Outdoor Philosophy

Harnessing the power of adventure to inspire environmental action

9 -14 July 2006

wonderfully waylaid at bill and steph’s, way beyond generous hosts (and old friends from 88/89 when we were all students at fort Collins). Bill collected me from estes park “it’s still raining, flash-flood warnings, don’t argue” and regaled me with stories of when the big Thompson canyon flooded and chunks of the road (amongst other things) were swept away. I wasn’t going to argue and later steph and I re-rode that section on pannier-free bikes in the sunshine, miles of downhill, the river alongside like a living thing, curling and waving around the rocks; a huge brown snake, white markings constantly changing. Crossed the 1000miles mark on that summer-holiday day-ride! The trail-ridge road downpour had made the news. Not constrained to trail-ridge either. Part of the road from Socorro was under four feet of water, Albuquerque had roads closed. Near Westcreek, the Rocky Mountain News told of flash floods escaped by Charlotte Ferguson, amongst others.

Ferguson, 68, said she scrambled up a hill near her home Saturday morning as rescue crews prepared to bring her across the rushing creek. “I climbed the hill with my .38 and my curling iron” she said, noting that the gun was for protection against bears and the curling iron was with her simply because she had forgotten to put it down.

We visited an Excel Energy wind-farm, a stunning site with the huge, almost silent blades turning against a huge sky on a vast plain grazed by buffalo. Amendment 37 in Colorado requires energy companies to produce 10% energy from renewable sources by 2010. less than one percent USA energy currently comes from wind – but the manager of this site, ken, was optimistic that this would rise to 10- 15% in the next decade. He knew each windmill, and its mechanical gliches, in detail and talked at length of the complications involved in keeping them running. (Click here to see a short video of the wind farm, if you only get sound, wait for it to finish and then try pressing the play button again, these things can be fickle.)

From there we went to New Belgium brewery. What an inspiring story! Started after a bike ride through Belgium prompted the owners to experiment with their own beer brewing. From selling the results out of the back of a car, the brewery now employs 275 people in Fort Collins and is hugely successful. Back in 1992 the staff voted unanimously to switch to wind energy and absorb the extra costs themselves. The plant is still 100% wind-powered, its delivery fleet runs on biodiesel, employees are given a “fat tyre” bike after a year and many ride to work on them, and there are constant innovations to improve energy efficiency. We had a great guided tour from chris, who’d worked there nine years, followed by a serious tasting session. Mmmmmm! All in the interests of global warming research of course. See the New Belgium Brewery website here. (The ads are particularly diverting, says the web guy, who also says you might have to resize the browser window, or you can find the link on the Links page.)

In between all this, bill and steph fed me a constant stream of blueberry pancakes, French toast, lasagna and home-made pizza, provided washing machine and computer and bike mechanics – and bill escorted me to the top of Cameron pass when I finally dragged myself away, struggling to find a gear that would allow him to ride slow enough to ride at my pannier loaded speed – it took us all day and we parted company on the top, bill for a two hour descent in the dark back towards Fort Collins and me for a shorter swoop down to the campsite just beyond Gould, grinning and mulling on the wonderful generosity of old friends.