats was a very big surprise for me and I’m sure the next story will be a very big surprise.

I think there are a million things happening every single second of every single day that are worthy of a story and if you just listen and pay attention there they are. I think there’s a lot going on in the middle of our country right now.

That’s really worth paying attention to. You know I’m from the Midwest. And what recently sparked my interest is the opiate crisis and the U.S. and it causing orphans and grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

The financial and economical stress of low income families in the Midwest having to raise their grandchildren. And that’s another big one. But at the same time I’m sitting here you know pitching ideas. All my editors about you know the snow forecast went there.

So I’m all over the place. And that’s what gets me excited. And you know Colorado is a place that excited me for quite some time now so I don’t see that changing and I’m really looking forward to continuing to dive into local news here in the education system and in Colorado is incredible.

You know there are some really amazing education programs right now that are preparing kids for the future in ways that other places across the country are not doing you know in the work field is changing rapidly and more people are working remotely by you. Me. And you know that the skills that we’re going to need in the future as workers and employees are rapidly changing and the schools across the state are focusing on focusing on thinking and emotional intelligence.

And it’s amazing to see you know such a beautiful place creating beautiful people and beautiful mind. And so I’m just super excited to be here and say what kind of stories and the impulse to me and I’m going to do my best to continue listening and watching and paying attention to this place because there’s a lot of amazing and interesting and worthy stuff here obviously.

Well you know I sincerely hope you’ll come back and be on the show again when you find that next one and share it with us.

It’s been such a privilege to talk to you. I’m so excited to be on the show talking about this beautiful place and to have the opportunity to enjoy it from her and I’m really glad that this story has created some conversations.

And I’m so so honored to be able to be a part of this conversation and hopefully we all keep talking about it because I think it’s important stuff. But thank you so much for having me on.

Anytime. All right well thank you very much Lauren and no I hope to talk to you soon.

Alright thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation.  As we mentioned in the intro and as always you can find links to any related content in the show notes to this podcast episode.

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Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time.

 

 

#016 Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters Talks Education and Advocacy

Hey everyone, Doug Stetzer here, and thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

Well the journey down the climate science wormhole continues.

This episode was again inspired by my earlier conversation with Eric Larsen the polar explorer whose last trip to the North Pole is likely to be the last.

Eric is a member of Protect Our Winters, an environmental activist and awareness organization founded by legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones.  In fact, when Eric came over to record his podcast, he had literally just returned from a trip to Washington DC with Protect Our Winters where he was rooming with Jeremy as they spent a few days meeting with representatives and talking about climate change.

Of course, all of us who are passionate about our winter sports need to be very concerned with what’s going on relative to the climate, and POW takes a very interesting approach by talking about the financial implications of this change on the outdoor industry, tourism, and livelihoods that are produced by these industries.

Unfortunately, our government really listens better when it comes to talking dollars and cents, so this approach can be effective at opening doors and ears.

So I reached out to POW who recently relocated their headquarters to Boulder, right down the street from me actually, and was able to sit down to talk with Lindsay Bourgoine, their Manager of Advocacy and Campaigns.

Lindsay joined POW in 2016 and has a real solid background in environmental advocacy and conservation.

We get into what inspired Jeremy Jones to start POW, some of their key initiatives and where they are seeing success, upcoming leadership changes, and of course a really amazing story of how Lindsay came to be part of the organization.

Online, you can find POW at protectourwinters.org and on Facebook and Instagram @protectourwinters.

 


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Show Notes

[02:45] Visiting the POW offices in Boulder

[03:25] What inspired Jeremy Jones to start Protect Our Winters

[06:00] Aligning with industry; The $887 billion outdoor recreation industry throws its weight

[09:00] After 10 years, what’s working

[11:45]  Politics: A wake up call in 2016 – Colorado votes for new Gov in 2018

[15:40] New Executive Director

[17:00] How Lindsay joined POW (Read: How ski bumming can be good for your career!)

[22:00] Why POW relocated to Boulder

[25:00] Making climate science wonkery accessible

[27:45] Helping people get involved

 


Relevant Links

Protect Our Winters

Jones Snowboards

Eric Larsen

Outdoor Industry Association

Climate Reality Project

Alliance for Climate Education

Appalachian Mountain Club

Jim White – CU Boulder

Luis Benitez

Burton Sustainability

 


Related Episodes

A Life of Adventure and Polar Exploration with Eric Larsen

Jon Miller of Backcountry United Educates About Public Land Access

 


Transcript

 

Lindsay thank you so much for having me over to Protect Our Winters office to do this talk and take a little time to tell us what you’re all about.

Absolutely welcome.

As people are starting to get used to the format that I use I like to ask people at the end of the show who they like to have on the podcast. And you know one of my previous guests Eric Larsen, who had just returned from a Protect Our Winters event or campaign up in D.C. He really kind of turned me on to you guys so I really appreciate that we were able to connect.

Absolutely we’re excited that Eric was on the guest as well as he’s one of our favorite athletes don’t tell the rest of them.

So let’s just talk a little bit I guess historically about Protect Our Winters. Founded in 2007 by Jeremy Jones as many of us know and are fans of. So ten years like ten year anniversary. I know you’ve been here since like 2016 but historically do you know what was kind of in his mind at that time. What was lacking in, you know the kind of the .org world as far as climate change that really made him want to start his own.

Yeah for sure. So Jeremy actually took a trip snowboarding. Obviously that’s what he does and when he came back he was really feeling like he saw a lot of different changes in the mountains. You know whether it’s glacial recession or reduced snowpack and he was really concerned about that as an athlete obviously that’s really changing the game in his sport and changing the lives of many of his friends.

And so when he came back from that trip he really wanted to give a financial donation to an organization that would fight climate change on behalf of outdoor enthusiasts so he did a bunch of research he was online. To make a really long story short he didn’t find one and realized pretty quickly that if you know we needed a single issue organization to represent outdoor enthusiasts and this snow sports industry to fight climate that he was going to have to found one.

So that’s exactly what he did. And you know he worked with our first Executive Director Chris Duncamp to start 501c3 and follows paperworks through the IRS and get everything going and then obviously ten years later we have five full time staff in the offices to Boulder and have a lot of success stories under our belts.

Yeah. So it’s definitely one of those kind of scratch your own itch.

Yes foundation stories exactly like if there isn’t anyone doing this. Yes. I mean has taken on and I really commend him for doing that because I think a lot of professional athletes might just say hey that’s really scary starting a nonprofit or a cause. And you know he just attacked it head on.

Well not all professional athletes also kind of have his business side of his experience and usually that’s where people tend to start getting hung up. Hey let’s do this idea. Oh I have to register with the state. Oh I’ve got to get separate bank accounts. Oh I forgot to do that and the organisational side is what kills you.

The experience running Jones snowboards and having a little experience there as a CEO.

Well that’s interesting. You mentioned there in what I read on the web site about not only just having a desire to find an organization about climate change but about representing the outdoor athlete enthusiasts. You know that’s a really much narrower and a very clear mission statement and having an idea crystallize like that in your mind really makes it a little bit easier also.

Sometimes one is too broad it’s hard. But at the same time the more I started researching this the more it made sense to me because there’s a lot of power in speaking for and aligning with industry. As opposed to just saying hey I’m a snowboarder and I’m worried about the snow. Right. When you start bringing on Burton, North Face other corporations that are organized. So from your experience you know is that what makes this organization either different or is that’s what’s leading to success. Because we all know that when you go in and you speak to government in terms of impact on industry your voices may be heard a little bit louder.

Yeah for sure. I think the way I like to explain it is I’m definitely come from a background of you know wonky environmental non-profit world. And you know we talk about organizing and organizing people. We talk about grassroots so you know regular everyday citizens have me organize their voices and have them be heard and then kind of the opposite side of the is grass tops.

So who are those business leaders who are those professional athletes and I think that’s where POW really excels and that’s kind of our formula is how do we use a grass tops voice to lead our grassroots community. So how do we have Jeremy Jones speak on behalf of snowboarders everywhere and I think when you saw it right after the 2016 presidential election he did a Facebook Live about how he was feeling and saying you know I’m going to stand up and and you know continue to go to D.C. and voice my opinion and when we post a picture of him in D.C. it’s like that’s our most liked image because people feel that he’s representing them.

You know, he’s their voice on this issue.

And so I think by bringing CEOs in ski resorts those are other grass top leaders obviously have more of a sway with their political leaders. But you’re absolutely right about business bottom line like if we compare this to every other industry the outdoor industry is huge it’s in $887 billion dollar industry. And so when we look at oil and gas you know it’s bigger than that. And when you think about how many lobbyists they have in D.C. working on their special interests you know no wonder they are succeeding and so we have this really cool opportunity to leverage that.

But I think a lot of groups in the past few years have been really good at bringing that out and talking about the size of the industry. And I think we’re just at the beginning of seeing that power like when you look at the public lands fight it’s like oh there’s a lot of force behind our industry and it’s only just beginning.

And like you said that voice maybe there was there before but maybe it wasn’t just organized and organization is just such a big part of having success.

So you referenced 10 years and a lot of successes. What are some of your favorite successes the success stories are real good campaigns and then you know what are your goals for the next 10 years. What are you guys talking about saying hey this is where we’d like to be.

Yeah absolutely. So I think in terms of successes you know I think about POWs mission in terms of engaging sports in the broader outdoor community in climate change. It’s really we do it through two things – education and advocacy.  So I think when we look back at our successes one of our key programs is called hot planet cool athletes. And basically what we do is we work with our professional athletes and we bring them into schools and to talk about climate change to kids and to give a better perspective.

So or I shouldn’t say a better a different perspective than maybe their science teacher you know says when they’re talking about climate change and it’s a way to say hey this is what I’m seeing in the field and this is what I’m concerned about and if you love winter and if you love outdoor recreation you should really be concerned too.

You know we’ve reached so many kids through schools and bringing professional athletes and I think you know obviously many of our athletes are incredible public speakers and so it’s just been a really fun way to engage. And you know obviously that’s that’s kids are impressionable and that’s when we have you know some of the best conversations.

And I think also the exciting part to me is a lot of kids get it. You know it makes sense it’s about the changes that they’re seeing in the world like when Eric Larsen just went with us to D.C.

When we got to D.C. It’s like OK we’ve just had two major hurricanes we have you know the West is on fire. It’s raining ash in Seattle and Portland it’s kind of hard to ignore what’s happening in the world right now.

So I think that’s been a big successive on the education side. And then in terms of advocacy I think POW has just really perfected this you know niche in the specialty of making climate action cool. We joke about that all the time around the office. But the reality is like that’s what we want to do is figure out how to take this like really wonky complicated stuff that feels intangible right because it’s like OK as is happening down the road I don’t you know I don’t feel the impacts day to day.

So how do you encourage them to take action on that. If it doesn’t feel real and I think that’s something Protect Our Winter really perfected and in the last couple of years we did a partnership with Ben and Jerry’s in New Belgium Brewing. So we would go to places and have people write letters about the Clean Power Plan and about where their power is coming from.

But they’re at a happy hour. They’re drinking beer they’re eating ice cream and they’re writing their you know elected officials at the same time. And so it’s like OK that’s that’s fun. That’s cool. And that’s not you know this really you’re not getting 20 e-mails a day being like write this letter to your senator you have to do this give us money.

It’s just kind of a different niche and I think that’s why we’ve been effective in advocacy. And I think to your question about where are we headed. I think we’ve realized you know 2016 was a wake up call to us. You know we put somebody in the White House who thinks that climate change is B.S. and that’s obviously not going to farewell for our agenda in terms of trying to get solutions passed.

I think the good thing is that even though that feels like a really big roadblock there are things like clean energy that just make economic sense. And so I think there are a lot of ways. You know you see that the Trump administration really working on promoting coal you know coal plants are being shut down regardless of what the new administration is doing it isn’t cost efficient.

He saw and you know coal plants are closing in Michigan in Texas. It doesn’t matter kind of you know political aspect of where those places are so you know that’s the good news. But I think the bad news is you know we have a lot of elected officials that think climate change is a hoax and it’s really sad to us because you know they US Republican Party is one of the it actually is the only conservative party in the world that thinks climate change is real.

So it’s not it’s not just this conservative ideal it’s it’s really tied back to the fossil fuel industry and how much money is going into that. And so I think we realized that we need to step up politically and we’re really want to play significantly more in the 2014 midterm elections. And yeah really talk to people about the fact that there is really low voter turnout in midterm years especially among millennials which is our kind of consumer base and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get people to really think about climate change when they vote.

Yeah and you know it’s interesting that you brought that up. I knew it was going to be something that’s a big part of your strategy for the next year. Not only the midterms in Congress as a huge event and then just to kind of tie it back in to Colorado. We have gubernatorial race and the incumbent is up for his term limit so he will be changing. And you’re up there already forecasting that this is going to be one of the biggest most heavily spent state elections ever. Yeah and you’re already starting to see the people line up and there’s actually quite a few candidates I’m not first enough to know if there’s any favorites really at this point but I’m sure that’s something locally that will be interesting.

And that’s definitely something we’ve been watching and I think it will be an election that we play pay close attention to. In addition we’re also really interested in Maine and Michigan and Nevada also have the same situation as Colorado where they have an open seat election.

Governor that’s termed out and we feel like those four states are really crucial in terms of having climate leaders and maybe in the past some of those states have had you know people that have not been great on crime at all and so it’s an opportunity to elect somebody that’s really going to step up and obviously for Colorado.

You know we think about our outdoor industry and think about the importance of climates like we need somebody in Denver that’s really going to pay attention to that. And this seems like.

If anywhere is a place where this message of tying the advocacy with the industry where that is very powerful. You would think that Colorado is the place right.

Yeah we especially when talk about the ski industry it’s such a focus of the economy here and not only that but also the outer RECA economy. You know you think about we have the outdoor industry association right here in Boulder. We have Luis Benítez in the governor’s office focusing on outdoor recreation and we have so many incredible you know from Australia’s smart will become businesses all over the state that are huge and depend on this and you know that’s that’s one of the best allies we have in terms of folks like that that are like this is a business bottom line issue. You know if there aren’t places to play you know if wildfires are burning down our forests that then our products don’t sell it’s kind of like thinking of it like why would you sell a tent if there’s no place to camp, or you know same with skis obviously there’s no snow that it’s it’s pretty easy to tie back to business bottom line.

Sure and 2018 will be interesting for you guys also with this new executive director coming in. Yeah. And so know what’s exciting about having kind of a new a new person coming like that.

How you he and you director his name is Mario Molina and he starts with us November 1st so we’re looking forward to that just around the corner and he comes from the Climate Reality Project which is another national climate nonprofit. I think his passion for the topic and his you know lifelong commitment that he’s really made to effecting change in climate I think will be immensely helpful for us.

Before that he worked at a group called the Alliance for Climate Education are really thinking about how we talk about climate. And I think one of the benefits that he’ll bring to power there is you know how do we effectively message climate change and how do we talk about it in these complex situations where we have people of all different political parties. And I think his background in terms of education will help with that.

And then beyond that he’s spent a lot of time abroad and has done a lot of work internationally and I think that will also really help us think for 2018 2017. We’re really focusing on on U.S. elections and we have a lot of incredible international chapters and people that are doing great work and I think we wish we had more time and energy to help but we’re also like Look who’s in the White House. We have a lot of work to do here in the U.S. So that’s kind of where we’re focusing but I think over the long term Mario will bring a much more international scope to power to you.

Well that makes sense.

And he lives in Nederland and he’s a snowboarder so.

Well welcome to the only player that holds the check boxes are all being ticked off.

And speaking of coming to work for power let’s hear a little bit about your story and your background because you’re manager of advocacy and campaigns in the you know that will play into all of these efforts significantly in in the coming year as well and motivating.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you know of all the organizations that are out there and how you ended up with Protect our Winters and what you’re focusing on for the day.

Yeah I started so I grew up in Maine and I worked for my first environmental policy group a group called the Appalachian Mountain Club in the state of Maine. And while I was there I worked in the state house and I had this this bill that just wasn’t getting through and it was on state park funding and I was super frustrated I was meeting with you know grassroots folks and trying to get them to come and testify at the State House and working with businesses. And just really couldn’t get anything done and started to really think about OK how do we get you know a large business to say something in this.

And so I started working with L.L. Bean and they decided to speak out on the issue and say hey you know we need state parks and L.L. Bean is one of the largest employers in Maine.

And after they spoke up the issue was moot.

And I said that’s exactly what I to do is work for for that because as we talked about the beginning of this show it’s businesses have immense power when it comes to political clout and you know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing that people listen to business in terms of you know obviously they have economic weight to throw around.

That’s the reality. And I’m a realist and a pragmatist and I’m like OK that’s you know it was exciting so I kind of ventured down this path of you know what is this balance between environmental advocacy and our industry. And with that ended up at the Outdoor Industry Association here in Boulder. Get a job with them in 2013 and road trip down from Maine a little U-Haul and moved to Boulder at the weekend of the floods.

So I showed up at my house and signed a lease on Craigslist and my roommate who I wasn’t actually sure if he was my roommate or not because are like 12 people camping out there were like grab this shovel like this trench is about to burst your neighborhood and we’re going to dig it. And it was like OK here we are.

Welcome to Boulder so wow. It was funny though. People say it wasn’t that awful time to move but I actually think you know what an incredible time to see a community come together and you know from day one to be a part of something so yes spend time here working for the Outdoor Industry Association went to grad school after that just decided that it was time to study up a little bit and worked on a Masters of environmental law and policy to kind of really curtail this whole policy thing.

My undergrad degree is in geology. So you know I think at some point you’re like I haven’t actually learned what I’m doing in an academic setting. I think that’s important as much as experience too. So did that wrapped up and didn’t have a job and decided you know if there was one thing that I wanted to do when I didn’t have a real job it was ski bum.

And so I moved from grad school to Lake Tahoe and they coached alpine racing at Squaw Valley and I met this guy there named Jeremy Jones and some point on the lift. I actually did some kind of behind the scenes networking and was able to connect with Protect Our Winters and start in in Boulder shortly after.

And it’s kind of funny now because if I think about going back and you know being unemployed and if anybody had told me that working at Squaw would actually help me in the long run with my resume to get to power that would have been kind of funny because here I was taking a minimum wage job just for fun.

But yeah and obviously for me this was a dream. I mean I work on really wonky environmental policy stuff that I love. But I also do it in an industry that I love to and it’s kind of you know this really there are few of us I think that are that lucky to tie our professional passion with our personal ones.

Right. It’s an honor. Now that’s super fun. One of the things that I’m noticing about this podcast by reaching out to people is I’m starting to meet a lot of people like you who are able to tell you their passion with their profession and it’s absolutely inspiring.

And that’s something new with Colorado to just kind of the people that it draws we’re talking about this earlier about just people that love the outdoors and spend time outdoors and maybe there’s a everybody here works harder to connect that to their day job too.

Sure. Well we’re also talking about how I haven’t posted this yet but I did have a chance to honor Erik Larson’s recommendation go meet with Dr. Mark Serreze who’s the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center here in Boulder. And we were kind of talking about this earlier but in his interview. He talks about how Boulder basically is the ground zero for global climate research. And you know we get into a lot of the technical aspects of of why that’s the case and some of the other organizations in town.

But I was curious is that what brought you guys to Boulder or was it other things? why boulder of all places?

Yeah it was definitely an aspect of that we have about a 12 person board and seven of our board members are from Colorado so there were certainly a push to move from California to be like hey this is this is this day and this is the place. But you know obviously there’s a lot of organizations here that are connected in one of the ways that we work with the science community is through a program that we have called our science alliance and basically we have scientific advisers within the university community around the country and around the globe actually.

And our goal is to really communicate the research that they’re doing out to our constituency because we know they’re seeing incredible things in the field and you know some very unfortunate changes in the field and a lot of times you know it can be hard to distill that information from a scientific report.

So how can we do interviews with athletes and scientists and so we work a lot with Jim White who’s actually now the dean C.U. but he was formerly the director of instar the Alpine and Arctic Research Program at C.U. and a very well respected scientist. I really think you know how having that accessibility to just walk down the block and interview Jim is incredible.

I’m sure you talked about NCAR and Kevin Trenberth is another one of our advisers there you know and it’s a pretty cool opportunity to be able to take those folks to ski resorts or to you know some of our riders athletes training programs and have those people present. But I think I think you’re absolutely right. Like the front range is full of you know all kinds of different institutions that are looking at this.

One of the ones I actually was going to recommend if you want to know who I would love to hear from is the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden. I don’t really know much about them. I think you know I’d be really cool for the Protect our Winters community to connect with the research that they’re doing because I think it’s you know obviously on the front lines of where’s renewable energy technology going.

But that’s right down the road to you can see the windmills kind of turning in the distance up on the hill over there. I’ll definitely look them up. That would be a great conversation for sure. Now that’s Boulder’s just like really interesting it’s you know it’s got all the outdoorsy stuff but it’s got so much science and technology in town here that it’s you that that’s part of really what makes it pretty special. So.

You spoke about the science alliance and you know I was looking on your Web site it’s just really very clear. We are also speaking about how the NSIDC they’re doing the same thing they’re trying to make the data and all of the you know all this really wonky terminology more accessible because part of it is just flying over people’s heads and you’re trying to address a younger audience.

So I think that that’s you know really resonates as far as a really concerted effort to make that you know information and kind of really you know educational aspect available and I saw that on your website a lot love it it’s just the way it’s laid out.

If you click on any topic it’s kind of got you know here’s the purpose here is that people who are involved in here’s if you want to learn more. And it was labeled like like a ski slopes like a green dot or something he really like the blues or if you really want to dive deep there’s like a double black diamond. I guess if you can’t sleep at night that that’ll that’ll take care of that. I thought that was really interesting how you know education is such a part of it. You speak about influencers these days and a lot of times it’s just you know how many Instagram followers you have or something like that.

But I love the Riders Alliance. In the guys going out and speaking in schools and you know these these athletes they really do have a lot of influence over young kids. You know when one of these explorers or athletes shows up at a junior high or high school I’m sure you know kids are actually paying attention.

Yes definitely a different way to communicate and I think you know it’s kind of funny because you see the same like awe inspiring look on a kid’s face in whatever educational programs that you do when you walk into a congressional office and it’s like at the end of the day we’re all inspired by people that you know that push the limits and push the boundaries and do these incredible physical feats.

And you know we had a few of our athletes on our lobby trip in September were Olympians and brought their medals and you know we joke again about how that opens doors but it really does like people are so excited to hear about you know experience and I think the other thing that power really tries to do as your team to effectively communicate is talk about it in terms of experience like we don’t have a climate scientist on staff and I don’t like when people say well I’m not a scientist but because that’s like way over used but the reality is we connect through experience.

It’s like I testified at a hearing in Denver earlier this year and there was a senator on the panel who was a climate denier and kind of you know talked about how carbon dioxide is really good for plants and went off on that tangent and I just said him whats different than when you were a kid and he’s like oh yeah. And you know just dives right into it and it’s like it’s not about talking about that experience and we don’t have to you know get into.

I think we really do a disservice when we start debating science because there isn’t science to debate. We have a consensus like End of story let’s move on and just kind of you know talk about experience right.

And a big part of that experience with her organization is advocacy and really speaking of education really walking people through how to get involved including Hey click here. Here’s a script for what to say to your local representative. Here’s some of these ideas. Here’s how to get a hold of these people it’s really he was pretty impressed because I think there’s plenty of roadblocks in between saying hey call your representative and that message actually getting across including who is my representative.

Like where do I find this person. Can I really just call these people and you know there’s just a lot of hesitancy there and so your Web site is really amazing and you can see where the priorities are because when you look at the. When you log on to the Web site there’s only like four tabs at the top and the first one is take action. And here’s how. Yes. So that seems really important.

Yeah and we definitely try to break down those barriers because you’re right it is. I think you know a lot of nonprofits do say you know call your senators it’s like OK great. Where do I find their number. Who are they like what do I say.

And that’s been one of our goals is to kind of break down those barriers and you know we do assume that with our constituency in terms of sports industry and the outdoor industry you know not necessarily everybody is members of 20 nonprofits and has gone through that process before and so how do we break that down for the beginner and even the expert to to make sure that it’s easy and clear and we felt really fortunate because we have an awesome advocacy tool that we use called phone to action but it’s actually gotten it’s so precise that we can actually have people text a keyword to a number and it will send them a link that will connect them with all of this information.

So we just really think about how do you break down these barriers so if you’re if you said the burned us open this winter and we want you to send a letter to your senator you can literally just text a number and take care of it right on the spot and not have you know this big barrier. And that actually kind of reminds me of another one of our favorite success stories is we actually built a phone booth. I’m not sure if you saw outside of her office down there.

But we take that to ski areas and you know literally while people are waiting in line to go skiing to help the chairlift you can actually just make a quick call your senator and you have a list of what you should stay in there and in kind of you know how this issue relates to climate change in their number.

And it’s like just take three minutes make a call hop the left and I think a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is and I think a lot of people also think that someone’s going to pick up the phone and maybe debate them back. And the reality is it’s like a message machine you call in there say OK what would you like to pass on to the senator. And it’s really you know it’s OK to read one of those scripts and no one’s going to say what you think that like. Take that back. This is wrong. It’s you know it’s really it’s a message machine. And so it’s really cool to be able to teach people that it’s not that complicated and it feels pretty good afterwards to be like OK I’m an active citizen.

And it is a bit of a numbers game right. We all know that we have these really low rates of turnout in elections and has really skewed towards older generations and. It has no effect. I mean the numbers are skewed in a lot of different ways but a lot of it’s just getting people to kind of show up. I mean that’s just historically that’s where you know the retired associations are great at getting people to show up and the people who know the 18 enough crowd they 18 to 30 or whatever. You know there we just don’t show up.

Right. And it’s all the organization I think a lot of people get you know not to get into something too political. People get frustrated about gun control and why isn’t legislation changing or passing in the NRA is an incredible organizing entity and they’ve done an incredible job at that. And you know we’ve heard things like ratios of people that care about gun control.

You know call about that ten times to as to one call of somebody else’s and it’s like that’s you know there is a staffer sitting in that congressional office taking a toll of how many calls are about this and how many calls her about that. And the reality is we have a lot of work to do to get to a place where you know people are like OK there were you know 50 calls today about climate change.

Right. But like you said it is just about making that call it’s not you’re not going to be have to put up a PowerPoint presentation and argue the science.

Yes exactly. And it’s also again counting backward to what we said earlier just your experience like hey I’m a skier and I’m really concerned about the future and you know we always say to that if we don’t have powder days that’s that’s the least of our concerns. We obviously know there are going to be significant impacts and a lot of you know pretty terrible human suffering and you know with the expense of climate change and I think you know we definitely know that and it’s you know you don’t need to go into the depths of that you can talk about the changes that you’re seeing in your backyard and what your concern is going to bring on.

Right. Well you know I think if there’s is there anything else that you want to make sure that we’re mentioning to the audience before we sign off that. No I say I really appreciate the time tonight. Like I said I always ask who you want on there. And you know we’ll go to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to see we can find unless you can also think of somebody else.

But yeah I would also just say you know you know join us. Check us out at protector Winters dot org and also you know as we talked about we really do break down the barriers to take action. And so if that’s something that you’re you know as a listener interested in doing you know will help you figure that out.

And I think the other thing is you know in the past when Jeremy started POW you know we are protect our winters and we have traditionally been about snow sports in the last few years we’ve really moved to the broader outer industry and are starting to get a lot of outreach from from five fishermen from climber’s saying hey this is impacting me too.

It’s not just about our winter sports it’s about you know how much snowpack was there that led into our streams and our streams navigable by kayaks or boats or are these rivers too hot to fly fish or is it a rock too hot to go rock climbing like these are actually all real issues so it’s not we’re not just a skier and snowboarding club where we’re all of the above and actually stay tuned for some pretty cool research that will talk about impacts of each kind of sport that we think of when we think about spending time outside.

Oh so there’s some good stuff coming in. You’ll have to definitely share it with me when you get it. Absolutely. Please. You know I’m happy to come back anytime. If you if you guys ever want to talk about what’s kind of the latest and greatest for sure. Yeah

I would also recommend Jim White who is on our Science Alliance but he’s just an incredibly well-spoken scientist and have been really impressed by his ability to communicate with the masses about what he’s seeing in the field and is obviously spent a ton of time and in the Arctic and traveling so he’ll be a good.

He’s right here in Boulder and these guys can literally talk about what they’ve seen with their own eyes it’s it’s amazing. So Lindsay thanks again so much. I really appreciate it. Great to learn more about what you guys are up to and kind of connect with you guys and hope we can do it again sometime. All right thank you. Thanks.

Hard everyone. Thanks for listening. And I hope you enjoyed this conversation. As we mentioned in the intro you can find the links to any related content in the show. Note to this podcast episode. If you’re enjoying this podcast.

Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time.

Please subscribe over on iTunes or Apple podcasts at it is now known as leave a review. If you have a few moments if you prefer to get our updates via e-mail or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android you can learn more at Colorado.FM/subscribe on how to hook up with these services.

 

#007 A Life of Adventure and Polar Exploration with Eric Larsen

Colorado.FM Interview with Eric Larsen

“Adventure really strips bare the person that you are.”

Thanks for tuning in to this really special episode of the Colorado.FM podcast.

Photo Credit: Sam Bricker

In this episode, it was my privilege to speak with world renowned adventurer and polar explorer Eric Larsen.  Eric is included in Men’s Journal’s list of ‘The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years.’ and coverage of his exploits have appeared in Time Magazine, Outside Magazine, the NY Times and many other publications.

North Pole expeditions are widely considered to be the most difficult adventures on the planet. Eric has been to the North Pole three times, with the first being in 2006.  The next time in 2010 was part of his Save the Poles expedition in which Eric became the first person to make it to the North Pole, South Pole and top of Mt Everest in a single year.

Finally, Eric’s 2014 North Pole expedition was documented and can be seen in the series titled ‘Melting: The Last Race to the Pole’ on Animal Planet and can be read about in his book On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic.

Have Fun, Do Good

Our conversation ranges from Eric’s activity in groups that are working to bring attention to climate change issues, such as Protect Our Winters, to why his expedition was very likely to be the last time anyone stands on the North Pole.

I can’t recommend watching the documentary enough.  It is truly amazing to see what it takes to make this kind of feat a success and what is happening to our planet in places that are rarely seen. I was totally gripped.

Online, you can find Eric at EricLarsenExplore.com and on instagram @elexplore.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links find Eric and all the related content, videos, his book, and group’s Eric supports in the show notes below.

 


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Eric:

Web: EricLarsenExplore.com

Instagram: @elexplore

Facebook: @EricLarsenExplore

Twitter: @ELexplore

Others: YouTube & Flickr

 

Books, Articles, Video by Eric Larsen:

Documentary: Melting: The Last Race to the Pole – Animal Planet

Book: On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic – Eric Larsen

In Praise of an Unforgiving Arctic – Outside

Alone on the Ice – Outside

How to Weather a Storm – Outside

 

Other Media:

Listen to a phone call from the North Pole – Redbull.com

This guy goes to the coldest places on Earth so you don’t have to – Time

The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years – Men’s Journal

Will this man be the last to trek to the North Pole? – Outside

This is the most difficult expedition on the planet – Great Big Story (Video)

Follow the explorer who tackled both poles and Everest in one year – CNTraveler

 

Other References:

RyanWaters.net

Protect Our Winters

Big City Mountaineers

Skratch Labs

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

 


Show Notes:

[2:35] Protect Our Winters:  Just back from Washington DC

[6:00] Growing up in the Larsen household in Wisconsin

[9:30] Connecting the dots – The path to a career in adventure

[10:30] What brought Eric to Colorado

[14:00] The supportive adventure community in Boulder

[16:30] The expeditions – Because they might not be there in the future

[17:30] Seeing climate change first hand

[23:00] Recording the most difficult on the planet

[24:30] Choosing the right expedition partner – Expedition partner newlywed game

[29:00] Doing one thing for 2 months

[30:30] Needs vs wants – How adventure clarifies decisions

[32:00] The ongoing process of digesting lessons from adventure

[33:15] Life between expeditions

[38:30] Coloradothon!  What’s next…

[42:15] Favorite spots and activities in Colorado

[45:50] Wrap up – Who Eric wants to hear on the podcast!

 


Related Episodes:

Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters

Jon Miller of Backcountry United

 


Transcript:

 

Hey Eric Thanks for swinging by. Really appreciate you taking the time out of your pretty busy travel schedule to be on the show of course. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. That’s really kind of a real Explorer here I must say it’s something I was hoping would happen on this podcast. I didn’t know when or how soon. So again I appreciate it. You just flew in from Washington D.C. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing up there.

Yes so I you know I work with a lot of different nonprofits. You know realistically bigger answer. Most of my expeditions are really platforms to talk about ideas and issues that are just bigger than myself and as someone who’s been focused on cold places for nearly all my life. A huge part of what I want to do is protect those places and so I work with a lot of climate change based organizations on a variety of initiatives and one of those is Protect Our Winters which is also based in Boulder.

And so there is a bunch of us who are kind of athletes ambassadors and the snowsports industries that were in Washington D.C. just kind of knocking on Congress doors and saying hey what are you doing about climate change. What legislations are you working on and how can we move the needle on on kind of the things that are going on in Congress that are going to facilitate clean energy renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.

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Yeah it was funny. I just totally coincidentally saw I guess Gretchen Bleiler. Yeah and post about a silver medalist and I think half pipe is. Yeah I think so. And you know she was mentioning some attempts to kind of go across the aisle like was that was it. Were you feeling anything from yeah.

You know I think I think everybody who was there I mean there was like a list of like pretty impressive winter athletes from like Gretchen to Alex Deeble who is like a bronze medalist in in border cross and a bunch of big mountain skiers and Jeremy Jones and Matt Segal who is a climber based in Boulder as well.

So there’s a bunch kind of heavy hitters in the outdoor space and I think all of us were were definitely impressed with our ability to one just have a conversation and also kind of like be direct about you know asking those legislators What are they doing. Can they get more involved and I think a lot of people you know Republicans were really interested in in you know trying to find a path into that arena so to speak.

So I think it was a super positive outcome for all of us. We were everybody was really pleased and I think the other thing is in terms of the auto industry and kind of that idea of activism through adventure I think an association with Protect Our Winters I think a lot of us are kind of as a group starting to find our collective voice. You know there’s a lot of influence that exists there through social media and otherwise and I think you know being able to flex those muscles to help kind of protect the places that we recreate and play I think is really important. Right

Well that was definitely something unexpected that you know we were able to just chat about since that just happened. Yeah right. I guess yesterday I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning got on plane and on here.

Right. Awesome. So let’s kind of back up and get into your story a little bit. I was really curious what was life like in the Larsen household growing up as is everybody and explorers everybody climb and you know it was just craziness. I don’t know if you have siblings or or you kind of the black sheep when it comes to this stuff.

Yeah it’s interesting you know I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I am the way I am and I’m not totally sure that I have the answer. But I do think my background and my upbringing has a lot to do with it. You know I grew up in a in a house that was very focused on being outside and you know we went to a lot of family trips as kids like camping trips. You know we would never stay in a hotel at any stretch.

And my dad was actually very much involved in just environmental issues he was the director of a nature center. So I grew up as a kid like collecting prairie seeds and and banning birds and like my friends and one of my friends were like What are you doing. Like they had no idea and it was actually as a kid it was pretty awkward for me.

My parents were very focused on that and that natural aspect of the environment and I was very much drawn to the your side just as as on an individual level. And so I had a lot of support in that arena. But you know back then in Wisconsin there isn’t this bigger network of adventure and it’s always fun for me or funny I guess to compare like the world now versus back then and we just didn’t have this bigger perspective that a lot of people can really get through.

You know Internet media social media today. And so I didn’t know I knew that I like to do these kind of outdoor trips. And I was just trying to find my way to adventure and whatever I could you know like when I was in eighth grade I got a paper and saved up enough money and got a bicycle you know and then I was just able to go.

That was like I allowed me to go out and just explore on my own because that’s what I wanted to do. So I would grab a map and I would write 60 70 80 miles you know and stop at a bar and grab a Coke and you know keep riding I mean this was this as a 12 year old kid you know. Sure. And so that was like me kind of like trying to discover the world for myself. And it kind of progress in there. But like I said in Wisconsin there was no kind of infrastructure set up for somebody like myself to be able to kind of get more in those skills and so I just kind of did it on my own.

You know I was lucky enough to be involved in a few kind of youth groups that were doing adventure trips and you know I was able to get a taste of some of these things and then just started kind of planning my own trips from there with friends and you know we would make up adventure in any way we could we would like canoe down the river in our town we’d portage down a canoe down main street in my small little town you know and then keep going just because we wanted to do a fun adventure.

We’d you know take our bikes and go somewhere or whatever it was so we were just trying to find adventure and whatever way we could. And it just kind of went outward from there.

Sure. I mean now everybody like you said they have so much influence to things like this you look on Instagram and people are out there campaign and posting pictures and everything I guess. When we were kids. It was more about having those old National Geographics laying around and things like that.

Yeah. That was literally it. And there was no like path.

Like a career. So for somebody who’s passionate about nearly anything today if your passion a rock climber there’s there are people that are professional rock climbers and you can see that. So there’s a line that you can connect and even in a lot more abstract careers you just have access that information you understand that you know you could be interested in photography and potentially be a you know professional photographer.

But you know I just those those avenues weren’t all open or didn’t exist. And we and a lot of those careers didn’t exist at that time. So for somebody like myself who was really passionate about the outdoors I always say I wanted to be a professional camper. Like I just loved camping but that job didn’t exist at all no. You know it still does. But it was it was kind of what my goal was and you know I was lucky enough that I just kind of believed in that idea for whatever reason long enough that it was able to come to fruition.

Sure. So where does Colorado kind of come into the picture of what what brought you here was you know and you know when kind of in your life would you like I’ve got to get to Colorado. That’s where I need to be to keep this exploration career going. Or was that kind of a decision or was it just you know to be in the mountains of you know kind of take.

Yeah well you know the funny thing about growing up in the Midwest is is that Midwest is very focused on the Midwest and I love being from that area. A lot of great friends there’s a lot of great things about the Midwest. And as a kid I remember seeing a Colorado license plate and just being like you know just the license plate alone like you know the Green Mountains it’s so different than any other license plate in in our country and very emblematic of the state as well.

And to me that represented just the ultimate wilderness and realistically for my entire life you know I’d read a lot of historical exploration books and I was just fascinated by this idea wilderness. And so I had that idea of Colorado being one of those really iconic wild places and when I graduated college roommate of mine had a job as a whitewater canoe guide out here and I had been up in Alaska at that time and doing a few other trips.

And and he’s like come on out. I think I can get you a job and without any certainty of a job I you know loaded up my 1985 Subaru Geo wagon and you know drove out I-70 for 17 hours and landed in Denver and lucky enough just kind of like talked my way into packing food for those trips and then getting on the trips and eventually guiding those that summer and that was way back in the day like 95.

So I spent a couple of summers guiding those Whitewater trips here in Colorado and just through various work left and kind of settled in a remote area of northern Minnesota and was kind of going about my thing but as I started planning for my trip in 2010 to the North Pole South Pole Mount Everest I realized like I don’t really know anything about mountains.

You know I had kind of set this goal of climbing Mt. Everest with doing this trip to both poles and being from the Midwest. Again we don’t really know much about mountains and while I had been out in Colorado previously I you know I hadn’t been on the water most of the time. And so I was like OK I think I think I need to be in a place where I can be at altitude where I can train and concurrently had also met my now wife. And so a lot of factors just kind of came into play. I’ll say it’s for my wife but it’s also just as important just for mountains. Sure.

And it was a great trip. It was a great transition for me. I’ve been living in northern Minnesota a place that I really love but it’s very again I kind of I didn’t realize it at the time but for someone who was involved in adventure there just wasn’t that bigger community. I mean there’s a lot of I had a lot of friends that we did find trips but there wasn’t this bigger community of people who were really involved in like leading edge expeditions. And so for me to come out to Boulder was a really eye opening experience and a lot of levels in it. And quite honestly it opened a lot of doors and facilitated me basically being where I am today.

Right. And I. I get that feedback from a lot of the people that I’ve spoken with in totally different areas that you’re one of the things that’s really you know Colorado is kind of on fire right now and one of the things that’s making it great in that way is obviously people are moving here for lifestyle but they’re getting real support professionally in all sorts of different fields it’s just a very open kind of collaborative environment. And so you know you’re not the first person who’s who’s mentioned that. And again everything from obviously tech type things going on here food and it’s a place to be for professional adventuring.

Oh yeah.

I mean you look at I mean just Boulder alone. It’s crazy. I do a lot of biking. So my game that I always play when I’m biking when I see somebody else bike and I just go pro or not pro you know because there’s so many professional athletes that are very professional bicyclists you get triathletes runners climbers skiers snowboarders you know you name it. And so and that’s just in the sporting community. And obviously you have all these other industries that are here too but from an adventure perspective you know there’s world class rock climbing here and you’ve got access to world class skiing out an open air mountaineering as well. And you know Alpine environments and so it and there’s good access in and out. So a lot of today a lot of modern adventurers do a lot of traveling. And so like I was telling you earlier you know I arrived in the airport today and fly out tonight.

That adds a lot you know like we’re coming and going. A lot of people are coming and going and so being able to get to the airport you know as much as those are a part of my actual adventure it’s it’s a facet of life the life as it stands right now.

Sure. Nothing like being able to get good access hopefully even a direct flight it saves on time every day. You know we all are looking for that and I love how you mentioned the license plate because I remember when I moved here and got my license plates transferred and they were like well which ones do you want because they have all these options down like I just want the green and lights. Yeah. You

know that’s why whenever I see one whenever I see the white ones I’m like What are you doing. Hi Green. There’s only one license plate that you should get. Exactly

Exactly. That’s amazing. So like kind of getting into your expeditions. The I was doing research and you know one of the things that you’ve been saying you know so George Mallory said you know famously about why are you going to climb Mt. Everest because it’s there. You know what you’re the message you’re kind of getting across now with your expeditions especially in the Arctic is that you’re doing it not because it’s there but because it it might not be there in the future. Do you have some really unique perspective like your first North Pole expedition was in late 2006 I believe and then the most recent one was in 2014 and there’s a lot of arguments why.

You know you’ve stated why it might be the last one. Yeah. And so I guess the documentary that you were able to let me watch which I appreciate it was amazing I’m yelling at my computer screen and I was watching it. It’s on Animal Planet I believe.

Yeah it was on Animal Planet and Discovery.

And it’s actually still playing globally on Discovery channel so I every once in awhile get like an email from Argentina or Japan or whatever. Like oh we just saw the documentary so it’s cool that it’s still cycling through right and getting shown.

So so for for people who haven’t seen it though like walk us through you know what had changed in in those years since when you first started going and now. And you know some of the I guess no obvious climate and technical reasons why that 24 expedition might be the last one.

Yeah yeah. I mean just taking a step back. You know I kind of arrived early at this love of adventure but also as someone who really likes to be outside just the love of our environment. And I also you know really like winter. And so it seemed like a pretty direct step to use my adventures as an advocacy tool as well as well as you know ultimately like back in the day it was just like firsthand observations you know because so often we were you know getting questions about you know is this is the melting really happening like they say it is.

And so it was just kind of bearing witness to those places. But also you know Arctic in Antarctica and a lot of cool voices are really abstract to people. And so you know we don’t have much of a connection to those places.

And so for me a lot of my adventures were really important to be to put a human experience to kind of overlay that physical journey in that emotional kind of journey as well that we’re going through to build that connection to what that place is like versus It’s just an abstract place that if it melts it doesn’t matter. And I like it if it’s two degrees warmer I want to put on you know snow pants in the winter.

So that’s kind of like the background of where things are at. And I’ve been kind of on this like mission for a long time and you know a lot of my wife and all my differences like why are you going back to the north pole so I first Mannatech for 2005 we reach the North Pole and in summer in 2006 and it was a it was an incredible journey.

It was very unique a world record and to me that kind of just solidified how this adventure component can really work in to telling this bigger story. And so I kept trying to go back and reach more people because I. Because you know politically that I odd ideologically in our country we kept having this conversation that was kind of cycling around. Is this science real. Is it really melting.

And so as this conversation is still spiral with no real action taking place I’m observing that and trying to figure out how I can get people to notice this place that because I’ve been there and spent a lot of time there and am seeing these changes firsthand. And so that’s kind of the thing that kept me coming back. And ultimately you know between 2006 and 2014 the character and the nature of the CIA is very different you know.

So from our summer expedition we had big sheets of ice that we could ski across for several hours. And in 2006 in 2014 where it’s just a surface of rough ice much thinner ice and much more sporadic movements of the ice to the point now where the ice is so unstable that the that you know the real limiting factor of North Pole expeditions isn’t so much the ice although that’s changing dramatically it’s the logistics network that’s shutting down so the ability to get a plane in and land safely no longer exists. So in reality know our 2014 North Pole expedition will be the last human powered land to North Pole expedition history right.

Yeah because you otherwise have to be able to go out and back.

Yeah there is.

There’s logistically it’s it’s like almost impossible the conditions are changing so much. You know we have overall the temperatures are warmer in the Arctic now which kind of makes things easy but you have this kind of type of ice it’s much different and so it’s and it’s a really difficult. And for me it’s probably one of the most unique expeditions on our planet.

And so that’s another reason why I kept going back up because it’s an amazing challenge and you can you can do that journey you know every year and it’s going to be different every time because the ice is constantly changing not only just year to year but minute to minute because there’s all these drift patterns and currents that break up and and fracture the ice.

Right. Yeah and that’s you know what you pick up from watching that documentary. There’s just so many things and you know I don’t want to give it away to people. They should watch it. It’s amazing.

I was totally gripped I was actually traveling last weekend when you sent it to me and I was in my hotel room and I pulled up on my laptop I was like let me just check this thing out for like you know I got to watch like five minutes. But you know I wanted to kind of get outside wander around because I was you know having fun in Chicago and it was an hour and a half and I couldn’t stop. I had to sit there and watch the entire thing and like I said by the end of the thing I was just like lose my mind.

Yeah it was. It was hard.

I mean that was it’s I called the most difficult expedition. It’s a really hard trip and people have a hard time understanding why that’s the case. But it’s a really hostile environment. And and for that to ever feel like it felt like everything was stacked against us. Well those ice conditions logistics pullovers our food you know you name it.

And yeah it’s hard. And I and I feel very lucky that we were able to record that. It took a lot of effort in a very real way. You know like I’m kind of on an anti fluff campaign overall in terms of you know we live in this world where we’re where we’re constantly barraged by these like ideal moments. And it’s very easy in adventure to want to put. Or as you’re talking about things that put your best foot forward.

And that’s just not how life works. You know like we’re not always our best people and you know the really unique thing about adventures is it really stripped bare the person that you are. And at a certain point there you are. And so that’s really unique I think it’s compelling for people. It’s that emotional connection that I have and try.

But the hard part is trying to film that in that moment when you’re like worried about almost getting in by a polar bear. Do you really want to get the camera out or would you just like Wanda leaving. Get out of there. And so our inclination is to get out of there or versus film. Right

And then what you’re mentioning right there really leads perfectly into another question. I really wanted to ask which was you in that movie leading up to this moment and having that human side of things. How do you find the right partner for an expedition like that. I mean when you say I want to do an unsupported trip to the North Pole how many people are raising their hands and how do you know that if there’s only a handful you know that you’ve got the right guy because I would imagine you know there’s not that many people who want to do it. But you need them. You know it obviously is an important dynamic when you see like the psychological side of an adventure like that.

Yeah that’s a good question. You know the team aspect there what I view is really important you know I always say like I’m just completely average person like average height average or below the average intelligence and intelligence. So I rely a lot on other people to help me achieve these things. And you know for our 2014 trip there is and I was just talking to Ryan about this the other day as like you know I we couldn’t have done that trip without one another. You know I had a lot more experience than Ryan did and I was able to kind of step up from navigational and just overall planning perspective and but at a certain point like everything becomes non-important when it’s so difficult.

And I think Ryan’s focus and Dr. help me out because I serve what I’m like. I’ve already been an oracle Why am I out here suffering in a life threatening situation I got it at that time I wanted to have a kid like that something like doing an expedition isn’t the most important thing.

Being a dad is the most important thing. And Ryan’s focus really helped me out. But the team the team member thing is interesting actually. I just did a funny thing. We did a live video Ryan and I just had this idea and we did what I call expedition partner Newlywed Game.

So we were just like we put all these questions in the hat and we just pulled them out.

And because we spent so much time together on expeditions that it’s like you know it’s like a marriage almost. Sure. And so we you know we were kind of asking each other like who knew more about you know whatever it is favorite food or you know and it was kind of fun but the teammate thing is hard. You know I do think there’s a lot of people who would be interested in the trips I do. I always say be careful what you wish for because it might come true.

That said like the skills required for these big types of trips we just lose a lot of people that have them and not that they’re impossible to learn. But to step into an environment like the Arctic Ocean with no prior experiences that’s a that’s a that’s a big ask of someone and you know.

So there’s a lot of different things for me. I think the priority is personality. We need to have compatible personalities. We don’t necessarily need to have the exact same skill sets because I don’t think that’s necessarily the most effective. But we want to have complementary skill sets and Ryan and I have absolutely complementary Ryons much more home in the mountains. I’m much more home in the poorer environments.

I’m a little better on the fundraising side. You know Ryan’s got this kind of steadfastness that works out really well you know it’s crazy we have been doing adventures together for I don’t know like eight years or something and we’re still great friends. You know he just texted me before I came over here so and I’m just working on this other project where we’re I have a videographer friend of mine and I was literally Also driving over here on like what is it that makes the perfect partner.

28:13 Because it’s hard. And the rewards are so abstract that you have to have this in this more individual motivation. So there’s a lot I mean I could talk for like 10 hours on this thing but I think about it a lot. And

28:29 like I said just today and you know it’s it’s interesting just because you know life today is so crazy and there’s so many different facets and so for me focus on these adventures 100 percent and then trying to get somebody who has that equal opportunity that like stop what they’re doing go away for two months or two weeks or whatever it is like. That’s just that’s just not necessarily the easiest thing for anybody to imagine. And then you’ve got this other issue for the bigger trips. You’re doing one thing for two and a half months.

 


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28:59 I mean that doesn’t happen at all. I imagine in your life where you wake up and you don’t see anybody else and you go to sleep. You don’t see anybody else and not just for a day or a week but nearly two months. I mean that’s like old school acceleration where they were gone for three years. I mean we’re like a day without getting a text. You know if you text somebody they don’t text you back in an hour you think they’re dead. Right. So and not that I don’t I mean I don’t I don’t I sound like a Luddite like I love modern life. You know I don’t want to go back in time but that’s the cool thing about these adventures and I’m kind of getting off subject but they offer this unique perspective on our planet that we don’t get as much anymore. And I think that has a lot of value. No

29:38 I mean there’s definitely some aspects of your life as an adventurer that embody what people are really trying really hard to achieve right now is thinking about this earlier. Unplugging is definitely one of them. Your

29:52 unplugged when you go on these things I mean more or less is surprisingly we’re actually pretty connected right.

29:57 But from her you know.

30:00 But you’ve got 12 hours on the ice at least where you’re just walking along. And then that idea that you know people are finally starting to wrap their brains around the idea of prioritizing experiences over over things. Right. And that’s definitely what adventure is all about. By

30:16 definition basically totally.

30:19 So I always say the best way to determine what’s important to yourself is to remove everything in your life. And that’s exactly what these adventures do because you’re stripped down of everything and very quickly you get to understand what you need and what you want right. And it becomes very clear and that’s why the expedition to heart because at a certain point somebody determines that and say and they see that this adventure doesn’t matter. And that’s a hard point but it’s also a good realization for them. Or you say yes this matters but there’s these other things. And so you come back from those trips like really forever changed and you have this really clear understanding of priorities in life. And it goes to a resource side as well because if you look at it like we’re self-contained for nearly two months everything that we need is and that is in that slot.

31:13 So that’s another need versus want you look at you know and I’m the same way. I mean I love photographers are a bunch of cameras bikes over a couple bikes you know and this is a great shirt or whatever and everything that we have for two months is in that slot. And you know it’s uncomfortable at times but for the most part we’re making it happen. Right. So those are some lessons that you just can’t help but learn. Right.

31:36 And you know that’s I think one of the one of the many beautiful aspects of of adventure when it sounds to me was interesting that you know you mentioned right there that you were catching up with Ryan and still kind of going over what you got out of this expedition a few years later you’re still I mean are you still kind of.

31:57 Oh yes. I just yeah I mean these are a lot yeah.

32:01 And the lessons I think like they’re ongoing right now. And you know there’s definitely like some immediate takeaways and then there’s the things that just you know happen over time and and there’s also just with Ryan there’s a shared experience like we went through a really hard time. You know one of my newlywed questions around was like who cries more. And because you know we’ve seen each other at our worst our lowest and our most like kind of bear so to speak. So you know I think the lessons are ongoing and you know again sometimes it takes me a while to catch up on things. But there there are those moments where you’re like oh yeah this is what this is or you’re in your life situation you know doing you know washing the dishes. And you kind of remember that one moment and how that applies to the situation or whatever.

32:50 So it’s it’s kind of an ongoing process and I wouldn’t say like on this completely change person. It’s just kind of this continual thing and you know some of the lessons that I have learned that 150 50 times and something sometimes like oh yeah I’ve never realized that before. Right.

33:05 Like getting in the shower you’re like water on your shoulder. Seriously. That’s exactly it.

33:12 That’s amazing. So what’s life like in between expeditions like that. I know it evolves as your family is kind of changing and it’s changed even since that documentary came out. Is it always kind of planning the next thing or do you always have the next adventure kind of in mind or sometimes are you waiting for the light to go off and then start planning around that or.

33:36 Yeah it’s a lot of things you know it’s constantly on my mind. You know I always say when I’m on an expedition all I can think about is being home with my family and when I’m home I just am thinking about trips. Funny enough I was just saying what Jeremy Jones were in D.C. and I was talking to him about some of my early trips and we were kind of just exchange stories and I was said you know back then I was just like an animal for stuff like I would wouldn’t let anything get in my way. You know no risk was too big. And I just I don’t know if it was blind ambition or what it was but it was this sense of this is where I want to go and I’m going there no matter what. And I remember one of my expeditions partners asking me Eric when is it going to be enough for you.

34:27 And I said I don’t know. You know like I don’t know what is going to be enough but I’m so going. And that perspective has changed a lot for me. You know having kids I never really thought much about being a dad prior and when we kind of started having discussions about having kids as I go you know we’ll see what happens. Is like an expedition. We’re like we’re right and I just go up there and see what happens. And I am uncomfortable with unknown’s. And but it’s been easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life I love being a dad. I love taking care of my kids. I love you know seeing the world through their eyes and you know taking them on adventures and trying to facilitate their interest not just mine but see what they’re interested in.

35:12 Try to find ways that they can you know meet the world or whatever. So it’s it’s and it’s harder now to be gone awry and I were in Nepal 2015 we’re on this ridge line going up and to nowhere where nobody had been before and things down like this one hundreds and hundreds of feet. And I’m just like I shouldn’t be here you know but I still have that drive to do adventures and I have kind of these ideas that are that are kind of far reaching. I have a list officer’s adventures I want to do for the next four or five years and then and then but then it takes a while to get the passion about it. So it’s just kind of like sitting on things and I’m kind of at that point again now and it seems to be on that for the big trips is kind of like a two year cycle or whatever.

36:02 And then the other part is like you know there’s a lot of logistics and planning and fundraising goes. The big polar trips and some of his other ones. And financially that’s a huge burden and it’s a scary one. And so if you kind of throw it out there. My thing is like you got to do it and you’ve got to make it happen and so that’s whole lot of stuff that goes into that. And you know there’s a lot of sacrifices that come along and you know with the family it’s a little harder to think about some of those sacrifices words like I don’t mind if I eat ramen noodles for two months you know because I don’t have any money.

36:37 But the kids might.

36:39 Although my son does love ramen so that’s hopeful. That’s you know that’s the business side of that career right. Yeah. Fund fundraising and things like that. Not every you know kind of getting back to what we were saying about the Instagram world not everybody is you know Red Bull sponsored guy who’s got they don’t have you know the helicopter shows up when they need it and there’s nothing like that a lot of you know for a lot of different sports and a lot of the most different realities is that a lot of work to put all those resource.

37:12 Yeah I think even the Red Bull guys you know how a lot have a lot of work to do there’s obviously a bigger sport now or you know it’s easier now than what it was.

37:20 There’s a lot of the same structure. I have a bunch of great companies that I work with that support me and have for many many years I’ve built up a lot of great relationships so it’s not the hardest thing but it’s it’s a challenge because you know you’re still doing big budgets and you know for a company to back a trip that has an uncertain outcome. It’s a risk and you know they’re on tight budgets. Everybody there is working hard. It’s it’s it’s but it’s a fun puzzle that I like. I mean I love the adventures but the the nice thing about what I do now is I like all the other parts too. So I like trying to find those pieces I like trying to you know tell my story unique ways I like trying to take a really good picture that has an emotional side to it. You know I like writing something that explains my perspective a little bit more relates to something that I’ve done so a lot of it is all fun. It just is constant and and it’s a hustle but life.

38:22 Well one of the things you mentioned was making some of these adventures be a little closer to home. So what are your next ones I think is this Colorado triathlon is that.

38:32 Yeah.

38:33 So I was I was I’ve been thinking about this all morning we’re we’re trying to figure out the name and I think it’s going to be called the Colorado a thon.

38:41 I don’t know if I’m necessarily the branding guy for this stuff but you know I often wonder if I’m really change or if I’m just the same person I think I might be just the same person because I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of these things forever and back in the day. You know I live in the Midwest I was just trying to have adventures and I was trying to be original. And and I.

39:06 And in that sense we would you know get our mountain bikes and we would mountain bike and then we would get to a lake and we brought you know we got these inner tubes and we’d inflate the inner tubes and we’d put the bikes on there stripped down swim across the lake and then keep biking and you know and just trying to put these arbitrary parameters on things just so we could have a fun time. And so we could you know it wasn’t any sort of world record. We

39:31 just wanted to have an adventure we wanted the challenge we wanted to kind of push our physical limits a little bit in not this crazy way. And so we would just do those things. Not not for any greater reason than it was fun and you know sometimes we got really cold and sometimes you know we got lost or whatever. But that’s what it was and I think not that adventure has strayed away from there but I think it’s important for us to remember that adventure can be whatever we want and we also have this ability to do these unique things we don’t have to follow everybody else. And so that’s kind of the mindset that I’ve been in recently and this idea of like how can I do that in Colorado this place that I really love where we kind of set some of these arbitrary parameters that are a little more severe. So

40:18 I thought wow I really love biking. I love backpacking and I you know haven’t been in whitewater canoe got. I like being on the. I love water. And I grew up in canoes and whatnot so I had this idea of kind of traveling across the state of Colorado on this human powered way with these arbitrary parameters of biking from the eastern border up through the Rocky Mountains and then getting over towards crumbling and switching to backpacks and back into the flatout wilderness and then getting down near a rifle and then having some pack rafts and inflating those and then and then paddling towards the Utah border just as this idea of adventure and I feel like I’m drawn to these kind of expeditions and adventures that have these bigger themes to them because I feel like I’ve gotten so lucky from the things that I have learned from this event so I want to pass along some insights not like you need to do it this way but the like hey here’s something you may not have realized like you could be in Boulder and you could you know bike up to Brainerd lake or something or you could swim somewhere.

41:24 Who knows what you know like I just think there’s a real opportunity and we’re in a really unique time to do fun things that can also challenge us but that are also unique to each person. And so that’s where that idea came from. And and you know I have this other big philosophy which is like have fun do good. So with any of my bigger trips I think we all have a responsibility to kind of leave the world a better place in whatever way and I’ve gotten so many great gifts out of wilderness experiences that I thought for this trip and this conversation about adventure we could work with the big city mountaineers and on a fund raising because they’re big city Mountaineers which is based in gold and is really focused on wilderness programs for disadvantaged youth.

42:07 So being able to give some of those other people experiences that I’ve had because I feel like I’ve gotten so much out of those wilderness adventures throughout my life.

42:17 So what say you know when you’re not on a big adventure and I love that idea of just like what’s in your backyard and you know that’s where you are kind of day to day and that’s what you choose to live in a place like this where some of these things are right in your backyard and you know it doesn’t again it doesn’t have to be the hugest thing or the craziest thing. You know just going for a hike. You never know where it’ll lead you totally never know when you’re going to come across a snake in the path or you know anything that gets to your heart kind of going. So when you’re not a you know off somewhere else like where where in Colorado you know what are some favorite spots like what are you kind of doing.

42:56 Yeah I mean I have a lot of responses and we’re pretty lucky because we were able to spend the summer across the butte and I love that town. I

43:05 love that area and it seems like every day I’m there I’m discovering a new place like we were just a Blue Mesa reservoir with our kids and it was like we call a beach day because there’s you know you wouldn’t expect to be able to have them in Colorado but we did and the kids loved it but I love Crested Butte for its access to wilderness. I’ve been a bicyclist forever so I love road biking the mountain biking and so the mountain biking in Crested Butte is ridiculous as is just like I do a lot of photography so being able to just get out and snap a couple of pictures just for fun. So that whole Ganesan Valley to me is like one of my favorite places in Colorado living in Boulder. Obviously we’re right here at the front range. I’m in North Boulder so I tend to stay that direction.

43:53 But you know honestly one of my favorite things to do is hike up Cinny this lake. I love the hike up and eat this because you can literally just walk out your back door and hike up that mountain and I love that. And there’s a lot of times when nobody is up there you know if you hit it in the right time or I go up there a lot in the wintertime when I’m training I put a pack full rocks and I just hike up serious. And there’s been a lot of times where it’s just like you know it’s like 20 degrees and everybody’s like in all their clothes or whatever and you’re the only the only person up there even like you can head an evening or morning or just sometimes. And you’re the only person up there you can kind of hear the buzz the traffic and you just look out at that flat plane you can see the flat irons Either way it’s a beautiful spot and it’s so accessible you know in town I think that’s one of my favorite things to do and I do a lot of road biking so I’m up and down the front range and Left-Hand canyon right up toward peak to peak like I could do that every day.

44:53 You know it’s just I just love it. I never get tired of looking at it. All those things.

44:57 Yeah it’s it’s real special. And that’s the news because I’m on the same side of town as you know and when people are in town that’s the first thing you do is you take them right there. So it’s right out of the backyard and then you can end up right in town grabbing a beer afterwards. So we were very fortunate. I definitely think so.

45:18 Yeah I mean Colorado is amazing because you know you kind of like as an outsider you think of the Rocky Mountains as just being the Rocky Mountains.

45:26 But each little area has a super unique personality. You know and even like from Crestview to Telluride I mean those are two completely different sets of mountains. And so to me it’s fun to like get to know a warm place but also kind of reach out and find a bunch of others as well. Right right.

45:46 And the last question I’d like to ask people when they’re when they’re on the podcast. Who would you like to hear on this. Who do you think our audience would just you know get a great story out of here.

45:56 I mean like there’s there’s a huge list of people in Boulder you know obviously I’m more connected in the outdoor world. And so as well as like a lot of my partners are here I mean there’s the guy from scratch labs that are that are based in Boulder. I’ve got a good friend. He’s he’s a little on the periphery but he’s doing a really cool archaeological work down in Peru His name is Preston Sol. he’s a great guy. I feel like I would be really interested as well as a bicyclist to know a little bit more about kind of living and training here in the front range from either pro biker I know Taylor Phinney and lives here right. Or any of the triathletes that are here. I mean I feel like that that perspective of like training here on that level to me is really interesting.

46:49 I mean I’m involved in it. I don’t necessarily equate myself with like a pro bike racer who’s got a you know an exponentially level higher of discipline that I do. So and then you know there’s some amazing scientists here that I think are really interesting you know like I’ve done some work with NSIDC the National Snow and Ice Data Center and that is another unique aspect of all of that I think sometimes gets overlooked is like all the science that goes on here. You know from like there’s guys that see you that are like working with NASA and there’s like any car that’s doing this incredible you know Atmospheric Research and Environmental Research and the ice guys that I see and this I do see I mean I can make a list like. Hunter is long. Right. So but those are the things that I’m personally interested and I would love to to hear more about for sure.

47:43 Yeah. When I first moved here you know I knew about the outdoors the stuff from the high level. It’s a great place to be outdoors. Very accessible. I didn’t know that all of these awesome science labs were here and things like that so that was something that I just wasn’t on my radar. You know the people who are living here and having access the outdoors and you know the brainiacs are just going crazy in these science labs it’s amazing.

48:10 Totally yeah. I have a friend ironically who’s from my hometown who I hadn’t seen in like 15 years and I was up at Luckies market one day a bunch years ago and there he was standing and he was like almost my neighbor. Ironically I just ran him to the airport today. Come coming in and he has a funny phrase he’s like you know East Coast he’s like people there with the biggest pocketbook wins. He says Colorado it’s the best lifestyle that wins. And you know I tell people that a lot of out here it’s like people work very hard and are very focused on their careers and and their families. But it’s not up to us. Nobody is willing to sacrifice their lifestyles.

 


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48:52 Well and I think I think you know kind of going on with their discussion what adventures and lessons I think and an idea of being connected to the environment and outside I think that’s one of the beautiful things about Colorado and I think obviously while a lot of people are here.

49:08 Right. But I think that sums it up. And I think we can leave it on that note again I really appreciate you being here. It’s really fascinating to meet you and we’ll try to get some of these other people on the podcast as well. But thanks a lot thanks for your time. Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it. All.

All right thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Eric Larson on Colorado.FM, the Colorado podcast.  as you can imagine it was a real treat for me to have the opportunity to sit down with him as we mentioned in the intro.

You can find the links to connect with Eric to find any related articles or content the show notes is up to if you enjoyed it please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a few moments. It really helps get the podcast and of course I learn a lot from your feedback if you prefer to get our updates email or use a podcast service of stitcher or Android. You can learn more at Colorado.FM/Subscribe. Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.

 

#006 Building a Family Nature Club with Jason Sperling

Colorado.FM Interview: Jason Sperling

 

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Colorado.FM.  In this episode I will be speaking with Jason Sperling about his latest book titled Unplugged: 15 steps to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, yourself, friends and family.

This is Jason’s 3rd book on the subject of getting your kids outside, and while many of you Coloradoans out there are thinking that you’ve got this outdoor kid thing under control, we all know that this is a real societal challenge that we face right now.

And as someone who is raising kids in Colorado, I can tell you that Jason is committed to getting not only his kids, but all the kids in his neighborhood or circle of influence if if you will, outside.  And his latest book offers a blueprint to making this happen in your community, no matter how big or small.

As always, we get into what brought Jason to Colorado, or in his case, back to Colorado.  And as someone who’s day job is in tech, this conversation really gets into some of the great things going on here economically as well as lifestyle-wise.

We get into how nature as the quote-unquote “third parent” can actually make raising your kids easier.

And as someone who is dedicated to getting the family outside, Jason offers some great tips on where to go here in the Boulder area.  So whether you live here or are visiting, I think you’ll get something useful out of that.

Finally, our first give away.. I’m pretty excited!  Jason has very generously left me 3 copies of his latest book to give to our listeners.  So we’ll have some details on how you can get your hands on that at the end of the podcast.

Online, you can find Jason at JasonRunkelSperling.com and on Instagram @jsperling.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to connect with Jason or find the resources he mentions right in the show notes to this episode.

I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jason Sperling, author and pied piper of getting kids dirty.

 


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Selected Links from the Episode

Jason Sperling

Unplugged: 15 Steps to Disconnect from Technology and Reconnect with Nature, Yourself, Friends, and Family

Mud Kitchen in a Day

The Backyard Play Revolution

JasonRunkelSperling.com

Instagram: @jsperling

 

Other Books & References

Last Child in the Woods – Richard Louv

Children & Nature Network

Playborhood – Mike Lanza

Bobolink Trail Boulder

East Boulder Rec Center

Laughing Coyote Project

 

Boulder Startup Accelerators

Techstars

Boomtown

Unreasonable Group

 


Show Notes

[3:00]  Why Colorado? Boulder to Los Angeles and back to Boulder

[7:00] Making change happen: the power of setting deadlines

[11:00] Tech ecosystem in Boulder and how it made change possible

[11:45] Unplugging and building a family nature club – the inspiration for the book

[20:45] Nature as a ‘Third Parent’ and how being outside makes parenting easier

[23:00] Never saying ‘No’.  Risk vs. Consequence

[25:45] The ‘How’ of creating a family nature club

[27:30] What’s next?  Managing after school time

[32:00] Favorite spot:  Why South Boulder Creek / Bobolink trail rules!

[32:00] Who Jason wants on this podcast:  Neal Ritter from Laughing Coyote Project

 


Transcript

 

Colorado.FM – Colorado Podcast Interview with Jason Sperling

Hello, everyone. Doug Stetzer here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of Colorado FM – The Colorado Podcast. In this episode, I’ll be speaking with Jason Sperling about his latest book titled Unplugged: 15 Steps to Disconnect from Technology and Reconnect with Nature, Yourself, Friends, and Family.

This is Jason’s third book on the subject of getting your kids outside. While many of you Coloradans out there are thinking you’ve got this outdoor kid thing under control, we all know it’s a real challenge that we face in society right now, and as someone who’s raising kids here in Colorado, I can tell you that Jason is committed to getting not only his kids, but all the kids in his neighborhood, school, circle of influence, if you will, outside. His latest book offers a blueprint to making this happen in your community no matter how big or small a group you really want to get involved with.

As always, we get into what brought Jason to Colorado, and in his case, back to Colorado, and as someone whose day job is in tech, the conversation really gets into some of the great things going on here economically as well as lifestyle wise. We get into how nature as the “third parent” can actually make your life or raising kids easier. As someone, like I said, who’s dedicated to getting family outside, Jason offers some great tips on where to go here in the Boulder area. Whether you live here or visiting or thinking about visiting, I think you’ll get something really useful out of that. He’s got some great ideas.

Finally, our first giveaway, and I’m pretty excited about this, Jason has generously left me three copies of his latest book to give to our listeners, so we’ll have some details on how you can get your hands on that at the end of the podcast.

Online, you can find Jason at jasonrunkelsperling.com. That’s Jason Runkel, R-U-N-K-E-L, Sperling dot com, and on Instagram @jsperling. Of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to connect with Jason or find the resources mentioned right in the show notes to this episode.

Read More

Here we go. My conversation with Jason Sperling, author and pied piper getting things dirty.

Thanks for coming to the studio today. I have been looking forward to talking with you about projects you are working on, and in particular, we’re going to get to your latest book Unplugged: How to Build a Family Nature Club, and this is something that we’re kind of involved with personally and through the school and everything, but before we get to that, why Colorado? I know you’re actually from Colorado, but something about the state and what’s going on here, I guess, brought you back. Why don’t we get into that a little bit first, and then we’ll move into what started your interest in these books.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, that’s a great place to start. I’m happy to be here. Very excited. Good to see you again. I grew up and was born and raised here until, I think I was around 20 or so, and then I left after finishing college and lived around the world a couple of different places. By the time I ended up getting married and having children, I was in Los Angeles. Me and my wife lived in a one bedroom condo and didn’t really think about having a kid at that time when we bought the place. When we did, there wasn’t really any place to put her. We had a really big walk-in closet, and for the first two years of her life, Nyla was sleeping in the walk-in closet, which was sort of awkward and a little strange, but it was a big closet.

Doug Stetzer:                       Having the great outdoors in the closet.

Jason Sperling:                   Right. We had a balcony, like a, you know, eight by four balcony with some plants on there. I would go, for the first two years of her life, very frequently to the marina in the mornings because she wasn’t a big sleeper, and she didn’t sleep through the night for years. She would wake up at around 5:00 in the morning and not go back to sleep, and Michelle had been up for most of the night with her, so I would go with Nyla down to the beach, at Marina Del Rey, and we would walk the beach.

Every time I drive back to the condo, I was just like, what am I doing here? I had a great job, great friends, great family nearby, and it was wonderful when we were adults and not parents.

Then my grandpa passed away, and I went to a funeral in New York. On the plane ride back, I was with my brother, and we were talking about life, all those big conversations that you have, and it just struck me that I should be not returning to Los Angeles but going back to Boulder where I grew up so I could be close to my family. My mother and father still live here in Boulder. I took about a year or so thinking about things before we made the move, but the main idea was to come out here to be closer to nature and to raise our children really in the mountains and with nature and close to family and friends.

We made the move, and I remember the first day we were here, we were living near Wonderland Lake and walked to the lake, and it was just this amazing experience. Like wow, we did it, and we’re here, and it’s beautiful, and the waves are sort of lapsing on the shore, and there’s birds flying. Just amazing.

Coming from a one bedroom condo in LA to living out here, my commute was 5 or 10 minutes long, and now we’ve been able to do so much stuff out in nature, and it’s really been, I think, profound for the children, whereas if we had stayed in LA, we’d be trying to escape to the mountains, which were 45 minute drive away from our place. The beach, of course, is wonderful, but is also 20, 30 minutes away. I just think that the quantity and the quality of time for the children in nature would’ve been way different. It’s been just pretty amazing being here.

Doug Stetzer:                       You’re actually from Boulder. Did you go to CU right down the road?

Jason Sperling:                   I did go to CU, yep.

Doug Stetzer:                       Oh, okay.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah.

Doug Stetzer:                       Like you mention, you still have family here, which is obviously helpful when you’re making these big moves, it’s … We’ve had to move around a lot, and we haven’t really been able to do it with family, so it’s always kind of harder trek.

Just a year to go from that cathartic mindset of, “Hey, I want to make a change,” to actually making it happen is actually pretty short and spectacular. I mean, that’s something that takes people a lot of time to do, sometimes. Is there something about … Were you able to just transfer your job here and work remotely or is what’s going on in Colorado from a business perspective economically part of what allowed that to happen?

Jason Sperling:                   I mean, so I couldn’t transfer the job at the time. What’s happening in Boulder, as you probably know, is the amount of start-up activity and the activity in the technology sector is really vibrant here right now, and so it’s growing quite a bit. It’s way different than when I was growing up here. The cafes are just bustling with people, talking about ideas and making things happen. As part of that, there’s a support ecosystem, and my profession is in the technology sector, and so that did allow the transfer for me really easy because there’s a lot of companies I could work with.

What I did, which was one of those experiences that gave me shivers, is I wrote down the actual date that I wanted to start here in Colorado. The date I was going to move here, and the day I wanted to have my first day of my new job here, which was, I think, the 23rd of may. I wrote that down, and when I started networking in Boulder, I would tell people, “This is the date I’m going to be in Colorado,” which was a year out, which is a weird thing to say.

What’s different than the big cities where I had been working is that people in Boulder just open up their networks. I would talk to one person, and then they would introduce me to three, and so on, and it was just the most welcoming community to come into. I had some 30, 40 conversations with different businesses, and then eventually, I found one that was looking for someone with my background and skillset, and the start date was on that date. It was just a very other worldly experience. I was crazy.

I think that really helped, having a really concrete plan because people also responded to me differently than saying, “Hey I would like to come out there at some point. I don’t know when, but at some point,” instead of emailing and telling people, “I’m going to be there on the 24rd of May,” and … I think that helped make the transition.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, and that really helped make it real in your mind. It helped with your job search. It just helped people respond well to deadlines, obviously-

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah.

Doug Stetzer:                       Instead of that kind of up-in-the-air out in outer space, “I want to move one day.”

Jason Sperling:                   Right, right.

Doug Stetzer:                       Now, that’s really interesting. I think it’s just as important about … It’s an important quality of what’s going on here in the sense that, and I didn’t know this about Boulder before I moved here. I had just knew it was a town near the mountains that was popular for its outdoor activities and had the university. I knew that much.

What I didn’t realize was that, that university’s cranking out PhDs, and people here have had good jobs for decades, not just ski-bum jobs. They’re working at NOAA and National Science Laboratories, and they’re working at the big IBM campus north of town. I mean, these people have had what, to me, was like a really great secret.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, yeah.

Doug Stetzer:                       But now the secret’s kind of getting out, obviously, not just for Boulder but for Denver as well, but that idea that you can have this well-balanced lifestyle, be outside, get your kids outside, but that there’s jobs. I mean, that’s part of the magic of what’s going on here and is what’s making these conversations really interesting.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, and like the early stage start-up ecosystem is growing. There’s, I think, three incubators now. You’ve got Techstars, you’ve got Boomtown, and then the Unreasonable Group is doing a bunch of stuff, so there’s a, becoming a really good ecosystem in Boulder, in Denver as well, and everyone is just very, very friendly, and that is attracting bigger companies. Google, of course, is coming in, expanding their campus here. There’s a lot of really great intellectual capital in town, and yeah, it’s a fun place to be with family, and it’s just great all around.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, right. Well, let’s move in the direction since we talked about tech, and we’re going to talk about un-teching. Getting the kids away from it, getting the family and even ourselves. We’re all are battling with our own screen time issues and just trying to unplug.

You have written three books. Mud Kitchen in a Day, The Backyard Revolution, and then the latest one, Unplugged: How to Build a Family Nature Club. Let’s talk about this latest book. Just tell us, what is a family nature club to you? What inspired this idea?

Jason Sperling:                   Sure. The inspiration for the book is from another book, actually, written by Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods, and in that book, it’s not a footnote, but it doesn’t have a lot of attention, but that’s where is sort of introduced to the mainstream. I think that’s where the label came from, but the concept of Family Nature Clubs is piping around for forever or for quite a while where basically, it’s a group of people who are committed to going into nature. It’s family oriented, so you have the parents and you have the children organizing to go into nature and to try to really inspire children and parents to make a deep nature connection.

I read his book, and then put it on my bedside table for a couple of years, and then as our children got a little older, decided to try to make it happen. There’s not, at the time, there wasn’t really any good books on here’s how you do it. There was some support from the Children Nature Network, which is the organization that kind of grew out of the work that Richard has been doing. There’s some great support from them.

I started out by asking parents at the school where Nyla goes to if they would be into this idea. I explained it to them and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this thing. We’d organize an event every two weeks to start,” and I just wanted a small group of people. I didn’t want to create something huge. I had no desire to create a thousand-person organization. I just wanted to build something around Nyla’s community so it’s really centered on her community, and now, my son’s community. We basically organize events. Originally, it was every two weeks, now it’s transitioned to every week when we’re in town.

I try to have the events be a combination of just having unstructured time in nature where the idea is to try to recreate the experience that children have more frequently in the past where they could be outside and do whatever they want in nature.

Then the other ones are more adult-guided activities like go skiing or mountain biking or boating. Some of it requires some adult leadership. Because we’re in Colorado, the opportunities for amazing things to do is just so huge, and so we do things from skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, boating, playing in the streams, just going out on hikes, and the snowshoeing. I mean, the list just goes on. Everything you can think of in snow and in summer except for surfing. You don’t get surfing or scuba diving or snorkeling.

It started off really small with just a few families coming, and it’s grown. I think the biggest event we’ve had is some 27 folks or something. Most of the events are a couple of hours, and then we do some overnight camping trips, backpacking trips. I think my sense of the purpose of it has changed over time. I think I can be more articulate about the outcomes, which is that the children have these really profound experiences that are just what you would expect in a childhood, but you don’t see as much today.

For example, the last one we went on, we climbed and walked up a stream, and they caught a toad. We found a bunch of feathers. We tried to catch a crawdad but failed. We saw a snake. It’s the kind of things that you would expect and maybe you remember from your own childhood, but that is happening less and less because kids are spending less time outdoors doing nothing.

That’s a big emphasis of what I love is the idea of going out there and doing nothing always turns into something amazing. Going snowshoeing was one of our really fun experiences last year where we go into the woods, it’s snowing, it’s quiet, you’re sort of traipsing through the trees, and then we find this lake.

For the children, it really was this discovery of a lake because they didn’t have the map in their hands, they didn’t know where we were going. They just went over a ridge and dropped down to this lake, and the lake was covered with ice. They were wearing snow shoes, and then when you go on the ice with snowshoes, it makes that creaky sound that sort of is like scratch. We had a sled with us, and we were sailing across the ice in the sled because it was really windy.

That is the kind of stuff that I just love giving those experiences to my children. Part of it is for wanting them to have a connection to nature. The other part is that I really see their behavior a lot differently when they’re inside, indoors versus when they’re outside. I think the indoors is architected for adults very much and not for children.

 


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Children like to fun fast. They like to have big movements. They like to have their volumes at different levels, and they like to manipulate their environment. When you’re outdoors, that’s very possible. When you’re indoors, and that happens, it turns into just, giant mess. Children don’t love cleaning up messes, and it’s very loud. It becomes less, I think, less beneficial to them, whereas outdoors, everything really interoperable. For example, the toys all interact with each other. You can play with a stick with other sticks or a sticks with water, stick with mud, but indoors, the toys tend to be things that you use in a very linear and fixed way.

I just find their behavior outdoors is really, they seem happy, they seem engaged, they’re not frustrated. That’s one piece, and then, I think, maybe a third is I really want them to have a sense of grit, being strong, being able to overcome challenges. A lot of the things that we do, even when it’s unstructured, they tend to find challenges that are appropriate to their age, and they also take risk, which helps them learn things.

I was on this road trip that we just took. We were at my stepbrother’s, or brother-in-law’s place, and I was just saddened to see his children, bright sunny day, cousins visiting, and they’re all indoors, each in their room, each on their own computer. Their house backs up to this amazing woods. They’re up in Washington, so beautiful, dense, thick, lush woods. I went out there with my children because that’s what we do is we go outside and explore. Only the youngest of his children came out with us.

There’s a rickety bridge that went over a little gully, and the gully’s only a foot or two deep, and the rickety bridge was really just two logs with some unsecured crossbeams going across. My children just walked across it like you would, but then their daughter, who I think is, she must be five, five or six, was scared to walk over it. Then when we finally convinced her to walk over it, and it’s maybe two feet of walking, she had very difficult time balancing.

That’s something that we also see. You hear, talking to school administrators and folks at the schools who work with children, is that the development, physical development, motor skills is all happening a lot later with children now because they’re just not doing as much physical stuff anymore.

I think that’s another piece is having the children doing these things outdoors really gives them the opportunity to use their muscles and climb up rocks, climb up trees, all the stuff that was more common in past childhoods.

Doug Stetzer:                       I think, just getting on one of the things you said, and also, one of the things I read in one of your bios or on some bit about you somewhere was that getting into how house play just doesn’t fit like that. It also lends to disciplinary action because they’re just, they’re doing the same stuff they were doing outside, but your house doesn’t fit that. Again, it’s like, “Oh, man, be … Keep it down. Stop jumping off the bed. Stop doing all these things.”

One of the things that really caught my eye was when I was reading this blurb was that you were making the argument that it actually makes parenting easier. I think a lot of people initially, at least, see it the other way. One of the benefits of the club and just interacting with you that we’ve gotten is that when you do get that weekly or bi-weekly email, “Hey, we’re going to go to this river,” even if it’s for unstructured play, it’s like, all right, well, I now have an activity that I didn’t necessarily organize. I know that there’s going to be kids there that my kids know. They’re just going to play, but we’re just going to get them in the right spot.

If we’re probably geared up, then I don’t have to tell them not to go in the creek or not to get wet or not to get dirty or not to … They’re there to do all of those things that “the no machine,” the parenting “no machine”-

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right, that’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       … is always talking about, and you’re really more worried, at that point, about safety, but not the dirt or the water or things like that. I thought that was an interesting blurb that, you do go there, you relax, you’re less in charge of directing everything, and also less in charge of stopping them to do stuff, as long as it’s safe.

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right. Yeah, I mean, maybe I’m really just a lazy father. I just want to go do something that’s easy for me as a parent, but I there’s also this helpful concept of nature as a third parent, and that there’s so much that children learn from being in that space that’s hard for me, as a parent, to teach them, but nature is doing it seamlessly and effortlessly.

I think when we go out there, there’s this exercise I like to do for myself, which is just to never say no. Of course, you can’t do that all the time, but understand that idea of risk versus consequence where you … Let’s say we go out and we play in the ice, and my son who’s now four, but earlier, would be playing with a hatchet. You think to yourself, well, that hatchet is dull, so if he hits himself, it’s not going to slice his arm. It’s going to hurt a lot, but how’s he going to learn how to use a hatchet if he doesn’t have that opportunity.

The risk is high. I think he’s probably going to hit himself. The consequence is low, versus, let’s say we’re climbing on rocks. It’s really easy to climb up some rocks that you could fall 30 feet down from, especially here. There’s tons of beautiful rock to climb on. That is lower risk, perhaps, because it’s not a very steep incline. It’s not going to be that likely he’s going to fall, but the consequence is he may go to the hospital and not come back in the same shape.

Those kind of things will, I’ll really look and be careful to have low consequence activities, but I’m okay with risk. He’s hit himself a lot with that hatchet, but he also now knows how to use a hatchet. I think that’s probably what I try to express in the book is that my experiences doing this is going outside of the home is much easier parenting.

Also, if you think of having to schedule a play date or something, this is kind of like a play date in that there are other children coming, which is great for the social aspects for the children, but it’s a lot less work for me than trying to coordinate. If I’m trying to coordinate with you, we’re trying to find something on our calendars, something shifts, now the play date’s ruined because I can’t come or you can’t come. Now, I gotta find someone else to do this play date with, whereas the Family Nature Club is organized using Meetup. You could use Facebook, any sort of event management type thing, and I’m inviting 30 people every time, and maybe 5 of those 30 families come, and that’s in a great community for play for my children.

The work for me, I’m not managing schedules with 30 people, I’m just saying, “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s the time we’re doing. Here’s where. We’d love you to have you join us,” and if we get some, it’s great. It’s also easier from a scheduling perspective, which is huge, so I don’t really do play dates, like the more traditional play date type thing. In a lot of ways, this has become that for the kids. It makes a lot easier parenting.

Doug Stetzer:                       That’s kind of some of the things that you mentioned there that you actually talk about in your book that I thought was interesting when I took a look at it was that not only, it’s not only just a why do Family Nature Club, it’s kind of a how. It actually is a guide to how to set up your own, some of the tools and successes, things that worked and didn’t work.

For example, I thought it was really interesting how you mentioned Meetup, but how it didn’t work for you because you were getting all these requests for invites from people you didn’t know, and you were just interested in keeping it with people you knew from the school and things like that, and you wanted to keep it at that scale. I thought that was really helpful, again, that idea of things that are working for you, but also things that aren’t, and that’s what the book brings you.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, that’s right. I mean, the idea of what the book is to try to demystify how to start a Family Nature Club because there are resources out there, but I feel like I wanted … There wasn’t really this step-by-step guide of like, what do I do on day one? What do I do on day two? What do I do when something doesn’t work as planned?

The book basically chronicles my experience in starting it and offers a lot of tips and advice for how to do it. It’s been really neat to see people read this and then contact me and say, “I’m starting one, and your book helped me feel confident to start one, and it did demystify what I thought was going to be a really hard, complex process into the simple steps to just make it happen.” That’s really neat to see other clubs popping up and people feeling like, from reading this, they’re able to start their own, which is very cool.

Doug Stetzer:                       Well, one thing I’ve learned, also, from writers is that by the time book comes out, you’ve already been working on it for a couple of years, right?

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right, that’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       It’s so new to other people so by the time that’s kind of the end of the process for you, where it’s just the beginning of the process for the reader. What are you working on now? What’s the next thing?

Jason Sperling:                   Right, so I think the Family Nature Club is all about the weekend. When I think of the time my children have, there’s the time they’re in school, there’s the after-school time, and then there’s the weekend time. I think that the Family Nature Club has been great for the weekends. Really helps get them out there.

But I’ve been frustrated that, and sorry, just to backtrack into school, also, I think I found a great school where they’re at. It’s a Waldorf school, so they have a similar philosophy of connecting with nature and making sure that children have those kind of experiences, but the after-school time is really challenging. This is a, I think it’s a social problem that we have where it used to be in the past that children could just go outside and there’d be other children outside to play with, and they could play with them for hours. Then you ring the bell and the kids come back for dinner. That’s how I grew up. I think previous generations, my parents and so on had that experience, but children today don’t, and they’re not playing outside.

There’s a book that I’ve just started last night, which is a book called Playborhood by Mike Lanza that addresses this exact problem. He had the same feeling that he wanted to his children to have an outside-the-home experience as they were growing up, playing in their neighborhood. He worked hard at researching it and then testing out different ways to make that happen. I started it last night, literally, and-

Doug Stetzer:                       Nice.

Jason Sperling:                   … but I’m really interested in that and trying to figure out how to do that for my children and our neighborhood so that they can go outside and play with friends during the week. I don’t know. That may not be a writing project, but it’s a project that I’m kind of working on.

Doug Stetzer:                       Well, like you said, it fills in … It’s, when you block your week into times and how you connect all of these things, that’s the next missing piece, and it’s really more of like a mental exercise at this point trying to figure it out, the we’ll have to … If you decode that a little bit, then you’ll have to come back and tell us what’s working for you because it is a, interesting problem. We live in a great neighborhood with lots of kids, but you don’t see them in the front yard, for sure, and so you kind of wonder where they are.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, I mean, that’s been my … I spent the first two books talking about how to make your backyard great, and now, I’ve just realized the kids should be in the front yard, not the backyard.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, right. Yeah, that’s interesting. When we lived out in California before we moved here, we were in kind of your typical little town home. Everything’s really narrow there, but it had a front patio, and at first, you kind of thought the front patio was weird, but you came to realize that the front patio was awesome because you just met all the little people who shuffle by your street. I’m out there with babies and so people stop and talk and other people are pushing carriages around, and old dudes are walking, and it’s super fun to get to know the old dudes in your neighborhood, but spending a lot of time out in the front is what allowed that, so that’s really interesting.

Jason Sperling:                   Just imagine if the design of homes was, instead of having a backyard, move the backyard to the front, and move the homes to the very back of the property, and you do that along all the street, then you have this huge park on the-

Doug Stetzer:                       Basically. Yeah. Every block’s-

Jason Sperling:                   Every block-

Doug Stetzer:                       … a park.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah. That would be amazing.

Doug Stetzer:                       Right, right. Well, I think that’s just a really interesting topic, and it’s just really something that’s obviously that’s, even in a place like Boulder or even in Colorado or whatever, people are still struggling with, not to mention, the well-known problem, societal issues that people are dealing with. Really recommend the book. I think it’s interesting, and I thank you for your efforts with the Family Nature Club, personally, so that’s really awesome.

Before we wrap up, I do like to ask people just a couple of specific things. With your background, I think this is really, will be great information. What’s your favorite spot with all these things? Like what … I know favorite spots are hard, but with all the organizing of these things, what has become maybe a repeat, like a go-to, what’s a real win when you just are out for the day with the kids and everything like that? What’s an example of a really great spot around here?

Jason Sperling:                   In Boulder, there’s a challenge because the Open Space Mountain Parks area gets a lot of visitors, and because they get so many visitors, they really want you to stay on the trail, which makes sense because otherwise, everything would be trampled. Likewise, there’s not tons of water. There’s some creeks. But in the summer time, actually this is really my go to for all seasons, there’s a creek, South Boulder Creek has some access points that the city’s made along the Bubble Lake trailhead, which is off Baseline. You can go there with the kids. There’s about a mile, mile and a half stretch from Baseline going south. What we do is we go into the creek. There’s three or four access points, and we just go in the first one-

Doug Stetzer:                       Nice.

Jason Sperling:                   … and in the summer time, the water’s shallow enough that you can walk in the creek going up, and that’s just an amazing, amazing experience.

In the winter time, it’s frozen, and you can actually do the same exact thing. It’s beautiful walking up a frozen creek with ice on it, and then in the shoulder seasons when the ice is melted partially, you can have the kids going on to shards of ice. They can break and cut through the ice.

Doug Stetzer:                       Okay, breaking ice is like a win every time.

Jason Sperling:                   It’s a huge win. Huge win. It’s kind of like this nice little nature corridor that has just amazing access. It’s really easy to get to in Boulder, and it is really fun for the kids. It’s shaded by trees, so when it’s hot, it’s great. It’s just a all-season, wonderful spot, super close.

Doug Stetzer:                       I think one of the interesting things about that area, that if you were visiting, like whether you’re visiting Boulder or you’re just coming up for a day trip or you’re following this advice and you’re looking for something to do, just go give you a bit more of a picture is that it’s relatively flat out there. You’re not going into Chautauqua. I mean, you go to Chautauqua you have to be ready to just start doing the StairMaster, right?

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       It’s hard with, when you have kids of different leg lengths and even for me, like say when my parents come into town. You’re like, “Let’s go for a hike,” but they’re not really up for the big elevation hikes and things like that. So when grandparents are in town, and you’ve got little kids, and you got middle kids, one of the interesting things about that area is that you’re not dealing with steep trails and-

Jason Sperling:                   That’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       … a thousand steps and things like that. It’s a nice flat area just to go stomp around.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, and it’s a little less crazy, like parking wise. You can usually find parking. You can access it from the other side, which is at East Boulder Rec Center, so there’s tons of parking there. But yeah, it’s great for different skill levels and all that.

Doug Stetzer:                       Yeah, see, I like that. That’s a great recommendation. Finally, the last question I like to ask people, who would you love to hear on this podcast?

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, I’d love to hear Neil from Laughing Coyote Project. They’re doing some amazing things with children. They’re teaching them primitive skills. They have a beautiful property. I’ve just recently got to know him. He would have a lot to share. That would really be interesting for folks.

Doug Stetzer:                       Yeah, and we were talking about this a little bit. I’ve researched it. I don’t know, there’s … It looks amazing, and they’re out in Longmont-

Jason Sperling:                   I think that’s right.

Doug Stetzer:                       … I believe. They do all sorts of just really cool hands-on type kid stuff.

Jason Sperling:                   Yep, yep.

Doug Stetzer:                       All right. We’ll reach out to him, and if you know him, if you can help make that happen, that’d be awesome.

Jason Sperling:                   Absolutely, absolutely.

Doug Stetzer:                       Awesome. Well, hey man. Thanks for coming in. I think this is just really awesome to learn more about, not only what you’ve done but what you’re up to and the impact it’s having. These are just real societal challenges that people are facing, and it’s … But it’s something that I think people are moving to Colorado to consciously address those things, and so I think it was super relevant to not only me to learn stuff, people who are listening, like people who are moving here, they’re making those types of lifestyle decisions. I think that’ll be really interesting to see how it pans out.

Jason Sperling:                   Yeah, it’s a great place to do it. Really is.

Doug Stetzer:                       Awesome.

All right, everyone. Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jason Sperling. As we mentioned in the intro, you can find links to connect with him or find resources, books, trails, whatever in the show notes. Also, if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to this Colorado podcast on iTunes, and leave a review if you have few moments. It really helps get the podcast found, and of course, I learn a lot from your feedback. If you prefer to get our updates via email, you can subscribe at Colorado FM.

As far as the book giveaway is concerned, we’ll keep it simple. The first three people to subscribe for email updates will get the copy, and I’m happy to send it free to anyone here in the US, lower 48 states. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoyed this episode.

 

 

#005 3 Guaranteed Wins When Entertaining Guests in Boulder

Hey everyone! Thank you for tuning in for this episode of Colorado.FM – the Colorado podcast.  In this episode, I recap some things that made having guests in town a true success.

When you live in a place like Colorado, people are bound to start showing up.

In addition to some of the things I had already figured out after a few years of living here, I was also able to apply recommendations from previous guests.  This new local knowledge has really made an impact on my quality of life, so I’m super excited to pass it on!

I hope you enjoy this episode.  It’s a bit different.  But be sure to let me know what you think, and be sure to pass on your can’t-miss strategies for entertaining guests when they show up!

 


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Selected Links from the Episode

Tin Shed Sports

Salto Coffee Works

Chautauqua Cottages

Kitchen Next Door

Mt. Sanitas Loop

Royal Arch Trail

Podcast: Fanny Toorenburg on Nederland

 


Show Notes

[1:15] Chautauqua cottages for the win

[3:45] Escaping the heat in Boulder Creek and Nederland

[6:35]  Our family day hike: Sanitas – Red Rocks – Lunch at Kitchen Next Door

 


Transcript:

Hey everyone. Doug here from colorado.fm. Thanks for tuning in. I’ve been between guests here for a little while but I did want to just discuss something that I think we probably all have in common here in Colorado, especially in the summer, and that’s having guests. I just had some friends in town and of course you’re always under the gun to come up with really amazing things to do, so I wanted to touch base on a couple of things that really made for just a can’t-lose vacation both for you and your guests, since having guests isn’t always that easy. What I was able to draw on was even some of these recommendations from our prior guests on the podcast, new things that I’m learning about the area, and already just getting to know these people and picking their brain is starting to pay off in my life. Of course, I’m here to pass those recommendations on to you.

Let’s just start off with the first thing that really made this a success. In this case, my guests, they come to town every summer. What they have done for the last few years is rented a cottage at Chautauqua here in Bolder. The Chautauqua cottages are just amazing. You’re really stepping back in time. Of course, Chautauqua’s been there since the late 1800s. They started off with canvas tents and wooden floors. Those evolved into cabins and some of those cabins have been renovated into little cottages over time. They’re just amazing. They’ve stayed in a few different ones and each one is unique. What that allows us to do is, first of all, of course it’s hard to have guests in your house and sometimes it’s just impossible to have a whole another family in your house. This gives them a simple and affordable way to stay right here in Boulder. Second of all, the location, you just can’t beat it. If you’re coming in from out of town and you can stay right in Chautauqua, then you don’t even have to drive in the morning. You just hit the trails. You’ve got restaurants and the ice cream place. Music is playing every night. It’s just amazing. That’s just a total win as far as location.

What it also allows for is us to kind of have like a vacation, staycation, little home away from home. Since they have a place to kind of home base out of during the day, we would hang out over there, go for hikes, have a place to come back to. Again, the kids are just running around because there’s no cars driving through there. We even pulled off a nice sleepover, which led to a great day. Here’s the day, kids sleep over at the cabin in Chautauqua, get up in the morning and hit the trails, maybe head up to Royal Arch. Nice, long hike. Come back, grab some ice cream. That’s it. It’s a total win for both of the families involved. Lots of fun, lots of things to do, location right at the foot of the Flatirons just can’t be beat. If you have some guests, if you’re in Boulder and you have guests coming to town or even if you’re just in the area, you might want to check it out and head up, get everybody to stay over at Chautauqua for a few nights. It’s just really super fun and lends something unique to your trip.

The next thing we did that was an absolute win was escaping the heat. Pretty hot in Boulder when they first arrived, so we headed up canyon towards Nederland. Just getting up there, you drive in half an hour but it [inaudible 00:04:08] feet of elevation, dropped the temperature 20 degrees. Of course, everyone around here knows that, if you just head into the hills. But sometimes you forget just how easy it is. You don’t have to head two hours to Breckenridge or something like that. We just head right up into Nederland, stop at one of those pull-offs along the way and jump in the river, pull out some chairs and have a couple of Colorado’s finest beers. It’s just really a great way to spend the day.

What I was able to add to the Nederland trip … Nederland is, if you haven’t been there, there’s a funky little town well-known for having the outdoor ski resort in the winter, of course. But it’s really a great town in the summer as well. When I interviewed Fanny Tornburg earlier in the podcast, she recommended and just enlightened me to a place in Nederland that I had never heard of. It’s this great combination, the Salto Coffee Works and Tin Shed Sports, which is owned by a family and it’s got the coffee shop and the bike shop right next door. But I finally had a chance to check it out and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been going there for the last few years. It’s amazing, patio, shade, everybody’s hanging out. They’ve got amazing Mexican food in this place, which totally blew me away, a real authentic Mexican menu, great coffee, and again, we were able to escape the heat from up there. Already, my interviews with some locals paying off with that.

One of the reasons why I was missing their location was that it’s just kind of off the drag just enough that you can’t really see it, so even if I stopped in Nederland on the way home from Eldora, grabbed a pizza or a bite to eat, I wasn’t seeing this place. Definitely worth checking out if you’re up that way. That was kind of day two of a total win, hitting the river, getting some elevation, and cruising around Nederland. Of course, there’s great, eclectic, fun shops up there, but my new favorite place up there is definitely Salto Coffee Works.

As you know, I like to ask my guests where some of their favorite things to do, what’s their perfect day if they have the kids, if they have nothing to do, if they have a day around town. Here’s mine, and we were able to pull this off with our guests. It’s just a hike and walk to town that we love to do and it really creates a win for the day. I live on the north side of Boulder, so what we’re doing is heading into Sanitas, but via the Goat Trail that starts up on Third Street and Forest. That’s not always a convenient place to start for everybody, but if you’re on this side of town, you probably know about that. And if you’re looking to switch up your hike, it might be worth parking up by North Boulder Park and starting from up there, just to mix it up.

You head up the Goat Trails, super fun way to start the hike, nice and steep. Some nice little places to scramble up for the kids. Once we get up to the top of the Goat Trail, we tend to just head down the Dakota Ridge, because I’ve still got kids with little legs so I’m not heading up to the peak at this point. Obviously, there’s plenty of people in town who are dragging their little kids up there but that’s just the way we like to do it. We’ll head down Dakota Ridge towards Napleton and then head up Red Rocks, go climbing around on the Red Rocks for a little while, head back to Pearl Street, and hike it right on into town and grab something great to eat on Pearl Street. That’s really the thing that is amazing about living in Boulder and a lot of places in Colorado is that you can take a hike like that and end up right in town and grab a good lunch and a cold beer. It just makes for a really enjoyable day. One of our favorite places is Kitchen Next Door. You start throwing some kale chips and garlic smashers at people and everyone seems to be pretty happy. We’ll loop around and just hike right home and that kind of completes the loop.

Having guests in town, like I said, is always a challenge. It’s fun to have some of these things that you can just kind of have in your hip pocket. If you’re heading to the Boulder area and you’re not really from around here, there’s three ideas I think that can really help make your trip, whether it’s and overnighter or even just a day trip, a total success. Part of it’s drawing on my experience and part of it’s just drawing on some of the recommendations from guests. Little bit different episode today. I hope this is informative and I look forward to bringing you some new guests soon.