How To: avoid an awkward encounter with a bear

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’re probably well aware that I love my home state. I’ll defend Montana until the day I die. Well, most of the time. I’m not proud of the fact that we top the list for number of drunk driving-related deaths. I don’t always agree with the majority of the state in terms of politics.

And I’m also not proud that we have such a widespread misconception that one must bring a gun into the backcountry as protection against bears.

Now, I have nothing wrong with people owning a shotgun or going hunting, and this post isn’t meant to start a dispute over gun rights. My point here is that defending oneself against a charging bear by using a gun rarely works. There’s research to back me up on this. One bullet isn’t usually enough to stop a bear and, in the heat of the moment, the chance of actually sinking the bullet into a place that will severely wound or kill the bear is very low. It’s more likely the bear either won’t notice the bullet or you’ll mildly injure it and upset it even more.

Bear spray has a much higher success rate and is therefore a much better option. But of course, doing everything you can to avoid a bear encounter in the first place is really the place to start. Continue reading


Exploring Connecticut’s State Parks

My first summer in CT, I learned an important lesson: grad students don’t really get a summer. Sure, we aren’t taking classes…but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Science doesn’t do itself.

Fortunately, I was still very early on in my grad school career so I did at least manage to have some free time most weekends. And my advisor gave us each a couple weeks of vacation time.

With weekend sunshine and my family 2,300 miles away, I assembled a new hiking crew: the fellow grad students in my lab. Over the course of the summer, we visited quite a few local state parks. Here is a little bit of information about each one.

1. Devil’s Hopyard State Park – East Haddam, CT
This park has a somewhat ominous name that perhaps paints a misleading picture. In reality, the main attraction here is Chapman Falls, located on the Eightmile River. The falls used to power an old mill, and a former landowner used to grow hops in the area, hence the hopyard part of the name. There are multiple theories as to the origin of the devil portion of the name.

Chapman Falls tumbles about 60 feet and can be seen with just a short hike. We continued on the orange-blazed trail out to Vista Point Cliff for some views. Continue reading

Sightseeing and History in Boston, Massachusetts

When I was a kid, our vacations rarely included cities. Aside from stopping to gas up and restock our cooler, we usually just stayed out in nature. And while nature is always going to be my preferred destination, in recent years I’ve been able to spend some time visiting some US cities. And I’ve realized that I really enjoy it.

I’m still not a city person, and I don’t want to live in one for any extended period of time. But I do enjoy exploring them.

Case in point: Boston.

I live just a couple hours away so I’ve been able to visit the city 3 or 4 times in the last few years.

In 2013, my aunt was in Boston for a conference so I headed up for the day to see the city for the first time and spend some time with her. I met up with her outside the Convention Center and we walked up to Quincy Market for Brunch. I don’t remember the restaurant we went to, but I do remember that their French toast was delicious! Continue reading

In Which We Found Nemo

It didn’t take long for me to begin to hate New England weather. In late October, a random afternoon thunderstorm brought with it winds strong enough to wreak havoc on the Connecticut infrastructure. Trees here are flimsy, winds are gusty, and most power lines are above ground. Put those three facts together, and you have this:


The result? A day and a half without power. Thankfully it was only October, so our house didn’t get too cold.

Fast forward about a month, and it happened again. Except this time, the damage was more widespread and we were without power for four and a half days. In that time, my roommates and I discovered that houses are relatively useless when there’s no power. No lights, no heat, no way to store or cook food, and – in our case – no water, because the water pump was electric. So that was fun. Continue reading