Tag Archives: carbon footprint

out of the beer cooler, into the fire

Landing in Denver during the last week of February
Landing in Denver during the last week of February

It all seems a little surreal. Less than three weeks ago I was on a plane landing in a very snowy Denver. Waiting for transit to downtown required a 50-minute wait in 8 degree weather. Before that the coldest temperature I’d ever experienced was 11 degrees one September morning shivering on the slopes of Mount Whitney. So this trip broke a personal record.

The lovely view out the windows of one of the hotels I stayed in.
The lovely view out the windows of one of the hotels I stayed in.

That week also was a city record for Denver, the most snow ever to fall in a single February. This view out the hotel window was on the day the record fell (along with the snow). Among sightseeing opportunities, the Coors brewery would have been walking distance if it sounded like an interesting thing to do. On this cold, snowy afternoon the walk did not sound tempting.

Zigzag shadow on snow with dried plantsDenver often warms enough to melt some of the snow between storms, so what was on the ground was a nice light snow blanket, not the smothering white wooly layers much of the rest of the country has had to deal with.

Plant under snow To this subtropical California it was all pretty exotic. So, plants that get frozen like this come back to tell about it? Sounds like an episode of The Walking Dead to me.

More snow! More bare branches!
More snow! More bare branches!
But don’t let all this snowy whiteness fool you. Denver and the rest of the state have undergone a big transformation since they legalized pot, and things are quite green in the indoor grow facilities. Someone in town was commenting that large industrial buildings are suddenly hard to find with all the competition from the growers. It’ll be interesting to figure out the carbon footprint of this new industry. A 2012 piece on energy use in California found that the power used for the indoor cannabis crop in California was equivalent to 9% of all household use. Colorado’s carbon footprint is bound to grow…

Stinging lupine, Lupinus hirsutissimus, already more seed than bloom early in the season.
Stinging lupine, Lupinus hirsutissimus, already more seed than bloom early in the season.
The local perennial "coreopsis," Leptosyne maritima, with a few flowers, but mostly spent blooms
The local perennial “coreopsis,” Leptosyne maritima, with a few flowers, but mostly spent blooms, ready for deadheading

Now, a couple weeks later, back to San Diego, it’s totally “spring” in the gardens around here. Friday was a day spent outside with a bucket and a hose, hydrating new plants and annual wildflowers. And yesterday was the third freakish day with temperatures almost matching those of Palm Springs out in the desert. It is hot. The established plants will be fine if the heat breaks, but the new plants haven’t had a chance to put down mature root systems. The annuals set seed and disappear once the going gets tough, so a little deadheading and extra water will keep them going a few extra weeks. And a few of the perennials respond the same way, including the local sea dahlia, Leptosyne maritima. A few buckets of supplemental irrigation is pretty little investment, especially when you look across the street to the neighborhood lawns.

But the humans have had enough. Can we have our normal weather back for a while, please?

destination: yellowstone

At the risk of sounding too much like Christian on Project Runway, I’m about to embark on a little “vay-cay.” I leave San Diego on Wednesday in my old Jeep Cherokee for what could be its last major trip to the American West.

gas prices on April 30These days I worry about gas prices, my carbon footprint, and the mechanical reliability of my trusty vehicular companion that I’ve had since it was a baby, back in 1993. My preferred modes of transport the last seven years has been scooters I’ve owned, the first a zippy little Aprilia Scarabeo 150, and now a big Buick of a scooter, a 582cc Honda Silver Wing that weighs over 500 pounds. It has no style, but I got it for cheap. (For all its massiveness, it still gets almost 50 miles to the gallon.)

Above: the Shell station down the hill on April 30, before they raised their prices.

But the thought of strapping two camera bags with three cameras, two serious tripos and a big steel box of film to the scooter sounds a little crazy. And that’s before you factor in the camping gear and multiple changes of clothes to keep me looking semi-snazzy. Important things, you know. Besides, when I floated the idea with John–mostly in jest–his jaw dropped with concern.

“Yellowstone? On a scooter?”

Maybe I was cruel to even scare him like that, particularly after the episode six years ago when he spent seven weeks taking care of me when I was piled into a wheelchair after a little meeting of the body with hard pavement. But the Jeep it will be for this trip. And not only will the trip be in a car, I’ll at John’s urging be packing a cell phone, in case the Jeep breaks down.

That cell is a big move. Even though I’ve been doing email for over twenty years and have had my own web site for well over ten, I’ve been a total Luddite when it comes to cell phones. Yes, they’d be handy to have sometimes, but I’m not willing to chance being turned into one of those people–You know the type: device planted firmly to ear, muttering inanely about foot cream or last night’s pasta salad to whoever will listen, and often doing it in a moving vehicle while driving distractedly like a chauffeur on a Quaalude jag. Pray for my soul, folks.

So, cellphone in pocket, I’ll be heading north through Las Vegas into the Nevada outback, through desert towns with great names like Elgin, Carp(?!), Ely, Pioche, Jackpot and Caliente. (In naming just six cities, I’ve named virtually all the cities on the map on this route that cuts due north through the Great Basin, along the Eastern edge of Nevada.) The nominal destination is Yellowstone, and I intend to get there. But who knows what else I’ll find. There might even be some cellphone reception along the way!