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Discovering wild plants (and escaping the walking dead)

Denver Obscura, Turtle Lake team up to teach how to live off-grid

Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Forest fires. North Korea.

Reading the news lately may have you thinking about disasters and crises, and our ability to sustain life if something were to divorce us from the conveniences of modernity – electricity, motorized transportation, refrigeration, access to an abundance of ready-to-eat food products.

Or, perhaps, you watch a lot of “The Walking Dead” and the zombie apocalypse perpetually hovers near the forefront of your thoughts, so you often ponder survival.

We often forget that a bounty of resources surround us – we just need to know where and how to look. And, as part of the first event sponsored in Durango by the Denver Obscura Society, you can discover the edible possibilities of everyday flora.

From 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Turtle Lake Refuge’s downtown location, those interested in apocalypses or those concerned with basic issues of sustainability and health can participate in “A Survivalist’s Diet: Learning to Live Off-Grid in Colorado.”

I’m a field agent for the Denver Obscura Society, an offshoot group of Atlas Obscura, a popular website that aims to promote wonder and “discover amazing, hidden spots, and share them with the world,” according to its website.

James O’Neill, chapter head for the Denver Obscura Society, explains that the Atlas Obscura’s regional chapters are “the real-world outposts of Atlas Obscura.”

“We plan local explorations designed to reveal the hidden gems of the region and get enthusiastic locals and our readers off the computer and out exploring,” O’Neill says.

In terms of the Denver Obscura Society, the name is somewhat misleading. Though based in Denver, we want to organize events throughout the state and region.

“Don’t let the name fool you,” O’Neill warns, boldfacing our organizational mission to plan “experiences all over Colorado.”

“We know this state has so much to offer, and we’re dedicated to exploring it all,” he said.

For our first Durango event, we’re exploring the comestible abundances seemingly all around us, but which often go overlooked. Katrina Blair, founder of Turtle Lake Refuge, will guide us in an edible scavenger hunt of sorts, and then show us how to prepare a delicious meal with our findings.

In 1997, Blair started the nonprofit Turtle Lake Refuge with the guiding mission to “celebrate the connection between personal health and wild lands.” The organization works to accomplish this through growing and harvesting wild foods at its 2-acre farm outside of town, leading educational workshops, and preparing daily lunches for the community with wild harvest at its in-town location, among other ventures.

Through these events and opportunities, Turtle Lake strives to strengthen the community’s ties to its natural environment – and bring residents into an awareness of this environment’s many gifts. The organization has helped endorse organic parks, and Blair said that Turtle Lake’s microgreens were one of the first local foods incorporated into the area’s implementation of the Farm to School program, a national network of school systems that advocate for access to healthful, sustainable eating.

Blair said Durango is “incredibly diverse” in regard to wild plants, and hosts a “range of habitats.”

“We’re blessed in abundance,” Blair said, noting that we have so much natural food “right at our fingertips” that is simple, healing and delicious.

Some of this abundance results in treats that are perhaps unexpected to the casual consumer – such as dandelion ice cream, which Blair says is popular among Turtle Lake visitors and guests.

So whether you’re passionate about sustainability or dedicated to surviving the downfall of consumer culture in the wake of an apocalypse, the Denver Obscura Society’s first Durango event aims to further mine the wonder our town offers. (And you won’t have to share your dandelion ice cream with any zombies.)

If you go

A Survivalist’s Diet: Learning to Live Off-Grid in Colorado

3-6 p.m. Sunday.

848 East Third Ave.

$30, includes meal.

For more information or to register for the event, visit http://bit.ly/2xPwV3A.

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