How about 'dem apples

Outlier Cellars rolls out the barrel with new Mancos tap room

Outlier Cellars' owners, Sam Perry, left, and Neal Wight, right, partake in another grueling sampling session inside their new taproom in Mancos. They went into business a year ago and are now ready for the prime time, with a grand opening this Saturday./Photos by Jennaye Derge

Outlier Cellars' owners, Sam Perry, left, and Neal Wight, right, partake in another grueling sampling session inside their new taproom in Mancos. They went into business a year ago and are now ready for the prime time, with a grand opening this Saturday./Photos by Jennaye Derge

Jennaye Derge - 02/22/2018 

With hard cider becoming the gluten-free darling of the craft beverage crowd, the idea to start a cidery in Southwest Colorado seems ripe for the picking. Which is why Mancos residents, college buddies and apple connoisseurs, Sam Perry and Neal Wight, have decided to jump on the cider wagon. This weekend, with the grand opening of their Outlier Cellars taproom in Mancos, they become the second cidery (after Dolores’ Teal Cidery) to open in the area.

And it couldn’t come a moment too soon. According to the Neilsen Company and the U.S. Association of Cider Makers, craft cider consumption grew by a whopping 39 percent from 2015-16. Colorado leads the pack in that consumption as the state with the fastest-growing population of cider drinkers. In fact, craft cider sales in the state made up more than 20 percent of total cider sales in 2017 (for which we have millennials to mostly thank, lest you need to be told.)

But rest assured, these two did not just fall off the apple truck. They have been carefully curating apples and concocting ciders to share with friends for the past 31⁄2 years. However, as they tell it, their shared fascination with all things apple and fermenting stems all the way back to their college days, 18 years ago in Prescott, Ariz.

It was here that they met apple geneticist Kanin Routson, who would take Perry out on tree-grafting jaunts all over the Colorado Plateau and beyond. They would find heirloom trees and snip samples to clone in order to discover different varieties that were suited to various areas. These expeditions piqued Perry’s apple interests enough for him to move to Mancos and plant his own orchard.

As for Wight, you could say fermenting is in his blood. He grew up in California’s wine country with a family background in wine and vineyards.

In fact, the two admit stating the business was like destiny. But fate didn’t officially align until a wedding four years ago in Arizona. Routson, the apple geneticist, had whipped up a large batch of cider for guests. When Perry and Wight tasted it, the ideas began bubbling.

“It was awesome, and we just started to talk about it from that point on,” Perry said.

Curiously enough – or perhaps not, since both deal with fermented fruit – Outlier’s roots extend to Sutcliffe Vineyards, in nearby McElmo Canyon. Sutcliffe winemaker Joe Buckel assisted the duo with fermentations and recipes that helped create Outliers’ signature beverage, Fenceline Cider, made with apples from local heritage apples. Buckel, who was a previous partner in Outlier, has since moved on to other projects in the area, leaving Perry and Wight at the reigns of the now one-year-old Outlier Cellars.

The new taproom is located downtown next to the Mancos River in an old cabinet shop that had been sitting empty for about two years. The building is large enough to house tables, a large bar and the in-house fermentation tanks. Outside, there’s enough space for a patio, and plans call for food trucks to be rolling in 

come summertime for those who want to sip a cold one under blue skies.

The back room, though, is where the real alchemy happens. This is where Jarred Scott helps create the cider purely by trained palate.

“I like to identify the apples, find out what qualities they have and how they contribute to the cider,” he said.

But it’s a lot more complicated than just picking apples off trees and throwing them in tanks. It takes a special sort of cider-specific apple, much like wine-specific grapes, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Scott, who began fermenting four years ago at Teal Cider, said the owners there experimented all the time. Once, they made 18 separate batches at different temperatures and brought in friends to sample which tasted best. Generally speaking, wine and beer do better with warm fermentation because of the yeasts used and the faster pace of fermenting. But cider tends to be better with cold fermentation, which takes longer. After what had to have been a very fun taste test, their friends agreed – cold fermentation did indeed taste better. And with that conclusion, Outlier has also gone cold.

Teal Cider has been a close friend and partner to Outlier Cellars throughout their journey, helping the company open up as well as learn the ins and outs of fermentation. Through his experience with Teal, Scott became familiarize with the types and tastes of apples in the area. He said russet apples are the most popular, though he often blends different varieties in each recipe. Through his years of toiling over a (cold) vat, he has also gained an understanding of the chemistry of apples and how to find that perfect balance between acidity, sweetness and tannins.

“It’s been a hobby, mostly a passion and personal interest,” Scott said.

The requirements to ferment cider are few, besides having to obtain a very elusive winery license that Wight said was one of the more difficult things the company had to deal with. In all, it mostly takes time, passion and friends to help you along the way. Oh, and some stout livers. 

“Our backgrounds are in heavy drinking,” Perry joked.

In addition to cider, Outlier Cellars also makes a couple varieties of wine and there are even whispers of sake or other fruit fermentations in the future.

But for now, the taproom has plenty to offer with 12 taps open for ciders, including their flagship cider, Fenceline; reserve ciders made from special varietals; as well as rotating small-batch ciders. There will even be a few taps reserved for visiting ciders. The goal, Perry says, is to bring people into the taproom to try specialty ciders not available elsewhere.

“We hope to keep evolving and keep making better and better cider and put this place on the map as a national recognized cider region,” Perry said.

The taproom officially puts itself on the map and opens to the public on Sat., Feb. 24, and is throwing a party to go along. The evening includes live music from the Afrobeatniks, pizza from Sweetwater Gypsies in Dolores, local wines, and plenty of cider.

Jarred Scott mans the cider vats. While not as glamorous as the front of house, this is where the real magic happens./Photos by Jennaye Derge

Jarred Scott mans the cider vats. While not as glamorous as the front of house, this is where the real magic happens./Photos by Jennaye Derge

Hip to be square Square dancing

where it's OK to put Baby in the corner

Anne and Tom Jones makes the rounds at a recent Wild West Squares instruction at the Florida Grange. Wild West Squares meet every Monday night at the Florida Grange and is open to all ability levels./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Anne and Tom Jones makes the rounds at a recent Wild West Squares instruction at the Florida Grange. Wild West Squares meet every Monday night at the Florida Grange and is open to all ability levels./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Jennaye Derge - 02/08/2018 

I’ve never been much of a dancer. With my big feet, long gangly legs, and equally large and awkward demeanor, my moves have never made a good impression on anyone. I can’t quite coordinate my limbs and there’s a small chance that “busting a move” could result in busting a jaw.

Back in grade school though, I took dance classes that required practicing my coordination. Granted these classes were a required part of physical education, i.e. “Introduction to Humiliation,” but I still tried to be OK at dancing because I wanted an “A.” In spite of my awkwardness and insecurities, I remember actually being sort of decent at square dancing, and I think it was just because I wanted to impress a boy who wore a cowboy hat and also because there was a teacher telling me exactly what to do every step of the way.

Square dancing is a fairly structured dance, which helps unstructured folks like me. It is generally done in “squares” with four couples, or eight people total, all facing one another in a square (thus the name). Dancers are partnered into “leaders” and “followers,” and everyone in the square is dancing and interacting with each other so if you get lost, there is always someone to turn you in the right direction. While you’re attempting to orient yourself, the instructor, or “caller,” sings out the names of dance moves, which works out great as long as you know what those names mean. If you don’t, fortunately, there is a place here in Durango that is open to teaching all Fred and Gingers, and PE flunkies alike.

Durango’s Wild West Squares meet every Monday night at the Florida Grange and is open to all ability levels. All that’s required is a willingness to learn. With its high ceilings and shiny wood floors, the grange – situated next to Sunnyside Elementary School on CR 172 – is a perfect venue for squares to join hands with their partners and promenade together. The pace is beginner-friendly, and there’s a handful of “angels” (aka helpers) to assist you if you suddenly can’t tell your right from your two left feet.

Even if you show up to the Monday night class alone, as I did, you’ll find – just like life – there are plenty of people to do-si-do with. And lead instructor Carla Roberts is patient and understanding that some may need a moment to grasp how to actually dance in a square, learn what “starring” is or how to hold hands with a total stranger.

Roberts, who has been dancing for about 10 years, began calling eight years ago after becoming intrigued by hearing her first lady caller. Her background as a professional vocalist and multi-instrumentalist helped her to reach her newfound dream, and she attended her first “callers school” in North Carolina in 2010.

“I adore watching the dancers having fun,” Roberts said. “Seeing the smiles, laughter and goodwill of healthy social interaction sends me home with a smile on my face every time. I like teaching so much that I’ve focused my career as a caller on sharing with caring. We want dancers to have a safe and welcoming environment to learn in.”

She has been teaching the caller-run Wild West Squares program for about four years. The idea is to give dancers a foundation to “think on their feet” to become equipped with skills to excel at team dancing.

True to her mission, I definitely felt welcomed and indeed had a grin on my face. In a class of mixed levels, I never would have guessed the extent of the square dancing wisdom surrounding me. One gentleman who helped me decipher my right from my left, Carl Schaaf, was as humble as they come. He helped me along the way and then later told me he’d been square dancing for five years, moving from “basic” to“plus.”

A fifth-generation Durangoan, Schaaf said it took a while for he and his wife, Judy, to join in on the fun. His friends lured them in, and they’ve stuck with it since.

“We were impressed by (our friends’) enthusiasm and enjoyment and felt it would be a good way to be mentally and physically active,” Schaaf said.

And while the health benefits may be measurable, if anything, it’s just a great way to get out of the house on a Monday night when you might otherwise be lounging in front of Netflix.

Schaaf even mentioned that one of the group members wears an activity tracker and has noticed that square dancing might provide more overall health benefits than his long-distance bike training considering the time invested. That’s a mighty big statement, especially for a cycling-centric community, but if anything it’s a hoot’n hollering good time.

“We mostly enjoy the active camaraderie,” Schaaf said.

In the future, Roberts hopes to book live bands, such as Six Dollar String Band, for practices. She’d like to open up a Saturday class for new dancers as well. While that is all in the works, one thing is for sure, square dancing is anything but. With roots 

in 17th century England, with Spanish, French, Native American and African influences as well, Roberts says square dancing is ramping up in popularity all over the world, including Japan, Germany and even China.

In other words, anywhere people love to have fun but also want a challenge. “That is a very heady mixture that sets the stage for a lifelong skill that can be used all over the world,” she said.

All you have to do, is take that first step.

For more info. on wild West Squares, go to or call 970-903-6478.

Carla Roberts calls out moves during a recent square-dancing event. Inspired by an- other female caller she met some years ago, she has been calling the Wild West Squares for four years./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Carla Roberts calls out moves during a recent square-dancing event. Inspired by an- other female caller she met some years ago, she has been calling the Wild West Squares for four years./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Reinventing the Wheel

For locally made Myth Cycles, it's all about enjoying the ride

Newly betrothed husband and wife Eric and Hayley Tomczak take Nessie, Eric's hand-crafted creation, out for a spin. A welder by trade, Eric recently started Myth Cycles, a hand-built bicycle company, in Durango. He makes single-seated bikes, too./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Newly betrothed husband and wife Eric and Hayley Tomczak take Nessie, Eric's hand-crafted creation, out for a spin. A welder by trade, Eric recently started Myth Cycles, a hand-built bicycle company, in Durango. He makes single-seated bikes, too./Photo by Jennaye Derge

When I first met Eric Tomczak almost a decade ago, it was before he was the owner and operator of the new Durango-based bicycle company, Myth Cycles. But even back then, I could already tell he was ahead of the curve. He rode custom bikes and wore flannel button-ups previous to any hipster on Instagram, and he had dreams of mobile freedom eons before the birth of #vanlife. He had a bushy beard and scruffy hair long before most lumber sexuals had facial hair, and he liked to make things out of metal before steampunk was even steamy. He was kind and funny, and it made me – and everyone else – want to be his friend. That is, until one day he asked me if I wanted to go on a tandem bicycle ride with him. Suddenly, after years of friendship, we hit a snag.

My answer was an instant and firm “no.” Riding bicycles meant freedom and independence – why would anyone ride a bike if they had to be attached to some-one else? Going tandem just seemed silly, awkward and frustrating. So that was that – we never went on a tandem bike ride.

But Eric, who grew up in Durango, is not known for giving up. And he didn’t give up asking people to ride tandem with him until he asked his now wife, Hayley. Fortunately, she said yes.

The duo could be seen riding happily around town on their tandem cruiser. But their love of two-wheeled adventure didn’t stop there – they also shared a passion for mountain biking. So perhaps it was no surprise when an inventor and welder such as Eric found a way to combine the two with a custom-built tandem mountain bike.

“Hayley and I wanted to mountain bike tandem, but the exact bike that we wanted didn’t exist,” he recalled. “Most tandems are custom built, and the timing was right when I was like ‘You know what, what if I built one?’ And so I did.”

He built the tandem mountain bike, named Nessie, using the tools and knowledge he gained from his 14 years as a welder, six of those spent working for local bottle cage company, King Cage. There, he picked the brain of owner, fellow frame welder and all-around bike guru, Ron Andrews. Eventually, Eric was ready to remove the training wheels, and in 2015 he started making his own custom frames out of a well-supplied shop in Falls Creek. The small space is filled with machines, gadgets and tools that any handy man or woman would dream of; the perfect combo of man cave and inventor’s space. Some tools he built himself, including a frame jig, and others he collected over the years; everything organized neatly.

Eric’s bike building repertoire doesn’t stop at tandem bikes. He currently has a production-style mountain bike model, with one seat, which has enough clearance for 27.5 inch wheels or 29, and he has dreams of experimenting with fat bikes. He doesn’t know for sure, but perhaps a tandem fat bike could be in Myth Cycles’ near future.

“My heart and soul are in off-road and touring bikes, but I’m a custom frame builder, I’ll do anything – anything but full suspension,” Eric said. The bike’s frames, as his website puts it, are “carefully chosen to be as light as possible while still producing a bike you can ride the piss out of.”

What allows Myth Cycles’ bikes to be ridden rough and tough is the material they’re made out of.

“I build with steel, which is my favorite bike frame material and something that the bike industry has gone away from a little bit,” Eric said.

Steel rides very comfortably and absorbs bumps and vibrations better than most other materials, so it is often used for touring bicycles and can make a road bike a lot more comfortable. For a welder, steel is very versatile and gives the builder a plethora of lengths, profiles, weights and alloys, so it’s easy to build something unique and durable.

“You can build a frame you can have for the rest of your life,” Eric said.

Eric’s own steel frame (his go-to townie) has seen multiple bike tours including a two-month tour across the country and one from Durango to Denver. Since getting the bike after high school, it has taken him through corn fields, mountain passes, snow and rainstorms. It’s not rare for a special bond to form between rider and bike after being through so much together. According to Eric, bikes not only become a part of who a person is, but they can deliver a lifestyle that other mediums cannot.

“Bikes give people freedom, and that’s the goal: to get more people on bikes, to get people on something that they are super stoked to be on,” he said.

Myth Cycles’ mission is to get good quality, U.S.-made bicycles into the hands of anyone who is looking for a quality two-wheeled steed without having to sell their first born, second born and family dog.

“I always wanted a bike frame that was built in the USA, and I could never afford it,” Eric said. “I want to be able to bring that to more people.”

As a result of trying to get more butts in saddles, Eric offers stock frames (in small, medium and large; extra small and extra large upon request) for quicker ordering and availability. For those willing to wait, he takes special custom orders and is happy to sit down to coffee or a beer and work with anyone on new ideas. Or listen to their stories of adventure.

And that is precisely what Myth Cycles is about. Those larger-than-life stories, the myths if you will, that we tell friends about – whether it be an epic weekend ride, a commute gone awry or an afternoon spin on the trails. Some- thing shared with coworkers around the water cooler on Monday morning. “It’s the stories; our funny stories, sad stories, good stories, our bad stories,” he said. “Those stories are really important. Something valuable to me is the experiences we take away from things.”

And while you’re out inventing those stories, you may as well enjoy the ride.

For more on Myth Cycles, check out the web page at

Eric Tomczak welds a frame in his shop. He works in steel for its longevity, versatility and absorption./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Eric Tomczak welds a frame in his shop. He works in steel for its longevity, versatility and absorption./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Love on the run

Printed in the Durango Telegraph

Love on the run

Finding your soulmate in six minutes or less

Jennaye Derge - 02/16/2017 

The only thing I can truly remember saying to my boyfriend the night we broke up a few months ago was “Ugh, this sucks. I really hate dating!”

I don’t really remember the “I’m sorry” or the “it’s not you, it’s me.” I just remember worrying about the prospect of putting myself back out there.

What’s scary about dating isn’t the social part – on a good day I’m a closet extrovert – but rather, the first awkward moment of meeting someone. I find it hard to believe I can just walk, nay strut, out into the world and accidentally bump into a man who will fulfill my hopes and dreams. This is mostly due to the fact that real life is actually very unromantic. Most of my days are spent hurriedly trying to get somewhere, with an unintentional permaresting bitch face and the same basic unflattering jeans and shirt. I’m usually on my way to wait in some sort of line: a coffee shop, a stop light, or the checkout at the grocery store. Is a man supposed to see me scowling as we wait side by side at a traffic light and think “wow, she’s cute!” only for me to holla’ back with my phone number? Or perhaps I’ll encounter my next gentleman caller at the grocery store, bananas in hand, asking me with a charming smile what ingredients I like on my ice cream sundae so he can make me one later that night.

Not gonna happen.

“I’d like to call bullshit on that,” Emyrald Sinclaire, love coach extraordinaire, told the crowd at her second annual speed dating event at the Four Leaves Winery on Tuesday night (aka Valentine’s Day.) I’m pretty sure she was looking right at me when she said it.

According to Sinclaire, former Earth Girlturned-professional-love-guru, such excuses inhibit us from finding love. Her message is that even though we all say we’re doomed to singledom and cat castles forever, we are misguided and Sinclaire is here to prove pessimists like me wrong.

For almost a year, this love coach has been giving advice, hosting webinars, counseling couples and helping the romantically uninclined. One of her most recent endeavors is speed dating.

Unlike Tinder or Bumble, speed dating dates back to the good old days before hashtags, when people actually spoke face to face – which, for my digital generation, is a bit of a foreign concept. In fact, by today’s standards of instantaneously swiping left or swiping right, speed-dating can seem painfully slow and archaic.

Thankfully, she buffers her events with beer, wine and plenty of suggestions for ice breakers. The night started off with a pep talk from Sinclaire to our perfectly ratioed group of six men and six women. In a nod to chivalry, the men rotated around to the women to exchange pleasantries and try to find a spark in six minutes. And even if there are not fireworks, Sinclaire said that’s not so bad – at the very least, you’re socializing and meeting new people. This is why one participant, Tim, said he enjoys speed dating. “It gets me to break out of my shell and out socializing,” he said. Tim has been to a few speed-dating events and emphasizes the fun in it. “It’s great to not have expectations. It’s only six minutes, so it’s nothing to get bent up about.”

Even though he mentioned the ultimate goal is to find a one and only, his spirits were light. When it was his turn to talk to me, he was armored with a list of get-to-know-you questions. He said he tries to tailor the question to his audience.

His question for me? “Who is your favorite cartoon character?” (Calvin of Calvin and Hobbs, of course.) Throughout the night, Sinclaire reiterated the creativity point with suggestions of unique conversation jumpstarters: “Which three words describe you best;” “If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be;” and “If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?” But Sinclaire, who has a background in natural health and her own experiences with love coaches, is overflowing with more than cute intros. She reminds everyone that the quest for love involves three steps: knowing who you are, being happy with yourself and – this is the important part – manifesting it. It’s this last part that requires work. One way is to make a list of the characteristics of your perfect mate, and then, as Sinclaire puts it, “be prepared for magic” because “it’s really powerful putting pen to paper.” As a love coach, she has plenty of tricks – or as she puts it “love bombs” – up her sleeve. She has numerous success stories to prove it, including one of a twentysomething woman who had a hard time finding a lad to commit. After only one session with Sinclaire, this lovesick lady found her “prince charming.” This example isn’t rare for Sinclaire. She said a lot of stories end this way after only a few phone calls or video chats.

“I generally like to (coach) over video so my clients can go back and watch the recording whenever they want,” Sinclaire said. She is willing to talk to anyone from anywhere; singles or couples. But her specialty is helping women find the love they wish to create.

“I wanted to do a speed dating event in Durango because I’m very social, and I wanted to get our local community out there and involved,” she said.

Many of the evening’s participants agreed that it can be difficult to break out of their social bubble, and said if nothing else, the evening was a nice way to get out, have good conversation and make a new friend or two. For Sinclaire’s next speed-dating move, she envisions a larger crowd, hopefully in a wider breadth of ages to play games, mingle and have a more “interactive” experience.

As for my first foray into speed-dating, I am sorry to report there were no fireworks and alas, no Prince Charming. But, then again, I was happy to sit on my corner of the bar and not have to hurriedly make my way through a crowd, stand in a line, or even have to sit and swipe right or left. The “speed” in speed dating did not take a literal hold of my already sometimes anxious heart, and instead of feeling rushed, my angry face dissipated with a couple glasses of wine, some nibbles of delicious deserts, and some real conversations with real people.


Rolling a fattie

Printed in the Durango Telegraph

Rolling a fattie

Volunteer groomers come together to open Boggy Draw for winter recreation

Trail users stop to chat at Boggy Draw on Fri., Jan. 27. The popular mountain biking area just outside Dolores is now being groomed by a dedicated crew of volunteers for winter use. There are 17.5 miles of track for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Trail users stop to chat at Boggy Draw on Fri., Jan. 27. The popular mountain biking area just outside Dolores is now being groomed by a dedicated crew of volunteers for winter use. There are 17.5 miles of track for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Jennaye Derge - 02/02/2017 

Will I ever be warm again?” I ask myself as I sit in my truck with permafrost limbs and ice forming around my drippy nose. I slip into a hypothermic state waiting for my truck to warm up and dream of warmer times. Like sitting in the saddle of my mountain bike – tank top, shorts and sun-shine, floating on dirt trails and feeling warm.

No doubt, winter days can be bleak. But it’s safe to say the best way to get through them is to not try to beat them, but to get outside and join them. And luckily for those of us dreaming of a spin to stretch our frozen limbs, it’s now possible thanks to a group of volunteers from the Dolores, Cortez and Mancos areas. Since the beginning of last winter, these guys have mapped out, packed down and groomed around 17.5 miles of snowy singletrack in the San Juan National Forest at Boggy Draw, outside Dolores. In the dry seasons, the trail system serves mountain bikers, runners and hikers and in the winter, its manicured track provides a haven for cross country skiers, snowshoers and fat bikers.

The idea for the trail system spawned from Mancos resident Mike Gostlin. An avid biker and skier, he would ride Boggy Draw in the summer months with his GPS, mapping out points that ran along the area’s old, underutilized Forest Service roads. He then did some research, asked the Forest Service for permission, wrangled up a few buddies and began putting together a team to create the winter playground.

“We want everyone to come out and try it,” volunteer groomer Eric Houge says. Houge has been grooming with the gang, including his 12-year-old son, Grayson, since day one and is happy to commit his free time and money to maintain the trail and the homemade snow groomers.

“Mike found snow groomers and designs online, and we’ve all built them using those designs from the internet,” Houge says.

The homemade groomers, which are pulled slowly behind snowmobiles, are built to break apart snow crystals so the top layer of the snow refreezes as a hard crust. The process is usually done late in the evening or late afternoon so the trail harden overnight and be ready for use the next day.

Houge and son have already logged over 50 volunteer hours on the groomer. “He loves it,” Eric says of Grayson. “He builds snowmen and does giant belly flops off the snow while we’re out.”

Houge says the trail is helping to bring winter warriors to Dolores from all over including Durango, Farmington and Silverton, to give the trail a try.

“It turns out so many people use it now,” he says. “We’ll come to the trail-heads on the weekends and they’ll see us and say ‘hi’ to us and know us as ‘the groomers.’” Houge says.

The crew spends a lot of its free time on the trails, either maintaining or playing on them. Most of them are avid fat bikers and they say the sport has become more and more popular in the area.

“The fat bike thing has come on like a freight train in the last two years, it used to be a real niche, now all the big dogs are on board,” trail advocate Ken Fagerlin says.

Fat biking, though prohibited on some groomed trails around Durango, is allowed on Boggy Draw. The sport is a great wintertime replacement for anyone shivering in their trucks and experiencing mountain bike withdrawals, or just looking for a break from the skis.

And for those who want to show their appreciation to the groomers for all their

hard work, the second annual Boggy Draw Groomer Party takes place on Sun., Feb. 12. The day acts as not only as team-building and community outreach but also as a fundraiser for the volunteers.

“We certainly can’t pay them for their time but that money goes toward some fuel and any maintenance on their groomers,” says Fagerlin, who helped to organize the event. “They’re just a great group of guys. I guess we all come to a point where we’re not as self-absorbed with our activities and our recreation, and we want to give back in some sort of way ... and these guys happened to just dive right in.”

The event, which is being held in the Boggy Draw parking lot, will include a group ride, contest (wheelie and Tokyo drift for starters), free food and beer, bonfire, and everyone’s favorite from last year, a time trial BB gun race. And to make it even more interesting, the BB time trial will be done sans seat.

There will also be prizes and swag from Carvers, Nini’s, Zia, Osprey, and Kokopelli Bike and Board. Kokopelli will also be offering fat bike rentals. (The Cortez gear shop is also the favorite hangout of the groomers and where most of them met and became good friends.)

“We’re all family, we’re all buddies, we all instigate doing things together whether it’s this or riding, etc. ...,” volunteer groomer Shawn Peed says.

There is no indication of that ending either. The group of volunteers love the trail, love grooming and love bikes and skis so much, that they say their only goal for the future is to improve upon what they started.

“I’d like to see more trails; Grayson wants jumps ... We want to bike 12 months out of the year,” Houge says. For more details and a map of the Boggy Draw winter trail system, go to

Boggy Draw volunteer Eric Houge and son, Grayson, 12, get the sandbags and snowmo out for some do-it-yourself grooming. The groomers are hosting a party/fund-raiser Feb. 12 in the Boggy Draw parking lot./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Boggy Draw volunteer Eric Houge and son, Grayson, 12, get the sandbags and snowmo out for some do-it-yourself grooming. The groomers are hosting a party/fund-raiser Feb. 12 in the Boggy Draw parking lot./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Mixing it up

Printed in the Durango Telegraph

Mixing it up

Durango to host World Cup Ice Climbing Championships

Cat Shirley practices dry tooling during a training session with owner of The Rock Lounge, Marcus Garcia recently./ Photo by Jennaye Derge

Cat Shirley practices dry tooling during a training session with owner of The Rock Lounge, Marcus Garcia recently./ Photo by Jennaye Derge

Jennaye Derge - 12/07/2016 

Durango is receiving an early holiday gift that’s bringing a little more fame to our town.

From Dec. 14-17, The Rock Lounge and Ska Brewery will be hosting the U.S. International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) Ice Climbing World Cup Championships – a big deal as it is the only UIAA ice climbing championship held in North America. The competition is one of six World Cups held this winter, with others taking place in France, China, South Korea, Switzerland and Italy.

But what makes Durango’s World Cup event even more special is the teamwork behind it. Rock Lounge owner and event organizer Marcus Garcia received the phone call only four months ago about taking over hosting from Bozeman, Mont., where the comp was previously held. He immediately began gathering a team of volunteers to help push the event forward. First item on the to-do list was to build a mixed – “dry” and “ice”– climbing wall. The wall, which must be within UIAA regulations, will have 40 feet of climbable surface, sit at a 45-50-degree overhang and have 10 percent “ice,” or rather, synthetic material acting as ice to avoid melting. It will stand in all its glory at the south end of Ska Brewing’s parking lot, providing a unique venue and the chance for spectators to sip beer while watching the final rounds of the citizen and pro adult competitions Dec. 15-17.

But before the beer sipping starts at Ska, there is plenty going on at The Rock Lounge, Dec. 14-15, as youth teams from around the country go head to head in speed and lead climbing competitions. For Garcia and other Rock Lounge coaches, the youth are the ones to watch.

“What I don’t think people understand is that you have to have the youth involved,” Garcia says. And that’s how the International Olympic Committee sees it. Garcia is a driving force in turning ice climbing into an official sport for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. As a result, his efforts are focused on coaching and mentoring the youth teams more than ever.

“It’s not so much coaching them as athletes, it’s coaching them as individuals,” he says. “The sports side is the easy part, teaching them how to be individuals and people in society is more of my driving force.”

A few of his star prote?ge?s will be competing for the World Cup here in Durango and also the Youth World Cup Championship in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France, next February. Garcia is hoping the experience will pave the way for them to eventually compete at the Olympic level.

“I’ve seen them come in at 6 a.m. some mornings before school,” Rock Lounge “helper” and the event’s media coordinator Lindsey Hamm, says. Garcia regularly opens the gym early just so the young competitors can train before they go to school.

“I’m passionate about the UIAA, but mostly about these kids ... where I have the most passion is seeing these kids just crush it,” Hamm says. “When I see Marcus and other individuals take time for them he takes time to do a lot for the individuals who want to strive to be the best it makes me a little teary eyed because these kids are like my kids.”

But it’s not always just about the kids, or even the competitors. Both Garcia and Hamm see the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup as a way to bring the community together to get inspired about the outdoors and having fun. They also see it as a way to put Durango on the map as a premier climbing mecca and highlight another winter sport as an alternative to skiing.

“We’re just trying to get the attention of new climbers who want to try something new. We want them to get involved and we want everyone who is already involved to get better,” Hamm says.

For experienced climbers, she encourages them to come out and try dry tooling, a newer technique where ice picks are used on dry rock or a surface mixed with ice, i.e. “mixed climbing.”
“This sport is still new in this area, we want more people to join in on this phenomenon,” she says. “It’s amazing, the athleticism.” Hamm says dry tooling requires different muscles to make bigger and more dramatic moves than rock climbing. But even though it might require a lot of strength, anyone can do it – she once watched a 72-year-old “crush it” on an overhanging wall.

“Try something new, go do something different for yourself,” Hamm says about the sport and the upcoming World Cup Championship.

Volunteer coordinator Tiffany Brainerd says that doing something different helps her find balance be- tween her job as a pediatric anesthesiologist and her passion for climbing.
“I’m involved for the love of climbing and to really support the climbing community, it’s definitely my local family including the kids on the local climbing team,” Brainerd says.

She predicts that there are more than 50 volunteers who stepped up to help make the UIAA World Cup a reality, and she is still looking for volunteers during the event to help shoot video and take photos.

On top of everything else though, bringing the community together and putting Durango on the map as a climbing hub is the all-around hope for the four-day event.

“I hope that the Durango community can show up ... if you’ve never been to a dry tooling comp, go,” says Hamm. “I have a 70-something grandmother going, and I’m going to make her swing a tool,” she playfully threatens.

But, for Brainerd, it’s also just about getting out of the house and having a good time. “This event is going to be amazing ... you get to drink and watch people climb? Par- don my French, but f*** yeah. Super stoked.”

Expanding Horizons

Printed in the Durango Telegraph

Expanding horizons

horizons Tall Pines Aviation takes love of flight to new heights

Owner of local scenic flight company Tall Pines Aviation, Max Wholey, prepares the Cessna 182 for an afternoon flight over the La Platas recently. Wholey, who is only 25 but spent his most of his life learning to fly, operates out of the Animas Airpark./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Owner of local scenic flight company Tall Pines Aviation, Max Wholey, prepares the Cessna 182 for an afternoon flight over the La Platas recently. Wholey, who is only 25 but spent his most of his life learning to fly, operates out of the Animas Airpark./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Jennaye Derge - 09/01/2016 

Perhaps sometimes all we need is a different perspective, and standing at 6’8” Max Wholey, owner of Tall Pines Aviation, understands that more than anyone. But it’s not just his height that sets this 25-year-old apart from the rest, but rather his passion for flying. 

I met Wholey on a typical summer afternoon, where all morning it had been blue skies and sunny but the second I parked my car at the Animas Airpark, the threat of rain loomed. Max seemed unfazed and welcomed me to the airpark where he has spent innumerable hours flying, getting certifications and now running the small flight-touring business.

It began one day when he was 10 years old in Pennsylvania, where Wholey had grown up. His dad decided to take him to the airport “just as something to do.” They took a discovery flight, which is meant to introduce anyone interested in aviation to the potential of flying, and that is where he fell in love.

After graduating high school, Wholey moved to Minnesota where he began to pursue aviation as a living.

 He obtained his private pilot’s license when he was 18 before coming to Durango to start college at Fort Lewis. He spent summers and free time working on getting his commercial license, which allows him to take paying passengers, and also earned his instrument ratings, which gives him additional instruction and qualifications to fly in inclement weather.

When he was done taking all the FCAA certifications he wanted, he took a full time job as a skydiving pilot, where he flew jumpers for about a year and a half in areas around Albuquerque.

After a while though, he saw a niche in Durango in need of filling.

“Nothing else offers this perspective of town,” Wholey says. “It’s different. People take the train or they take a car, but they don’t get to see (the area) from the tops of mountains, from the air unless they climb a mountain, unless they climb Engineer or a 14er or something like that, which sometimes they don’t get to do.”

So, Wholey introduced Tall Pines Aviation, offering folks a bird’s eye view of the La Platas, Mesa Verde or the peaks surrounding the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s path.

 “Some people are really interested in flying, and some just want to take pictures,” he said of the varied interests of his clients.

On that summer day that Wholey bravely flew over the La Platas, I was just there for the pictures, but Wholey had a way of piquing my interest in flying as well. As we loaded into the Cessna 182 – a small private plane that seats two in the front (pilot included), two on a bench behind and a couple small bags in the back – and buckled our seat belts and secured our headsets, he explained to me the physics of flying. As we took off, Wholey pointed out many of the buttons, triggers and gauges on the panel and what they’re used for.

“That’s the best part of flying for me is the initial five seconds after lifting off the ground because it seems like it shouldn’t be possible ... but everything is working together,” he said.

I nodded my head in agreement as we took off into a slightly stormy sky. I pointed to the dark storm cloud and asked him calmly if he thought it was anything to worry about.

He assuaged my nerves by going through the rules of visibility, saying a lot of numbers and terms I couldn’t understand, but that he knows what he’s doing, and I’m in safe hands.

“I’ve had a lot of training,” he said. “When I first came out here, the first thing I did was take a mountain flying course, which is different than any other course.”

Among other things, the course teaches about crosswinds coming off the mountains and through valleys and how to compensate for these erratic winds.

“You have to read the winds,” Wholey said, “before you take off and then while you’re flying.”

After he’d taught me a mini course in gusts, knots

and G forces, I could finally relax and enjoy the view.

Making a big loop around the La Platas, Wholey pointed out various peaks and points of interest, ones I’d seen from the ground, but never from above.

“It’s such a great place to fly. It’s amazing,” Wholey said. It seems, to him, to never get old, no matter how many times he’s flown over the area. “Winter is awesome, summer, fall is the best in my opinion, the sides of the mountains light up with gold aspens, it’s super cool.”

On a past flight, Wholey even saw a group of mountain goats running along a mountainside. I cross my fingers to see one, but no luck.

We circled back toward town as the sky cleared and the sun came out. He even let me take the steering wheel, or “yoke,” and drive the plane for a second. He promised I couldn’t do anything dangerous, and there’s a dozen backup options in case something happens. He obviously doesn’t know me at all.

Soon we passed back over Durango and the river glistened as we flew close over town. He pointed out all the key attractions along the way and dared me to find my house, which I did, and when I think I can see my neighbor’s car parked out front, I get way too excited.

When I realized we were getting close to the Airpark, I became overwhelmingly disappointed. I felt like a small child and wanted to clamp my hands and yell, “More! More!” But, of course, I’m a grown adult so I held my tongue and accepted that it was the end.

“I love introducing people to aviation” he said. “My passion is flying, so I just want to show people how awesome it is and how awesome flying in the mountains is. I like seeing new people getting engaged in it”

His ultimate goal is to eventually make his flying meaningful and help people. His heart lies in Africa where he spent times last spring and would like to someday live there and fly for a humanitarian cause.

Until then, though, he loves Durango, meeting new people and taking them on adventures through the sky.

Wholey at the controls. He obtained his pilot's license when he was 18./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Wholey at the controls. He obtained his pilot's license when he was 18./Photo by Jennaye Derge



Jibbing and jiving

Learning to dance on the water with Durango’s new sailing school.
— By Jennaye Derge/Durango Telegraph
Aboard the S.S. Merin Neva, a 33-foot keel boat, with Scott Frazer and the Peaks & Tides staff. After a life on the water, kayaking, sailing and rafting, Frazer is making a go of his sailing school and charter service, based out of Navajo Reservoir./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Aboard the S.S. Merin Neva, a 33-foot keel boat, with Scott Frazer and the Peaks & Tides staff. After a life on the water, kayaking, sailing and rafting, Frazer is making a go of his sailing school and charter service, based out of Navajo Reservoir./Photo by Jennaye Derge

I set out to Arboles on an as of late, unseasonably beautiful spring morning. I drove under puffy clouds that were rolling through the sky with a slight breeze, enough to feather the green grass I passed by.

“Perfect sailing weather,” Scott Frazer, owner of Peaks & Tides, told me over the phone prior to our meeting. 

Funny, because as a lifetime mountain and desert dweller, I’ve never once thought to equate outside conditions to “sailing weather.” I don’t even know what “sailing weather” is. 

According to Frazer though, this particular Friday was perfect.

We met at the northern docks of Navajo Lake, an elongated reservoir that spans south from Arboles into New Mexico ending a few miles east of Farmington. With a recorded area of 24.38 square miles, it is vast enough to host many recreational visitors throughout the year – especially the warmer months. 

Walking onto the northern marina, known as Two Rivers Marina, we saw signs of this. Boats that lined the docks were tied up to mooring buoys, and according to a fellow boatsman, there was already a wait list for seasonal mooring.

“(The lake) is warm; you can swim, wakeboard, paddleboard, all those fun things and it’s only 45 minutes away,” Frazer says of the reservoir. No wonder so many line up to spend summers playing in its waters. 

Frazer was similarly summoned to the reservoir, but for a different reason. It started a few years ago when Frazer, a Durango native, and his now business partner/longtime girlfriend Katie James were living in Telluride. Things started to get a little murky when the two, along with Frazer’s daughter and James’ two sons, were bought out of the lease on their Telluride home and were pushed to move into their camper until they made a more permanent move back to Durango.

“They say, if you can sail on a lake, you can sail anywhere,” says Frazer referencing the oft unpredictable and erratic mountain winds./Photo by Jennaye Derge

“They say, if you can sail on a lake, you can sail anywhere,” says Frazer referencing the oft unpredictable and erratic mountain winds./Photo by Jennaye Derge



“And then a bear ate our camper,” Frazer laughs “It went through one side and out the other. It took the fridge out and you could see all the condiments and everything else it ate in a row, and it finished with the Sriracha, so there was justice.”  

At that point, the family had a couple weeks before they could move back into Frazer’s Durango home and were left with one option: his 33-foot Ranger Keelboat, Taboo. The time the family spent on the boat, watching the kids play pirate games, and teaching them little things here and there about sailing, that’s when it clicked.

“‘Let’s start a sailing school,’” Frazer recalls telling Katie. 

The dream was a few years in the making, but the process from serious idea to go-time was about six months, Frazer says. They started the permit process around springtime last year, and by October 2015, they had received permission from the State of Colorado and Navajo Lake to start a sailing school and sailing charters on the lake. 

“It’s not a new thing,” Frazer says of sailing schools and charters, “but it’s something new that we’re bringing to our environment and to our community.” 

There are only three other sailing schools in Colorado, two of which are near Denver, and the third on Blue Mesa. Frazer thought it was about time to share his passion in an area he’s so passionate about.

“Growing up in Durango and learning how to kayak at 10 down the Animas, you just have so much exposure to so many incredible activities and the outdoors,” he said. “I can’t think of any other place like this. Any place that I’ve lived. There’s no place like Durango for that.”

So far, he’s had a lot of interest from everyone from locals to visitors, from nostalgic sailors wanting refreshers, to parents who love sailing and want to pass it on to their kids. 

His goal is to start any aspiring beginner at step one and provide classes all the way up to sailing captains. And hopefully after this summer, Peaks & Tides will be able to make that possible. The company will be reviewed by the ASA (American Sailing Association) this June which will give Peaks & Tides the ability to ASA certify anyone who chooses to take all ASA courses: ASA101 - 104. 

“That’s our goal,” Frazer says of becoming an ASA affiliated school. “We had to travel to get our certifications to teach; we couldn’t find anything locally.”

His ultimate vision is to make learning to sail easy and affordable for everyone. He equates his vision to Sarah Tescher and Chad Cheeney’s creation of Devo, drawing upon his experiences teaching kayaking at 4Corners Riversports and raft guiding back in the day. 

“It instills such confidence in the kids, I want to use what I’ve learned from that experience and put it into sailing school,” Frazer says

His visions and goals for Peaks & Tides is limitless and he finds himself dreaming of taking students sailing in the ocean, to San Carlos, Mexico, for their final ASA 104 course. He already has housing in line to host students while taking the course. Until then, though, Peaks & Tides has plenty to offer for everyone. In addition to group and private lessons, this year’s Summer Sailing Camp offers kids an opportunity to spend a week on the water, learning the beginning trades of sailing, topping it off with a chance to show their new skills to parents. Charters are also available with the choice of one of five boats for either a half day, full day or an overnighter,  all in which lake related fun is encouraged. 

It’s as close to a Caribbean vacation us desert dwellers can get. 

“There is the exotic level of going to places like the (British Virgin Islands) and learning to sail in nicer weather and stuff like that, but they say if you can sail on a lake, you can sail anywhere,” said Frazer. 

The mountains not only provide a picturesque, if not seemingly out of place, backdrop, they also create turbulence in the water. A boon for expert sailors trying to brush up on their tacking, but best avoided by beginners. 

“It’s a lot more active, it’s a lot more fun, it’s a lot more dynamic, and you get to bounce around through points of sail on lakes because you’re constantly tacking or jibing to avoid other boats, shallow water, and the shore,” Frazer said.

But, he added, it’s also easy to keep the boat flat if need be and with a keel weighing in at 4,500 pounds of lead, the most common boat used for learning sailing won’t ever tip over. 

“The whole idea is to not scare people, to create a level of comfort and safety. That’s why we’re there: to ensure confidence with instruction,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest lesson for a newbie sailor? Respect the weather, and pay attention to it, Frazer says. “The weather is a huge factor. You learn so much about weather in sailing.”

And learn we did. After a morning turned afternoon of sailing with Frazer and his crew – including another Peaks & Tides instructor, a seasoned student and three sea-legged pups – I learned just what “perfect sailing weather” meant. I learned how liberating it is to turn off the motor and harness the wind; how to read the water for changes in wind direction; and how to perfectly orchestrate the moves to put the sails in just the right position. I also learned terms like “leeward” and “keel;” that “knots” aren’t just made by tying strings together; and “jibbing” and “tacking” aren’t dance moves. And after Frazer decided to trust me with steering the boat (he must be crazy), I learned just how powerful and sensitive each move can be, and how important it is to work together as a team. And most importantly, when the boat is “tacking” – or changing the position of the sails to the wind – it’s time to duck. Because no one wants a “boom” to the noggin. 

Frazer and his crew moved with such ease, almost dancing from one pulley to another, all while holding conversation, making jokes and throwing out interesting facts. It is easy to fall under a sailing spell while out on the open waters, and it is easy to understand where Frazer’s passion comes from.

 “It keeps me up at night.” he said. “I have never been this excited about the next progression of my life.” 

For more info on Peaks & Tides, go to, call 970-759-3604, or email:


Eating dirt and saving face

Last week, I “endoed” on my mountain bike. If you have never heard the term “endo” before, do not fret, for I just recently got a good lesson, as it smacked me right in the face. In so many words, “endoing” is what happens when one’s momentum is serendipitous to that of another attached moving vehicle (i.e., skateboard, scooter, roller skates, bicycle, etc.) and said moving vehicle’s momentum suddenly ceases and does not relay that message to the person (previously) attached.

In other words: inertia.

Basically, my bike stopped, and my body wanted to continue right over the handlebars and onto the ground. 

It was one of those gracefully embarrassing falls where I wasn’t doing anything particularly cool. I wasn’t impressing anyone. I wasn’t trying a new technical move over that sweet jump. I don’t even think I caught any air. It was a slow, stupid, dumb, sloppy, tumble.

After my face hit ground and I dinned on fine dirt for a second, I came up for air just as gracefully as I went down.

“I’m good, I’m fine!” I yelled to no one, because my friend was still en route to finding me.

When she rode up, I kept assuring whomever was nearby that I was totally fine and warned that there was blood so as not to overly surprise anyone when I started squirting in their direction.


You see, I’m not new to crashing, and I know that any blood that comes from the head area is going to be a lot of blood. Sometimes, the blood-to-injury ratio is on par, other times, the massive amount of blood can be a bit misleading.

After affirming all my teeth were intact, I graciously, and thankfully, knew it was the latter. 

So, I turned to face my friend, Sara, who was at this time doubling over distraught, and shaking her hands murmering things like “ummm, uhhhh.”

“No really, I’m fine!” I said with blood all over my face. In retrospect, I can totally see why she thought I was, in fact, not fine.

I dabbed at my face with my T-shirt trying to clear off the excess blood so we could together better find the exact spot it was coming from. Meanwhile Sara was simultaneously trying not to vomit once she saw the gaping hole in my lower lip.

“How does it look?” I kept asking her, oblivious to her white-washed, clearly disgusted face.

“Well, It looks like I could fit my pinky into it,” she cringed. 

You know you have a good friend when the very thing you’re asking her to look at is the very thing that stimulates her gag reflex. Another sign you have a good friend is when she pulls out duct tape from her first aid kit to secure an oversized piece of gauze to 50 percent of your face for the ride back down the trail. Yep, I’ve got a good one here.

Once we were back at the Horse Gulch trailhead, we debated for a few minutes whether I’d need stitches and/or if she could, in fact, fit her pinky into my bottom lip (which, it turns out, she could not.) After I convinced her that all my bicycle-riding limbs were intact and in working order, and I didn’t need a ride home or to the emergency room, we rode back to our respective homes and said goodnight (well, mine was more of a slurred mumble).

Entering my home, thankful to be alive (or something less dramatic), I gave my lips some class-A liberal ice application, and then I went to bed naively thinking that the past is the past, and let’s all move on with our lives.

The next morning, I woke up with what I could only, with all due respect, call “face herpes.” Both of my lips were split and swollen, and I had a constellation of rode rash right down the center of my face that only grew and became more red and much more noticeable as the week went on.

My swollen and scab-infested face made conducting professionalism in my work environment difficult, flirting with cute boys awkward, and drinking hot liquids painfully impossible.

Unfortunately, it only got worse before it got better. Now, a week later, I’m starting to think less and less of the monstrosity that is my face, sometimes even forgetting about it completely – that is, until the inevitable average three people a day look at me and point to their own faces with raised eyebrows. This, I have learned, is the nonverbal equivalent of saying, “Oh, sh#$%, what happened to your face?!” Then I have the painful reminder, all is still not well.

Of course, I would rather people mention the obvious than pretend it’s not there, because heaven knows what crazy story they’re concocting in their heads.

No, I wasn’t drunk and/or beat, sir.

It’s an odd thing, these “battle wounds.” In some weird sadistic way, we kind of want to be proud of them, like “yeah, I’m a tough cookie for tipping over face first onto the ground because I was doing something cool and badass!” And then everyone will applaud as you walk by to order your cup of strong, black coffee, because that’s what badasses drink.

And somewhere in my mind, I’m really hoping that people are thinking “damn, she must have been doing something really rad/gnar/sick/sweetbro to make her face look like that!!” Even though I know, truly in my heart, that when that cute boy is looking at me, he’s actually just thinking “Ewwww. Gross.”

So, as I take a sip of my strong, black coffee and spill it all over the front of my shirt, right in front of that professional person/cute boy, not because it’s hot, but because my lips are still an awkwardly larger-than-normal state, I do thank my lucky stars that things weren’t worse; that I could laugh with my friend on our ride back down Horse Gulch about how I looked like a beaver, or walrus, or something. That I can wake up the next morning with only a swollen face because we’ve all heard those other horror stories. That’s a wavier we all sign when we choose to do the things we do.

And we will keep doing them and continue to forget about the law of gravity and physics, and we will keep tipping over, running into trees, and making ourselves bruise and bleed. Then we will get up, wipe ourselves off, and march into that coffee shop, past all the professionals and good-looking humans, and right up to that bar and order the strongest, blackest cup of coffee we can, with our warrior wounds showing proudly. And then we will run, because everyone will be mad that we cut in line.

  – Jennaye Derge

The Durango Telegraph- "Breaking the Streak" - May 7, 2015

Breaking the streak

The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop doing important work on my computer, i.e. staring half-mindlessly out the window, when I decided it was time to ride my bicycle home. I packed up my computer and slung it over my shoulder, waving bye to the friendly neighborhood baristas. I hopped on my bike for the maybe less than 10 blocks to my house, pedaling off all the while whistling a friendly tune.
As I pushed maybe my fourth downstroke of a pedal, clouds suddenly gathered and the rain gods decided to let loose. I mean, really just let us have it, like someone really pissed them off. Baseball-sized hail started pelting from the sky. Maybe it was a little smaller, but that’s what it felt like: baseballs hitting my face.

Cars splashed past me; drivers laughing at my misfortune while I huffed and puffed pathetically forward. I eyeballed anything I could use for shelter, but home was just so close, and there was a warm lonely puppy dog waiting for me.
So I persisted. Finally rolling into my driveway, I blasted through my front door, dripping, heaving, baseball-welted, defeated.
I set my wet bag of important electronics on the table, said “hi” to my pup, turned back around, and swear to the rain gods, the rain had stopped, and the gosh darned sun had come out!
This is how my luck has been going as of late.
Postdating back, this bad luck streak semi-started about six months ago with my now post-boyfriend’s own misfortune, which he kindly, though unintentionally, gifted to me.

His truck was broken into early one morning. The scumbag thief took a couple thousand dollars worth of mostly climbing gear – my shoes and backpack included – a wallet and a few other items before fleeing to a nearby gas station to fill up his car’s tank using post-boyfriend’s credit card.
But what comes around goes around. Not that karma found Scumbag, and he got what was coming for him. No, he, or she, was never caught. But, what comes around goes around, just in that history repeats itself.
I must preface this next part with upmost important details: 1) I work for and deliver newspapers for the Durango Telegraph. 2) I may or may not leave old, uneaten food in my truck’s console from time to time. Gross, yes, but trust me, you’ll need this information later.  
So, every Thursday morning – Telegraph delivery morning – I sleepily stretch out in bed, brew the darkest coffee possible, slap some peanut butter on a piece of bread, get in my truck and delivery happiness, aka the Telegraph, to venues around town.
During the delivery process, I also pick up the previous week’s leftover papers, and haphazardly toss them in the back seat of my truck where they pile up for as long as I can handle it before I toss them in the recycle bin. Which, because of my high threshold, can often can be a very, very long time.

And this is when history repeated itself, and also how the Telegraph broke my bad luck streak.
It happened earlyish during an otherwise ordinary delivery morning. I put some water on for coffee, wrangled my dog to go outside and use the facilities, and walked outside to greet the morning. When I looked out at my truck, though, I noticed the front driver’s side door was resting open. Rushing out in my sweat pants and unruly hair, while simultaneous giving a wave and acting cool toward my passing neighbor, I opened the door and saw my center console had been rummaged through. Half its contents were on the driver’s seat, including, but not limited to, a half-eaten piece of peanut butter bread, an avocado pit, some Gin Gins, a bottle of ibuprofin, a seriously scratched CD, and some possibly used tissues.
In other words, high-price items that had been surprisingly left behind.
A mental list started going through my head of all the things that might have been taken: I’d left my climbing harness, an old camera, some shoes, and a bunch of stuff from a recent camping trip in the back. A CD case was somewhere, and maybe some floating dollars? I looked around seeing none of them.
All I saw was the massively tall pile of old Telegraphs strewn about.
Had thief ever so graciously taken the pile off my hands, I would have been OK with that, and maybe even had a little respect for him, but we all can’t be that lucky.

I frantically started to dig under the mass of papers. It took me five minutes to get to the bottom and, eureka! My harness, camera and camping gear – all still there. I lifted up a singular Telegraph on the floor of the front seat. CDs still there! I lifted another pile of papers: helmet, a game of “Farkel” and old box of PBR – all still there.
So then what did thief take? I really don’t think anything … Perhaps a couple crumpled dollar bills?
After my nerves settled and I came to the realization that the thief’s luck was worse than mine, I tell a friend who had recently been in my truck and seen my mess of papers and old food.
“Well thank goodness for the Telegraph!” he responded. “Sheesh, this guy is obviously scum of the earth. I don’t know why he wouldn’t find some value in a half-eaten granola bar or an avocado pit.”
“You’re so lucky all that stuff was buried and hidden,” another friend replied.
That’s what I continue hearing, and telling myself. I am so lucky that the mountain of Telegraphs were there to be a better security system than me remembering to lock my own doors.
And that’s how the Telegraph kicked off what I hope will be an even longer winning streak.

– Jennaye Derge

MicroShiner Magazine- Issue 10- "America's Mountain Rum Tradition"


MicroShiner-Issue 10- Pages 33-46

Based in Crested Butte, Montanya Distillers’ owner Karen Hoskin first began manifesting the idea for the small mountain rum company in a series of international travel epiphanies. She initially discovered her love of rum 25 years ago while traveling in India. Eighteen years later, she and husband Brice, co-owner of the distillery, were vacationing in Belize when they made the decision to open a rum distillery back home in the Colorado Rockies.


"It was literally like one minute 'yes, that's it!', the next minute was [the name], 'Montanya'... it means 'mountain' in...all kinds of different romance languages. We never even discussed any other name. Within probably a couple weeks of getting home [from Belize] we had started the process, and our doors were open on November 15th of that year. It was a pretty fast transition."


Karen, originally from rural Maine, operated her own graphic design company for 13 years before making the decision to invest her efforts into a project of her own. Combining her design skills and marketing experience with Brice’s business knowledge, the two prepared to make a big shift in their lives in order to create something all their own.


"I felt like I was spending all my time building other people's dream companies and their logos and their brand identities and their trade show booths, and their websites." Karen says.


In April of 2008, beginning as soon as they came back from vacation, Karen and Brice pursued distilling Montanya Rum in its first location in the small mountain town of Silverton. It was in an 800 sq ft turn of the century former brothel which sat off the beaten path on a side road. Despite the small, slightly hidden location, the distillery found its fans.


"The tasting room was so popular. It was only open from 4 pm to 7 pm four days a week and it would get shoulder to shoulder from skiers coming down from the mountain or folks coming in from Durango or whatever it happened to be. It was early in the days of craft cocktails, they were blowing people’s minds and it was just a really exciting time...since then, we've been in a total of three other distilling places."


After three years in Silverton, a few battles with the city government over permitting, and bittersweet goodbyes to close friends, the Hoskins and Montanya moved to Crested Butte in 2011where they have grown to over 5200 sq ft of operational space including the distillery and tasting room, and a bottling facility about a mile and a half down the road.


After being open only seven years, the company now distributes in 39 states and nine different countries.


"We've always had our eye on that, we've always wanted to be the 'American Rum', [we have] a bigger distribution plan I think than some distilleries have." Hoskin says.


Though her eyes are big, her sight remains small, and local.


"We like the idea of having something that was literally made in front of our customers, and so to be able to use raw ingredients that we know exactly where they come from and also come from the United States and that their supporting and sustaining U.S. jobs feels good to us as a company. So there's a lot of layers to the way we feel we are contributing to the economy."


For Karen and Brice, keeping a local perspective is synonymous with maintaining high quality. Knowing where and how ingredients are produced and sourced allows for better control of their rum, and thus, their brand and their business.  


"I think there is more and more appreciation amongst consumers in the U.S. to know where things are made, who made them, what they're made from, that someone is paying attention to the details. That’s been a really important thing for me as a consumer when I buy things" Karen says.


It's the attention to details that keeps quality high and consistent. Everything matters from the temperature of the room, to what cleaning products are used to keep a tidy ship.


"There is a detail of just choosing ingredients and just taking care of the process. How we clean our stills; we never clean our still with anything besides citric acid. What we clean our building with matters, our air flow in the building matters, so we’re constantly feeding good oxygen into the fermentation. Elevation positively benefits every step of the process; people ask us all the time 'why are you making rum in the mountains, that's an island thing' and really there is a huge, long tradition of making mountain rum in the world." Karen explains.


Crested Butte's mountains play a big part in the distilling of the rum. Whereas many distillers use cooling jackets to help regulate the temperature of the stills, Karen and Brice rely heavily on the natural temperature fluctuation of the mountainous climate. The cooler nights and the warmer days help to keep the rum moving inside of the wood barrels where the rum ages and obtains some of its flavors.


"The wood in the barrel is where the magic is and so for us we have a cool evening temperature which pushes the rum out of the pores of the barrel, a warm daytime temp which opens the pores again which will bring new rum into the barrel pores so there is kinetic action in the barrel all the time."


The process is meticulous, but simple. With a single batch operation, and a four ingredient recipe, each barrel and every ingredient is important to the process.


"The number one ingredient that matters to us is water because 85 percent of what is in the process and 60 percent of what is in the bottle is just water." Hoskin explains, saying that many other distilleries use treated municipal waters, which can introduce undesirable elements. "Like chlorine, which is not flavorful, or water that is really flavorless.


“Our water is highly mineralized, much like the water that is highly celebrated in the regions of Scotland where their water percolates through stone and underground layers, and that contributes a lot of flavor."


Montanya’s water comes from a glacier marine located 350 feet beneath their bottling facility in Crested Butte.


"It's a distiller’s dream water." Hoskin beams.


Sugar, another one of the four main ingredients in the rum distilling process, can't be purchased from their mountainous backyard, but has been personally and meticulously chosen by Karen and Brice as close to home as possible. Whereas most sugar is imported from non-regulated international sites where pollutants can run rampant, Montanya uses cane sugar sourced in the United States, almost in their backyard, a few states away in Louisiana.


"We know exactly where it's coming from, how it's being grown, who's harvesting it; it's non-GMO... We watched it go into the mill which is where they press the sugar cane, and we watched them pull the first press of the cane." Hoskin explains.  "...the first press, [is] the most flavorful and delicious. When it comes to us it still has the remnants of the solids and fibers from the cane...It is as unprocessed as you can get other than using the sugar cane juice itself."


Realizing the importance of first press sugar, untreated water, perfectly grown yeast, and effective temperatures, is the result of self-education. Karen is the brains behind design and marketing, and Brice takes care of the structural bones such as plumbing and electricity, while both are mad scientists for the art of distilling and creating finely tuned rum and cocktails.


"This is some of the oldest tradition in the world in some ways. It's like baking or making kombucha, it's about yeast and yeast vitality and the strength of your fermentation, and temperature, and managing temperature and managing heat under the still and choosing the still that is going to be the most conducive to the product that you’re trying to produce." Karen explains.


"It's not rocket science, it's a lot of attentiveness to the details along the way. And if you're not attentive, then something will go awry and you have potential to lose a whole batch, and if you lose a whole batch that's like eight thousand dollars of investment down the drain, literally, so we work really hard to be attentive, and I think that’s the most important characteristic. So being attentive and having a good palate for the final spirit, those are the two most important things. Anything else you can teach someone."


And they have. Brice and Karen have passed their knowledge onto their staff over the years, relinquishing control, and trusting their team to lead the way in helping distill and run the company.

In that way, Montanya has set a bar for other distilleries for consistently employing a predominantly female team, a rarity in the distilling world. Of their 11 employees, only two are men, one of whom is Brice.


"It's pretty rare in the distilling world to have a female distiller, much less someone who is such a key part of the company like Renee [the head distiller], and just in general we have a reputation for employing women in very highly responsible positions in Crested Butte and that's been fun because it's kind of a man's world…distilling is a man's world. A lot of dudes, even bartending is a guy's thing."


"They rock it," Hoskin says of the female crew.


Karen and Brice joke about how it's like having a family on top of their real family. On top of the business, Brice and Karen also juggle a home life with two teenage sons; one of whom currently works in the kitchen, prepping food from their vibrant menu, and both help in the bottling stages.


"It feels very much like a family business. Our son, Will, says he’s to take over the company someday so that's cool because I think it’s a tradition that's losing foothold in the United States a little bit."


But with anything else, boundaries must be set to maintain balance in life.


"We're learning to set limits." Brice says. "We actually just set a limit; after 7 pm we're going to not talk about business, and so if one of us does, and it's important then we do it for 5 minutes and then we're done. Our kids learned about this and they loved the idea." Brice says.


"We have to have good boundaries. But in the same way, we're also both having as much fun as we've ever had in running a business. This is our 5th business we've had, and we're still learning so much. We've taken more risk than we have had in our lives, and have had more reward than we've ever had. We have a lot of responsibility for people's welfare and well-being. If we don't succeed, we have 11 people who lose their jobs, and accountants, and cleaning crews, and landlords, and engineers, and lawyers that will all be affected, some days that gets heavy for sure, but most days it feels like it's working." Karen


With all the fun, and responsibilities, and with a family both at home and in the professional world, there is no sign of decline for the company anytime soon--at least no sign of going backwards or stopping.


"We just committed to at least five years in this this building we feel will not change very much, we'll always have no more than two stills here, we'll have no more than 4 fermentation tanks...."


And in their bottling facility about a mile and a half down the road, there is room for yet more growth; more distilling and bottling capacity. In this way, they can maintain their small town feel in downtown Crested Butte, while still having room to provide for those of us unable to journey to one of their two tasting rooms in Western Colorado.   


The Durango Telegraph- "Let's Talk about Sex" February 12, 2015

Let’s talk about sex

Powerhouse’s Pub Science lays it all out on the table

by Jennaye Derge

The domain of children by day, the Powerhouse Science Center takes on a decidedly adult tone come most Friday nights. That’s when parents and adults are encouraged to ditch work, the kids and other responsibilities and gather in the name of science.

Always with adult libations, the event known as “Pub Science” is free. Likewise, its participants are free to play, explore, socialize, learn and drink – well, it’s a cash bar – and have fun.

And with Valentine’s Day around the corner and love in the air, the Powerhouse took a twist on the usual theme at its Feb. 6 Pub Science. Instead of a typical sit-down lecture, the Powerhouse held a forum to bring “sexperts,” “sextologists” and “curious students of sex” together in one place to discuss “The Science of Sex.”


Instead of the typical format, where one keynote speaker addresses the group, this event included multiple presenters for guests to meander through and gravitate toward; to bring two parties together to share knowledge, experience and conversation.

“I love this, where people can go wherever interests them and talk to whomever they please, drink a little bit, socialize, and ask questions,” Programs Coordinator Leisha Lawson said.

Lawson brought together at least eight different “sexperts” including a Fort Lewis College psychology professor, educators from Planned Parenthood and the folks over at Fallen Angel. The goal was to not only offer eye-popping displays but engage the brain as well.

Lawson was hoping to give a “purposeful, provocative look” at how our inherent biological drive to procreate manifests in culture, cuisine and even medicine. “I wanted to make this more of an introduction for how science really does apply to every avenue of your life,” she said. “Everything you love and everything you do and everything you know has some sort of scientific base to it.”

So what exactly is the “science of sex?”

Turns out, guests attending Pub Science believe it is less about chemistry, neurons, protons, beakers and goggles, and more about the social aspects.

Ashley Fife, a psychology student at Fort Lewis College, is basing her senior seminar on how people feel about taboo sex practices (masturbation, pornography and fetishes to name a few) and see how that correlates to feelings of disgust. Through a short survey she handed out that evening, she hopes to find a correlation between non-acceptance of sex practices and the feelings of disgust towards them. 


Social acceptance of sex seemed to be the conversational priority amongst most everyone, and most agreed that having an open forum to discuss sex was pretty cool.

“I’ve seen a lot of my friends here that I didn’t expect to see,” Elise Goplerud, sex student of the night, said.

Fife said she was excited to see such a large turnout. “It’s cool that other people are interested in coming to this,” she said.

Predictably, the Fallen Angel, Durango’s lingerie and novelty shop, was a popular attraction. Although it did include an interesting history of adult “entertainment,” the intent was also more altruistic. According to Fallen Angel representative Erika Kinder, the goal was to “liberate” people from societal constraints. “People still have that old-fashioned shame about sex, and I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “(Sex) is all over our advertising, it’s all over everything, yet it’s something you’re not supposed to talk about and not supposed to show. And that’s kind of a contradiction. So we want to get the word out that, ‘You know what? Sex is ok!’”

In addition to hopes of opening dialogue about sex, others stressed the point of just making the time for safe and responsible sex in our day-to-day lives.

“I spent 45 minutes today fighting with the printer,” FLC Professor of Psychology Betty Door said. “I think about the time I’ve spent thinking about my sexual relationship this week, not even probably 45 minutes ... because we take it for granted that it will all be taken care of without a lot of effort.”

Door reminded people to slow down and not take their sex life for granted. “I think if people take the time to be mindful about their relationship, there are more long term benefits,” she said.

But maybe there’s time for a quickie.

“Wall or table?” Devin Wilkinson read off a truth or dare card being passed around a group. “A high table, or a low table?” Wilkinson inquired further to the group for clarity.

Debate was sparked.

Planned Parenthood brought plenty to the table with many hot topics – all puns intended.

Interactive participation was key to its teaching, with diagrams of reproductive organs as well as anatomically correct models for practice putting on and taking off condoms.

“Never use your teeth to open a condom, because you could puncture the condom, and it might just be your last one,” Education Program Specialist Rachael Carlevale advised. 

But beyond the basics, Planned Parenthood served both food and facts for thought, with its key ingredient being open dialogue.

Often, the group presents statistics to get the lines of communication open between parents and teens. “(Communication) actually promotes teens to make healthier choices for themselves in their lives,” she said. “We have such a black and white social dichotomy of, ‘Oh we’re not going to talk about sex’ to ‘Oh, we’re going to be so inappropriate.’” However, because of that dichotomy, the United States tends to have higher teen pregnancy rates and higher std rates than most European countries, according to fellow Planned Parenthood educator Melissa DeNardo.

And speaking of dichotomies, Japan has a very interesting one. Because of traditional taboos surrounding women’s birth control, the country strictly hands out condoms. As a result, the country has among the lowest std rates in the world.


While not all future Pub Sciences will be this steamy, Lawson assures us they will be at least as entertaining.

“What we’re doing at the Powerhouse is trying to open up a place for people to come and learn about things that they’re interested in, including sexuality,” she said.

She also said the session was meant as an introduction to the new Pub Science format.

“It’s not so much lecture based as interactive, demonstrative, visual and social,” she said, adding,  “I’m really, really happy with the turn out.” 

As for next month’s Pub Science, Lawson says it will be the science of snow. “It’s not quite as sexy, but it will get you just as wet.”