Wednesday, November 28, 2007
We are at our good friend David Benavides’ cabin off the road to the Santa Fe ski basin. We arrived here from Moab November 20th and have been nestled in the Ponderosa pines at about 8000 feet. Dave has a great cabin he has rented for 7 years from “an old hippie” as he calls himself who moved here with a group of friends in the 60’s and homesteaded this canyon. It’s cozy with a small bedroom and loft, wood stove for heat and an outhouse (thank god for the carpeted seat). We’ve been sleeping in the pop-up and have broken new records….last night got down to 12 degrees and we were actually toasty under our down bags and comforters! The second night here we got 4 inches of snow and the canvas above the bed was sagging from the weight of it when we awoke. It was great---it felt like we were in a giant cocoon.
The 5 of us made Thanksgiving dinner at Dave’s cabin and his folks came up from Santa Fe to join us. It was a great group effort, especially since none of us have done our own before. One of those times when you realize how much goes into this rather excessive tradition. It’s amazing that Chris, Dave and I have made it this far into our 40’s and 50’s and haven’t done this yet! But we did great and had a tasty dinner. We followed this up with another traditional dinner on Friday at Dave’s parents which almost made a trip to the mall for bigger clothes mandatory.
Dave is considering being a homeowner after many years of renting and we have been discussing the possibility of going in together on a house if we settle here. We’ve looked at some interesting houses/compounds and we’ll see what the future brings. Many areas are actually affordable which surprised us for this part of NM. The house searches which we have done in Boulder, Grand Junction, and Manitou Springs have been a little time-consuming but have given us a good idea of what it would cost to live in the different areas. It has been stressful to the kids to talk about resettling in these different areas as it takes longer for them to let go after we move on to the next possibility. How we do this as we move forward will be a work in progress.
Our next leg of travel will take us to Albuquerque, Bosque del Apache Refuge, Portal and finally Tucson. We’ll set up the trailer there for a base until we move over to Uncle Lee’s on about December 13th. Teslin and Dad will be returning to New England December 6th to 12th for 6 days of visiting, storage locker searching, Teslin’s birthday celebration, and a break from driving. Cassidy and Mom have their own 6 day itinerary which involves tent camping while birding in SE Arizona in search of the Elegant Trogan, Sandhill Cranes, Hummingbirds and other exotics. They’ll be hiking in the San Pedro River Riparian Corridor and in the areas around Portal, Fort Huachuca, and Patagonia having their own adventure. We’ll see how we all deal with the separation!!!!
We’ve been in our car and trailer now since July 2 and we are getting quite attached to being together in our little pop-up, doing our home school, planning our stays, taking in the world. It is not without its own stressors but getting on the Road is a great salve for most problems. We have spent more time together as a family these 5 months than we had done in the prior 10 years combined and are getting to know each other. Teslin and Cassidy think that perhaps Daddy has forgotten that he is no longer “the boss” at a job-- the dragon of the democratic principles of consensus and taking turns keeps on rearing its troublesome head!!!! The Road has proven to be the great equalizer-for better or worse. One thing we all agree on is that we wouldn’t take these experiences back for anything. Let the quest continue!
Leaving Moab, driving South on Rt 191 towards Monticello …..The kids are working on spelling and the IPOD is on shuffle….song # 11 of 3,838. Ouch.…it just went from Billie Holliday to Disney Food Songs. We stayed at the OK RV Park and Stables south of Moab for 3 nights. It didn’t win any awards for scenery, but had 50 amps of electricity for us and a donkey who brayed like a freight train in the early morning hours. Well…the heated bathrooms were pretty nice too. Cassidy and Teslin found a motor cross track nearby and took their mountain bikes on it. Teslin came back with her fourth flat tire of the trip and we excitedly poured half a bottle of slime into each of their bike tires. That stuff is amazing! I’m not sure how it will do when we get into the frozen mountains of New Mexico, but we’ll see! The weather is still amazing….. in the 40’s at night and up into the high 60’s during the day. They say that winter is moving in tonight so we’re on our way to Santa Fe….surely THEY won’t have winter.
Like so many places we’ve visited, Moab has burst in size since we were here last. The business section snakes along Rt 191 much longer and wider than I remember. But…the land around Moab is still exquisite. We were unable to do any mountain biking because we don’t have a bike rack except for on top of our trailer, so we are stuck to riding around wherever we are staying. We spent the first day in Arches National Park hiking and looking around. We took a great side canyon off Devil’s Garden trail and watched the sunset from high on a rock outcropping.
It was also our first day of Geo Caching. WOW IS THAT FUN! For those who don’t know, geo-caching is like a high tech treasure hunt. You research “caches” in your area (there were 80 around Moab and vicinity), enter the coordinates into your GPS, then off you go. Our first one took us into the heart of Arches National Park in the Windows area. We searched and searched for a cache but found out that it was a virtual one…..it just involved a good view.
The next day we set off for some real geo-caching and did 3 amazing goose chases. One took us up a 4WD road we never would have discovered on our own. It left us breathless at a few places while it climbed 1500 feet above the canyon on narrow switchbacks. That was a great one….we found the cache nestled in some rocks on a steep slope near the top of the mesa. The cache itself was an old ammo box and was filled with cheap toys and various junk. Each cache has a log book in it to write in. Everyone is expected to do an entry in the book, but whether you swap something is up to you. The kids were really excited to swap, but alas, didn’t find anything worth swapping, so we just filled in the log and buried it as sneakily as we could. We decided to continue on the road instead of turning around. The first thing we found was a HUGE boulder which had recently fallen across the road and created a tunnel of sorts to drive under. That was very cool. Then there was a series of steep, smooth rock inclines which the old Sequoia couldn’t master without slipping sidewise. This did not impress the kids, as the ditch 2 feet away from the tires fell off some 2-300 feet. We all agreed to live another day and managed to turn around and head down back the way we came. We decided that this close encounter with death mandated at the very least that we devour all what remained of our Halloween candy before returning to Geocaching which we did-OUCH!!The next two caches were placed by one person and were near each other (or so we thought). The first one was relatively easy to find, so we decided to try for the second one. By now, the sun was sinking in the sky, and as we continued to bushwack our way NE among the cactus and slickrock, there was some disagreement about how wise this was. When it was obvious we wouldn’t find it before nightfall, I turned back and hiked about 30 minutes back to the car. I had noticed some mountain bike/ATV trails snaking their way in the direction we were headed, so I decided to take the Great White Beluga and try to pick up the rest of my family. That was exciting. It took me back to my days of driving over Elephant Hill in Canyonlands when I was 20-something. (I’m not sure if age makes one wiser or more paranoid, but this wasn’t nearly as much fun!) I had to get out twice and let myself through cattle gates, then continued to wind my way up and down these rather narrow trails. We had cell phones, so I was able to find out when Chris could see my headlights. After about 20 minutes, he said I was pretty close and sure enough, up they ran a few minutes later. Although the GPS had died, the 3 of them had succeeded in finding the last cache and were feeling very smug. Except for some minor ankle scratches, everyone was in great shape. I thought they were nuts and had narrowly missed a very thorny night-time walk out to the highway. Alas, little do Cassidy and Teslin know that this was just the first of many “Ruge’s Ridges” they would go on!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I smell the snow on the ground and trees.
I smell melting snow combined with Little Bears hair.
I smell the river and spring approaching.
I smell the rabbits that loon has killed.
I smell the cat hair from Sabai, coming out of the open doors.
I smell the rain that has so often come down.
I smell spring, and warmth approaching.
I see the snow melting off the trees in the warm spring air.
I see the chickadees at the feeder, eating the seeds and singing their spring song. I hear the frogs croaking in the spring.
I see the birds fleeing around. I see little Bear and Sabai, Having a tussle through the open window.
I see mom making Mac and Cheese in the kitchen. I see spring and all the wanders of Belchertown.
I hear the river ice cracking in the warm spring air. I hear all the birds welcoming spring with their spring songs. I hear loon purring in the house.
Little Bear barks and comes tearing after me through the snow. He slips and falls into the snow.
I hear the springs rushing in the woods around our house. I hear a lot of wonders of spring and what it brings. I hear some music coming from the house. I hear dad taking the tarp off of the pool.
I hear humming birds buzzing and humming at the newly put out feeder.
I hear Cassidy saying “Touch down, he passes to John Levy who goes tearing down towards the End zone.” Playing football with imaginary players.
I hear spring and the end of the school year approaching.
I touch the slush under my boots. I feel the runners if the sleds I loved to ride in.
I feel Little Bears warm fur as I hug Him In praise of doing an agility jump.
I feel the swings of the swing set, wet and drippy. I feel the warming air in my lungs, making my heart beat steady
I feel spring and the end of winter.
I taste the rain that is evaporated in the air. It is cold, wet, but will soon be gone.
I taste my hair in my mouth; moms wet lips, and dad’s scratchy chin.
I taste a little blood as the baseball Cassidy was playing with hits me in the face.
I feel my pillow move a little as the tooth fairy takes my tooth I lost and replaces it with a coin. I taste the soft comforting sheets of my bed as I press my face into my pillow.
I taste the yummy Mac and Cheese and other cooking mom and dad make.
I taste dad’s hair and shirt as he carries me out of the car. I can feel his arms comforting and supporting my back. I feel his knuckles as he does the buffalo massage on my back.
I can feel a lot of things.
I feel, taste, hear, smell, see, and touch all the wonders of spring.
By Teslin Marie Ruge
Intro: Dog sledding is a very fun sport. There are 2 different breeds of Huskies. Huskies are the breeds that pull sleds in the winter and whenever there is snow. They also run races pulling their masters…. also called musher’s over the snow on the trail. They also do long trips over the snow and even the ice. There is also a sport called skijoring which is when you get pulled on your skies by a dog.
The Siberian husky: The Siberian husky is the breed that the mushers usually use for long or short trips. They love to run, but they are not usually used for races, because they are not as fast as the Alaskan Husky, the other breed of Huskies. This breed of husky also makes good outdoor pets. They are also known to be great and gentle with children and adults. They have a lot of layers of fur, so they can get really hot being inside. When they are sleeping outside in the snow or cold, they wrap their bushy and warm tails around their nose and face to stay warm. In Denali National Park, they use Siberian huskies to patrol the park in the winter when all the roads are closed. Their job is to make sure that no one is hunting in the park or doing damage to the park. When there is no snow, the rangers use trucks and ATV’s to patrol. They will also hike the back country. In the fall, when there is not any snow, they start to condition the dogs by letting the dogs pull ATV’s to train them for winter. At this point, the puppies that were born the previous spring start to go along with the sled and begin their training. A lot of the training is taught by the adult dogs as well as the rangers. In the winter, they will go out for up to three weeks and will stop at little cabins to rest where there is food and a fireplace where the Rangers can warm up. Meanwhile, the dogs stay outside and curl up in the snow for warmth. They usually stay at these cabins for 1 to 2 days.
The Alaskan Husky: The Alaskan Husky has a lot of things that are different from the Siberian husky. First of all, the Alaskan Husky’s are fast and skinny and are always used for races. They are like this because the musher almost always asks the breeders to breed them with fast and long legged dogs, including hounds and hunting dogs. The mushers want this because they want their dogs to be fast.
Mushers: Musher’s are the owners of the dogs. They run the dogs on trails, do races with the dogs, and take care of them. The mushers use the commands “Gee”, “Haw”, “Hike”, and “Easy” to control the dogs. The command “Gee” is to turn left, ‘Haw” is to turn right, “Easy” is to make the dogs slow down or stop, and “Hike” is to make them go faster. Since it is very cold weather, the mushers have to wear a lot of warmth. They have to also wear a protective coat. A protective coat is to protect you if you fall off the sled while being pulled. When racing, the mushers often put coats on their dog team so they will not get too cold to race. They will also put booties on the Alaskan Huskies because without them they will get chunks of ice in their pads which can cut them. They don’t put booties on the Siberian Huskies because their foot pads and feet are especially adapted to the cold and snow and they can even go through slushy ice and water without booties.
The Works: The sleds are usually really strong and light. Today, the sleds are usually made of Kevlar and carbon fibers so that they are light. In the past, they used to use wooden sleds but they got too heavy for racing. The runners are the part of the sled that slides along the snow and support the rest of the sled. They are usually made of aluminum and are covered with plastic on the bottom. This provides a slick surface and also reduces drag. The footboards stand on top of the runners and are what the Mushers stand on. They are usually made of rubber or some non-skid material. They are usually narrow and stand at the end of the runners. The bush brow is the bumper of the sled and is right out in front. It is there is to deflect tree and bush branches and to take collisions and hits. The cargo bed is where all the food and supplies are stored during a trip or a race. The sleds always have a handlebar so the Mushers can hold on. Sleds also have a brake. The brake is an aluminum or steel bar that is in a U shape. Two metal claws hang down fro m the bar. When stepped on, the claws dig into the snow and stop or slow the team. If this doesn’t work, the Musher will usually turn over the sled on purpose to make drag.
THE IDITAROD This race is more than 1,150 miles from Anchorage, in south Central Alaska, to Nome, or the Western coast of the Bering Sea. Each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their Musher cover the entire course in times that range from under d10 days to three weeks. The race begins in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March with a run in the downtown area. Then the dogs are trucked in cars 40 miles north to Wasilla where the official race begins.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I chose to study sled dogs because I, Mom, Dad, and Cassidy went to two different kennels in Alaska and I was really interested in the dogs so I decided to do them for a report and put them on the blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please comment if any of you know anything about sled dogs and if I got anything wrong. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many food chains in the world. One of them is in Yellowstone National Park. A food chain is a series of organisms that rely on each other for food. The one in Yellowstone is very unique in that it has one of the most intact and diverse ecosystems in the temperate world. But Yellowstone did not always have a stable and intact food chain.
In 1872 the Park first became a National Park. Unfortunately, hunting was allowed and even encouraged. The number of elk, wolves, coyotes, cut throat trout, and beavers went way down. Between 1904 and 1935, wolves and mountain lions were greatly hunted in the Park. When the hunting stopped in 1938, the population of wolves was completely wiped out and only a few mountain lions survived. Even foxes, lynx, and bobcats were targeted.
In 1886, soldiers were called into the Park to stop poaching and other things that threatened the Park’s wildlife. They did a very good job of protecting the elk and the deer, but the shooting of predators continued, and predators were pretty much extinct from the Park. Part of that was that farmers near the Park feared that wolves would kill their livestock and shot wolves that got near their livestock.
Before Yellowstone opened, the ecosystem was stable and there were predators. Elk foraged warily and moved often because wolves and mountain lions had strong populations. Because the elk were controlled, the beaver population had enough trees and greens and their population was healthy.
Once Yellowstone Park was discovered, the people hunted out the predators, and there wasn’t a stable food chain. The food chain suffered because the elk did not have any predators so their numbers were too big. The elk destroyed young trees and stayed in places that they would not have if they had predators. The beaver population in the Park plummeted because the elk were eating all the trees around the ponds so the beavers didn’t have any trees to eat and make dams. The absence of beavers also affected fish and insects because they relied on beaver ponds for food and other stuff. The whole process of the lack of predators and how it affects the rest of the food chain is called a Trophic Cascade.
Thirty-one wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone Park in 1995, the year I was born. When the wolves got back into their environment, the food chain gradually became intact again. Elk fed warily and moved more often and stayed away from the beaver ponds and the trees made a come back. Beavers returned to the Park and thrived in ponds, although not nearly as many as before. Also, Rangers sometimes killed elk when the population got too big.
I do hope that Yellowstone’s ecosystem stays intact from now on, and the reintroduction of wolves and the comeback of other predators will have a lasting impact on the food chain.
1. “TheTrophic Cascade”, by Todd Henry, Yellowstone Discovery Newspaper (Volume 21, Number 2, Summer 2006)
2. Yellowstone Resources and Issues, 2007, An Annual Compendium of Information about Yellowstone National Park.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
November 8, 2007
We left Boulder on Monday and headed south to get west. It’s a familiar theme. The truth was, we were torn between heading directly West to Utah and Canyon lands, or South to visit Mission Wolf in Westcliffe, CO which would lead us through Pagosa and into Northern New Mexico. As it turned out, Chris needed a new mountain bike and there was a store in Colorado Springs that had his size. So we trundled South and arrived at the bike store in the dark (thanks to that cheery invention of day light savings time---yes yes, I know, this is how it is supposed to be, but still…..it is a dreary change). It was also quite nippy, being Colorado in November and all. Chris gave his old pal Greg Jameson a call from the bike store and not only was he around, but happily married to a great woman named Linda, and in possession of a vacant house 3 blocks from Garden of the Gods.
The rest is history. Greg sells his vacant house to someone else in a week, so we can only play house for a few days. But oh my is it nice! After 10 days in Maria and Tim’s house in Boulder, we are truly spending more time in houses than our pop-up. The kids are in heaven, and each house we end up in they want to move in to. It has allowed us to stay North longer than we thought we would be able to and given us a chance to regroup. Here in Manitou Springs, we have the pop-up set up in the driveway, and can access all our things. Ahhhh…
We have also spent a lot of time recreating home school. We bought a dry erase board and have actually become quite organized with schooling. It is working better. Cassidy and Teslin both asked for more structure, and it seems to be more satisfying for all of us. We had a long family council and came up with a schedule that is similar to what they had in school last year (but much shorter!). Teslin typed the schedule onto the computer and we printed it up at Greg’s. It is something that we can use as a guide at the very least. There are countless opportunities to learn as you travel, but it is has been challenging to make anything consistent happen. National Parks are amazing teaching resources, as well as many places we visit. We also have quite a few resources with us….Mavis Beacon for typing, a great Spanish program, Math’s Mate, McGraw Hill’s Spelling books, as well as some things for reading comprehension that we picked up from bookstores along the way. There are also tons of “educational” games that we play since we are hanging out all the time….some of our favorite are Apples to Apples (the adult version has tons of current affair and historical things in it), Cribbage, Scrabble, Cogno (great for basic science and astronomy), Into the Forest Food Chain game, and some games we bought up in Alaska on birds and mammals. And then there is birding……Cassidy and Chris left this morning and are exploring various niches up in the Garden of the Gods. (Teslin is still asleep….it is only 9:45).
Last night we started the Power-Glide Spanish program and we are all having fun with that. We hope that they can make it through all 3 levels before we reach Mexico in January. From there, we will find a language school and spend 2 to 3 weeks studying Spanish before heading out for the rest of our adventures in Mexico. We are looking at a program in San Miguel De Allende . They have a Spanish camp for children and teach the language through games, music, cooking, field trips as well as formal classes. Chris is already fluent, so I will take my own immersion classes while the kids are in camp. Can’t wait!
Yesterday, we went to a bead store in Monument (Bead Corner), about 20 miles North of Colorado Springs. We spent 3 hours there learning to string a bead loom with tiny beads (11/0). Cassidy and Teslin both loved the bead loom projects they did at Hilltown last year and wanted to get back into it. We bought a rather ingenious loom that was designed by a local man. A wonderfully patient woman named Elaine helped the kids start projects they had designed the night before and they were able to string them both on the same loom. The loom is large enough to do larger projects like beaded bags, so who knows what will happen. Thanks to Laurel at Hilltown for starting this!
The grand finale yesterday was an in-house rock concert by Chris and Cassidy. Cassidy was playing Smoke on the Water and Chris figured out how to get the drums going on the keyboard. Oh man were they jamming. You know what…….they sounded GOOOD! I’m sure it is just the beginning of many debaucherous jams. Thanks again Elliot for the keyboard…..it is beyond beyond.
Pike’s Peak is right out the window to the West and just has a dusting of snow on it. It is sunny and heading up into the 60’s already. A few moments ago there were 4 deer in the yard…..it is no wonder the mountain lions are happy around here! They seem to be doing quite well…. Nothing like a predator to make the food chain healthy!
Ta ta for now, Anny