Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nikki Post: Wildfires Post Continued

I keep finding more and more information on how people can help the victims of the wildfires. Some of the updates I've posted in a previous blog entry about the tragedy, and now I'm going to start another one so people can find it more easily.

EDIT: Found this on Twitter. 100% of the proceeds of this tee-shirt will go to help victims.

My friend Lauren has her own dog-walking business and is currently looking for people to help donate or take in evacuated pets. Here's the info she posted to her business's Facebook page:

OK it's time for a call to arms Pooch People. Over 30,000 people have been evacuated due to the Waldo Canyon fire alone. Many of these people have pets. PLEASE contact Larimer County Humane Society, Boulder Valley Humane Society or Pike's Peak Humane Society and offer to foster a dog or cat. If you want to help but you're not sure how, call Dumb Friends League or check their websites for more info.

We are offering DISCOUNTED walks/visits to anyone who has fosters in the house. Please consider opening your homes.

Boulder Valley: 303-442-4030

Larimer County: 970-226-3647

Pike's Peak: 719-473-1741 extra 8723

Dumb Friends League: 303-751-5772

We will also be accepting donations of food (both human and animal) and sundries for those in the shelters. Just leave it in your house with a note that says donate.

Please share/retweet etc. The discounts are good for new clients as well. Hug your pets, hug your family and then do something to help.

Nikki Post: Colorado Wildfires

I usually try to keep this blog light-hearted and funny, full of silly pictures of my stuffed armadillo going on adventures, but today I want to break character for a minute and talk about a very serious subject.

Even though Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has said otherwise, Colorado is burning. This is no exaggeration. Pictures are popping up all over Google, national media outlets, local news organizations, and social media (especially Twitter). People are desperate to find ways to help the victims, whether it's to donate money, necessities, or even their homes to evacuees. I'll be posting links to these organizations at the bottom of this post. First though, I'd like to share with you some pictures of the various wildfires so everyone who isn't in Colorado can appreciate the desperation our citizens are in. Imagine that these are your homes, or the homes of your loved ones. Can you even fathom how terrifying this is for people who don't know if their homes have burned? Who don't know if their mementos, important documents, clothes, and even animals are safe? Who have nowhere to stay except maybe a high school gymnasium, a YMCA, or the shelter of a stranger's house? Again, please scroll all the way down to find ways to help Colorado's citizens.

EDIT:

This comment was posted on a Reddit forum conversation about the fires:

"I'm a firefighter. Sadly, I'm not there, I'm out for this season with an ankle injury and paperwork fuck-ups. But yes, the weather can and will take a fire and turn it into a monster in a mater of minutes. I saw it happen in Northern California in '08, I saw it happen in LA in '09, and I saw it happen in Northern Nevada in '10. Despite all logic to the contrary, fire is a ravenous creature that will devour anything and everything in it's path. If you are even remotely in an area that can burn, GET THE F*CK OUT NOW. I'm deadly serious, get you, your family, and what bits of precious you can't bear to part with, and leave. Right now, if that's possible. I have watched fire run across the ground at 40 mph, torching old-growth trees to kindling in a matter of seconds. Don't stay. Leave. A home can be rebuilt, a life cannot be remade.
If you have time, prep your house. Cover any and all openings, this means windows, doors, vents, eaves, crawl spaces, any hole you can find needs to be covered with plywood or some other dense, semi-flame resistant material. Pull EVERYTHING away from the sides of your house, from wood piles to that lawn mower you keep meaning to fix to that Rhododendron your wife planted to that empty (or God help you, full) tank of propane. Pull flammable stuff away from windows and doors if it's in the house. And when evac time comes, leave a note on your door with contact info, number of people in your household, and your destination.
I'm so sorry I'm not there to help. I feel like I've let you all down. All I can do is sit here at home, feeling useless, and pass on what info I can. Stay safe, my thoughts are with all of you."
 

Photo posted by @donmoen

In Colorado Springs. Fire is threatening Air Force Academy. Photo posted by @KevinOzebek.

Colorado Springs fire. Note the houses on fire in the background. Photo courtesy of Fox 31 News in Denver.

Photo courtesy of @scottseibold. From what I can tell, he lives in Colorado Springs.

I find this picture particularly upsetting. This is a picture of the High Park fire, one of the worst in the state right now. Photo courtesy of RV Vagabonds. Read their blog, especially about how the Colorado Wolf Sanctuary has had to be evacuated because of the flames.

Map of all the wildfires currently burning in Colorado, as of June 23rd. Several more have cropped up in the past few days. Photo courtesy of Wildfire Today.


Citizens of High Park wait at a Red Cross station to see if they can return to their homes. Look at how many people have been displaced by just ONE fire.

Rocky Mountain Health Care services are in desperate need of toiletries, specifically towels, shampoo, soap, and food.

The Red Cross is collecting supplies and monetary donations. The link takes you to the local Colorado branches of the organization. I think almost all of them need donations. You can also donate $10 per text message by messaging REDCROSS to 90999.

SO MANY animals (wild and domestic) have been displaced by the fires. Here's two organizations that especially need your help:
If you live in Colorado and can help people displaced and homeless by the fires near Fort Collins, please visit this website: http://cohighparkfirehousing.org.

Here are three links to more organizations that need your help and donations:
  • HelpColoradoNow.org has a comprehensive list of ways to donate time, money, and supplies.
  • This article on The Denver Channel also has several other animal shelters, firefighter organizations, and donation centers that you can contact.
  • The Denver Post has a really great list of resources about the wildfires.
Please share this entry. I don't care about "spreading the word about the blog." I just want to help people and make sure that others know how to help people too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

West Chicago Creek Campground, or Pup in the Wild

[Nikki note: I've added some artistic photos from this trip to the Facebook Fan Page. Check them out!]

You may remember from the filler blog post I made a week or so ago that Nikki, Steve, Eva, and I joined some friends for a camping trip in the mountains. On the suggestion of our friend Mandy, we joined her and two friends, Beth and Dave, at the West Chicago Creek Campgrounds, near Idaho Springs. We arrived on Saturday, and after noshing and chatting a bit, Steve set up our tent.


He also blew up the queen-sized air mattress with nothing but his enormous lungs and determination.


I, however, didn't help set up the tent. Journalistic armadillos such as myself are not meant for manual labor.

Chillin' like a villain in my balla shades [Nikki note: These are actually MY sunglasses; Claire recently broke them. She's no longer allowed to borrow my things.]

Eva, meanwhile, took some time to get used to her new surroundings, mainly by sniffing things, whimpering, getting her leash caught on tree branches and rocks, and rolling around in the dirt.


We decided to spend some time taking a hike and checking out the woods around the campsite. The trails weren't always easy to go through, as there had been a big storm a few days before, so a lot of trees had fallen down or lost their branches. Some of the cabins in the area had lost power because of downed lines! I didn't have to worry about any of that though, as I rode in style (as usual).


Eva enjoyed the hike, although since Steve is trying to teach her not to pull on the leash, it was slow going, since they had to stop every few minutes so Steve could tell her "no pulling." (She's starting obedience classes soon.)



This is the view we happened upon during our hike. How gorgeous, even for a spot that's mostly rocks!


Nikki took this picture for her mom, who has decorated her bathroom with pictures of outhouses.

When we got back to the campsite, everyone started getting things ready for dinner. Eva, however, started doing something strange. She started pushing dirt into her food dish with her nose. We couldn't figure out WHY she was doing this; why would a dog want to eat dirty food? Steve looked it up later and read that dogs bury their food for later when they're in the wild. Instinct is a strong habit to break. Then Eva started digging a hole near the chair where Nikki was sitting. We weren't sure why she was doing that either.

Dogs are so weird.

It turns out, she was digging a hole to lay down in, I guess because the sleeping bag/blanket Mandy donated to Eva wasn't good enough. Again...dogs are weird. She's SUPER CUTE though, so that kinda makes up for her weirdness.

If you don't instinctively saw "Awwww!" then you're a monster.

We had hotdogs and cheeseburgers on the menu, as they're the easiest food to cook over an open fire. (This was before a complete fire ban was put into effect due to the high number of wildfires in Colorado this year.) While Dave cooked me a hotdog, I waited patiently, safely away from the fire, as I'm highly flammable.


Eva also wanted a hotdog, specifically Dave's hotdog, but Dave was NOT in a sharing mood (valid).

"Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but GIVE ME YOUR HOTDOG."

Before we had gotten to the campsite, someone in the group had the "brilliant" idea to soak berries in cheap vodka so they could get drunk off of fruit. Now, I'm usually in favor of booze-soaked fruit, especially if that fruit is in a giant pitcher of sangria, but vodka and I aren't friends. 


Bask in its booze-soaked glory.

Steve, on the other hand, is a big fan of vodka in its many forms, so he was more eager than I to try the experiment. Mandy was hesitant at first, and her fears were justified. Both she and Nikki ended up spitting the fruit out into the grass, as the vodka had soaked so deeply into the cells of the strawberries and bananas that their DNA was probably permanently changed.


As people picked through the fruit (or avoided it entirely), we played Cards Against Humanity, a card game like Apples to Apples, but for people with really twisted senses of humor. Dave was incredibly good at the game; Nikki was not. [Nikki Note: I'm terribly funny, but I guess others just don't get my sophisticated "humour."] As day turned to night, we built up the fire and put a sweater on Eva so she wouldn't get cold. (She has short hair and is still really skinny.)

Seriously! How can you look at this dog and NOT fall in love?!

We turned in around ten or eleven, I think, all the while listening to the church youth group/volleyball team play acoustic guitar and play flashlight tag or something until the wee hours of the morning. Nikki wanted to yell at them from the tent, but Steve said that'd be too rude. I had set up the sleeping bag Mandy had donated for Eva on the side of the air mattress, but she was having none of that. She curled up horizontally on the mattress, right between Nikki and Steve. Nikki and I got VERY little sleep that night because we kept almost falling off the mattress! Here, I drew a picture for y'all about how we looked sleeping.

Note Nikki's angry face in this diagram. Also, it's color-coded! :D

The next morning, Nikki made all of us pancakes and bacon. (Beth didn't eat bacon because she's allergic.) They were SO tasty. She also went to drink a bottle of water and found it woefully full of cheap, berry-flavored vodka. Nothing wakes you up like surprise liquor!

After we finished packing up camp, I made all of us sit for a group picture. Nikki's tripod was missing the piece that connects the camera to the top of the tripod, so she and Beth took turns being the photographer.

Left to Right - Top Row: Dave, Eva (sorta), Steve; Bottom Row: Mandy, me, Beth

Us again, minus Beth, plus Nikki, and now you can actually see Eva better.

We had a fantastic drive, and Eva really enjoyed bumping along down the windy dirt road from the campsite back to the highway. Even though there's a lot of wildfires this year due to droughts and a really dry winter, there are still a lot of safe places to camp, so we'll (hopefully!) go on more adventures as the summer progresses.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nikki Post: Eva's Field Trip

Steve and I took Eva to Cherry Creek State Park on Father's Day evening to sniff around and see the beach. I thought she might get a kick out of playing in the water and walking along the trails. The pointer in her LOVES smelling things; I should have renamed her "Toucan Sam"! ("Just follow your nose!") While she was a little hesitant about playing in the water, I eventually got her to splash around in it by standing up to my calves in the (thankfully warm) water. She kept trying to drink the water though! Hopefully it'll be ok. :p


Here are some cute pictures of her adventures at the park. Enjoy!

Pulling "Daddy" towards the park

So excited! So many things to see and smell!

We're finally on the beach!!! Look! There's people! Let's be friends!

I sure do love getting my paws dirty! (Shadow is Steve's)

This sure is a BIG bath!

I'm done with the beach. Let's go exploring! I bet there's TONS of little animals I can chase!

BONUS VIDEO!!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Hooray for Friends!

By now, my good friend Jared has left for destinations south (Colorado Springs and Santa Fe, NM). It was a bittersweet parting for the both of us. Bitter because we had just officially "met" off the internet, but "sweet" because it was weird waking up and going to the kitchen for my morning cereal and seeing him curled up in his sleeping bag on my couch. Hard to watch early-morning cartoons when someone's trying to nap.

Last night, Jared, Steve, Nikki, and our friend Mandy went to Choppers Sports Grill, where Nikki and Steve are regulars. (Note that the bar rocks the Ravens logo on their homepage!) While the guys watched the Orioles game and the NBA play-offs (SNOOZE), Mandy and Nikki played skeeball and tried to get the ball in the little 100-point circle. (They weren't successful.) One of the managers came over and recommended that we go duckpin bowling at this bar in nearby Cherry Creek. Nikki flipped out; duckpin bowling is SUCH a Baltimore sport (and, unfortunately, a dying one). Having a place to play it in Denver seemed like great fun and a taste of home. So we got in the car and headed over to the Milwaukee Street Tavern. They have two bowling alleys (miniaturized, of course) in the back of the bar. It's $4/person per game, and you don't need fancy shoes or anything. We were set to have a great time!

It turns out, Mandy lettered in bowling in high school, so she was REALLY good. And Steve's REALLY good at bowling too, so it was throw-down between the two of them. Since the ball weighs more than I do and is roughly 1/3 my size, I watched on the sidelines. Nikki's pretty terrible, but so is Jared; they ended up tying with 94 points. Steve beat Mandy by something like two points. It was ridiculous.


My picture of them didn't turn out that great because the flash was being weird, so I decided to play around with filters and make this a REALLY creepy-looking photo!

When we got home again, Jared and I hung out with Nikki, watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I wanted to get some pics of us before he left today, so we snapped some "MySpace pics" with our cell phone cameras. (Hooray for technology!) They're not that good, but I like them anyway.

Tres amigos!

Besties!!

Don't forget to check out the post I wrote a couple of days ago to find links to all of Jared's blogs, include his travel blog, which features some pictures from his stay in Denver.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Random Post

Nikki still needs to edit the pictures from our camping trip last weekend for me to post up here. She ended up taking more fancy-pants pictures that she'll post to her Facebook fan page than she took of pictures of me, but that's ok. At least she took pictures. :p In the meantime, I thought I'd share some pics and a video and a random armadillo fact I've got laying around. So this is a filler entry, but hopefully it's at least a little interesting.

First up, my interesting armadillo fact, brought to you by @FunFactFriday and @drew_eckman on Twitter.
Armadillos, opossums, Nolins, and sloths
spend about 80% of their lives sleeping.
Here's my fun fact: I have no idea what a Nolin is, nor could I find anything about them by Google searching.

The next two parts of this entry come from our friend Jared M. Gordon, who not only posts horror stories about people's bad dates, AND writes about random topics, AND keeps a travel blog too (why he'd bother writing one without an armadillo is beyond me), but is also a decent guy who enjoys Mexican food and witty banter. (PS: Jared, if you don't link more prominently to this blog in at least one of your many social networking sites, I'll send a cousin of mine after you; he has leprosy. Hard to make movies when your nose is falling off!!)

Jared is on his yearly cross-country road trip, and he stopped by Denver to say hi and crash on our couch. So far, he's amazed at how nice everyone in Denver is. Nikki has a theory that the air in Colorado is so thin that no one can maintain rage for very long. However, she proves that theory wrong every time she gets cut off in traffic. :p

Today, he's visiting the Denver Zoo and sent Nikki this video of a monkey (it could be an ape; hard to tell) swinging from a trapeze line at the zoo:

video

Jared also sent her this picture of him being besties with some hippos:


Finally, we have a new addition to our family, a new permanent resident in our household. Her name is Eva, and she's a spastic three-year-old pointer-mutt mix. Nikki & Steve had spent about a month looking for dogs on Petfinder.com (Nikki can now tell you the breed of any dog she sees) and visiting the Dumb Friends League, looking for the perfect pooch to bring home. They weren't even going to visit with Eva, as her former family had given her up for being "too hyper," but the volunteer at the check-in counter said, "One person's hyper is another person's normal," so they met Eva, fell in love, and brought her home.

Eva isn't "hyper" so much as she's paranoid that we'll stop loving her at some point. She's SUPER eager to please and LOVES having her belly rubbed. She knows very well who the "alpha dogs" are in the house and just wants to be around us all the time. (Tasha, as you can imagine, is horrified, although she's not mad at Nikki and Steve like she was when we had Stella the cat.) Eva's family neglected her when they had her, and probably just tied her up in the yard and left her there. We think this is why Eva's such a spazz. (Nikki and Steve are signing her up for obedience training classes today.)

I suggested that we take Eva camping with us last weekend, as it'd be nice for her to get out of the apartment and have new places to sniff and explore. Here are a few pics from that adventure.

On the way up the mountain. She was remarkably calm in the car.

On the way down the mountain. She loved sticking her head out the window!

That's all for now, folks! Hopefully I'll get to update the blog soon. :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dinosaur Ridge

Sorry there's no witty title for this blog entry, but I think the awesomeness of Dinosaur Ridge will hold its own, no special title needed.

As you may recall, Nikki and I had driven away from Commerce City and zig-zagged down the mountain towards wherever the road took us. (There were so many bikers going up and down the mountain. I kept worrying about their safety! What if they got run over?!) Eventually, Nikki realized that rather than take us to Nederland, a tiny town in the mountains and her intended destination, the road was taking us back towards the city into Golden, Colorado. We had resigned ourselves to ending our adventure a little earlier than we had intended, when Nikki saw a sign for Dinosaur Ridge and pulled the quickest, most badass u-turn I've seen outside of a movie. As we pulled into the parking lot, I KNEW this was going to be a great time. Everywhere you looked, there were giant dinosaurs!


Here's a little bit about the location.

The first dino friend I made was the stegosaurus. He's one of the most easily recognizable dinosaurs because of his spiky tail and the spade-shaped spikes on his back. And look at his beak! Subtle proof that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

He wasn't very pleased that I was covering up his eyes for this photo!

About that "NO CLIMBING" sign...heh.
 Look how little he is compared to other dinosaurs! (More on the apatosaurus later)

After Nikki noticed that I wasn't allowed to climb on the dino statues, she wouldn't let me get on the next dinosaur, the iguanodon. (Plus, there was a family taking pictures next to the statue, and she didn't want to ruin their vacation album.)

He has a beak-like mouth too!

Wouldn't "Iguanodon" be a rockin' metal band name?!

Nikki signed us up for a guided tour of the fossil locations, but we had some time to kill, so we took some silly pictures with some...creative-looking stegosaurs near the visitors center.

I think this stegosaurus probably followed the Grateful Dead around the country on tour back in the day.

God bless America!!

After we finished goofing around, we checked out a few more signs near the visitors center to learn more about Dinosaur Ridge and "the Dinosaur Freeway."


"The Dinosaur Freeway" would be a great classic rock band name.

There's our friend the iguanodon again!

Our tour guide, TJ, is an actual paleontologist (fossil scientist) and TOTAL HEARTTHROB. And super smart, etc. He was really knowledgeable and funny and very patient with the cranky toddlers on our bus. First stop: a set of fossils that had been cut in half!

Not shown: his beautiful eyes.

The absolutely coolest, most bizarre thing about Dinosaur Ridge specifically and Colorado in general is that it used to be UNDERWATER. Well, okay, there were shallow seas and beaches, which is much different than "Colorado used to be at the bottom of an ocean," but it's still super-cool. They can tell that Colorado used to be underwater because scientists (and normal people!) have found ancient sea urchin fossils and water ripples in rocks.
The fossils seen in the picture above and the one below aren't from the same dinosaur...or even the same KIND of dinosaur! These dinos died, and their bones were washed away down river where they eventually settled. During construction on the road that runs along Dinosaur Ridge, construction workers cut this rock in half and discovered these fossils within.

Pretty sure the big one my nose is touching (yeah, I'm touching a fossil; jealous?!) is a stegosaurus leg bone. The curvy one above me is a rib bone, but I can't remember from which dinosaur. (Sorry)

Fun fact: The official state fossil of Colorado is the Stegosaurus stenops. Yes, there are such things as state fossils, and T. "Yeah I'm Sexy AND Smart" J. knew the state fossils of all of his tour group's states. Maryland's state fossil is a snail shell. (Not nearly as cool as a stegosaurus.)

Our next stop on the tour was an overhanging ridge of rocks that, at first glance, didn't seem that interesting. A bunch of orangey, wavy rocks? Pfft. Big deal. Then we learned that we were actually looking at a side view of brontosaurus footprints!


We learned that the long-neck dinosaurs known as "brontosauruses" are actually scientifically known as "apatosauruses"! TJ explained to us that different paleontologists back in the day discovered two different sets of fossils, one big with a long neck, and one small with a long neck, and named them different things. They didn't realize that they had discovered an adult and child apatosaurus until later. He also hypothesized that because The Flintstones used the term "brontosaurus" on their show, people came to know that term much better.

The red circle encloses a mama apatosaurus's footprint.

Our final stop on the tour was a part of the ridge COVERED in dinosaur footprints!


This was a part of the "Dinosaur Freeway" that we learned about above. Now, this part of the freeway was angled sharply up, but the dinos back in the day weren't climbing uphill. This land was flat, but over thousands of years, the mountains pushed these prints up onto the side of a hill. (Yes, I understand that this isn't the scientific explanation of how this happened, but cut me some slack! I'm just an armadillo! If you want to learn real science about plate tectonics and how the Rockies were formed, go to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science or visit Dinosaur Ridge!)

Probably a much more coherent explanation of these prints than I've given.


TJ climbed up the hill (which you can do, but only to a certain point so the prints aren't ALL mangled by little kids running up and down them) and pointed out some interesting prints (including one of an ancient crocodile that I couldn't get a good picture of) and telling us how these prints came to be here. The prints are from several different kinds of dinosaurs of all different ages. The kids in our tour group had a lot of fun comparing the sizes of the dinos' feet to theirs.

...I did too!


I asked TJ what kind of dinosaur made a print this big and deep, and he told me that it used to be a print like the one in the picture above, but over 50 years ago, Dinosaur Ridge wasn't as well-guarded as it is today, and someone chipped it out and STOLE IT!! Lemme repeat that because it bears repeating: SOMEONE STOLE A DINOSAUR FOOTPRINT!! He said that five decades later, someone discovered that, for all that time, the fossilized footprint had been used as a doorstop for a dorm hall at Colorado State University. A paleontology (I think) student noticed what it was, and after a few years of debating it (!), finally returned the footprint to Dinosaur Ridge. I think they donated it to a museum or something. College kids...OY.

We were heading back to the visitors' center in the "Fordasaurus," as TJ had nicknamed the shuttle bus he was driving us all around in, when he asked if there were any other questions. Nikki, who was just as infatuated with him as I was (Nikki note: I am an engaged woman and am only infatuated with Steve, my fiance.), asked TJ if HE had ever discovered anything, as he was a paleontologist. He said that he had and asked if we wanted to see his discovery. Of course we did, so he pulled over and had us all get out. I was very excited to see what awesome fossil he had found.

A rock?

TJ said that he and a friend had been walking around, turning over rocks, when he made an exciting discovery: a footprint! He said that technically he wasn't supposed to be turning over rocks, so he told his bosses that he found it that way. (If his bosses read this, please don't be mad at him!) We were having a hard time seeing the footprint because it just looked like bumps on a rock, so he pointed it out for us a little better.


Instead of the footprint being sunken into the rock like the ones on the hill, this one was raised up. (See the inside of the circle.) He was so proud of his discovery! It was really dreamy. :)

Nikki and I left that day swearing that we'd return, as we hadn't seen even half of everything there was to see. We also wanted to bring Steve, who would totally love this place. As we drove off towards home, Nikki asked me if I had had a good weekend, and I said yes. I hope she and I get to have another "mecation" soon!