Saturday, July 26, 2014

Science Ranch - The People

This is the fifth post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.

A Self Selecting Group of Awesome
The best part of going to a Science Ranch is the people.  Those of us that are attracted to this kind of vacation tend to have a lot in common.  We like being outdoors, we love science and other "nerd" topics, we have great senses of humor and we care for the world around us.  With so much in common it becomes easy to celebrate our differences.  Over the various trips I have made friends that I will keep for a long time to come.

The Pringle Family
This year our hosts were quite different than we experienced in the past.  The Wuanita Hot Springs Ranch is owned and run by the Pringle family.  The ranch is their home and they treat it (and its guests) as such.  The Pringles are traditional without being old fashioned, genuinely good people and went out of their way to interact with the guests and make sure that everyone was having fun.

The man on the right is Ryan Pringle, talking to us about an old gold mine we were exploring.
Working for the Pringles are a host of wranglers.  They are a fun loving bunch that know their stuff.

Bonus Track:
At the end of the week the Pringle family and other ranch employees put on a live music show.  It was quite good actually.  One of the wranglers sang this song:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Science Ranch - Black Canyon

This is the fourth post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.
One of our side trips during Science Ranch was to go to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  We had a wonderful time exploring the park and seeing the amazing sights.

The Blue Mesa Dam
Our first stop was at the far east end of the canyon, where a large dam holds back the Blue Mesa reservoir.  It is not the largest dam by any stretch, but it is still imposing when looking at it from below.

One of our stops was called Chasm.  Chasm is a wider part of the canyon and offers great views and the ability to look almost directly down the canyon side.

Yep, that's a vertical panorama.

Painted Wall
The painted wall gives an excellent view of the varied geology present.  Our geologist Holly spent some time here guiding us through a millions of years of geologic history.

Ranger Paul
Our guide for this trip was Ranger Paul.  Paul has a great store of knowledge of the park and it's history, as well as a great love for the place.

Bonus Track:
I couldn't resist...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Science Ranch - Horse Riding

This is the third post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.
If you are going to a guest ranch, even a science themed one, you have to ride horses.  For the average geek this will be a new experience, possibly even a scary one.  It is, however, something everyone should try at least once.

Something unique about Wuanita is where they get their horses.  The owner prefers to get retired ranch horses, ones that have spent their life working.  He feels that a working horse will be better behaved for his guests.  The horses tend to be more than ten years old.

My horse bore this out.  I'm an infrequent rider, though I've had enough experience to be fairly good at trail riding.  My horse, Dr. Seuss (!), was easily the best behaved creature I have ever rode.  Not everyone had the same experience, but on the whole I think that was the case.  My horse was named Seuss because his forehead marking looks like a Truffula tree.

The trails around the ranch range through private land, Buereau of Land Management land and National Forest.  We caught nearly the perfect week this year, as nearly every flower possible was in bloom.

Finally, at the end of the week, we participated in arena games.  This is my first time with this and it was a lot of fun.  The kids gave skill demonstrations:

The adults competed in cattle penning.  We actually cut cows from a small herd at one end of the arena and moved them into a pen at the other side.

Great fun.

Bonus Track:
At the start of the kids demonstration, our host played this song.  In his words "the most cowboy song ever".  He played the original but this version is pretty cool:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Science Ranch - Sessions and Scientists

This is the second post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.

What makes Science Ranch different from other vacation packages is the science.  (Sorry, a little too literal there.)  This year we had two excellent scientists with us.

The first is geologist Holly Brunkal.  Holly is a a teacher at Western State Colorado University and has become a friend over the years.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and she can speak to kid and adult alike.

John Sowell is a biologist from Western State as well.  His knowledge of the Gunnison area flora and fauna is vast.  He is a great fun to talk with and I hope to meet up with him again in the future.

Our science sessions came in the form of hikes.  As we walked impromptu outdoor classrooms sprung up in the trees and rocks as we learned about unique aspects of the spot we were in.

Every clear night Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) got out his telescope and a dozen or more adults and kids looked up at the sky while Phil talked about what we saw.  At the end of the week he gave a talk (over desert) about the Curiosity Mars rover.  If you ever have the chance to go to one of Phil's talks, please do.  You will not be disappointed.

Bonus Track:

Since this post was about science, here is Thomas Dolby and Buzz Aldrin:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Science Ranch! (Again!)

So, another six months another Science Ranch.  (I guess the last one was Space Ranch, but it counts.)

I've always been one to adventure.  As a teen in high school and early college I (sometimes with my brother and a few friends) would traipse through the woods of north Georgia, often straying from the trail to find hidden gems in the woods, abandoned shacks, wild turkeys and even an abandoned copper mine that became an underground lake.

Having kids did not change things much, and once our finances supported it we started exploring many of the cool places in the country.  Moab UT, Shenandoah VA, Jackson WY.  It became a separate part of our lives.  Go out, adventure, separate from our daily lives of games, technology and mental activity.  Do not get me wrong, these were amazing experiences that I would not give up for anything.  But there is so much we could have learned about where we were.  Our guides and outfitters knew some, but only enough to keep the average persons interest.

That is why I keep coming back to each Science Ranch.  I get all the outdoors and adventure I an handle and I get the depth of understanding about the world I'm adventuring in.

This year, Science Ranch was held in Gunnison, CO at the Wuanita Hot Springs Ranch.  The Gunnison basin is surrounded on all sides by large mountain ranges.  This gives it a somewhat unique ecology.  It also has a mining history and that makes the geology fun as well.  It is also remarkably beautiful and supports lots of great outdoor activities.

In the next few posts I'm going to expand on the trip, but to give you a flavor of what I experienced and to help me work on my writing.  In the mean time here are a few pictures from the trip.

Bonus Track:
Since this was a vacation (and I adore cover songs)...