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Colorado Characters: Cannon, Katrina, and the Aspen Powder Sunscreen

We spent some time this Fall with our friend Cannon who was staying in a cabin in the edge of the Rockies outside of Durango. For a number of years Cannon was a nomadic goat herder. He roamed the wilds with a herd of goats living off wild greens and fruits, goat’s milk, and occasionally goat meat. They also hunted, fished, and did crafts. He makes fine willow baskets, and other crafts, studies African drumming, and has some great stories, like the night he jumped out of bed naked to deal with a mountain lion that was dragging off one of their prize mother goats. (They saved the goat!) Then there was the wolves…but that’s another story. He hosts some amazing primal skills gatherings and wilderness immersion experiences. Check ‘em out! :

He set up a workshop with Katrina Blair who is a local wild food woman. The cabin was at 9000 feet .The aspen trees were bare and the temperatures were in the 20s at night. image1(Though it warmed up nicely during the days.) I was thinking, “How is this weed woman going to do a plant workshop?” It seemed like most of plants had died off for the winter! She arrived wearing a big smile and a broad-brimmed straw hat. She took us around and we picked little handfuls of various greens– a few dandelion leaves here, little bit of dock there, some native chickweed, a rocky mountain water leaf Hydrophylum fendler?, heartleaf bittercress Cardamine cordifolia, a few nettles and pine needles. We came back up to the cabin where she had a bicycle powered blender set up. She poured water into the blender with the greens and started peddling away, then she strained out the pulp and poured it into glasses. We all savored a delicious green drink. I was impressed.

Katrina is well known for her beautiful book entitled, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds (2014 Chelsey Green) that focuses on thirteen edible and medicinal plants, like clover, image3dandelion, knotweed, mallow, purslane thistle, amaranth and lambsquarter, that can be found pretty much all over the world. It’s chock full of recipes, stories, and a sweet earthy philosophy.
She is locally famous for her annual solo walkabout where she hikes through the high mountain back country, some 80 miles, from Durango to Telluride. She carries little or no food. She drinks “wild water” from creeks, and lives off of wild greens, berries, mushrooms, and alpine bistort seeds. She usually strides into Telluride in time for their famous mushroom festival with a backpack full of wild foods for the classes that she teaches at the event.

Katrina told us that the powdery substance on the south side of an aspen tree trunk, when applied to the skin, can serve as a sunscreen. Apparently that’s what it does for the tree.