The Great American Dirtbags

The Great American Dirtbags
The book that you can judge by its cover. $13.99 or cheaper on Amazon, or even better at your local bookstore.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hit Me Up On My Pager Yo!

“What is this photo of you doing jello shots?” my Mother asked me at a family gathering last year.

She was scrolling through my Facebook photos on her trusty iPad and happened to come by some shots of my recent birthday party. In my mid-thirties I’m well past the stage of trying to hide anything from my Mom, but I felt the need to offer some context.

“Well, my friend Gala, who has the same birthday as me found out that I’d never done a jello shot and she basically forced me to do one,” I explained to my dearest Mother.

What I didn’t explain is that I was scared of Gala. Yes, I’m a grown man and I’m scared of a woman. Once on Halloween I was dressed in a woman’s sexy kitten outfit, and Gala was dressed as a zebra. Gala often gets quite aggressive when she’s drunk, and I was easy prey. While doing some moves on the dance floor Zebra Gala ended up kicking me in the face, leading me to the bathroom for ten minutes while I tried to stop a profusely bleeding lip. So when she found out I’d never done a jello shot before and insisted I do one, I didn’t try to argue with her.

Sometimes I miss the days before every little single moment was recorded on social media. I come from the last generation who went to college before the social media revolution took off. Which is good, because college is for making mistakes, and realizing what type of mistakes you don’t want to keep making for the rest of your life. Having my college career on the interwebs for a future employer to see would have probably ensured I would have never gotten a job after graduating.

I also come from the first “screen generation”. One of the most thrilling moments of my childhood is when my parents gave in and bought my brother and me a Nintendo. We were obsessed with it, playing Super Mario Brothers and Zelda until our parents cut us off. Luckily, we were also into sports, and we had some exercise regiment to combat the stagnant lifestyle that often comes along with video games. Computers came along later, but up until smart phones and social media were invented they didn’t dominate our lives like they do now.

Yes, I come from the last generation of phone callers and note passers. The generation that remembers calling a girl’s house and the accompanying fear that her parents might answer. And making mixtapes for a girl, poring thought into each and every song. When the only way to access adult entertainment was stealing a Playboy from someone’s Dad, and hope to God you didn’t get caught. When people had pagers, and often used pay phones, and if you were lucky enough you would get a page that read: *69, which means you were going to get some action.
But I had no game then, I didn’t really know how to talk to girls until I was in my early twenties; I was as scared of them as I’m as scared of Gala in a zebra outfit now.

I did have pager, though. A couple of my friends, who were selling dirty brown brick weed, had pagers and I wanted to be cool and have money like them and sell weed. Problem was my Mom. She found the pager and freaked out. “Drug dealers use pagers,” she said.

I thought about trying to angle saying I was just hoping for a “star 69” but that wouldn’t work, and I lost the privilege of a pager.

Part of growing up in my generation means that I was alive when 2 Pac and Biggie were alive; these two rappers were both murdered in their twenties and to this day still remain cultural icons. (Their murders are still unsolved as well. WTF?) Just the other day a 20 year old I work with at my night gig at a local restaurant told me, “Dude that’s so cool, you were, like, around when Biggie was alive, what was that like?”

That could have made me feel old, but I guess I’m too young to feel old just yet. I think its cool that hip-hop is now the oldies, and the original living hip-hop pioneers are now graying and becoming grandfathers.

I do feel blessed that the obsessive recording of every single minute event wasn’t going on when I was young. I don’t need to see what you had for lunch on my Instagram. Speaking of Instagram, this same 20 year old, bless his heart, recently got busted at work for taking shirtless selfies in the bathroom during his shift. When another co-worker, a 16 year old, whose maturity pretty much is the same as the 20 year olds, noticed the photos on his Instagram feed when he was eating his shift meal, he made fun of him (as he should). He also called him out for taking the photo at work. The 20 year old tried to deny it, but the 16 year old called him out, “You’re wearing those same pants and the background is our bathroom,” he said. Busted.

I’ve never understood the compulsive urge to take a selfie, that’s where my generation and the current generation differ, but I can relate to being young and still figuring things out. Lately I’ve been hearing this idea that the decision making part of your brain does not fully develop for a man until around 23 years old (slightly earlier for women). This makes such perfect sense as I get older, and look back on how I lived my life during my first years of so-called adulthood. What a shame this is! We are forced to make many important life decisions before our frontal lobe in our brain fully develops.

These days there are so many more ways to get in trouble than when I was nurturing my young brain in all the wrong ways. Still, I managed to mostly come unscathed, my mind fully intact, and most of the photos of my college mistakes are tucked away in a cardboard box up in my attic.

I can’t say I’m all that different than some of these kids who didn’t know a pre-Facebook world. I like being liked, right swiped, favorited, re-tweeted, endorsed, and tagged. I just also remember the romance when you had to put yourself out there a little bit more, but I doubt any of the girls I made mixtapes for are still holding onto them. It’s an ephemeral existence we are living.

I think the main problem with all this new media and technology is thinking that Instagram photo is more important than the actual moment at hand. My best moments are when I’m away from a cell signal, and thank God those places still exist. Someday they might not. Or maybe some giant crash will happen and we’ll have to go back to the old ways of living. I think the years before cell phones were more romantic anyways. Either way, I’m damn sure I’ll never do another jello shot…unless Gala forces me to!

Check out my books, Climbing Out of Bed, and The Great American Dirtbags

Friday, September 11, 2015

Squamish poetry

Poetry is my first true love in writing. I wrote poetry before I thought of myself as a writer, and poetry readings are some of my favorite events to go to. Here's some random lines I wrote in my journal in Squamish this past summer:

Blackberry bushes beneath
Days planned
Rarely do they go
according to plan

Slabs say trust me
but dont trust me
trust yourself

Filling our futures with follies and fantasies
knowing there will be falls on walls
whippers runouts fear and failure
and being okay with it

Climbing is my daily bread
Like water it keeps me going
Keeps the mind sharp
the muscles moving
but, why? why?
have i give so much to it?

Squamish steals my heart
Where the granite meets the sea
and i see myself for many summers
but you can only have one summer
at a time

Fit women wander with wanderlust
and I wonder what women will meet my lust
and i've been blessed to have so many
but I only want one

I gotta keep pushing and striving
in every way to try harder
in climbing
The investment would be a waste
if I did not do that

And am I adept at adjectives?
Writing on a stomach full of hope?
Nine pitches led on a Thursday
After going out on a Tuesday

The best things happen to a climber
Right around ten' in the morning
Or right around right now
at nine in the evening
In Squamish
watching the sun set into the sea.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Simple Man - Climber's Version

I’m just a simple man
I like pretty things
I’m just a simple man really

I’m just a simple man
I like pretty climbs
I like pretty girls
I’m just a simple man

I like my cracks as handcracks
I like big holds, jugs
I like crimps
I don’t like pimpin’
I just like crimpin’

I like hip-hop
I like rice and beans
I’m just a simple man really

I like Colorado
I like green things
I like pretty things
I’m just a simple man

I like bouldering
I like free climbing
I like big walls

I like girls with chalk on their hands
I like girls with chalk on their nose
I like girls with chalk on their clothes

There’s a chance this might never catch on
But my friends like my poems
And I like my poems

I’m just a simple man

Adapted from "Simple Man" a cool rap song by The Grouch, a cool rapper

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Straight Outta Squampton

I’ve got a confession to make people: I haven’t’ seen “Straight Outta Compton” yet. Like many hip-hop fans I’ve been excited about this movie since the project was announced, but when it was released I was up north in the land of Drake, not Dr. Dre. That also means I was out of town for the Gold King mine accident here in Durango, and watched from afar as the rest of the world did; the wrath of the Old West still affecting us in these modern times. Thanks a lot Teddy Roosevelt.

I can’t recall the last time I was this excited about a movie, something about hip-hop and the role that N.W.A. played in the development of the music, as well as bringing a larger awareness to what was happening in Compton, and other urban areas in the United States. Yes, N.W.A. kept it real before that was a phrase.

While the hip-hop fans of the United States were turning out by the millions to see “Straight Outta Compton” I was in Squamish, up in British Columbia, Canada, otherwise known as Squampton. I don’t really know where the name came from, Squamish is a far cry from Compton, and at this point I’m way too close to deadline to do any sort of research. Maybe the people of Squamish just are big hip-hop fans too. After all the night we arrived was at the end of a three day music festival, in which no other than Drake himself headlined, the Canada born star of the rap world at the moment.

I’d made a trip up to Squamish last summer, and after only three days got rained out, forcing us back down south to the States. We did some magnificent climbing on that trip in Washington and Idaho, but nothing was as good as Squamish. For the last year I was Squampton dreaming, and made sure my summer travels included a visit to our friendly neighbors up north.

That’s a good place to start with descriptions, there’s something about friendly people that is both welcoming and contagious. (Plus their accents are just so damn cute with their “ehs”, “abuuts”, and “soarries”, and their money: loonies and toonies, are you kidding me?)

I can see why they are in such a good mood, for a brief stretch every summer the rain typically slows down and the place is basically a paradise. Seemingly every good looking woman across Canada descends upon Squamish, the temperatures never get too hot or too cold, there’s enough trails, mountains and rocks for everyone, and The Chief the massive granite buttress overlooks the Howe Sound, the ocean meeting granite cliffs that dominate the skyline. Blackberry bushes are everywhere and the salmon are plentiful and cheap, really cheap if you’re patient enough with a fishing pole (I’m not). Those few sentences are just the beginning of the beauty that unfolds, and to be a part of it is transformational to say the least.

Now I’m just a simple man with an average athletic prowess, but beautiful places like this stir a yearning and desire deep in my soul. All of the sudden I don’t fully appreciate my days unless I give a hundred percent effort into what I’m doing, and all I was there to do was climb. It’s a simple equation, but your desires must align with someone else’s, because climbing tall walls is a team sport. Luckily we assembled a small posse of Colorado climbers there in the campground and lived out our days on the walls.

To this dirtbag lifestyle, for me, there’s this constant boiling and simmering. The intense effort and fear coupled with the aftermath: hardcore chillin’. Each day in Squamish begins with a mellow start, one in a hundred climbers get up before 8:00 am and, and every day ends at the communal picnic tables, where there’s an international representation, people from all over the world getting together to cook simple meals and share drink and smoke.

With so many people living out in the open there’s bound to be problems, and the main issue in Squampton is theft. At least one car was stolen when we were there, a result of a big city, Vancouver, being so close. Though I imagine they would be polite if you caught them stealing your car. I did have one weird encounter there, while walking the streets one day I really had to go to the bathroom, and I spotted one at a nearby at a city park. I opened up the door to the men’s room, and what did I find but a woman, who was clearly using drugs; she had sores on her face and looked like a creeper similar to the ones who lurk around sketchy hotels at night. Without hesitation, she said, “Oh I’m so sorry, come on in.” I took one look at this chick, who was probably an extra in “Breaking Bad”, and ran away as quickly as I could.

The climbing, the trails, the people, there was so much that was so sweet about Squamish, as sweet as the perfectly ripe blackberries that you can greedily eat without guilt because there’s more than enough for everyone, but I’m only given so many words here, so I gotta wrap it up with just one more Squampton bit.

We had one big party night, as one friend was arriving and another was set to leave. Somewhere in the midst of delicious sushi and drinks, we met some climbers and learned of a karaoke night at the local dive bar.

The karaoke DJ was an energetic short and stout woman who had bleached blonde hair and sang 1990s hits at the top of her lungs in between patrons taking their turns at hits from the good ol’ United States pop charts. It was the perfect mixture of talent and hilarity; everyone in the bar was having a great time.

I did my old standby of “You Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer and as the drinks flowed and I got more and more buzzed I signed myself and my buddy Shaun up for “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. At the last minute I realized we were going to be “those people” at karaoke, drunk and missing all the right notes. In a strange twist of fate we got up to the stage and they had “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube of N.W.A. fame queued up. Shaun and I both knew the words well, and we went into karaoke hero mode on the microphone. A good day indeed.

Thinking about that, I think it’s time to get out and go see “Straight Outta Compton” tonight, while it’s still in theaters.

This article is from today's Durango Telegraph (September 3, 2015)

My most recent book is called The Great American Dirtbags. Two other book projects, including a novel, American Climber are in the works. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

A love letter to this juxtaposition of mountains and desert

Durango, I’m about to leave you now for a little while, and when I think about leaving I think about how much I love you, and how I don’t even really feel like I need to leave. That’s the key I think, live somewhere you love so much that when your travelling is done you couldn’t be happier to come back.

            It’s been tough love, as if you put me in a boxing ring with my dreams, and told me to get ready for a good fight. But you never told me, I just should have assumed: chasing dreams is hard work.

            I used to chase my dreams on the road, creating my own Kerouac-like triangle between Colorado, Mexico and California, and then I learned the type of dreams that I had in my heart would never be satisfied by the road alone, I needed a home. And I learned that my man Kerouac died by the bottle, and that was never a death I wanted to live. I couldn’t sit around and feel sorry for myself.

            Durango, I found you five years ago in the midst of an inner turmoil, at the same time when our country was going through a financial turmoil. I took the blind leap here, packed up everything I owned in a graffiti-ed red, white, and blue, car called The Freedom Mobile, which I estimated to be worth about five hundred dollars.

            Work was scarce when I first arrived, and I was told “no” to jobs you can usually slip into in mountain towns, because people are always leaving in mountain towns, and then I learned Durango is the mountain town where people stay, no matter how tough it is to make it here.

            But you gotta keep knocking on doors until someone says yes, and you gotta keep believing in your dreams, because your dreams are your keys to love, and all we really have is love. I took whatever odd jobs I could get; I shoveled horseshit, and watched over farms with mischievous sheep and roosters. I ate the eggs from chickens, and greens from the gardens I was the temporary landlord for. Finally, I found a gig that would work with my dreams to write and climb. Then I could start to appreciate you Durango, this juxtaposition of mountains and desert.

            Community, the common unity, happens with time. I remember telling the Animas River my dreams, and sharing my prayers with it. I remember the coincidence of my best friend Tim moving here, in his own inner turmoil with the bottle, of which he was finally able to free himself of. And that freed me as well, that someone could seem so hopelessly addicted and headed towards death, and then turn it around and build a wonderful life for himself in his new home of Durango. Then Tim introduced me to Andrew, a quiet genius handyman-mechanic, who has the rare combination of intelligence and humility.

We became great friends, and he worked on the “Freedom Mobile” when I was poor and had little money. Then we would play poker and I would meet Travis, my Southern gentlemen of a friend, who I could talk to for hours on end, because he’s got that right kind of Southern in him, that infinitely polite and engaging personality that makes you feel like you’ve got a friend for life, which you do.

            And through those poker games I found Jonathan again, I’d met him climbing in Las Vegas years before, but never saw him in Durango til late one winter night we met again at the poker table of all places. We became good friends and have climbed hundreds of days now together. I’d just lost a dear friend to an avalanche when we re-met. New friends helped with that pain.

            Still we pray to those same mountains that have taken away some of our loved ones. The passage of each year makes me feel more humble, and the more mountains I see makes me realize I’ll never see all the mountains. It’s taken five years just to get a glimpse of the mountains, canyons, rivers, valleys, and crags of this land.

            The mountains don’t change like we do. Everything happens so fast in the human life. I’ve heard life is a bitch, but time seems to be the bitch. Life is a beautiful woman, and beautiful women make beautiful babies, and it’s been a trip to watch my friends have families. Talk about hard work, and most of you do it with such grace.

            The vantage point of five years leaves a complete confidence in my decision to move here. When I made the decision though I was full of doubt and anxiety. The only way to know yourself though is to face those insecurities, and the only way to find yourself is to go there, wherever -there- may be.

             My writing mentor and former professor George Sibley, of Mountain Gazette fame, used to say have this saying about Crested Butte, “Someone is always arriving saying this is the greatest places they’ve ever found, and someone is always leaving saying the place is doomed.”
            I think you could say something similar about Durango. We’re constantly being mentioned in those bullshit Outside magazine type stories: “Top 5 Places to Move To Right Now” or “Top 5 Undiscovered Mountain Towns”. The truth is that our town is gritty, and we have our share of issues and problems, not unlike any other place. We are far from a utopia, as my man J.J. Anderson eloquently covered in his piece about our homelessness issue in his guest “La Vida” last week.

            We got problems, even 99 of them, but there’s something about this place that makes me feel like it’s the perfect place for an artist, for someone who thrives on creativity. There’s so much inspiration and beauty here in makes me wish I had an outlet for it - I with I could sing, I wish I could dance, I wish I could sit by the mountains and paint their beauty. I’m not a religious man, but I am spiritual, and I know for sure we all are given certain gifts. I don’t know if writing is a gift, or if you just have to work hard at it, I just know it’s the only outlet I have to share with my community, and I know there’s no other place in the world I’d rather by than Durango to spend my days typing away in my cave with the hopes I might create something that means something to someone. And there’s no other place I’d rather go to a coffeeshop and try to get work done when I’m tired of my home office, but then get distracted by my dear friend, Jennaye, who likes analyzing weird human traits as much as I do.

            I’m giddy right now as I finish this, I’ve saved enough to take some time off to visit a chunk of heaven in Squamish in British Columbia, where the granite meets the sea, and I can live out of a tent for a couple weeks, and wish life was always that satisfying and simple. Or, it will rain and I’ll be dreaming about Durango, and the upcoming Indian Creek season. You never know, but if you don’t go, you really never know.

This article is published in today's Durango Telegraph (August 6th, 2015)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Haircut Story

Since this one is about love (or at least the search for it) I wanted to say how genuinely happy I am that everyone in the United States is now able to marry whomever they love. I’ve always appreciated that lyric from the song "What the World Needs Now is Love" by ’70s diva Dionne Warwick: “We don’t need another mountain, there are mountains and hillsides enough to climb ... What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.” 

In a world where homosexual people are discriminated against, I know the journey is not over. But it’s a big step in the right direction. In a day and age where there seems to be a tragedy nearly every day, it’s good to get some uplifting news that will lead to positive social change. 

Love is a hard thing to find, and to find a person you want to spend the rest of your life with, that’s even harder. As a single guy who is 36, I can attest to that. But, as I’m approaching 40 and have a little more salt and pepper in my hair, I’ve got an advantage: I’m entering my Clooney years, baby! 

The only problem is, I don’t look anything like George Clooney. I only have a dash of salt, and I don’t have the hair. I always rock a buzz cut, which makes me look more like a college bro than a mature heartthrob.

And, believe it or not, this buzz cut led to one of the longest relationships I've ever had with a woman. Take the 14-month period when I dated three women consecutively, all with the same name. 
To protect the innocent, let's say the name was Lynn. The first Lynn was a sweet city girl, who had just started climbing. We met in said city and dated for a little while. But we realized during a weekend winter getaway in Moab that the magic just wasn’t there. We talked about it and ended our brief little fling, no hard feelings. 

Shortly after, I got a haircut. Let me preface that by saying I’m not picky about who cuts my hair or where it's cut  – just as long as it's done right and it's done cheaply. So, I had been going to this place that cuts hair for cheap, and the same woman cut my hair every time. I’ve always found this to be a very interesting relationship. In what other close setting with a stranger is small talk so important? At the dentist, they are all up in your grill. At the doctor, you are so uncomfortable sitting on that white paper that you don’t really want to talk. But at the hairdresser, small talk defines the experience. 

Now this woman seemed to be one of those people that had given up on her dreams. She had kids when she was young; and maybe she didn’t even have dreams. I just got the feeling she was disappointed by life. So I think once she found out I was an outdoorsperson who travelled all over, she started vicariously living through my trips. That formed a bond and eventually, she started asking about my love life. Like, do you have a girlfriend? 

I told her yes, but by the next haircut, I had found another girlfriend, the second Lynn. I told my hairdresser about No. 2 while she carefully buzzed my head, which I appreciated. I mean, when you’re getting your hair cut at the cheapest place in town, some people are downright rough with the buzz cut. I’ve walked out of some cuts apologizing to my head.

So, she’s gently buzzing my head, #2 clippers style, and I’m telling her about this woman I’m falling for, “Oh yeah, she’s a climber and a writer just like me.”

“Wow, that’s incredible,” the hairdresser says, “to find someone with such similar interests." 

As you can probably predict, things didn’t work out with the second Lynn. We broke up, and it was a sad breakup. I was three weeks out and went to get a haircut. One of the worst parts of a breakup is constantly having to tell everyone you’ve broken up. So by now, I’m over it. Of course my hairdresser is going through her repertoire of topics and inevitably comes to, “How is your girlfriend, Lynn?” 

I tell a white lie. “Oh, she’s doing great” and quickly change the subject. 

A few months later, and what do you know? I start chatting with a beautiful woman I’d seen around town and finally get around to formal introductions. When she tells me her name is Lynn, my head spins. Whatever the universe is telling me, I should probably listen. Maybe this is The One? 

You see where this is going. And, I’m not proud of it, but traits from the second Lynn and the third Lynn were blended together for the hairdresser into a potpourri of a woman. “Wow, she’s a climber and a skier and a runner. And, she’s a writer and a teacher and a scientist, you better hold onto this one.”

At this point, the third Lynn and I were on about our fifth or sixth date. We had plans to hit up the hot springs that night, when she suggests a change in venue: West African dance lessons. 

Not wanting to seem boring, I agree. “Just so you know, it’s mostly women,” she cautions. “But I think you’ll have a good time.”

"Mostly women" turns into myself, one other hippie guy who I’m pretty sure is there to meet hippy chicks, and 50 other women! And the dancing is sexual, heavily involving booty shaking and hip thrusting. The instructor, who is visiting from West Africa, is a short little, joyous man, and I realize just how culturally different West African and Colorado are. 

So I’m trying to hang tough and not get trampled by 50 women as we go through a conga line. Talk about out of your comfort zone. After the date I couldn’t wait to get out of there. “I can’t believe you stayed,” Lynn No. 3 said.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out with the third Lynn. And when the time came around for my hair to get a trim, I prepared to tell the hairdresser the news that I’d broken up with two women I’d melded into one. But, she was gone. She quit the gig, and I don’t know where she went. And my next haircut felt like I was in a headlock being poked by aliens in the head. It was by some woman named Marge, who very much frightened me.

I longed for my old hairdresser and to this day, wonder what became of her. I can only hope that, after months of chasing someone else's dreams, she finally decided to follow her own.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Katrina Blair's Wild Wisdom of Weeds

Katrina Blair’s audience is growing like a weed. The longtime Durango resident’s new book, “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds”, which was just published in November, has already sold out her first print run, and is on its second printing. Thanks to a heightened interest in the subject, and a favorable review in the New York Times, Blair exceeded even her publisher’s expectations by selling out 4,000 books in just a couple months.

Blair completing a walkabout, en route to Telluride, Colorado. 

            Blair, who is the purveyor of the local Turtle Lake Refuge, has spent much of her adult life advocating the benefits of weeds, as well as fighting against the use of pesticides and herbicides to eradicate said plants.

            This book, her second, highlights 13 weeds that can be used for food and medicine. Among those plants are: dandelion, lambsquarter, mallow, plantain and thistle. All the plants listed in the book grow on each of the seven continents. Blair remarks that she, “fell in love with these plants all over again during the writing of the book,” and she even had ten day period during the research where she ate nothing but those 13 plants.

            Blair notes that she considers herself more of an opportunist than a vegan or vegetarian, but feels best when she eats a local food diet. “The more we refine food the more the vitality goes down,” she says. “I thrive on fresh, wild, local food, which gives me a high level of clarity and energy.”

            Blair was raised to be resilient. Her father, Rob Blair, now a retired Geology professor from Fort Lewis College, taught her to ski, hike, and climb. Her mother, Pat Blair, who started Durango Natural Foods, imparted an appreciation for plants and nutrition. “My Dad opened the wild, and my Mom opened the doors to health,” Blair says.

            She was camping in the Tetons before she learned to walk, and started climbing at the age of 10 at X-Rock, a local crag on the north edge of town. She spent her high school years in New Zealand, while her father worked on a sabbatical, and learned to appreciate the value of travel and understanding other cultures.

            Perhaps her most formative and legendary experiences have happened in the form of what she calls a walkabout. Blair simply hikes for days, feeding herself on the food she forages. August is typically the best month, and she boasts that in one day, while hiking to Silverton she foraged 19 different kinds of berries. She’s always had a mystical connection to the land, with plants in particular. “As a kid floating on Haviland Lake (located between Durango and Silverton) I felt drawn to the plants on the edge of the lake, and they seemed to say to me, you’re going to live with us now.”

            And she has. Her most well known walkabouts are the annual week long pilgrimages she makes to Telluride for the Mushroom Festival, where she conducts educational workshops. She lives entirely on the plants and berries she forages, and is so confident in her skills she doesn’t even bother to bring a backup stove. Blair notes that the first three days she is typically lethargic. Then something happens, once the detoxing period is over, her energy reaches an all time high. “By the time I arrive to Telluride I’m riding a high, it’s as good as I feel at any point in the year. It’s like a cleanse.”

            During the walkabouts Blair also touches base with her roots as an explorer of the mountains. “I have this deep, profound, trust in nature,” she shares. “While I’m in these precarious situations I don’t have the luxury to have fear. I trust in myself and my intuition.”

            As a kid her only household rule was: be true to yourself. In all her experiences with edible plants she’s only eaten something poisonous once, a twin berry, that is only considered mildly harmful; the effects were only minimal and she recovered quickly.

            As one could expect the book is full of detailed wisdom and creativity. Blair calls it “heavy”, containing more than 350 pages of information and a complete array of photographs, featuring herself, the plants and many members of the Durango community and Turtle Lake family. Recipes range from Hollyhock strawberry baskets to a Clover Flower Apple Pie to Plantain Breakfast Porridge.

            In “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds” Blair also features her battle to discontinue the use of herbicides in Durango’s city parks. She believes that as a community Durango can lead the way for other communities to discontinue the use of herbicides, which she feels are harmful to those who visit the parks. She says that, “changing anything is challenging, but as we remove those herbicides it does increase our quality of life” and adds that she is “grateful that there has been some success in Durango, and that the City Manager and the Parks and Recreation departments have been a supporter to make this happen.”

             Blair also notes that moving towards eating these 13 plants should be a methodical one, “The integration should be small and slow. Wild food is so potent, starting with your morning green smoothie is a good idea for entry.”

            She attributes her success with the book to the growing environmental awareness of the United States. “The ground is prime. There’s so much awareness right now. It’s a small, yet perfect solution to start using these resources.”

Blair's book: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds. 

This piece was originally published in the Durango Telegraph