Role reversal: An interview with Limitless Pursuits

In a turn of events, this guy was the person interviewed instead of the interviewee.

In a turn of events, this guy was the person interviewed instead of the interviewee.

I’m used to doing interviews, but almost all of the time, I’m the one asking the questions.

Thanks to the folks at Limitless Pursuits, I got a chance to experience that from the other side. They just posted a Q&A with me, where we got to discuss the outdoors, fitness, travel and infusing adventure in everyday life.

You can read the interview here, and be sure to check out the rest of the site. You can also follow Limitless Pursuits on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

See what makes me tick, and get to know Limitless Pursuits!

— Bob Doucette

The peril facing public lands: How lawmakers want to sell off America’s natural heritage

Kit Carson National Forest, as seen from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area in New Mexico. Beautiful public lands.

Kit Carson National Forest, as seen from the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area in New Mexico. Beautiful public lands.

“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Certain memories never leave you. They make an impression — hopefully for the better — that doesn’t just bring a grin to your face, but becomes a part of the fabric of who you are.

I’ve got a lot of those. Many times, they build on each other, sort of in the way that a series of short outings becomes a longer life journey that takes you where you were always meant to go. It’s a satisfying feeling when you encounter one of those moments, then look back and realize how the events of your past led you to that amazing point in time.

That happened to me about nine years ago on a backpacking trip to northern New Mexico. There were five of us there, and we spent the day hiking up to a high alpine lake perched on the lower slopes of Wheeler Peak. Tall stands of evergreens and aspens were all around, carpeting the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area, a patch of wild land that is part of the sprawling Kit Carson National Forest.

I was first up that morning, crawling out of my sleeping bag and lighting my stove to cook a little breakfast. The rest of the gang was still trying to get a few more minutes of sleep before we’d head up to the highest point in New Mexico, then march back down the hill to civilization.

As I was boiling my water, I looked to my right and there they were — a female bighorn sheep and her lamb, staring at me, then casually easing their way up the slope to investigate our little campsite. They seemed completely unconcerned about the presence of people — this was their land, their home, I guess, and they’d probably seen folks like us come and go many times. They came so close that I felt I could have stood up and scratched mama behind the ears, though I know that would have never happened. Still, when you live in a community measured in the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, real wildlife encounters like that aren’t all that common. Not with creatures like these.

We made a lot of memories on that trip, and yeah, we did bag Wheeler’s summit on a bright, bluebird day. But that morning in camp stuck with me more than anything.

That encounter exemplifies the value of public lands. We were well within the confines of New Mexico, but by law, that national forest and that wilderness area belongs to all of us. The same is true of many other places across the West, and indeed, the entire country. Some plots of land were meant for individual landowners. But some, by their very nature, are just too precious to sell off or give away. They belong to everyone.

Unfortunately, that value — one that was so strong in the hearts of conservationist heroes like Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, and still strong with the public at large — is waning in the houses of power.

In Utah, politicians there — backed by lobbyists representing energy and mining interests — are passing laws demanding that the federal government cede those public lands to the states. Utah actually set aside $2 million to sue over it. And the sentiment behind that is only growing.

Changing political tides on the national level are beginning to mirror Utah’s model. In March, the Senate passed an amendment (Senate Amendment 838) to a piece of legislation that would authorize selling or giving away huge quantities of public lands — those in national forests, wildlife refuges, and tracts owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Basically any federal land not already claimed by national parks or national monuments. The amendment passed 51-49, mostly along partisan lines, with three Republicans voting against it.

The measure was advanced with the ever-popular arguments of affirming states’ rights, shrinking the federal government and closing budget holes, but the reality is far more opportunistic. Forest Service and BLM lands are filled with places that have yet to be explored for oil, gas, rare earth metals, coal and other exploitable resources that any number of companies would love to extract. Billions could be made, though that doesn’t necessarily take into account the billions already being earned by people whose livelihoods depend on tourist dollars from Americans and foreigners itching to take in the wonders of the country’s vast, wild spaces, some $41 billion a year according to The New York Times. All told, that supported some 355,000 jobs.

I don’t have a problem with people wanting to earn a living, or really make a go at hitting it big. But when you’re talking about the industrialized extraction of natural resources, there is a huge and often permanent cost.

Matterhorn Creek in southwestern Colorado. It's pretty, but those waters are fouled by mine tailings.

Matterhorn Creek in southwestern Colorado. It’s pretty, but those waters are fouled by mine tailings.

In another favorite mountain haunt of mine, north and west of Wheeler Peak in southwestern Colorado, is the Matterhorn Creek Basin, a drainage that slopes downhill from Matterhorn Peak, Wetterhorn Peak and a large collection of other, lesser mountains that make up the area’s dramatic, primordial landscape. This place is drop-dead gorgeous, but I can’t filter water there for drinking or cooking, at least not in many of the creeks and streams flowing to the south. Old, small-time mines that are long abandoned still taint the watershed with mine tailings, making the water there unfit to drink. The San Juan Range is pockmarked with gorgeous places just like Matterhorn Creek Basin that are beautiful to look at, but traversed by waterways permanently spoiled by mines of yore.

If you go out east, in Appalachia, or north, near Butte, Montana, you can see much bigger scars on the land. Strip mines, pit mines, and mountaintop removal have all done a number on these places. In my home state of Oklahoma, in an area dubbed Tar Creek, lead and zinc mines left behind noxious chat piles the size of small ski hills, fouling streams and giving local children lead poisoning. Collapsing mine tunnels threaten to swallow buildings whole. It got so bad that the entire area was declared a federal Superfund site, and two towns — Picher and Cardin — were bought out, their residents moved and businesses closed. There were booming times in that corner of Ottawa County decades ago, but now just a couple of polluted ghost towns remain.

Huge chat piles in Picher, Oklahoma, part of the Tar Creek Superfund site. The chat piles are contaminated with lead and zinc mine tailings, which forced the abandonment of Picher and nearby Cardin a few years ago because of lead poisoning concerns. (Northwest Arkansas Community College photo)

Huge chat piles in Picher, Oklahoma, part of the Tar Creek Superfund site. The chat piles are contaminated with lead and zinc mine tailings, which forced the abandonment of Picher and nearby Cardin a few years ago because of lead poisoning concerns. (Northwest Arkansas Community College photo)

These are just a few tales from the dark side of harvesting natural resources from the ground. But no matter. Many states are hungry for economic development, and the lands they’d sell off are out of sight and out of mind to politicians in the big cities and manicured suburbs where most of their votes and donors come from. No one knows much about Matterhorn Creek’s spoiled waters because almost no one lives nearby, and getting there takes a little work. I just wish I could show it to them.

I checked a roll call of the Senate vote to approve this particular measure, and not surprisingly, both my senators were in favor of it. I didn’t bother writing Sen. Jim Inhofe. I just didn’t see the point. He’s the guy best known as the Senate’s chief climate change denier, and recently brought a snowball into the Senate chambers to prove that climate change wasn’t real. Conservation isn’t real high on this guy’s list of priorities.

I’ve heard from friends who know Sen. James Lankford, and they say he’s a reasonable man, one who will listen to others’ ideas. So I sent him a message last week. I’m still waiting for a response.

A scene from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma. The refuge is not only home to rugged peaks like this one, but herds of American bison like the ones in the foreground. Wildlife refuges are among the federal public lands that could be sold off if SA 838 is enacted.

A scene from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma. The refuge is not only home to rugged peaks like this one, but herds of American bison like the ones in the foreground. Wildlife refuges are among the federal public lands that could be sold off if SA 838 is enacted.

What I’d like to tell them is that while Oklahoma doesn’t have nearly as much federal public land as many western states, we do have amazing tracts of broadleaf and pine forests in the hills of the Ouachita Mountains (home to the Ouachita National Forest). Within the crags of the Wichita Mountains (where a U.S. wildlife refuge is found) there is an amazing biodiversity that surpasses any zoo. Buffalo, elk, coyotes, eagles — so many creatures in such a rugged, picturesque and special little realm. Do these guys really want to put these places up on the auction block? Have they ever been there? Do they even care?

Conservation has its roots in places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, locales so impossibly gorgeous that they’ve been declared national treasures by men and women far wiser than me. Born from that sentiment was a system of public lands that helped preserve vast acreages of wild spaces that are, many times, no less impressive, places like Wheeler Peak, the Ouachita National Forest, or the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Conservationists gave me the ability to camp in a New Mexico alpine forest, deep within the folds of a protected wilderness area where I could bask in that national treasure and share a breakfast moment with a couple of curious bighorn sheep. Hike in to Lost Lake, and you can see that, too.

That’s the beauty of public lands. My experiences can be yours, too. Or anyone else’s. These places belong to all of us. So please don’t tell me that they’re for sale.

Bob Doucette

Eight little things to boost your health and fitness

When you're trying to improve fitness and athletic performance, it's often doing -- and not doing -- the little things that takes you to the next level.

When you’re trying to improve fitness and athletic performance, it’s often doing — and not doing — the little things that takes you to the next level.

Search the Internet and the bookstores long enough, and you’re bound to find “revolutionary” workout programs and diets that promise to transform your life. The thing about these deals is they have broad appeal, resonating with athletes and the out-of-shape alike.

Some of these are good: Bill Phillips made a mint with “Body for Life,” mostly because the exercise and diet plans he made were easy to follow and effective in terms of spurring fat loss, muscle gain and overall health.

Others are junk. I won’t get into those here, but if anything is promising great results from a pill or a workout plan that includes massive numbers of reps, weird gadgets or whatnot, buyer beware.

What doesn’t sell a lot of books, videos, gear or dietary supplements, however, is possibly the secret to getting where you want, and it costs nothing. And that’s doing the little things.

I’ve noticed that when I get the little things wrong, or ignore them altogether, I often don’t get the results I’m looking for in terms of maintaining my fitness or improving my overall health and athletic performance. So it’s always nice to do an audit of your behaviors and see where you could stand to add or subtract some of the little things.

DO THESE THINGS

Take the stairs. I live in a multiple-story apartment building, with my unit on the tenth floor. It would be easy enough to take the elevator every day, and most of the time, I do. But when I finish my shift at work and come home, I make a point to forgo the elevator and turn my apartment into a tenth-floor walk-up. That gives me about two minutes and thirty seconds of glute/quad/hamstring and calf work and gets my heart rate up a bit, and an added 450 feet of vertical gain every week.

Getting your vert, urban style.

Getting your vert, urban style. (pixelwhip.com photo)

If you live a few floors up, you can do the same. If you work in a high-rise building, start taking the stairs, and if that’s too much, take the elevator part of the way, then get your extra work by walking the stairs the rest of the way. When you’re about and about, skip the escalators and elevators and climb those stairs. One stair climb is small, but turn that into a daily habit over a year, and you’ll be that much more fit and strong than you were before.

Walk or ride to work. This may not be possible for everyone, and certainly the weather can dictate how you get to and from your job. But if it’s possible, consider walking or riding your bike to work. This is a particularly good idea if your workplace has a shower you can use; then your options increase even more. You might even be able to run to work, if that’s your thing. It will take some planning, and it won’t be nearly as simply as dressing for work, jumping into your car and heading down the road. But you burn no calories driving (sometimes, you consume them if you make a habit of snagging a latte on the way to the office), nor do you work any muscles. A human-powered commute will do both.

Stow the cellphone more often. I wish I had a timer to see how many minutes (hours?) a day or a week I burn just looking at my phone. And I wonder how much less intense my workouts are when I have my phone with me, even if I’m using it as a music player. I’ve found that leaving the phone out of my workout plans makes for a better-paced, more intense session than when it’s with me. Too often, a social media notification or a text message pops up, and the temptation to check Facebook or Twitter gets the best of us when we should be focusing on the task at hand. Most of the time, that stuff can wait.

Even in a non-training situation, the wonderfully connected world of that hand-held device can be a tremendous time-suck. How many more things could you get done around the house if you just left it in your bedroom for a couple of hours? How much more quickly would you get to sleep if you didn’t spend time in bed staring at that little glowing screen? How much more peaceful is that hike or run when you’re completely unplugged? If you don’t know the answer, maybe it’s time to put the damn thing down and find out.

Get more plant-based foods in your diet. Seriously. We’ve been hounded about eating our fruits and veggies. But come on, man. Just do it. The nutrients and fiber in plant-based foods are awesome for you, and if you eat enough of these (start out at getting six servings a day), you won’t need a lot of supplements you may be taking now. Put some greens on that sandwich. Build a wrap with some spinach. Make a salad a big part of your dinner. Put some berries in your cereal or oatmeal in the morning. Your body will love you for it.

CUT BACK ON THESE THINGS

Lessen your booze intake. I’m no teetotaler. Far from it. If folks enjoy a beer or some wine or a nice single-malt Scotch, I’m good with that. I like that stuff, too. But let’s talk about a few things related to alcohol, and how it affects your health.

Any alcoholic drink has calories, sometimes lots of them. Alcoholic drinks also contain sugar. Aside from a few small health benefits of having a drink every now and then, the fact is if you’re a regular drinker, you’re taking in empty calories (anywhere from 90 to 400 calories a serving, depending on what you’re drinking) that go straight into your body’s storage containers, which we know as fat cells. Popular mixed drinks, which often contain fruit juices and syrups, are tasty but they’re also massive calorie bombs. So if you want to gain flabby weight, drink up.

Alcohol also dehydrates the body. Drink too much booze, and that headache you get is actually a reaction to dehydration. Alcohol consumption will detract from athletic performance, be it during training or in competition.

I do love me some good beer. But this needs to be an occasional treat and not a daily habit if you're looking to take your fitness to the next level.

I do love me some good beer. But this needs to be an occasional treat and not a daily habit if you’re looking to take your fitness to the next level.

Lastly, let’s look at beer. The hops in beer helps spike levels of estrogen in the body, which can give the fellas those distinct beer bellies and man boobs. It can also lower testosterone levels, which will affect athletic performance and recovery as well as sex drive. And for any beer consumer, regardless of gender, these fluctuations can throw your hormones out of balance — never a good thing.

If your goal is high-level performance or weight loss, consider the effects of alcohol. A drink every now and then is fine. But as a daily habit, I’d suggest changing course.

Ugh, the sweets. This is a huge downfall of mine. I’ve love a sweet treat. A package of cookies, a brownie, whatever — after a savory meal, a sweet little dessert just sounds so good.

Like the booze, however, it’s just empty calories that goes straight to your gut/moobs/hips/thighs. The nutritional value is next to zero. If you go to a vending machine and snarf a small package of cookies, you’ll have to run an additional four miles from what you’ve already done that day just to burn that junk off.

The same is true of sugary drinks, be it sodas, fruit juices, sweetened teas, energy drinks or those delicious “coffees” that’ll run your five bucks at a lot of coffee shops these days. You’d be shocked out how many calories you drink every day.

You don’t have to go cold-turkey on this stuff, but if any of this is a daily habit, you need to rethink your daily habits. Start out by replacing one of those daily drinks with a 16-ounce glass of water. Better yet, keep a water bottle handy, keep it filled with the H2O and sip on that all day. No calories, plenty of benefits.

And erg, the fried food! You know you’re in trouble when you look at your dinner plate and it’s mostly food that is the color brown. Fried foods are tasty, satisfying, and their texture (the crunch!) is really pleasing to the palate. But fried foods also gum up your arteries and cause inflammation, two nasty side-effects that contribute to heart disease, strokes and a number of different cancers.

An occasional fried food ain’t that bad. But if you’re eating the fried stuff more than three times a week, cut-the-eff back. Replace that crispy brown stuff with the fresh green goodies I mentioned earlier.

You may think you'll run it off, but no. You won't. (popsugar.com phoro)

You may think you’ll run it off, but no. You won’t. (popsugar.com phoro)

Eat out less. There are restaurants that focus on offering dishes with locally sourced or even organic foods, and those are great. But most American eateries fill their pantries and freezers with industrially produced foodstuffs that are high in sodium, fats, sugars and chemicals that just aren’t good for you. They’re also often served in portions that a far bigger than you need (sometimes a single dinner at many popular restaurants can top 2,000-3,000 calories, not including appetizers or desserts). If you want to sabotage your diet, gain bad weight, and feel like crap, then eat out often. If you want to control what goes into your body and get healthier, concentrate on your home food prep and limit the restaurant visits. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you.

So that’s it. No huge secrets, no whiz-bang workout plans. Just a list of little reminders that will help you get faster, stronger, leaner and healthier.

Bob Doucette

Turkey Mountain update: Simon gets a case of the yips, postpones mall hearing again

An endangered view at Turkey Mountain. Let's preserve the good.

An endangered view at Turkey Mountain. Let’s preserve the good.

Already postponed once, Simon Property Group has asked for yet another delay in presenting revised plans for its outlet mall on the west side of Turkey Mountain.

The company was set to appear before the Tulsa Planning Commission on April 15, a date that already reflected a postponement from its originally scheduled March hearing. And now, this: They want more time and wish to wait until June 17 to unveil their revisions.

I have a few theories on why this latest delay occurred. So here goes:

– Simon was taken by surprise over the public reaction to the proposed mall. This is a company used to getting its way, particularly in cities hungry for new tax revenue. The initial pushback last fall was probably ignored,with the thought that it would subside over time. Instead, it has only grown. The online petition against the mall has nearly 8,500 signatures, and the crowds at two public forums to discuss the mall plan have been decidedly against Simon’s proposal. There are a smattering of voices who are OK with Simon’s plan, but they are greatly outnumbered by those who are not.

– Simon has not won over the Tulsa City Council. While the mayor’s office has been in full support of Simon’s endeavors, other city council members have been either silent or in opposition. City council members will be the ones who will have final say over whether this project is allowed to proceed, and right now, it doesn’t look good for Simon. (Contact city council members here; emails, calls and letters are making a difference.)

– Simon was taken aback by demands for changes made by the Tulsa YMCA. The YMCA operates a kids camp directly north of where Simon wants to plop its mall, and board members are not happy about the detrimental effects the mall will have on camper experiences. The changes they seek are significant, and would alter the cost and feasibility of the project considerably.

– Simon was not prepared for the organized local opposition that has formed. The Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition has turned into a credible, reasonable yet potent force in this debate. Other grassroots groups have also formed, further driving the issue home to Tulsa residents.

– Simon would like more time to possibly see the “heat” wear off.

All that is well and good, but no delays or revisions are going to change a few facts about why this proposal is bad for Tulsa. Here’s why:

– The location is bad for a large retail development. Simon would be building an outlet mall competing for shoppers in an over-retailed area (Tulsa Hills and The Walk at Tulsa Hills are just south of the proposal site). The road servicing the intersection — two lanes, no shoulders, steep hills and two big curves — is not capable of dealing with the increased traffic a mall would bring, and would be dangerous to shoppers, commuters and residents who live in the area.

– The erosion, litter and light pollution problems are not going to be solved with a few tweaks. Sorry, but when you build on top of a hill with steep ravines below, there will be storm water drainage problems, line-of-sight issues and blowing trash. Pollution concerns for the Mooser Creek watershed are real. And no matter how you aim your parking lot lights, it’s going to be a huge shining eyesore overlooking the YMCA camp and woodlands below. All of Turkey Mountain will be affected by this, and none of those effects will be good.

– The area is better preserved for recreation purposes. When it comes to quality of life, we only have so many wild green spaces. We have plenty of retail. Surveys have been conducted showing that the young entrepreneurial class of people who cities are trying to attract value outdoor recreation opportunities highly, and will often use that as a factor in determining where they will live and do business. Shopping is down the list. Degrading Tulsa’s top outdoor recreation asset is simply not in the city’s best interest, especially when you consider the culture such a place helps develop — healthy people who spend money on bikes, hiking gear, running gear, race entry fees and so forth. And because Turkey Mountain has become a regional and even a national draw for outdoor recreation enthusiasts and athletes, you’re seeing people come to Turkey Mountain from out-of-state, spending money on meals, hotels and more while they’re here. Go to Turkey Mountain on a sunny day, especially on the weekend, and you’ll see two full parking lots and trails filled with cyclists, hikers, runners equestrians and families just looking for some good outdoor time. Memories are made on the trails. Not in shopping centers.

So my advice for the executives at Simon is simple. Use the time between now and June 17 to rethink this whole deal. Use it to find another place to build your mall. Honestly, we’d love to see you succeed in that realm, just not at the expense of Turkey Mountain and all that it means to us. And if this is not possible, then use this time to plan a graceful exit. There isn’t going to be a proposal at Turkey Mountain that is going to work for you or for us. The sooner you realize that, the better off you, your shareholders and our city will be.

Bob Doucette

A great weekend of running for Tulsa: Great Plains 10K, Snake Run

It’s been a funny year so far for me in terms of running. Yes, I’m still out there pounding the pavement and hitting the trails. But I haven’t been in a race since November, and frankly, haven’t been pushing that hard.

And that’s OK. As much as I enjoy being light and fast, sometimes it’s good to dial it back. Strength training has improved as the miles have decreased. Unfortunately, I’ve put on some weight, and not the good kind.

But if there was a weekend to get back into the whole race thing, last weekend was it.

First off, there was the Great Plains 10K, the first time for this race to be held in Tulsa. I didn’t run it, but I did work an aid station with a pretty cool group of volunteers.

The volunteers at the Great Plains 10K aid station where I worked. They were awesome.

The volunteers at the Great Plains 10K aid station where I worked. They were awesome.

The organizers of the race were kind enough to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition if we supplied some volunteers, which we did. Twenty-one of us helped work the race, which saw 300 runners compete. For a first-time 10K, that’s pretty good. Race conditions were perfect – upper 40s to low 50s, no wind and overcast. Folks ran hard.

Great Plains wasn’t the only race that day, however. A trail race, the annual Snake Run at Turkey Mountain, was also going on.

I’ve run the Snake Run two times previously. The race has two events: the three-hour race and a six-hour race. The goal is simple, you just run as many miles as you can in the time given. I’ve done the three-hour event twice, topping out at just over 15 miles each time.

The races started at 9 a.m., so I was quite late getting there. But the race director, Ken “TZ” Childress, said those of us who worked the 10K could do a late-start walk-up entry if we wished.

I got there about 10:45, and by the time I ate a little food and got signed up, it was almost 11. The three-hour race would end in a little more than an hour. I wanted to get a good, slow double-digit run that day, but entering the three-hour race wasn’t going to do. So I signed up for the six-hour race.

So here’s the deal: Even though I ran in the six-hour race, I would not run for six hours. In fact, I’m not in shape to run for three right now. The longest run I’d done since November was a mere 7 miles. Even though I wore a bib for the six-hour event, I had no illusions about really being one of the six-hour runners. I figured if I could do three loops on the course and call it a day.

It’s amazing how free you feel without any pressure to perform, to climb the leader board, or to set a PR. Instead, I had time to stop at the aid stations and chat up friends who were working there. I paused to take some pictures. I got lazy and ran-hiked quite a bit. No pressure, just fun.

One aid station, as it turns out, was all booze. A guy named Jason Bement had several types of bourbon, including a home brew which was mighty tasty. I stopped there every time and ended up with a few shots throughout the race.

Jason Bement mans his bandit "hydration" aid station. I made a few stops here to sample the goods.

Jason Bement mans his bandit “hydration” aid station. I made a few stops here to sample the goods.

A friend of mine and a fellow TUWC member named Laurie also made sure I had a few swigs of beer at every stop where she was taking photos. We’ll just call that liquid carb loading or something like that.

I saw a bunch of friends on the course, too. Steve and Brooke, for example, both tagged 15+ miles in the three-hour event. That’s a distance PR for Steve, who just started running with Brooke on the trails last fall. Amazing progress.

Another friend of mine, an athlete named Trace, took third place in the men’s three-hour event, logging north of 23 miles. This dude has turned into one heck of an endurance competitor. His wife and three kids were there as well, cheering him on.

Another gal I know, Katie Kramer-Ochoa, defended her women’s three-hour title with 20+ miles as well. Katie is a regular on the podiums at a variety of road and trail races in Oklahoma, and is also last summer’s overall champ in the Midnight Madness 50-mile race. If you want to beat Katie, you’re going to have to dig deep. Really, really deep.

And another friend who has taken his running to new levels, a dude named Danny, busted off more than 16 miles in the three-hour race. This was his first Snake Run, but he’s already got a marathon and a 25K under his belt as of late.

It was awesome seeing all familiar faces hitting the trail that day.

Of course, more TUWC volunteers were there to help work the Snake Run as well. Colin and Erin, cyclists who have come to love Turkey Mountain, helped serve grub to runners at the start/finish aid station.

Erin Tawney, Colin Tawney and Laurie Biby near that start-finish line. The Tawneys manned one of  the aid stations and Laurie shot photos. All three are hard-working volunteers with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition.

Erin Tawney, Colin Tawney and Laurie Biby near that start-finish line. The Tawneys manned one of the aid stations and Laurie shot photos. All three are hard-working volunteers with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition.

I love the hard-charging spirit of the three-hour competitors, the mellow resolve of the six-hour elites and the grit of the rest of the field in doing their best. I’m always in that last bunch, competing against myself, though not this year. Either way, the Snake Run is a fun race.

A three-hour runner gets ready to finish off one last lap.

A three-hour runner gets ready to finish off one last lap.

Here, a six-hour runner throws down in the middle of that race.

Here, a six-hour runner throws down in the middle of that race.

It’s probably time for me to get a little more serious about my running again. I’d love to get back to the point where I was marching up the standings, reaching new goals and getting ready for hitting the peaks later this spring and summer. I’ve had my fun. It’s time to get serious.

But more importantly, what a great weekend of running for Tulsa. It sure seemed like the Great Plains 10K was a success, and TZ put on another great Snake Run. People got to enjoy the trails at Turkey Mountain, and thanks to all the runners, their efforts will help future endeavors to preserve and promote one of the city’s greatest assets.

It’s a little reminder of how great our running community is and can be.

Bob Doucette

As prime hiking season nears, a list of ‘first’ mountain adventures

Great views like this are the things that make people want to go to the mountains. Here's how to get started.

Great views like this are the things that make people want to go to the mountains. Here’s how to get started.

Many people are looking for new challenges these days, and a big chunk of that crowd looks to fill that urge outdoors. For me, that always pointed me toward the mountains. Something about the high country just exudes an energy of adventure that is hard to find elsewhere.

Is this you? Yeah? But where to start?

Well, you’re in luck. It just so happens there are a number of places you can go in Colorado and New Mexico that will fit the bill, even if seeing the world from a mountaintop is something you haven’t done before.

We’ll break it down into categories, based on what your interests are, locations, and a bit more for those of you looking to take the next step in your alpine adventures. So here goes:

FIRST MOUNTAIN, CLOSE TO DENVER

There are several to choose from, as a bunch of high peaks are within 90 minutes of the Denver metro area. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require a long drive, you can expect a busy trail during the peak hiking season. But you’ll still have a good time.

Mount Bierstadt and its Sawtooth Ridge.

Mount Bierstadt and its Sawtooth Ridge.

My choice: Mount Biesrstadt. It’s close to the Interstate 70 town of Georgetown, with easy access to the trailhead and a straightforward route. It’s a hike, and the round-trip route is about 7 miles. Standing at 14,060 feet, you’ll need a good set of legs and lungs to get up there. But you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Bierstadt’s Sawtooth Ridge as well as a host of nearby peaks. There are some boulder-hopping on the final stretch, but nothing too demanding. The trail is also dog-friendly, and you’ll likely meet a lot of other altitude seekers along the way.

Route info

FIRST MOUNTAIN, COMFORTABLE OVERNIGHT STAY

I’ve got one in mind here that’s close to Breckenridge. If you’d rather forgo the long drive from Denver and still have a comfortable place to stay before and after your summit, then the Breckenridge-Quandary Peak combo is for you.

Quandary Peak.

Quandary Peak.

Like Biesrstadt, it’s an easy-to-follow trail that goes right up the mountain’s east ridge and to the top. Again, about seven miles round-trip, topping out at 14,265 feet. Quandary Peak has incredible views of the nearby Mosquito Range as well as some of the high summits of the Tenmile Range. Again, this will be a busy peak during the summer, but a memorable one as well.

If you have more time and energy, go ahead and check out the loop that includes Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross, all nearby 14ers in the Mosquito Range. Or just relax and enjoy some time in Breckenridge.

Route info

FIRST MOUNTAIN, MORE SOLITUDE

If you can get further away from the bigger cities and find time on a weekday, Huron Peak near Buena Vista, Colorado, is my choice. In fact, of all the first-time peaks on my list, Huron Peak has the most bang for the buck.

Huron Peak.

Huron Peak.

The mountain is deeper in the Sawatch Range, and if you ask anyone who has been there, they’ll tell you it has the some of the best views you can find. At 14,003 feet, it has commanding vistas of the nearby Three Apostles formation, three dramatic 13,000-foot peaks that make for excellent views and stunning photographs. Because it is farther away from any cities of size, it will also be less travelled than Bierstadt or Quandary. The route is just under seven miles from the four-wheel-drive trailhead, and just over 10 from the two-wheel-drive trailhead.

Route info

FIRST MOUNTAIN, BACKPACKING ADVENTURE

There are a lot of choices all throughout the Rockies, but my pick here is in the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. Head into Red River, and then to the Middle Fork Trail parking lot for a trek up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico at 13,159 feet.

Summit view from Wheeler Peak.

Summit view from Wheeler Peak.

The trail takes you five miles into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. At Lost Lake, there are a number of dispersed, primitive campsites. This is not the most heavily traveled route up the mountain – that is on the other side of the mountain near Taos. What you’ll get are great campsites, alpine scenery and plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing (I had bighorn sheep walking through my campsite when I was last there). Get up the next morning and hike the remaining three miles to Wheeler Peak’s summit.

If you’re going to break into high country backpacking, I can’t think of many other places that will top it.

Route info

FIRST SNOW CLIMB

Late spring still means there’s going to be now on the mountains, which a lot of hikers seek to avoid. But if you’re looking to try your hand at traversing and ascending snowy slopes, a good starter route is the Angel of Shavano Couloir on Mount Shavano.

Near the top of Mount Shavano.

Near the top of Mount Shavano.

Mount Shavano is near Salida and Poncha Springs, and the southernmost of the massive Sawatch 14ers. It’s a hike all the way, but below the saddle between Shavano and a neighboring peak is a gully that fills with snow during the colder months. That’s the Angel of Shavano Couloir.

If you’re itching to learn skills using an ice axe and crampons, this is one of the better places to start. The Angel melts out fast in the spring, but if you hit it at the right time, the couloir links up to snow fields on Shavano’s summit cone that will take you all the way to the top. Learn how to use these pieces of gear, and if possible, go with someone who has done a snow climb before. Mount Shavano is a good introduction to these types of skills.

Route info

FIRST MOUNTAIN TO KICK IT UP A NOTCH

When you’ve got to the point where you’re ready to graduate from the walk-up peaks and do a little climbing, some interesting options come to mind. My pick means taking a bit of a drive to southwestern Colorado, but it will be worth the trip. Few peaks have the beauty and challenge in combination with accessibility than Wetterhorn Peak.

Wetterhorn Peak.

Wetterhorn Peak.

Two-wheel-drive access to the Matterhorn Creek trailhead will get you to great campsites, and the route to the top is a little over seven miles. It’s all hiking until you get just under a formation called the Prow, and that’s where the climbing begins. Also called “scrambling,” a Class 3 route (Classes 1 and 2 are hiking only, with varying degrees of difficulty; Class 4 is more difficult unroped climbing, and Class 5 is technical climbing using ropes) will involve using your hands and feet to ascend. It is unroped climbing, but the rock is solid and getting to the top is fun.

The catch: The top section of Wetterhorn is pretty airy and if you’re intimidated by heights, this could be a challenge. But the best way to overcome those fears and push yourself to new levels is to tackle them head-on. Wetterhorn is a good peak to do just that.

Route info

So there’s a list you can check out and use to make your spring and summer plans. My guess is that after you do one of these peaks, you’ll want to do more.

Bob Doucette

Turkey Mountain update: Simon Group takes a standing eight-count, delays presenting updated plans

A more detailed plan of Simon Group's plan for an outlet mall at Turkey Mountain. Note just one entry and exit on a two lane road (traffic nightmares), and at the bottom of the map, you'll see that the site butts right up to a ravine. No thanks.

A more detailed plan of Simon Group’s plan for an outlet mall at Turkey Mountain. Note just one entry and exit on a two lane road (traffic nightmares), and at the bottom of the map, you’ll see that the site butts right up to a ravine. No thanks.

If you’ve ever followed the boxing, you know what it looks like when a confident fighter meets a buzz saw. Back in the day, that was Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas. Everyone assumed the champ would dispatch poor Buster in three rounds or less, but we all know that didn’t happen. Iron Mike knew what he had going for him. He just didn’t properly see what was coming at him on that night.

Surprise!

Surprise!

Last month, the Simon Group showed up en masse to a Tulsa Planning Commission meeting and told those who were there a couple of important things concerning the outlet mall they plan to build on the west side of Turkey Mountain. First, they said they’d built more than 80 retail developments around the world, and that we should trust them. And second, they told us to just look at what they’d already done here in Tulsa.

OK, I’ll bite. They told us to trust them. Trust, as I see it, is something that comes with concrete plans and verifiable facts. What we’ve received thus far is a plan that is a little vague on important details, most important of which is how this mall, which would overlook the Westside YMCA kids camp, would affect that camp and the rest of the woodlands in terms of drainage, litter and light pollution. Many of us have no doubt the impact would be negative, and we have yet to see anything concrete that would ease those concerns.

It also doesn’t seem like Simon has taken the traffic issues as seriously as the rest of us do, especially the people who live along 61st Street and Elwood Avenue, which is right next to where Simon’s mall would be built. Their plan calls for using a tax breaks to widen the 61st Street bridge over U.S. 75 and a little bit of the road from the bridge to just east of the development. But anyone in the know would tell you that traffic along all of 61st Street and Elwood Avenue, that hilly, curving two-lane ribbon of asphalt, would increase dramatically. The road is simply not built to handle traffic from such a large, high-traffic development like an outlet mall. Traffic going in and out of the mall parking lot would also be congested, as there is just one planned entry/exit.

So just from an eyeball test, the mall is going to create a traffic nightmare. Trust is, they say. Sure. Trust, just don’t verify.

On to the next point: to look at what Simon has already done here in the Tulsa Market.

I’m aware of two projects. One was the Eastland Mall in east Tulsa. When it opened in the late 1980s, it was a pretty great place, but it didn’t last long. All accounts showed that Eastland began failing not long after it opened.

It’s still open, but not as a shopping mall. Instead, it’s a repurposed property with offices (now under different ownership), a few restaurants and a tiny bit of retail. So as far as this part of Simon’s track record in Tulsa, I’d call Eastland Mall a swing and a miss.

But then there’s Woodland Hills Mall. Now this has, indeed, become a serious retail success story in Tulsa, anchoring a retail area that has become the most powerful commercial engine we have in the city.

But also, just look at it. The traffic there is as heavy as anywhere else in the city. The number of street lights between Memorial Drive and U.S. 169 on 71st Street rivals what you might see in the block-by-block traffic control downtown. It’s a sea of big-box stores, chain restaurants, strip malls and other buildings orbiting the mass that is Woodland Hills Mall. Just the thing you want to see plopped in the middle of the city’s top urban green space, right?

Oh, and let’s just take a look at the pictures of what the property around Woodland Hills Mall looks like…

woodland1

woodland2

woodland3

Imagine that loveliness hovering over the Westside Y. I guess we could teach kids the value of hard work by assigning them to daily litter patrol, right?

Needless to say, the skeptics go well beyond me and other trail users. Greater Tulsa YMCA officials have expressed their concerns on two different television news interviews, and members of the Tulsa City Council have expressed very public and blunt doubts about the outlet mall plan’s viability at the location Simon proposes. Many people are also not wild about subsidizing a multi-billion-dollar corporation’s plans for the mall with public funds via a tax-increment finance district.

(It might also be noted that there has been no public opposition to competing plans in east Tulsa and Catoosa.)

A wood-lined section of Turkey Mountain's Ho Chi trail during the summer. The scores of miles of trails here offer some of the most challenging trail running and cycling trails you can find.

We’ve got plenty of places to shop in Tulsa, but not very much of this.

The argument that preserving the land as it is – wild, forested hills – has become the consensus preference for the people who actually live here as opposed to the suits at Simon’s Indianapolis corporate headquarters. People like the idea of maintaining a spot where they can hike, ride a bike, run or take their horse as opposed to yet another shopping center. We’ve got a lot of those already.

So Simon asked for a time out. Company representatives were to appear at a Planning Commission next week, but asked for a one-month continuance. Translation: After getting battered by bad press, turning public opinion and open doubts from the people who have final say on the mall’s approval, Simon is taking a standing eight-count in their corner of the ring. I guess these things happen when your plan isn’t very good to begin with, and that’s not a surprise, given how poor the site is for a mall, and the other weaknesses I’ve already noted.

That doesn’t mean this issue is decided. Far from it. But it does mean there is a growing chorus of opposition to a mall at Turkey Mountain, and that people in power are listening. That’s a trend I’d like to see continue.

There are things you can do. Here are some ideas:

If you haven’t written city council members and the mayor, do it. Encourage dialogue. Write respectful, concise and well thought-out letters and emails, but plainly state your case. And don’t just write your councilor. Write all of them. Get their contact information here.

If you live in District 2, or anywhere else in Tulsa, go to the public meeting Councilor Cue is hosting. Be there, bring your neighbors, and let your voice be heard. Turkey Mountain is important to all Tulsans and beyond, but it specifically affects her and her constituents. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. March 17 (this Tuesday) at the Marriott Tulsa Southern Hills, 1902 E. 71st Street.

If you haven’t signed the online petition, do so. It’s more than 7,600 signatures now. Numbers matter. Be part of that growing list. Go to the petition here.

Volunteer to be a part of the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition. Turkey Mountain and other vital outdoor green spaces in the area are the things this group is trying to protect and promote, and the group does good work. More great things are in the future, including continued advocacy for the greater Turkey Mountain area. Learn more about TUWC and how to join here.

Turkey Mountain is an asset as it is. Its existence has been noted as a serious draw for people inside and outside the city, and is a great tool to recruit residents and businesses who care about quality of life issues. Building an outlet mall there would only degrade it. So stand up and be heard. Folks are listening.

Bob Doucette

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