An Unexpected Journey to the Southern Hemisphere?

Artist’s rendition of New Horizons at MU69.

Normally my work life is not too exciting from an outdoors adventure standpoint. I mostly sit behind a computer writing code, writing papers, writing proposals, and writing recommendation letters. Or I’m jockeying powerpoint slides and waving my hands around at the front of large lecture-halls. Or I’m getting coffee or scrounging for left-over pizza in the fridge (actually, that happens a lot.) But every now and then, being an astronomer enables some pretty cool adventures. We have conferences (which are mostly boring) but sometimes they’re in interesting places like Venice or Hawaii and I can add on adventures. I sometimes go use large telescopes on remote mountaintops (which is cool for the first bit) and spend some daylight hours exploring the area nearby (also cool). But, very occasionally, it’s the work itself which is the adventure…

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James Peak Skimo Rematch

Making it look, just for a moment, like I don’t suck.

Back in the day when my quiver of skis was a lot more barren than it is today, I thought it would be a grand idea to skin up and ski down James Peak.  It turned out okay and was a hoot, but my equipment (in this case, a very skinny set of glorified XC skis with metal edges and some low, soft-leather boots in three-pin bindings) was laughable.  Consequently, I fell down a lot.

Fast-forward eight years…  more skis in the quiver, more miles under my belt, some harder (?), scarier descents, and another attempt on James Peak.  For once, I wasn’t organizing this one; Peter, Jake and Russ were headed out for some skimo and invited me along.

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Be Fruitaful and Springbreakify

Spring Break 2017

Another winter too quickly over means it’s time to harness all that cabin fever and plan another big family expedition for Spring Break. To top the 2015 and 2016 editions, we’d have to go really big this year… and somehow we just couldn’t muster the logistical where-with-all to plan it. So we dialed it down a bit but still had a dandy time; a nice balance of adventure, relaxation, recreation, and rejuvenation. Continue reading

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Descent Via Flattop

“I couldn’t catch a ball or do any of that stuff. I could do only what required brute stupidity.” — Warren Harding on mountaineering.

Nice view of Longs.

Nice view of Longs.

Back in the day, the Stupid Brutes were pretty active in the ascending of mountains, the scaling of rocks, the talking of smack, and the generation of weird inside jokes. Many an alpine trip was undertaken in good—or at least kindred—company. For a bunch of suburban white guys of we were a colorful and varied bunch from Fabio the gear wizard and sage pundit to Dan(imal) the enthusiastic young rope gun to people like me content to formulate obscure type-II adventures and then tag along as best they could. We had narrow escapes, triumphant victories, and lots of brutal stupidity hauling heavy packs in inclement conditions at ungodly hours of the day and night.

Most frequent for the Brutes were alpine trips in Rocky Mountain National Park since it was the highest concentration of interesting objectives at the closest distance requiring the least alpine of alpine starts. So many memorable trips! We climbed Tyndal Glacier and descended via Flattop Mountain. We climbed Dragonstail with a descent via Flattop. We climbed Taylor Glacier with a descent via Flattop. We climbed James Peak with a… at some point, all descents were de rigueur via Flattop even if we were in a different county altogether.

Over the years, the Brutes have gone dormant as we’ve matured (in some cases), aged (in all cases), and moved on into parenthood, careers, and other pursuits. But the Brutes were only sleeping (albeit pretty soundly). It was time to descend via Flattop again! Continue reading

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New Mexico for Fun and Profit

Sun goes down, astronomers get up.

Sun goes down, astronomers get up.


It’s been a couple of years since I last traveled for work (at least to anyplace interesting). Fortunately, I was recently awarded two half-nights on the 3.5 meter telescope at Apache Point Observatory in the mountains above Alamagordo, New Mexico.  The mission: take high-resolution optical spectra of the nucleus of the giant galaxy M87 (as one does).  Jaded egghead that I am, I was still pretty excited to put teaching, family, and all the other travails of early 2017 behind me and head for a little focused science (and play) time in south-central New Mexico. It was a great opportunity for science and a little exploration on my own recognizance in approximately equal measure.


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Eleventy-eleven (2016 running retrospective)

Mile 1111: Dec 31

Mile 1111: Dec 31

As the big odometer in the sky prepares to roll over once again, it’s time for a look back on the year of running.  Yes, I’ve done lots of other stuff besides run this year, but running is the thing I keep the exhaustive stats on.  Bear with me.

It was a good year in terms of raw stats: 1111.1 miles for easily my second biggest year ever and it didn’t even feature any major races to contribute to that.  A lot of the initial push of training was in prep for pacing Ben at Bighorn.

Looking through the year, I see a lot of friends, fun, exploration, and adventures to go along with all those miles.  Thanks to all my stalwart compadres for doing what you do and here’s to plenty more where that came from in 2017! Continue reading

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Some pie-filled, spandex-clad idiot spoiling another nice view of Spruce Lake.

Some pie-filled idiot spoiling another nice view of Spruce Lake.

Turkey trots are all well and good, but what I really need is a post-Thanksgiving bit of exercise to burn off some of the pie.  In this case, it was a social run with the “Denver Run Crew” (none of whom were from anywhere near Denver) up in RMNP (also not Denver). No matter.  We ran and were a crew, and it was lovely.

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