A Trip of Firsts

Hi All,

Sorry for the long delay between my first post and now, can you believe that the US and Canadian National Parks Systems don’t have WiFi everywhere? I’m kidding! I am glad they don’t but it just means it takes time between these posts since I have to get out the laptop, type it up, and then connect to the WiFi to post. If you want some of my shorter updates check out Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter) where I post pictures of our adventures more frequently.

On to today’s topic: Firsts! This trip has a lot of first for Dr. Newman and I. First time driving to Alaska, First time visiting the Canadian Rocky Mountains, First time on a big trip as a married couple, First time driving the AlCan Highway. Tons and tons of first. But one of the coolest firsts we got to do is visit both National Park Systems’ “First National Parks.” It was really fascinating to see how both Park Systems deal with the crowds, emphasize what is important, and manage their areas. It is also always great to do this since Dr. Newman, being the 3rd generation ranger that she is, is a wealth of organizational knowledge about NPS and can start a conversation with a mute if she needed to, so I am always learning when I listen to her.


We cruised across Wyoming after leaving Olivia at her summer home (Casa di Newman- Thank you again Tom and Patti!). We made a brief stop at Fossil Butte National Monument (a NPS that combines my favorite things- small parks and fossils!). It is out there but if you ever find yourself near Little America, Wyoming spend the afternoon visiting Fossil Butte! It is the fossilized aquarium of America, which means there are lots of fish fossils. We rolled into Grand Teton in time for sunset and then rolled out just as fast since our goal was to see Yellowstone (it is not because we don’t love Grand Teton, but we had seen it two summers ago and I was itching to see more of Yellowstone after our brief drive through last summer).

We were early in the season, but not by much. The south entrance still had a line, we got stuck in a caravan of rented RVs (which is a stupid idea, I mean we make tractor trailer drivers get special licenses and some of these RVs are just as big and being driven by people with less skill than those semi drivers), and we saw some breath taking canyons. We didn’t stop too much on the southern road since my goal was to see the geysers. We made it into West Thumb mid-morning and found parking! That is one challenge in both national parks, the age of automobile has wreaked havoc on the old narrow roads and small parking lots (and I am not saying we should make bigger ones, but find a way to balance access- which the cars give, and safety- which the cars take away when you have people looking at sites more than the road). After checking out the West Thumb geysers we cruised to Old Faithful Visitor Center.

There we were slapped in the face with tour busses, crowds and an almost full parking lot. We did find parking and had lunch to fortify ourselves before diving into the crowds to see Old Faithful. Since the geysers typically shoots 120-145 feet in the air Dr. N and I sat on some logs in the shade of the trees, did our junior ranger, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Old Faithful was 25 minutes past the estimated time range they give. Despite being less than faithful, it was still pretty epic. And really cool to see in person (something that Dr. N studies is the need for these bucket list items and why everyone takes pictures of the same thing even when someone with a better camera and lens has already done so- of which I am super guilty). We waited for the tour buses to leave and strolled over to Old Faithful Inn, a huge inn from the days of rail travel to the parks. This gave us time to let the parking lot clear (and Dr. N to grab a nap in the car; she’s a professional napper).

Next we were off to Midway Geyser Basin, the home of Grand Prismatic Spring. Now Old Faithful was way more crowded but the park did a good job of managing the crowds, providing safe view points and helping everyone have a good time there. Grand Prismatic had none of that. Dr. N and I sucked it up because we were just leaning into the crowds of the park. We parked along the road (since the lot was full and people were being stupid about driving in the lot) and walked to the boardwalk and then started to weave in and out of the crowds. People were just stopping in the middle of the boardwalk to take a photo, oblivious to the crowd of people around them. We made it to the spring and didn’t throw anyone into the water and then booked it out of there to Uncle Wayne’s compound in Ennis MT where there were no crowds, unless you count a big lab dog as a crowd.

It is hard in this social media age to have peace in some of these beautiful places, unless you get up before the butt crack of dawn. I don’t want to stop people from going and I want to share my adventures as many people are sharing their own. It is a hard balance and once that I don’t have a good solution for. It is nice to have the freedom to drive into Yellowstone and stop when and where we want (and not get charged at each stop) which wouldn’t be possible if busses were mandated, like at Zion. But the crowds made it uncomfortable and challenging to be there.


After our too short visit with Uncle Wayne we hit the road north again. We decided to skip Glacier (we saw it last summer) and stop into Waterton Lake for a cup of tea and a parking lot dinner before camping by Oldman River near Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also in the middle of nowhere). Then after snapping a selfie at Okotoks’ Glacial erratic (hi, Mr. Newman!) we headed into Banff. Even though a 2 lane highway led into the park they had clear signs about which lane to be in and there was almost no wait (although it had to tell if the active snow storm was keeping people away, I would say no since the town of Banff was full). We soon were rid of the crowds when we visited Cave and Basin, the National Historic Site in Banff. There we got stumbled into a ranger tour and got to learn about the indigenous, trapper and railroad history of the site with Ranger Alex.

Banff does a much better job of recognizing the challenging First Nations history in the park (something I didn’t see once in Yellowstone). Although we did have to pay admissions to see the site (something we didn’t have to do in Yellowstone). But at least Banff staffed the site we enough people that when there was a bear siting, the rangers were able to jump into action.

The next day we got up early from our really nice campsite (they left a lot of space between the rows to allow trees to divide the ground up) to head to Lake Louise where we hiked to the Lake Agnes Tea House (a really popular hike). We were there early and got a parking spot but we only saw staff who were on car control. We didn’t see any rangers who could give us an update on the trail/ avalanche conditions.

We started our hike in the clouds and made it to the tea house where we had tea and biscuits. By the time we were finished, the clouds were starting to lift and we have some stupid amazing views of the valley and lakes below from Little Beehive. By the time we got to the trailhead the busses had arrived and the place was hoping. We escaped to a hotel room for the night to do road chores and re-pack our car.

Take Away

Both parks are amazing and I am so grateful we got to see them on the start of our trip. Both have amazing views, too many tourists and are understaffed in different areas. Both have troubled histories (which Banff is working to address) but they still are important histories and natural wonders for people to witness.

Thanks for sticking with me, up next Hot Springs!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Preparation and Departure

Dr. Newman (my wife) is really smart, in case you didn’t know already, and got a dissertation improvement grant from the National Science Foundation. But because the federal government is working slower than normal, it took till now to be able to use it. So we are getting our poop in a group (thanks Aldo for that one) and are ready to head north!

Our condo is rented for the summer, our mail is being forwarded, Olivia has a home for the next two months. We now just need to figure out how many pairs of underwear to bring (hint, a lot) and how many shoes we need (hint, not a lot). This blog will track our progress north and I will be sure to post pictures on Instagram too.

I know a lot of photos (mine included) show van life and long term travel as glorious and beautiful all the time. And I count myself really lucky that I get to so see a lot of cool places but holy shit is it stressful trying to get everything ready. That is something none of those photos show. Just when you think you go everything done you remember another thing! And there are a lot of flaky people looking for short term housing on Craig’s list.

Things are starting to fall into place, but there were definitely a lot of hours of missed sleep (on my part) and tense moments of prioritizing things. Behind every beautiful  Instagram that will be coming this summer there was a lot of planning, stress, and money spent (and privilege used) to get to those spots for that picture. I am not saying that people shouldn’t post beautiful pictures but there is a cost, and no one should feel envious (especially of our 8 hour drive with a howling cat to get to Olivia’s summer home).


We all do cool things and want to share them, I hope you will be sharing yours too this summer!


Posted in Alaska, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being Better Gatekeepers of the Knowledge Bank

Originally Posted on Day of Archaeology Blog: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/being-better-gatekeepers-of-the-knowledge-bank/

This summer was my first not in the field in over a decade (I know an apt time to write a day of archaeology post but it is the first time my brain wasn’t fried by the sun). While it has been challenging not to work in the field sweating digging, troweling, and picking, it has afforded me time to engage in other things archaeology: finishing research, attending conferences, attending archaeology classes and thinking, lots and lots of time alone thinking.

However, the best thing that my time off from field work has given me is time to travel with my fiancée, a non-archaeologist but avid learner of everything. We have seen everything from National Parks and Ancestral Puebloan ruins to Parchi Nazionali and Roman fora. Just because I wasn’t excavating didn’t mean I was avoiding archaeology, just engaging with it in a different way.

Being trained as an archaeologist since undergrad, visiting such sites and understanding them is a well practiced skill for me. I have learned how to navigate the stones, pits and poorly written signage well. But as my fiancée has not spent years in school for archaeology, she found it incredibly frustrating (and made sure I knew it) to visit poorly signed sites both home and abroad. Faded state plans surrounded by blocks of text made no sense to her until I was able to decipher and focus the information. Sometimes even my own excitement got ahead of me and caused confusion, that was till she lovingly told me to slow down – after which I focused my slew of information to create a richer tour for her without beating her over the head with every foundation stone and pot sherd. And while she loves having her own personal archaeologist tour guide, not all people visiting our beloved sites will have one on hand (unless we start going on a lot more dates with non-archaeologists).

These experiences demonstrated to me that we archaeologists need to be better stewards of the knowledge that we uncover every summer. This is more important now more than ever with sites coming under attack from governments, militaries, and too much love. This is not to say that we should be more restrictive in who sees the knowledge or even dumb down any of the facts we share, but the flood of information needs to be better managed. Archaeological parks and sites need cohesive Cultural Interpretation Plans (CIPs) that will help guide creating focused signs and thematic units for parks. Every time a person leaves a site thinking that was just a bunch of rocks or worse yet, a person chooses not to enter a site because all they think they will see are a bunch of rocks, we lose. We lose the voices and support we need in the public to save these places, find new ones, and prevent looting. With increasing pressure to be relevant and useful, we need to show how irreplaceable the sites we cherish are. The time to move on from archaic old styles of sharing information is now. For if we wait longer, will there be any sites left to save?

Posted in archaeology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Digital Archaeology Course- Learning about Metadata and Focal Depth

So this summer instead of excavating, I decided to take a course on Archaeology (my first in almost 5 year). I am super excited to be reading academic articles and discussing these themes with colleagues and learning new skills. We have been focusing on how to create 3D models and looking at different open source tools that allow us to take all types of measurements with the models. We have also be discussing the reasons for engaging with archaeology this way, how digital archaeology will change the field, and the responsibility behind this type of data creation.

This course is being offered by two of the directors (Laura Banducci and Rachel Opitz) from the Gabii Project and is being houses in the American Academy in Rome. This is a new course being offered by the AAR and one that I am really excited they are offering. I’ve never visited the AAR, but it is an amazing campus on the Gianicolo Hill (ancient Janiculum) with beautiful gardens and old 19th century architecture. I wished I had my pipe here since this would be the place to go lunting . Really it is a house where I should have a smoking jacket for after dinner.

The course has opened my eyes to a lot of important things in archaeology that I haven’t thought in depth about since I was a field worker. While I have always had a general idea about the management of data after I have removed an artifact from its soil matrix (i.e. fancy talk for dirt). But now I have a larger and more complete idea of what Theresa, Steve, and Eric do down in the magazzino.

While I feel I am getting a lot from the course because of my extensive time in the field, a similar course really should be a part of every archaeological student’s course work. Even if you don’t move down the path of digital archaeology, it helps you become aware of problems, solutions, and better ways of dealing with the vast amount of data points that get created each year in pottery sherds or brick stamps. This type of course would help people integrate between the field, the lab and then final database processing in a much smoother way.

I hope that the courses continue to be offered by the AAR, I’d come back and take another one given the chance.

Until next time, Ciao

Posted in General Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roma- with 100% more passports!

So I left off with Sara getting an upgrade for our hotel. That night we walked down to Campo di Fiori to get dinner at Open Baladin, where Sara made another friend. We wandered back via the Imperial Fora. The following morning we rose early to beat the heat and visited the Roman Forum and Palatine hill. Sara made me focus my knowledge for this tour, which was great, I’ve never been forced to do that before (most of the time my audience are students and they have to listen to me). I really thought about how much better tours could be with a little more training (maybe in a national park…).

We then had lunch in a Carrefour and taxied over to our next AirBnB with my fellow classmates in a convent (a nun who spoke no English showed me my room). Then we were off again to the Colosseum to visit it in the final hour before they closed. It was such a pleasant way to view it, very few people, lots of shade and places to just sit and think. We saw a pair of men tailed by police and a new exhibit on the second floor of post-Roman illustrations of the Colosseum. Then after a tense moment looking for a restaurant (the one we wanted had no outside seating) we ate dinner and then walked up to our AirBnB. We stopped in a piazza which was showing a movie with Italian subtitles (it was Paths of Glory with Krik Douglas playing a French officer in WWI).

The next morning (Monday), I started class. And again that will be a good place to leave it for now. I’ll update you on what I’m learning later tomorrow.


Ciao for now from Sara and I!

Posted in General Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cosa, Pisa and Cinque Terra- Italy 2017

So after the summer I had last year, I decided to take this one off from excavating to allow myself some time to relax and get my head back on straight (jumping into the school year and school play last August did not help). But I couldn’t just not travel, so after much debate and planning I applied for a class at the American Academy in Rome and then Sara and I decided to add on a few extra days of just plan travel. So we packed our bags and jumped on a Lufthansa flight to Rome! Sara is a wiz at using points (and she will help you with any of that if you ask her) and so we were able to rent a car on the points and take off. Our first stop was Albinia, where I had worked for the last two summers at the Excavations of Cosa. We had an AirBnB near Bar Hawaii and the Sottopassagario of the town. We met up with the current dig team for dinner and then a tour of the site the next day. They are doing amazing work there (check their blog out). Sara was amazed at all the work being done there (and all the knowledge required to understand Roman archaeology). She was really appreciative to have a personal guide for the area.

Next we took off to drive to Cinque Terre. In my ten years I’ve never visited this beautiful area and was really excited to see it. And since Pisa was on the way I decided to visit another spot that I hadn’t seen either since who wants to visit the industrial mess that Pisa is known for. Sara and I finally found the piazza del Duomo and parked. We were able to assist in helping keep the tower upright. After our walk around we were off again for Cinque Terre.

We were staying in Riomaggiore at another AirBnB that Sara found. We parked the car near the cemetery and took off down a narrow set of stairs that the area is known for. We found the place, up another set of stairs, and met Franca (a wonderful woman to rent from) who showed us the place and the secret set of stairs that cut out a ton of stairs. After settling in we went out to a long dinner at Ripa del Sole (they were crowded and understaffed, it was expected but the British lady there did not appreciate it).

The next day after a short episode of trying to find gas (I may have forgotten to fill before leaving La Spezia), we got the Cinque Terre Parco Treno tickets and headed to Corniglia and climbed all ~370 steps to the town from the train station and then started hiking to Vernazza. It was stupidly beautiful and a little hot. Once we made it to Vernazza we dined on Foccacia and fried squid. After that we were a little tired out by the tourists there and the hike so we checked out the Castello Doria and then took the train back (with a pit stop at Manarola for an afternoon coffee). We then dinned on the terrace and enjoyed the cool evening air.

Friday we took the train to Vernazza and hiked the rest of the way to Monterosso where we had a breakfast snack in the town. We then decided to show our Colorado colors and rented a sea kayak and paddled out to Punta Mesco which is an area protected from motorized boats. We saw some herring gulls sitting and anchovies leaping, which inspired us for lunch (we had fried anchovies). Then after the train home we napped, dined, watched the sun set and then capped the night at Bar O’Netto and Vertical Bar with some local brews. Sara of course met some people who she had one degree of separation with from Fort Collins.

Saturday we packed up, visited the Church in Riomaggiore and then headed out on the road. We wanted to visit another small site and stopped at the Roman town of Luni. We walked around the forum and museum and then headed to the amphitheater. The site is super small so really manI also introduced Sara to PennyMarket where we had take away lunch and then booked it for Rome. Once we made it to Rome, we checked in (another points deal) and Sara got an upgrade to an awesome apartment for the night.

That is where I’ll have to leave it now. I’ll share Rome journeys next!


Posted in General Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Future Shock

With the winter break and my schools service projects I have had some time to read and reflect on a lot of different topics in my life. And there has been a lot to think about: a new Administration entering the White House that is downright hostile to the humanities, some future committee meetings about directions for our Classically inspired missions and conversations centered on “what next” during the AIA/SCS annual meeting. A common thread through all these readings, reflections and conversations is the idea of the ‘Future’.

I really didn’t know how to best approach the future until I was reading a book about Teaching as a Subversive ActivityOne of the ideas that I read about there is that of Future Shock, this idea is what you expected to be there in the future is suddenly gone (for any number of reasons).

When people encounter future shock there are several ways that it can manifest itself. A person can become impotent and withdraw, they could act as if nothing has changed and the future is still the same, or they do something and forge new paths.

There is no other way to say it but the future of academia is changing, for better or worse. I have a deep seated love of the humanities and could never find myself withdrawing from the humanities so withdrawing is not an option for me. Already many years I have been telling myself that the same jobs and honors that my professors had were there for me, but recently I have come to terms with the fact that this is no longer the case. I think I am finally ready to accept the fact that I am going to need to forge a new path.

I am not sure what this path will look like, but for too long I have stood at the crossroads. But to paraphrase Robert Frost, I am about to take one less traveled  and I hope it will make all the difference.

Posted in archaeology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment