From My Window: CNCC paleo dig: Worst day I ever loved; Beer protest grows

Sean McMahon, Editor

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
The annual passing of another year in my life occurred on Saturday, and it has always been deemed a great success when the day is spent doing nothing tough.
That means not getting up early, not hurrying through breakfast, not

having to hurry anywhere in particular, staying cool in a pool or air conditioning, not working up a sweat, perhaps spending the day with a few friends and just plain having a low-key, relaxing day.
With the exception of spending the day with a few good friends (and quite a few unknown but pleasant people), my birthday offered none of those relaxing pastimes. As a matter of fact, it was quite the day of hot, physical, sweaty activity that left me exhausted. I certainly discovered I am not a kid anymore!
It started when I was awakened by an alarm clock at 6 a.m.
It continued with hurrying through breakfast.
Then came the hurry to get out to the intersection of highways 13 and 64 to meet up with friends so we could all be at the Weiss Center on the Colorado Northwestern Community College campus in Rangely by 9 a.m.
We made it in time for our orientation of what to do and what not to do for the day’s events to follow.
We were going to a paleontology dig site being worked by CNCC out in the middle of nowhere south of Rangely, in 90-something degree sun, high humidity, dressed up to protect ourselves from Canada’s gray wolves because of the hazards involved. The only skin exposed to ward off cactus, falls, sliding, etc., was my two forearms. Even my face was pretty well covered by a black hat.
I was truly protected enough to fend off the arctic winter. Only it wasn’t the arctic winter.
Gotta throw in a little bit of background here. In 2006, I weighed 185 pounds and was playing golf—at least nine holes—on the average of six days a week and would usually playing 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday. I was in great shape. Could run up and down hills no problem.
I would work from 7 a.m. straight though 3 p.m., then a group of us would tee off at about 3:15. That had gone on for several years.
Then I changed jobs and became a desk jockey, working at a desk for a living as a college public information officer/recruiter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and golf went out the window except on weekends.
By the end of 2007, I had gone from 185 to about 260 pounds just from sitting at a desk and occasionally driving an hour or two to another of the campuses within the college system. By the end of 2008, I hit 299 pounds. Diabetes had also reared its ugly head.
Determined not to ever hit 300 and to start taking care of myself, there was a complete change in lifestyle—well, eating habits at least.
There was the hour-long drive each way to and from the campus 50 miles away, with the drive starting at 7 a.m. and the home arrival at 6 p.m. With breakfast and dinner added on, there wasn’t much time or energy for exercise.
But with the change of eating habits and being able to enjoy golf still on the weekends, the bod fell to about 260 pounds, which I was when I moved to Rio Blanco County in March 2013.
Now, I am pinned to my desk, working on the computer a minimum of six days, and the only exercise I have gotten in those 27 months is three nine-hole jaunts around Meeker Golf Course in a cart (having shot a 65, 67 and 68) and about 10 trips to either Kenney Reservoir or Lake Avery.
Those few outings have been truly enjoyable. For what I haven’t played, those golf scores are pretty good, but they hurt when I know that 10 years ago I was a 3 handicap.
And while I have always enjoyed fishing, even I would have to admit that fishing from a chair lakeside or walking 30 feet to fish the spillway at Avery really aren’t physical tests of strength.
My natal day brought in my 62nd full year, I now weigh about 250 pounds and the 94 degrees it turned out to be on Saturday quickly reminded me why I left Arizona those 27 months ago.
The old bod just doesn’t like that heat anymore even though just before I moved here, it wasn’t too tough to convince yourself to cross the parking lot, which was often in excess of 150 radiating degrees, as long as my 50-yard walk ended up in a 67-degree casino.
After parking the vans at the dig site, which we only did after traveling about five miles on one of the most gut-wrenching, bouncy, once ground-hitting, often tossing, non-cooled vehicles, we were faced with about a 100-yard trek.
We inched down the side of the steep hill filled with slippery, dust-covered, loose slate, small foot spaces etched out of hard sandstone that were filled with dust or sand, a few places where you needed to have someone give you a hand whether you were going up or down, to a point where we were told “the dig” site was under a cliff where we were standing and the only thing you can see is a narrow canyon that drops a couple hundred feet and the top of a blue tent that shields the dig site from the direct sun.
If you didn’t know where it was, you would never have found the site, and it is an absolute miracle that the dig site was ever located in the first place.
Anyway, they broke the group of 27 people into three groups.
We were told about the history of the dig in our first gathering. The second gathering took us into the dig site, which is another real joy to enter but possible with the right help. The third gathering took us up to another small dig site and we all discussed what we had seen at the slightly covered, very warm and slightly difficult-to-enter dig site.
It was upon entering the actual dig site that I remembered why it was I wanted to spend my natal day trying to die in the hot summer sun of Colorado dressed like a mummy to keep me from freezing to death.
This lair is about six to eight feet deep at its widest by about 12 to 15 feet long. It was dug just in the past couple of weeks through cedar and pinyon brush and very hard sandstone all on the side of a cliff. If one would have become dislodged they would have fallen a good 100 feet straight down onto hard, sharp rocks. It would likely be one’s last fall.
Interspersed in this little area were about six or seven of us on tour and four or five project officials and CNCC students working on the project. We were informed about the finds, shown some very shiny rib bones, some midsection bones and shown what turns out to be one of the best-known examples of fossilized skin in the world.
We learned a large number of things including the fact that the formation the dinosaur fossils south of Rangely are encased in are all a part of the Mesa Verde Formation, which runs all the way from where Mesa Verde National Park is located to a little south of all the way into at least Southern Wyoming, including eastern Utah and Western Colorado.
We learned of the many layers of red tape that blanket such a project and we learned the CNCC is fortunate to have been designated and OK’d as a federally approved fossil depository at its Craig Campus because it had the space and facilities to support such a facility.
And we learned what a complicated process was involved and what an enrichment that facility is to the college and the region. Without the approved dig having a nearby place where the finds can be stored and properly taken care of and exhibited, all the finds in this area would have to be shipped out of state and possibly away to many states because there are no other close facilities that have been approved on the level of the CNCC facility in Craig.
Rangely Mayor Frank Huitt lamented the fact that with so much of what is happening taking place near Rangely that the fossils are being moved to Craig.
We were told of the paperwork, the facility requirements (correct temperatures, correct humidity, right storage conditions, which go on and on), funding and so forth involved in getting the Craig facility approved. It is quite obvious it would be a near-impossible task to get a facility to meet the specifications also built in Rangely. But don’t give up on Frank; I don’t think it is a dead issue.
Anyway, besides being absolutely exhausted, having taken two good tumbles, being hotter that I have been in a long time even in Arizona, and that I went through seven bottles of: frozen water that had thawed; partially frozen water; and very cold water through the lunch period back at CNCC, it truly was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve spent in a long time.
I would not have said the same thing while out on the mountain side or when I had walked back up the 100 yards of ascent while trying to return to the van.
But it was an enjoyable day. It was an educational day. It was a great time spent with some good long-time friends and it was a wonderful day to meet and make new friends.
It was also great to see the history in person that I had seen a couple of other times while being a journalist in Colorado and Wyoming.
I have now done it again for the first time in years, and I don’t need to do it again. I truly am glad I did it. I will remember it—for sure. And the adventure made my 62nd birthday a day I won’t forget.
Thanks CNCC and staff for a great birthday gift—and you didn’t even know it was my birthday!!!

You don’t have time to rest up now because the Range Call events begin today and run pretty solidly through Saturday evening’s concert, fireworks and barn dance. And don’t forget the Jon Wangnild Memorial Shoot, which is on Sunday’s schedule.

I received a phone call from Matt Holliday at Holliday’s bar and restaurant in Meeker and he told me that Holliday’s and Chipper’s in Meeker were also taking part in the boycott of New Belgium Brewery products because of the brewery’s past support of the WildEarth Guardians, the group that has sued and is trying to shut down the ColoWyo mine, where more than 200 area jobs could be lost.
Again, if any other bars, restaurants or liquor stores have stopped selling New Belgium products in support of local employees, I will gladly report the name of the business in this column.