Vote for Open Lands – Bozeman!

I first came to Gallatin County as an 18-year-old in 2004 to attend Montana State University. In many ways, Gallatin Valley as it exists today would be unrecognizable to me then. Yes, it is more prosperous, more diverse, and offers more opportunities. It’s still beautiful—but less now than it was: consider, if you will, the sprawl between Bozeman and Four Corners, the trophy homes sprouting along the foothills of the Bridgers, that unsightly brown haze on cold winter days along the western horizon—all a function of that steady conversion of the agricultural lands that surround our communities in Gallatin County into pavement, condos, and privacy fences.

I suspect many here in Gallatin County have that place that’s been lost to development. For me, it’s the poignant memory of standing on top of Peets Hill, that first fall in 2004, with the M and the Bridgers rising to the North, and a nothing to the east but a rolling expanse of golden wheat fields all the way to Chestnut Mountain.

Peets Hill View, North to the M. October, 2004.

I took this photo in the fall of 2004. This view and this landscape has left an indelible imprint upon me. I was, at the time, few months into my first time away from home, aquatinting myself with a new place, a new landscape, and falling in love with Bozeman for the first time. Callow, impressionable, and early in love.

The place where I stood to take this photo is now a subdivision.

Our open lands complement our big sky, but these are disappearing ever faster. In the 14 years since I moved here in 2004, Gallatin County’s population has grown by 25,000 people. Assuming a 2.75% growth rate, Gallatin County’s population will grow by 50,000 people more in the next 15 years.

It’s a privilege to live here, in a place of inspiring beauty, and that’s true whether you’ve lived in Gallatin County for a week or generations. How can we maintain what we value in our home, here, while keeping the door open to the new arrivals who share our appreciation and admiration of this place?

Open space conservation is part of the solution. While the view from Peets hill is somewhat obscured, thanks to the first two open space bonds and the tireless efforts of GVLT and other organizations, much of the land extending from Chestnut Mountain to the M is still undeveloped and will remain undeveloped. These lands are just a small portion of the total 50,000 acres that have been protected by the open space program which has lately run out of funding.

(Above: a map of Gallatin County lands with conservation easements. Red parcels are protected based on the proceeds of previous Gallatin County Open Space bond funding.)

If this resonates with you (and if you live in Gallatin County), you can help. This June, go to the polls (with every friend, family member, and distant aquaintance who you can browbeat into going the polls with you) and vote to support this mill levy to carry on this work, to establish new trails and recreational access, and to maintain what’s already been built, and to preserve open space.

I’ll leave you with this. While Peets Hill isn’t what it used to be (though it’s still pretty great, mind you!), I have a new favorite space.

Some prime open space: David and Jeff running on the Triple Tree Trail, with the Schaplow farm beyond.

This place is the portion of the Triple Tree trail that connects to the trailhead on Sourdough Road. Hiking, running, or biking this trail, you climb to the top of a low hill, Bozeman below you to the north, and to the south there’s three hundred acres of agricultural land, backing up to the foothills and the forest. On any given day, I’ve seen verdant alfalfa grass, golden round bales of hay, deer, and elk roaming in the fields.

Round Bales on the Schaplow Easement. If you look closely, you'll see deer on the horizon.

That land exists today as farmland due to conservation finance facilitated by GVLT and public funding for open space conservation, that made it possible for the Schaplow family to retire from farming the land themselves without selling the land for development. I love that view, agricultural land backing up to the mountains.

Golden summer light on the Schaplow Easement

I’m grateful that it exists for me and future generations of Gallatin County Residents. And so, in honor of this place and those lands, I humbly ask that you support this measure on June’s ballot, and vote to renew and continue funding for this essential work.

If you’re excited to support this effort, join the campaign kick-off party on March 13th at 406 Brewing. Or, learn more about the Open Space Mill Levy measure here.

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2017 Year in Review

For liberals and progressives, 2017 showed itself to be an unmitigated shit of a year. The political attacks on public lands, climate change, rational order, and human decency were relentless and heartbreakingly effective. While a shit year for the world, to the extent that I succeeded in separating myself from the political ideas and institutions I hold dear, 2017 actually turned up to be pretty darn good.

High level timeline:

  • Job offer in hand, I set off to spend January – March in the Rockies, visiting friends while following the winter storm pattern and skimo circuit.
  • In April, I headed to the desert to spend some quality time on the ground in Bears Ears National Monument, with a brief interruption to run the Boston Marathon with my Dad.
  • In May I moved to Bozeman, and started work for High Street. Even while counting myself among the working rank-and-file, I still managed many fun and memorable adventures and trips with friends in the great out-of-doors.

2017 Highlights, in generally random order:

Annual Ouray Climbing Trip with Anne, Abram, Nick, Kassia, Sagar, Sarah, and Camilo, where it snowed so much we skipped climbing the last day to build booters in the backyard.

Abram, getting his steep ice on

So much skiing goodness, including:

…a wonderful weekend in Monarch with Sagar, Sarah, Cole, Amara, Brad, Lauren, TJ, and Candice.

…a bunch of great Loveland resort days, with copious powder and grilled goodness (including Abram’s epic mid-mountain Pot de crème with maple syrup and black sea salt)

Erik, making the most of Loveland powder

and a fun visit from Justin, who flew out from Pittsburgh over his spring break


  • The Santa Fe Fireball Rando (in which I finished before famed ultrarunner Rob Krar, though only because he snapped a ski in two during the middle of the race and basically did the race twice to get another set of of skis)
  • The Breckenridge Five Peaks race with Arthur, in which we lost the race but I won the post-race raffle (in case anyone is wondering: the Scarpa Alien RS boots kick ass)
  • The Audi Power of Four (far and away the rowdiest terrain I’ve ski in a skimo race, and in which you link up and ski all four Aspen resorts) with Brett
  • The Grand Traverse (hadn’t planned on it, but ended up joining as a last-minute substitution for a friend of a friend)
  • and … The Shedhorn at Big Sky Resort, where I claimed my first podium finish (third place, but hey, the podium just the same!). What an exhilarating way to finish the season!

That's me! Green #27

Sunrise during the Grand Traverse with Quinn. There's nothing quite like sunrise 30 miles into a race!

In April, I had the deep privilege of getting to run the Boston Marathon with Dad.

In April, I spent a month in Bears Ears National Monument, getting to know the landscape, and talking to the locals, trying to understand the deep controversy. I left with a deep appreciation for this spectacular landscape and the region’s long human history, and with a certain degree of confusion about the politics of federal land conservation foisted upon an unwilling populace of local residents. As heartbreaking as it was to see the monument substantially eviscerated by the Trump administration, I’m still grateful for the 200,000-some acres that remain protected, and hopeful for the restoration of the monument’s proper 1.35m acre boundaries.

Home, sweet home

And then… there was the eclipse. Just going to say … it far exceeded expectations. And, getting to climb alpine rock and spend quality time in the Wind Rivers with many of my most favorite people at the same time? Priceless.

It was hot as hell in Bozeman in July, so Noah and I went to find snow and ice on Mount Baker. The combination of a technical climb with a ski descent is real winner.

Possibly most significantly, I moved to this place:

This is Tippet on the evening of summer solstice. Tippet is David's dog. Sometimes, when David is away traveling for work, I teach Tippet new tricks.

I dunno about marriage, but I will say that I was lucky enough to get to attend and/or be a part of some really wonderful weddings and celebrations this summer.

Carter, between a rock and hard place, mid-bachelor party

[Not pictured: Ambrose & Jill’s super fun and beautiful wedding, where I stupidly brought a film camera.]

Also not pictured, but deeply enriching and appreciated: the many weekends and trips spent with friends and family in Connecticut, Wyoming, Colorado, New York, and Pittsburgh.

I picked up a stupid running injury at the beginning of summer, so I rode my mountain bike. A lot!

Out of frame: Kayla, who introduced me to riding to Emerald Lake.

Cody, crushing some late-season trails near Butte, MT

Fun fact! This is a selfie! Riding in my secret stash in the Northern Gallatins.

Not pictured: the time when I tried (and failed) to ride my bike from my garage to Yellowstone National Park, only to find, 30 miles out, that my intended trail was substantially unridable for the next 70 miles.

This sillyness:

And this silliness:

I started working for High Street in May. Gosh, it’s a delight—working for people I look up to, doing work that I think matters, and enjoying the work itself. Oh, and making enough along the way to pay for new skis, guilt free!

My amazing (and, ladies, handsome!) brother turned 40 in May. I had the privilege and delight to celebrate with him!

In a fun development in what I hope will become a repeatable form of local/regional involvement, this fall I was able to support two local city commission candidates with some voter propensity modeling data science-ness. They won, and Bozeman won. (As they would have without me, but perhaps I contributed in some small way to building a stronger mandate.) (Want to see something interesting? Here’s a voter timeline of 100 randomly sampled Gallatin County voters. I think this timeline helps show why the pollsters and pundits got the Nov. 2016 election so wrong.)

In November, I extended a work trip to DC into a weekend visit to Pittsburgh, and very much enjoyed getting to catch up with Eric, Shrawan, Abdullah, Gokul (thanks again for your generous hospital, gentlemen!), and, of course, Frick Park. This short trip made my liver hurt, but my heart full.

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. It was especially enjoyed this year for having both my brother and sister at the family gathering.

1) Dispense whipped cream onto hand. 2) Pop whipped cream into air. 3) Catch with open mouth!

And, finally, I skied a lot, including from my front door. Is Montana the best? … Ssh! Don’t tell anyone, but Montana is the best.

Lindsay, Bridger Bowl Pre-Season

David, Hourglass Couloir

Adopted by the Booth Crew on Christmas, I finally got exactly what I’ve always wanted for Christmas: a foot of fresh powder and a whole day to ski it!

In keeping with annual tradition, I was fortunate enough to get to end 2017 in the fellowship of many of the smartest, most accomplished, most sincere, and silly/fun best people I know. Quads Cabin Trip 17/18!

Take that, 2017! Shit year that you were, I’m going to say that, with the help of friends, family, employer, Old Man Winter, and the universe, 2017 was a year rich with friendship, mountains, adventure, personal challenge, and really beautiful places.

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Farewell, Facebook

As a general life philosophy, I like to travel light. For years, my rule has been, if I can’t easily fit it in my car (with all of the other things in life I own) I probably don’t want it.

I’ve made an exception for digital items—in fact, I’ve been a digital packrat, hoarding most of the digital digital detritus (8th grade English papers, anyone?) I’ve accumulated over the years. These digital accumulations I’ve generally considered to be weightless.

I’ve applied the same philosophy to social media–but as my phone buzzes ever more frequently these days with more and more alerts and “push notifications” I’m increasingly reaching the conclusion that digital technology brings me little joy or enrichment, while consuming an inordinate amount of my time.

So, as part of my spring cleaning for 2018, I’m turning off anything that doesn’t pass the “enrichment and joy” test. That started yesterday with Facebook. I haven’t actively used Facebook in years, and I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with it on each subsequent visit. Going on to Facebook, lately, has started to feel like shopping at Walmart. I’ll spare you the diatribe, but just point out that:

  • compared to my friends who never chose to join Facebook, my life is no more rich, full, or connected than theirs; and,
  • Facebook has long since ceased to bring me any joy.

So, I’m off! Farewell, Facebook! But not, “farewell, friends!” You have my phone number, email address, and address—none of which will change any time soon. I look forward to connecting more meaningfully in the near future.

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Gallatin Custer Forest Plan – Comment Today!

Reposting from something I shared with a local Bozeman listserv:

The local unit of the Forest Service has released its draft forest plan which will guide the administration and development of forests surrounding Bozeman, Big Sky, and Livingston for the next 10 – 15 years. The Forest Service is seeking comments from the public on this document as it begins developing planning scenarios. If you care about how our nearby forests are managed, I’d encourage you take a few minutes to share your opinion with the Forest Service.

The Proposed Revised Forest Plan document is available here:

If you have an opinion regarding the portion of our nearby forests designated as “primitive” (no motorized/mechanized travel), or for motorized versus non-motorized use, this is your “speak now or hold your peace for the next 15 years” moment.

Gallatin Valley’s population will increase by at least 50% between now and the next iteration of the forest plan. It’s important that this plan provide sound guidance for managing our forests as demand for recreational use increases (50%+ increase) commensurate with our population growth while preserving our forests and recreational opportunities for future generations.

The plan section describing the Forest Service’s “Recreational Opportunities Spectrum” for motorized and non-motorized uses across the whole of both Custer and Gallatin National Forests is on page 75. The motorized/non-motorized areas for the Bridgers, Bangtails, and Crazies are described on page 134, and for the Madison, Henrys Lake, and Gallatin areas on page 139.

The most useful comments will be those which can be directly incorporated into a planning scenario. E.g.:

  • “Create a scenario in which at least 66% of forest acreage in the Bridger/bangtail and Crazy Mountains Geographic Area is designated for non-motorized use.”
  • “Create a scenario in which the full extent of the Madison, Henrys Lake and Gallatin Mountains Geographic Area currently designated as Wilderness Study Area is Recommended Wilderness.”

Comments may be submitted here:

You can read more about the overall forest planning process here:

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Bozeman / Gallatin Valley Growth Projections

Todd Wilkinson over at Mountain Journal recently published an article on population growth in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. His article has a good point: population in Bozeman and the surrounding areas is growing quickly, and that population growth will have a negative effect on the environment.

Unfortunately, the article is sensationalized to the point of being misleading and misses the real story: not that we’re growing, but that we have a say in how we grow. People read the article come away thinking “omg Bozeman is going to be as big as Salt Lake in 2041!” which just plain wrong. The SLC urban area has 1m people and the Wasatch Front is home to 2.5m people. Even assuming an exaggerated population growth rate of 4%, it’ll take 80 years for the city of Bozeman to grow to 1m. Wilkinson plays word games with his reader, comparing the population of Gallatin County to the portion of SLC contained within the historic city boundaries—by which logic “Salt Lake City” has a population of less than 200,000, rather than the 1.19m+ reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. City to city, Bozeman’s has 45,250 residents to SLC’s 1,186,000. Region to region, Gallatin County has 105,000 residents to the Wasatch Front’s 2,468,000.

Wilkinson’s article centers around putting some actual numbers theoretical growth rates. The “Rule of 72” makes it easy to estimate how long it takes for a population to double: just divide 70 by the integer compound growth rate. At 2% growth, the population doubles every 35 years (70 / 2 = 35). At 3%, we double every 22.5. At 4%, we double every 17.5.

Gallatin County’s growth rate is 2 – 3%, not the 4% that Wilkinson claims (nor the 8% that he absurdly intimates). Over the past 40 years, Bozeman’s growth rate has been 1.81%, and Gallatin County’s 2.53% (source: Bozeman Transportation Master Plan, 2016).

Bozeman’s recent Transportation Master Plan provides a table of various estimates of population growth, based on the rates provided by an assortment of professional demographers:

To the best my knowledge, the estimates above are based on demographic trends alone. Bozeman’s growing distances from where the majority of people live to the city’s primary amenities (downtown, the GVLT trail network, etc), combined with growing traffic congestion, diminishing air quality, crowding at Bridger Bowl and at the trailheads are all actively reducing amenity value of living in Bozeman, even while housing prices (especially in the parts of town with ready access to the city’s best amenities) continue to climb. Moreover, Bozeman’s recent dramatic growth has been fueled in part by the rapid growth of the MSU-Bozeman student population headcount, growing from 12,000 to over 16,500 in the span of the last decade–a trend which is not projected to continue. All of these factors are likely to depress Bozeman’s growth rate in addition to demographic reversion to the mean. Bozeman’s growth rate from 1970 to the present was < 2%, and sober professionals seem to think that this is the growth rates of 2 – 3% will prevail in the foreseeable future.

At a 3% growth rate, it’s over 75 years before Gallatin County hits the 1m mark. At 2%, it’s 115 years.

And let’s consider these numbers in a little bit of context. To read Wilkinson’s description, SLC-like levels of population will bring doomsday and the apocalypse all in one. While I’d rather live in Bozeman than SLC, I’ve considered SLC, and my friends who live in SLC are happy and active, and enjoy their lives substantially as much as I enjoy mine. And let’s not forget that, as Bozeman/Gallatin County grows to 200k+ by 2040, the Wasatch Front is expecting to grow to 4.7m.

The real story (that Wilkinson somehow misses completely) is that the impact of this growth will vary dramatically based on the policy and land use decisions that we make. If we grow at current Gallatin County density rates (approximately 0.7 acres per person), we’ll convert 100,000 acres of land from agricultural use to housing and commercial use as Gallatin County’s population doubles in the next 25 years (for context, the developed extent of the city of Bozeman is currently ~10,000 acres, and the “triangle” area from Bozeman to Four Corners to Belgrade ~50,000 acres). If we develop at Portland, OR levels of density, doubling our population in Gallatin Valley would only 14,1477 of additional land being converted for development. At current Bozeman densities, we’d convert 20,000 acres of land.

In my view, the real story here isn’t that we’re growing, and growing quickly–but rather that we have a choice in our land use and development patterns, and those choices will do more to determine the impact of that growth than the rate of growth.

To get a sense of what this looks like, consider the two growth scenarios below, excerpted from the the excellent “Gallatin Triangle Planning Study” published and hosted by Future West. The areas in yellow and orange show new development / land conversion.

The first scenario is likely growth between now and 2050 based on a planning policy that favors dense development (densities like current Bozeman density):

The second scenario shows growth based on the densities prescribed in the Gallatin County growth policy:

Of the two, one of the Gallatin Valleys looks much more like a place that I’d like to live in 50 years. We have that power, and we have that choice. You can start help today by making sure you vote in Bozeman’s municipal election (Mehl, Cunningham and Areneson all support growth policies that favor dense, sustainable development), voicing your opinion to City and, especially, County Commissioners, and spreading the word.

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National Monuments Public Comments

President Trump has issued an executive order declaring a “review” of the national monuments established in the last 20 years. Many (including myself) fear this “review” is a pretense for dramatically reducing the scope of federal protection for many of America’s most historic and inspiring lands.

The review requires a public comment period, which is open from now until May 26th. You can read more about our public lands and submit your own public comments from this Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance page:

My comments are below. I would encourage you to submit your own today!

Bears Ears National Monument contains scores of thousands of archaeological resources of significant historic interest. These lands and riches warrant the highest measure of protection. The area’s estimated 80,000+ ruins, rock art, and other remnants of the area’s human history prior to the arrival of Europeans deserve protection both from willful removal or destruction as well as from destruction by natural resource (or even recreation) development. No one disputes this statement. At issue is the size and boundaries of the monument, and whether the current border are the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

I have myself spent weeks hiking the mesas, canyons, and valley floors of Bears Ears National Monument. I’m less acquainted than many living in San Juan County, but more familiar with these lands than most voicing an opinion in the matter.

I agree with the Utah Diné Bikéyah that the current boundaries of Bears Ears do not adequately protect the objects to be protected. This is true for two reasons. First, the current boundaries exclude a significant concentration of the area’s ruins and archaeological sites. Second, significant scale is in and of itself required for the proper care of the fragile and precious resources contained within.

The current national monument boundaries exclude many areas rich with human history, including Recapture Canyon and Montezuma Canyon. I spent part of April exploring and camping in these areas outside of Bears Ears. In both canyons I found both a dense concentration of remarkable relics from the Ancestral Puebloans–impressive structures, and many pieces of beautifully glazed pottery and enigmatic earthenware. The Utah Diné Bikéyah sought protection for these areas, and rightfully so. The current review should consider expanding the boundaries to protect these areas.

Boundaries drawn only to the edge of concentrations of archaeological sites are of little value for conservation. During my recent month in the area, I noticed a dramatic difference between the ruin sites located close to roads and developed areas, and those protected by a buffer of wild space. The more accessible areas were aseptic, denudes the blanket of traces of habitation (pot shards, piñon nuts, corn cobs and the like) present at most backcountry sites. As awesome and impressive as many of the area’s structures are, it is the rich detritus of everyday life–the pot shards and remnants of cultivated corn–that creates a compelling and profound sense of connectedness to those who inhabited these lands before us.

Allowing looters and uninformed visitors to gather and steal these vestments of collective history fails the “proper care and management” test. One management option would be monitoring or patrolling (an approach taken elsewhere, such as Mesa Verde National Park). Given the vast dispersion and number of the area’s 80,000+ archaeological sites, protection via law enforcement is an unaffordable fantasy. A more realistic management approach is to pad these sites and their objects with additional protected land, limiting access to those who value these fragile sites enough to work to get to them.

It is, of course, proper that locals have a voice and say in the management of the lands in which they have greatest stake. A quick glance at the demographics of San Juan County (which you don’t see reflected in the membership of the Stewards of San Juan County) is that approximately half the county’s residents are Native American. The BENM monument enshrines into law a process that gives the tribes who inhabit (or whose ancestors inhabited) this area a real voice in the use and management of these lands.

It’s also proper that those living outside of San Juan County have a voice in the use and management of these lands. Do not all American’s have a stake in our national parks, national monuments, and all our federal lands? This in the purpose and ingenuity of our federalist system of governance, that the desires of a few can be balanced against the interests of the many. I ask only that, in the great tradition of democracy, my voice be given weight equal to all others expressing an opinion, and that the majority opinion be heeded.

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Loving the Stuffing out of Bears Ears

I first visited Comb Ridge six or so years ago, during a rambling summer of exploring Utah’s nooks and crannies. My atlas marked a small archaeological site a mile or so off of the nearest dirt road. Intrigued, I hiked off into the trail-less wild to have a look for myself.

I remember very clearly that moment of surprise and delight when, rounding a corner, I suddenly and unexpectedly stood in front of structures built into the wall ahead. I still carry with me that feeling of novelty and discovery from finding shards of clay pots (still bearing the imprint of the woven reeds used to make it) and the small husk of a cob of corn, abandoned some 800 years before. Here before me, quite out in the wilds, were the artifacts I’d been accustomed to seeing in display cases at Mesa Verde or Hovenweep.

That powerful and profound experience still inspires a sense of connectedness and admiration for the Ancestral Peubloans who inhabited that canyon grotto many years ago. It’s that same experience that inspires my current desire to become an advocate for and defender of the newly appointed Bears Ears National Monument (which contains Comb Ridge).

That same inspiration has brought me back to the desert. I was lucky enough to have a fascinating but sobering conversation this morning  with Josh Ewing, Executive Director of Friends of Cedar Mesa. Expecting a sense of triumphalism, his deep unease and concern caught me off guard.

“Being named on the internet is the death of an archaeological site.”

As an advocate for the conservation of the area’s archaeological resources and sites, he describes the situation with Bears Ears as being “likely the worst possible situation.” Publicity for the monument is dramatically increasing visitation (including to many sensitive archaeological sites). Unfortunately, there is no concomitant allocation of resources to meet to flood of visitors. Suddenly, the very precious resources that inspired the protection of the monument are in immediate danger of being loved to death. The little structure for for educating visitors on visiting archaeological sites respectfully is not yet in place.

Ewing described to me the sobering and disappointing experience of recently revisiting one of his formative sites, a site that inspired him to fall in love with the area and dedicate himself to its conservation and preservation. “Ten years ago,” he tells me, “the site was thick with pot shards and artifacts. On my recent visit, there was not a shard to be found, a wall of a structure had been pushed over and destroyed, and people had been digging in the kiva.”

The BLM has limited resources for education and conservation. Given the charged politics of the situation, the BLM is hesitant to act. Congress is threatening to defund any activities associated with Bears Ears. Although the inclusive process for creating a management plan is laudable, it will be years before a management plan is in place.

The best approach for the time being seems to be to funnel visitors toward the areas with the least danger of being impacted, or the areas where private organizations and the BLM can appropriately greet visitors with education on respectful visitation.

It’s important that we, while acting as advocates, find ways to promote a message of respectful visitation.

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2016 Year in Review

In rough sequential order, a run-down of my 2016:

In January and February I burst my ski ego. Racing for CMU’s ski team humbled me, being both out-skied and out-drank by a group of fun-loving undergrads. East Coast ice is tricky, especially after 4:00 am Fireball shots. Oh, college.

Practice at Seven Springs

Mark, taking his "senior" run at Sawmill.

Mark, taking his "senior" run at Sawmill.

Sloane, showing off her bases at regionals.

Sloane, showing off her bases at regionals.

March brought me and friends to the Arizona for a hairball trip down the Upper Salt River.

The Upper Salt River Crew

The landscape we traveled through remains my favorite of river passageways. Pity we only managed the first 20 miles of it, owing to a certain incident in which I flipped my boat and lost the oars during the very first stretch of river where we weren’t stuck on rocks. Camilo’s ingenuity and paddle-guiding prowess saved the day, along with Anne’s optimism, Saskia’s graciousness, Jason’s steadfastness, Jon’s fun-loving enthusiasm, Gordon’s hearty good cheer, and Sagar’s selfless support of his friends (dispite near hypothermia, stomach illness, closed roads, flat tires, and other mishaps).

Gordon and Jon in Rat Trap Rapid

Anne takes in the morning desert on our last day

The trip coincided with my brother-in-law Tory’s 40th birthday, providing a wonderful occasion to celebrate him and reconnect with coworkers from Arizona Pain Specialists.

Happy 40th Birthday Tory!

My light load in January and February to accommodate travelling every weekend to a ski tournament corresponded to a heavy load in March and April that nearly sunk me. I made it out (and, to the best of my knowledge, passed all of my classes).

Hope's a doctor!

May took me to Seattle to celebrate Hope’s graduation from med school and for a sailing trip to Blakey Island with quadlings.

The Blakely Island Crew. Thanks, Gordon, for hosting!

I spent the summer working for CREATE Lab under Randy Sargent, building visualizations of environmental data on a planetary scale, e.g. the animation below of the seasonal advance and retreat of vegetation (green = vegetation, white = no vegetation). I loved the work, and the lab challenged me every day to think about the values I brought to work and how to affect positive change.

Austin? Austin. I went to Austin to revel in Erik’s last days of bachelordom. Austin is a super fun place. Enough said about Austin.

I spend most of the winter, spring and summer running. I’m not surprised by this, given the lack of mountains around Pittsburgh. I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon in Boston-qualifying time in May, and attempted to outrun old age in July by participating in the Never Summer 100k ultramarathon with TJ.
I should note that after the 100k race, I’ve barely run (or done anything active) at all. Good riddance.

Despite the day’s lows and highs (literal and figurative), I failed to outrun old age, which found me on July 26, in the company of good friends and amazing food (Abram, those squid-ink steam buns with pork belly still haunt me).

September brought me back to Colorado for Erik and Amanda’s wedding. Although I’m not much one for weddings, Erik managed to squeeze a lot of fun into the weekend, in addition to the lovely ceremony. I’m privileged to have been a part.

This fall I upped my concert photography game, taking concert photos for The Cut Magazine and The Tartan Newspaper (both CMU student publications). I’ll miss Pittsburgh’s amazing access to live music.

Metric at Thrival in September

Lucius at Mr. Smalls in October

Somewhere along the way I’ve fallen in love with transit and transportation. This summer I published a project on Pittsburgh’s bus’s that picked up some local press coverage (including Pittsburgh’s mayor). In October, I found out that I had my first academic paper accepted for publication in the Transportation Research Record (TRR Paper …).

And, somewhere along the way I fell in love with Pittsburgh. The city is gritty and burgeons with character. Old, diverse, up-and-coming, and fun, Pittsburgh is a real treat of a city. My suggestion for the future: let’s round off Colorado at an even fifty 14ers, and move the extras next to Pittsburgh.

I enjoyed sharing Pittsburgh with my parents in May, and my siblings, Rachel, Andrew, Grace, and Judah this fall.

My dad, at the National Aviary

Judah, Jenny, and Grace on the Rachel Carson Bridge

Judah, Jenny, and Grace on the Rachel Carson Bridge

I’m not sure I fell in love with Pennsylvania in the same way that I fell in love with Pittsburgh, but I did enjoy poking around in its hills a bit.

In December, I wrapped up my time at Carnegie Mellon University, having learned the skills I had set out to acquire, broadened my mind and worldview, and having made a host of wonderful friends.

Students walk across the Randy Pauch Bridge on the CMU campus

Anne, Abram, Sagar, Jon and Ken surprised me for graduation, appearing in my local bar and leaving me (to this day) entirely flabbergasted.

This fall I interviewed for a bunch of jobs I didn’t want, before finally interviewing for one I did actually want. As luck would have it, they liked me as much as I liked them. I’ll be starting as a transportation data scientist with High Street in May.

Once again, 2016 was book-ended by soul-searching and snow-playing with friends in the Montana backcountry.

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind tour of PA, WY, CO, AZ, MT, CO, VA and DC. I’m currently packing my bags in preparation for departing to France for ten weeks of furiously skiing uphill wearing spandex.

I’ve included here only a thin sliver of the friends and experiences that enriched my life in 2016. I’m grateful for the privilege of grad school and all my friends and peers who I made and miss already.

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How to Make A Casserole

I just learned how to make a casserole!

I was hungry. I went to the pantry. All I found was a box of penne noodles. Okay, that’s a start. Add noodles to a pot of salted boiling water, then back to homework for ten minutes.

[ten minutes later]

Okay, noodles are done. What’s in the fridge? Empty, except for a few cans of Duquesne Pilsner, a big tub of mayo, and a sad looking bottle of sriracha. Money.

Back to the pantry. Let’s see. Black beans? No. Tomato paste? Not going to help. Oh, what’s this pile of packages? Maybe a pesto mix packet? Too much to hope for? Hollandaise sauce mix, hollandaise sauce, and, oh! a foil packet of tuna. Probably ten years old. Fine. This stuff never expires, right?

This is going to be weird, but who cares? I’m hungry. Nobody is going to judge me.

Hey! This isn’t terrible. More mayo. More noodles. A minute in the microwave to bring everything up to the same temp, then it’s back to homework with weirdly-satisfying sustenance.

A casserole is born!

Mark’s Saturday Night Casserole


Time: 15 minutes (5 active)

Serves: 1 desperate college student


  • 1 lb penne noodles, cooked a la dente
  • mayo
  • siracha
  • 1 package or can tuna. Preferably at least five years old.
  • 1 oz desperation


  1. Put mayo and siracha in bowl and stir with fork to combine.
  2. Add tuna and mix.
  3. Add pasta, and stir with fork until pasta is coated.
  4. Place in microwave for 60 seconds.

Serve immediately.

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Pizza Margherita Recipe

As many of my friends are aware, I’ve spent the last number of years honing my pizza craft. It’s still a work in progress, but I think I’ve made strides in the right direction. My friend Kelli provided a generous write-up of my pizza a few years back.)

I wrote out the current state of my recipes for a school recipe book this afternoon. I thought I’d post these dough and sauce recipes here, as well, in case anyone else is interested in making great pizza at home!

For Pittsburghers, all of the ingredients below can be obtained at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in the Strip District. PennMac is worth visiting, in its own right.

Pizza Margherita (Photo credit: Kelli Donley)

Pizza Margherita

Prep Time: 3 days (2 hours active)


  • Dough ball (see recipe below)
  • Red sauce (see recipe below)
  • Fresh basil, 10 – 12 leaves
  • Fresh mozzarella, one 8 oz ball


  1. Two hours before baking, remove dough balls from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature
  2. One hour before baking, place baking stone in oven on the highest rack, turn oven to highest heat setting. Allow oven to preheat for 60 minutes before baking.
  3. Flour counter and dough ball generously. Flatten dough ball to 13 – 14” diameter circle (there are lots of good instruction videos on YouTube for this step, or use a rolling pin)
  4. Ladle 1 c. red sauce onto crust
  5. Arrange basil and mozzarella on crust in random pattern
  6. Transfer to baking stone, and bake 6 – 8 minutes (depending on oven temperature) until cheese is boiling and crust is lightly brown

Note: if you do not have a pizza stone, you can use a baking sheet. Preheat the baking sheet in the oven and remove immediately prior to placing pizza on baking sheet (using extreme caution). Place crust on pre-heated baking sheet, then build ingredients on the crust.

Pizza Dough

An extended cold fermentation in the refrigerator develops better tasting crust. This recipe is best if made three days ahead of time, but is still good if made the morning before baking.

Yields 5x 345g dough balls

Time: 2 hours (30 minutes active)


  • 1000 g “00” bread flour (this can be obtained from PennMac or online)
  • 650 g Water at 80 * F
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 30 g olive oil, plus 20 g water
  • 20 g salt
  • 10 g diastatic malt (optional—promotes browning when baking in home ovens which do not get as hot as real pizza ovens)


  1. Combine flour, 650 g water, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Using stand mixer, knead dough using dough-hook on medium-high speed for 8 minutes
  3. Remove dough to lightly floured counter, and divide into five portions of 325 – 350 g each
  4. Fold portions into balls and let rest, covered, for 20 minutes
  5. Stretch each ball and fold back into ball shape. Place in greased 1 qt container
  6. Place dough balls in refrigerator and allow cold fermentation for up to three days before use

Red Sauce

Time: 15 minutes

Yield: ~ 1 quart sauce


  • 28 oz can whole san marzano peeled tomatoes, drained, then crushed
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • juice of one whole fresh lemon
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Basil


Bring sauce to a simmer. Hold at a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add basil.

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