The Dirt Diaries Blog

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Knowledge Nook: Lightning Safety

Lightening Strike

It's that time of year when thunderstorms are a daily occurrence in Colorado. The first thing to know is that lightning is extremely dangerous and your safety is guaranteed ONLY if you are indoors or within a fully enclosed vehicle! As the saying goes, "When the thunder roars, go indoors." As avid outdoor recreationists we know that sometimes you just get caught outside. If that is the case, keep the following in mind: 

  • Be Prepared: Always check the weather forecast before you head out.
  • Get An Early Start: In the Colorado high country, storms typically develop in early afternoon. Aim to be off all high points by noon. Keep an eye on the sky and descend all peaks and ridges if a storm is approaching. 
  • 5 to 1: To gauge the distance of a storm, count the seconds between the thunder boom and the lighting flash. 5 seconds equals 1 mile. But keep in mind, you are in potential danger if you hear any thunder!
  • Seek Shelter: The best protection is a fully enclosed building or vehicle. Partially open shelters (picnic areas, tents, open jeeps, sheds) are not safe.
  • Outdoor Protection: If you can't get indoors, find protection in valleys or depressed terrain under a thick growth of saplings or small trees. Avoid isolated trees, open water, caves, or rock overhangs. Stay away from all metal objects, including metal pack frames.
  • Know the Lightning Position: Squat down with your feet together, put your hands around your knees, and keep your head down. NEVER lie flat. Also, if you have a sleeping pad, place it between you and the ground.

There's more to learn! For more information about lightning and to learn how thunderstorms develop, visit NOAA

One last thing, for your next dinner party trivia: The air around lightning can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 times hotter than the sun! That's hot.

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Knowledge Nook: Colorado's State Grass - Blue Grama

We admit that we're biased, but we are totally smitten with Blue Grama. This perennial is found throughout North America in short-grass prairies and is one of the primary native grasses in our lower elevation project sites such as Garden of the Gods. It is easily identified by its "eyelash" seed heads. It is a warm season tufted perennial that grows 15-30 cm tall. Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) is one of the primary grasses we use to revegetate project areas within Garden of the Gods. It's an important grass for the highly erodible soils of the Garden because of its effectiveness at erosion control. It's dense, shallow root mass helps hold soil in place. 

In 1987 it became the state grass of Colorado. According to the State of Colorado, it was chosen to help inform and educate citizens and tourists about the importance of the state's grasslands. It's working, except the name is sometimes confusing. One middle school student once asked us why we were planting "blue grandmas."

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Knowledge Nook: How To Tie Your Shoes

Sure, you've been doing this seemingly simple task for years or decades. But have you been doing it right? Watch this 3-minute TED talk by Terry Moore and never again stumble over shoelaces in the middle of a hike, trail run, climb, or casual walk in the neighborhood.

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Knowledge Nook: Spring Hiking & Leave No Trace

It’s that time of year again when the sun shines until 8pm, the pasque flowers start to bloom, and we trade the skis for hiking boots. With the abundance of hiking trails in the Pikes Peak Region, there are endless opportunities to shake off the rust of another Colorado winter with a hike in our favorite park or open space. But spring also means rain and sometimes snow, and mud. While no one likes muddy boots, it’s important to keep in mind the condition of the trail and surrounding environment when mud and puddles spring up in the trail. Leave No Trace principles dictate that the best option when encountering these in-trail obstacles (and others such as fallen trees, rocks, etc.) is to “walk single-file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.” When hikers go around these obstacles, it leads to trail over-widening (or tread creep) and eventually the size of the impacted area is doubled or even tripled. This causes unnecessary damage to the natural environment, and can lead to even bigger drainage issues. So, lace up those boots, put on your gaiters, and don’t forget your rain jacket!


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