On Mountains, Skies, and Llamas

by Jessye Kilburn

Suddenly it’s fall, my internship is over, and next year’s interns will soon be perusing this blog as they work on their applications. I didn’t want my last blog post to give prospective interns the impression that all I did was sit around and think angsty thoughts about the ocean! So here is a little glimpse into life outside the office.

South Table Mountain Park is accessible by bus/foot from Denver, with beautiful views into the Rockies.

Chattauqua Park is full of trails accessible by bus from Boulder.

The Royal Arch in Chattauqua: a steep but worthwhile climb!

To really get up into the Rockies, you have to go by car (but it’s so worth it!)

Yes, these are llamas. And, yes, I got to go hiking with them (!)

Colorado’s sunsets are amazing, and I was a little obsessed.

Red Rocks amphitheatre is an outdoor concert venue carved out of Colorado’s red rock formations. Seeing the symphony play Holst’s “Planets” and Mozart’s “Jupiter” out under the stars was a huge highlight.

Even within the big city of Denver there are pretty little lakes: this was my favourite running route.

So, yes, even this BC girl was pretty impressed with Colorado’s natural beauty: combined with fascinating internship work, it made for an incredible summer.

On Oceans, Borders and Belonging

Kilburn JessyeBy Jessye Kilburn

“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is clearly Ocean.” (Arthur Clarke)

Recent birthday celebrations for Québec, Canada, the US and France have made me reflect on borders and what they mean in both our imaginations and our laws. Whether marked by shoreline, waterway, fence or wall, national boundaries have a profound impact on our freedom of movement and our sense of identity.

These national holidays have induced a slight identity conflict. Though I’m thankful for Canada, how do I celebrate July 1st when the date represents 150 years of the imposition of colonial borders and a colonial state? How do I celebrate 150 years of borders that still turn away too many refugees? How am I so lucky to have a visa to work in the USA this summer, when so many others are turned away? Can I celebrate St Jean Baptiste when I’m not really québecoise, though it’s been my home for almost 7 years? And how on earth did I end up celebrating Bastille Day for the first time ever from a parking lot in downtown Denver?!

Amidst my personal reflections on borders and belonging, thoughts from my internship work on maritime governance began to seep into the mix. In a sense, oceans and waterways are what connect our nations, in contrast to the borders that divide. The root word of ‘territory’ means ‘land’ in Latin (like « terre » en français), and the concept of national territory is rooted to that of land.

Borders, territorial sovereignty, and national jurisdiction do not work as well on sea as they do on land, despite the efforts of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to draw various kinds of boundary lines on the world’s waters. Sparse state control and scarce state responsibility can mean both opportunity and danger for those who work and travel on the open seas.

In some ways, the sea means opportunity. The lack of state control on the world’s oceans provides the opportunity for migrants to escape desperate situations in their home countries and have the chance at claiming asylum in a new land. Oceans also provide employment to many, with fisheries and aquaculture assuring the livelihood of about 10-12 percent of the world’s population.

In other ways, the sea means danger. A lack of state control opens the door wide for human rights abuses: from fishermen on boats where labour laws are neither respected nor enforced, to a gruesome murder captured on cellphone video that still remains unprosecuted, to a coast guard shooting with impunity at migrants they were supposed to rescue, the ocean can be a dangerous place.

On the high seas, state accountability often fades into the horizon along with the shore. It is not uncommon to have a ship that is (for example) owned in China, flagged by the Bahamas, licenced to fish by the Seychelles, and crewed by a mixture of Filipinos, Indonesians and Sri Lankans. It becomes easy for states to avoid accountability when they can always point the finger at someone else, and countries less likely to exercise oversight are often the ones chosen as flag states. This makes human security at sea a trans-jurisdictional problem, in a system where responsibility is primarily state-based. Seafarers, fishermen, and migrants—usually from non-western countries—are the ones who slip through the cracks.

My slight feeling of displacement and identity disjunction around mid-summer national holidays pales in comparison to the ways in which some people’s lives move with the open seas. Researching maritime law from landlocked Colorado—just about as far as you could get from the sea in North America—I feel a sensory disconnect from those to whom these laws apply. I know the black texts of law written on the whiteness of a page, but I don’t know the colour of the stories that are woven around them.

The closest I can get is the blue of this Colorado mountain lake, although it is so far removed from the ocean. Eventually, these waters flow down through Mexico and the western US to the Pacific, where they’re joined by waters from my homeland, British Columbia, and perhaps eventually even from my adopted land, Québec. Once the fresh water has intermingled with the salt, who can tell anyway? Unlike us humans, the waters don’t get territorial.

The blue space on the map provides a beautiful metaphor for our interconnectedness, as Lights sings so eloquently:

“No matter how far we get
Oceans we are in still connect
And when the currents circle back again
They’ll carry us with them
To the arms of the same sea”

I cannot fully make sense of the ways in which our world is both globally intertwined and sharply divided, and I cannot single-handedly address all the injustice this creates. But I want to remember that—in some small way—my work here in Colorado is connected to all of it.

(And, hey McGill—when I get back to school in the fall, I swear I’ll never laugh at the word “transsystemic” ever again….except maybe at Skit Nite…)

Boulder Hikes

2015 McLean LauraBy Laura MacLean

Working in human rights is an incredibly demanding career. The problems don’t have obvious solutions, progress is too slow, the red-tape is too thick, the list goes on. It would be nearly impossible for individuals who work with victims of human rights abuses to never feel depressed or burnt-out. Even engaging with heavy topics from arms-length can be overwhelming. That’s why it is important to occasionally leave the world’s brutality behind and appreciate it’s beauty. There’s no better way to do this in Colorado than to hike.

The city of Boulder rests at the base of the Flatirons, beautiful rock formations that have walking paths weaving through them. These trails are accessible from the city. The most popular Flatiron hike is the Royal Arch trail, where the view of the city does not disappoint. It’s a busy trail on the Fourth of July when fireworks light up the sky.

Of course, no trip to Colorado would be complete without visiting Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and hiking in the Bear Lake area. It’s an easy jaunt around Bear Lake, and then a steady climb to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. The views are wonderful, but the crowds are not. RMNP is wildly popular in the summer, especially on weekends when parking is at a premium and often the only way to access the trailheads is via shuttle.

Dream Lake in RMNP (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Dream Lake in RMNP (Photo by Laura MacLean)

There are other hikes that are just as beautiful and much more secluded. For example, beyond the little community of Eldora are the trailheads for Diamond Lake and King Lake. Hikers require a sense of adventure for these hikes as they are quite remote, often overrun by streams and deep snow can linger on the trail even during the summer months. However, the views more than make up for the physical toll.

Crossing a stream on the way to King Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Crossing a stream on the way to King Lake           (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Not far from Boulder is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, where moose often graze and there is a trail that leads to Lake Isabelle. The walk is not difficult and the pay-off is incredible, especially in mid-July when the wild flowers are in bloom.

A beautiful day at Lake Isabelle  (Photo by Stacey MacDonald)

A beautiful day at Lake Isabelle
(Photo by Stacey MacDonald)

Further north still, the hike to Chasm Lake is a personal favourite and has everything you could want on a hike. The trail starts in a forest, follows a creek with waterfalls up to a meadow above the tree line and then winds its way above a valley with Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls below. As the trail reaches a dead end at the rock face of the mountains, hikers become climbers as they are required to scramble up rocks for the pleasure of seeing Chasm Lake.

Admiring the view on the way to Chasm Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Admiring the view on the way to Chasm Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

State Forest State Park is a three hour drive from Boulder. What the park’s name lacks in creativity, it makes up for with scenic hikes. Lake Agnes is a short, easy hike, and well-worth braving the narrow dirt road to access the trailhead. American Lakes (also called Michigan Lakes) and Snow Lake are at the end of a much longer and more challenging trail that starts in the Craig campground at campsite 16. The trail features many beautiful lookout points and if your timing is right, wild animals and millions of wildflowers.

The view of American Lakes from Snow Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

The view of American Lakes from Snow Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Finally, Hanging Lake is located near Glenwood Springs. Though the hike is only 2.4 miles roundtrip, the trail is steep and the uneven rocks can make for a slow climb. The lake at the end is truly unique because its waters are a surreal green and the lake “hangs” in a canyon.

In some cities, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy rest and relaxation from arduous, emotionally demanding work. In Boulder, it’s right outside your door. These hikes offer more than sightseeing activities and beautiful pictures. Adopting the Boulder outdoor lifestyle means making your well-being a priority. Law school has a way of thwarting a healthy work-life balance, but in Boulder, the mountains on your doorstep have a way of inspiring a sense of adventure. Exploring Colorado’s natural beauty is a way to reconnect with the simple pleasures in life. Furthermore, the Boulder lifestyle forces one to challenge herself. Physical feats that seemed out of reach become exciting goals crossed off your bucket list. Weekend hikes also proved to be an excellent way to bond with others. Previously unknown classmates become fast friends when they brave sudden lightning storms and glacial lakes together.

“I came too far, I can’t give up.”

– Pirate in Captain Phillips

2015 Meredith Carly

By: Carly Meredith

It’s starting to feel like I’ve been here forever. I am not saying that the time feels long. In fact, the days have flown by. It’s just that I’ve absorbed so much knowledge and experienced so much change in such a short period of time that seems impossible that only two months have passed since I arrived in Colorado

I have become so engrossed in my work that the weeks are passing in the blink of an eye. I have been  extensively researching piracy’s kidnap for ransom model and, more specifically, the “forgotten hostages”  that it claims as its victims; those whose governments and ship-owners have refused to pay the ransoms that stand in the way of their release. The days, months, and even years pass as the hostages gradually lose faith in ever being rescued, while the pirates desperately cling to the hope that someone will eventually fork up the sums they have demanded.

The most famous incident of kidnap for ransom by pirates is the case of Captain Phillips, who was held hostage following the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama back in 2009. Fortunately, the U.S. navy was able to step in and successfully rescue their Captain.

His ordeal lasted 4 days.

Now, imagine the 26 crew-members of the Naham 3; hijacked on March 26, 2012, they have remained hostages since that day.

Today marks their 1200th day in captivity.

Their ordeal isn’t over. Our work has just begun. If and when they are released, the world will have changed, their jobs will have been replaced, their economic situation will have worsened dramatically, on top of the physical and mental repercussions that they and their families will have endured.

This world can indeed be a cruel place, but Colorado serves as a constant reminder of the tremendous amount of beauty that it also contains.

I have completely immersed myself in the “Boulder culture”. Known for its peculiar ways, Boulder County is characterized by its hippie vibe and outdoor lifestyle. As a result, I have become an inspired yogi, a lover of organic produce and an avid hiker.


Keeping busy with all of these new activities has made the transition to Colorado rather seamless, though there have been a few mishaps along the way –

Like the time the hike to Diamond Lake became a hike into Diamond Lake. Wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, we hadn’t anticipated the mounds of snow and ice that we would encounter along the way. When we finally made it to our destination, it appeared as though the lake was surrounded by firm, snow-covered ground; that’s until I fell through the snow and into the glacial water.

And, despite my usual aversion to cats, I’ve befriended a cute grey one. Leaving the house in a rush one morning, I found out the hard way that he’d left me a dead mouse offering right by my front door. If he’d only known that if there’s one thing I dislike more than cats, it’s definitely mice.


But, if there’s one place I love, it’s definitely Colorado. If you ever make your way to Colorado, you should know that when you say “sorry” to someone, they won’t say sorry back like Canadians tend to do. Instead, they will kindly tell you “you’re fine” or “you’re okay”.

They’re right. I am okay. More than okay.

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