Emma Lives A Little

Episode 3: Bathroom Shocks, Rocks, and Vinotok

So far, things have been going smoothly here at Western. At least, they were until I received an email from my RD who revealed that there have been two instances of people pooping in the Ute Second Floor showers. AKA, the showers that I use.He warned us of the Hepatitis B, Syphilis, and Malaria that can accompany shower poop and asked the pooper to come forward to get some help. So of course, people on my floor freaked out. People made signs, begging the pooper to stop pooping, and my roommate and I compulsively check the shower stalls every time we set foot in the bathroom. At this point, I almost miss the early morning fire drills we had to deal with at the beginning of the year. However, I love a good mystery and it’s oddly exciting to enter the bathroom every day, wondering if the serial pooper has left her mark yet again. If the pooper is reading this, I can only ask that you relocate your defecation to the toilets. While your habits do provide a bit of excitement, I would really rather not contract Hep B.

In other news, just yesterday I went rock climbing at Hartman Rocks with Wilderness Pursuits. Yes, I, Emma, went rock climbing. To be fair, a Wilderness Pursuits trip was required by my paddleboarding class, but I have been interested in rock climbing and the dirtbag culture since I got here, so it was a win-win! My friend Hannah and I woke up early to have breakfast with our rock climbing group which included an instructor that looked like an Elvin woodland prince, and then we hit the road. After a bumpy ride through the notoriously sketchy roads at Harman’s, we arrived at a rock face the instructors called The Slab. We all laced up our weird rental climbing shoes and clambered over slippery gravel to the climbs that had been set up for us. Intimidated as I was, (climbing a literal rock face is a lot different than climbing a wall at the gym), Hannah and I took our limited knowledge of 8 knots and belet-ing and and prepared to climb. After we were harnessed and briefed on some climbing lingo, I began my ascent. One of my biggest problems has always been that I worry so much that I get in the way of myself. So, I shoved aside each fear that wiggled into the back of my mind as I gripped small ridges and dug my feet into crevices. As I climbed, I anchored my fingers on a small ridge with a single tiny flower growing out of it and as I looked up, the sun poked out from behind the clouds. Not to sound cheesy, but it was one of those moments where it became clear to me that I belong here.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, nature and outdoor

After a few hours, we took a break for lunch provided by the oh-so-attractive climbing guides and wolfed it down just before it began to rain. We tried to wait out the storm for about half an hour in our van, but it was clear that climbing at that point would be dangerous. So, we headed back to school and spent the next hour or so climbing the massive wall in our gym.

Later that day, my friends and I decided to drive up to Gothic for some fall photos, which was nice since I would be missing mine with my family. The drive from Western took about an hour and as we went, we saw what appeared to be small flakes of snow every once in a while. The fall colors were absolutely gorgeous and it was fun to try to avoid the massive cow patties as we struggled to pose for photos. On our way back from Gothic, we decided to stop by Vinotok. For those of you who don’t know, Vinotok is a storytelling and harvest festival with Pagan roots that takes place in Crested Butte every year. At this festival, one of the biggest events is the trial and burning of The Grump, which represents the grievances of the past year. For more information, check out this video.

When we arrived, it was clear that we had missed the memo. Nearly everyone there was sporting flower crowns made of autumn leaves, deer antlers, furry coats, and other assorted costume-y outfits. We followed the massive crowd to a drum circle, where people were bouncing and writhing and yelling to the beat. It was weird, yet oddly exhilarating.

Here’s a short video I took of the drum circle.  

After a while, it finally came time to try the Grump. My friends and I got as close as we could to the trial platform and waited for half an hour as we gradually got crushed closer and closer together. At last, fire dancers and drummers wove their way through the crowd and took their place on the platform, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. And then, torches appeared in the distance, surrounding a weird wooden sculpture, which I knew could only be the notorious Grump.

The trial featured many characters and subtexts that I didn’t really understand, but there was a lot of chanting for the Grump to be burned and so finally, he was declared guilty. The crowd followed the Grump through the main street of Crested Butte, chanting and singing about feeding the Grump to the flame all the way. At last the torches circled the Grump, and as the chanting intensified, it burst into flames. We watched the year’s grievances burn and left shortly after, though I know many people stayed til the wee hours of the night.

Here is a quick video I took of the Grump Burning. 

What a weird, wacky, and crazy fun weekend, much like the rest of my college experience! Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on Homecoming, including the notorious Burning of the W (apparently mountain people love to burn things), and the games I will be attending!

Emma Lives A Little

Episode 2: Jake the Snake

Week 2 at Western began at 7 AM, one hour after I was supposed to have woken up to get ready for my 8AM, when yet another fire alarm started going off in my dorm. So yet again, I shuffled out of my room in my pajamas, retainer still in my mouth, to join the horde of pajama-clad Ute Hall residents standing in the parking lot. Luckily enough, no one had tried to make popcorn so the drill passed quickly. I got ready for class in 15 minutes and arrived to Business only to realize that I had forgotten to brush my teeth. To the cute guy who sits next to me who tried to spark up a conversation that day, I just need to apologize for my stank breath. Sorry, Ben.

On Tuesday, the campus club fair drew me out of my dorm to check out this year’s offerings. I ended up giving my email to way too many clubs, but in the end I decided to join the Figure Skating club! Later that day, I started working as a circulation assistant at the campus library. My boss let me spend half of my shift using her universal key to unlock any door I could, I stumbled across the library’s archives, an employee break room full of coffee and snacks, and a secret door marked “Journals” that led to the basement of the library. Let me tell you, that place is creepy. While I crept through the dimly lit shelves of journals, I came across yet another unmarked door. When I opened it, my eyes could barely make out the dirt and rock that made up the literal foundation of the library, complete with extra shelves and books thrown about haphazardly. As I stared into the dusty cave room, a breeze from beyond caressed my cheek so yes, I did slam the door and run back upstairs only to have to greet a library patron as if I hadn’t just discovered the library’s own Chamber of Secrets. When I asked my boss about the room, she revealed that they had to start locking that door because students found it and used it to do the diddly. Weirdos.

The rest of the week passed without incident until Friday, the day that my friends and I had decided to go camping at Hartman Rocks. As we began loading up the cars, laughing about how we had no idea where we were going, a guy with a kayak in his arms appeared next to us and offered to lead us to the campsites at Hartman’s. Though we were wary of his Beetlejuice tee and random appearance in the parking lot, we agreed to follow him and his group of 8 friends to Hartman Rocks. So we got in our cars. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, the kayak guy came over and introduced himself as Jake, and said that his group would be leaving shortly. Then he paused, appraising my friend Heather’s car with a suspicious gaze.

“Do you have four wheel drive?” She shook her head, turning her Stevie Nicks CD down a notch.

“Well there’s space in my car, you ladies are more than welcome to ride up with me and we can all camp together.” Classic move. We politely declined, putting all our faith in Heather’s little car. Jake sulked off to his jeep and just minutes later, a caravan of three cars including Jake’s took off with no warning, leaving us in the dust. Thanks a lot, Jake. So we drove down the road and found the exit for Hartman Rocks on our own. We drove around for about an hour, bumping around on the dirt roads and scraping over cattle guards without seeing a single campsite. The sun was beginning to set and after turning around about three times, tensions were beginning to run high. Finally, we drove past a firepit in the midst of a field of sage. A campsite! We pulled in and began unloading Heather’s car, placing the tent near a small outcropping of trees. Then, our other friend Alexa pulled up only to find that she had blown one of her tires. So, in the midst of making a fire and putting up the tent, we also raced to put on her spare tire before the sun went down. As we worked, big trucks blaring country music zoomed by and the shooting range down the road began to pop and crackle with the sound of gunshots.

At last, the tent was standing, the spare tire had been put on, and the fire was roaring. The stars were beginning to come out and we began setting up our s’mores. I had at least four that night and I honestly regret nothing. I have never been the kind of person that will go out of their way to spend a night in the wilderness, but as my friends and I listened to music and swapped funny stories as the moon lit up the valley around us, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect evening.

Then, it came time to go to bed. We all set up the sleeping pads we had rented from school and burrowed into our blankets, preparing for the cold night ahead. One by one, my friends fell asleep until I was the only one awake. It was then that I began to hear what sounded like footsteps near our tent. Shortly after, something began lightly scratching the wall nearest my head. Of course, I pictured a combination of Jake and a rugged mountain man sitting in the trees, gently scratching our tent with a long stick. I pictured the news that would follow our imminent deaths: Five Girls Killed at Hartman’s by the Notorious Stick Scratcher. He would start by making us paranoid with the scratching noises and footsteps, and then he would strike. I fell in and out of sleep, awakening to the scratching sounds in between creepy dreams. At last, around 4:30, my other friend woke up and mentioned the sound, asking if I wanted to go outside and see what it was. Of course, I said no so she moved away from the wall and left me to face the scratching alone. With a burst of courage, I punched the wall, imagining that if I showed the Stick Scratcher I knew he was there, he would leave. Then, the scratching occurred all over the tent and I slept until sunrise in terror. In the morning, I opened my eyes to see the outline of a velcro strap we had forgotten to attach to the tent moving along the side, creating an eerily familiar scratching sound. Whoops.

The next day, we had a game night in the lounge downstairs, during which a drunken gay guy who had randomly shown up for Cards Against Humanity asked me to help him with his drag makeup. He claimed that he’ll snapchat me when he needs my skills, so whether he meant it or not, I’ll be waiting on the edge of my chair for his call.

In most recent news, yesterday after returning from a bike ride into town for an iced chai tea, I looked up from the bike rack to see a deer with huge antlers running through the quad in my direction. He stopped about fifty yards away and stared at me as I quietly called my roommate to ask her to let me into the building. As she opened the door, the deer ran away and I was safe from getting gored. Later, my roommate, my friend Hannah, and I rode the bus up to Crested Butte where we ate huge burritos made by a handsome, mustachio’d man. For dessert, we went down the street to a local donut shop where we ate six of the tiniest donuts I have ever seen. While I miss Krispi Kream, one of the best parts of living in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area is being exposed to local restaurants. So far on my list of must-eats?

  1. The Gunnisack
  2. Teocalli Tamale
  3. Niky’s Mini Donuts
  4. Ryce Asian Bistro

If you’re in town, stop by any of these places for a great meal and stay tuned for next week’s episode of Emma Lives A Little!