Psychedelic Science 2023

(Road) Tripping to a Psychedelic Conference

Travel Montage, 1

We completed a truly historic road trip in June, 2023. We traveled from our little hilltop in eastern Washington to Denver, to the largest, most comprehensive, and truly eclectic psychedelic conference, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit working to raise awareness and understanding of psychedelic substances.

But before we get to the conference, if you know us, you know we love to explore when we travel — which is also why we drove to Denver rather than fly.

Our first stop was Butte, Montana, which is surrounded on three sides by the Continental Divide, formed by the Rocky Mountains. We had traveled through Butte many times on I-90, but had never stopped for a visit to this historic mining town. Butte is Montana’s fifth largest city and known as the richest hill on Earth because of the many mineral deposits, from copper to gold, all mined here. Immigrants from Ireland, China, Lebanon, Austria, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and numerous other countries came to Butte to work in the mines; they came to Butte, America. Butte’s mining and smelting operations generated in excess of $48 billion worth of ore, but also resulted in numerous environmental implications for the city and surrounding lands and rivers.

The hotel we chose was just around the bend from an amazing hike on Butte’s butte — the Big Butte Loop is a fairly easy 1.4-mile loop around this eroded neck of an extinct volcano… that last erupted more than 49 million years ago. How cool is that? The trail is just one of several within the Big Butte Open Space Park, and it offers some amazing views of the town itself.

Our second leg of the journey took us to Buffalo, Wyoming, located equidistant between Yellowstone Park and Mount Rushmore and nestled in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains, but on the way to Denver for us. We had a lovely stop en route — to the Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park, located right off I-90 in Montana; it is a 98-acre park that protects and preserves the black-tailed prairie dog.

Once we arrived in Buffalo, we had planned to explore a bit more and take on a longer hike, but construction delays and our prairie dog stop slowed us down enough that when we arrived in town, we went in search of a local hike, which we found in the wonderful little Rail-Trail — part of the Clear Creek Trail System, which includes about 20 miles of trails. The Centennial Trail is only about .5 miles in one direction, but follows the meandering Clear Creek and it is perfectly tree-lined and shady. The rail-trail is part of the abandoned Wyoming Railroad line, nicknamed the “Buffalo-Clearmont and Back Maybe” train because it often derailed between the towns. We walked to the trail right from our hotel!

Psychedelic Science 2023 – Denver

Psychedelic Science 2023 collage

From Buffalo, it was a straight shot down I-25 into Denver, though the stretch between Fort Collins and Denver is a bit dicey with so much road construction.

We made it to Denver on Tuesday afternoon and immediately found a metered space near the convention center so that we could drop off some copies of Triumph Over Trauma. (See us in our travel garb in the upper right photo of the collage.)

Psychedelic Science 2023 was the largest — ever — psychedelic conference… and it was a conference, a festival, a lovefest, and completely overwhelming, amazing, and exhausting!

If you’re really curious about the event and my takeaways from the conference, please visit my article on 10 Things I Learned From Psychedelic Science 2023.

The absolute highlight for me — even more so than all the hugs and love — was Rick Doblin’s announcement at the opening event that MAPS has a vision of net-zero trauma by 2070; this means that they (and hopefully all of us) have a goal of helping everyone achieve a successful healing journey by 2070. Yes, there will always be new traumas happening, but if we can get rid of ALL childhood and ancestral trauma within the next 50 years, it would do AMAZING things for you, me, and everyone — including our planet, which some say is suffering a climate depression.

Psychedelic Science 2023 collage 2

The three days of the conference were a blur. Jenny had dinners almost every night, while, thankfully, I did not… which allowed me some powerful downtime when we got back to our hotel in the evenings.

The energy at the conference — and especially in the exhibit hall — was electric and the pace frenetic. So many people to meet in person… for the FIRST time, since many us have only been doing this work for a few years.

I absolutely loved meeting — in person — so many truly beautiful souls who simply want to help the world heal. Two of those people are Allison Wilson and Jesse Gould, who have joined forces to help military veterans — and spouses and Gold Star widows — find true, authentic healing.

Right across from the Heroic Hearts Project booth was Psychedelic Support — and I enjoyed quite a few conversations with the wonderful Guy Borgford and the delightful Roxanne Hallisey.

I also had the pleasure of being tracked down and hugging the one and only Ryan Roberts, a retired U.S. Marine who received true healing through psychedelic medicines, and who is making an impact in helping change hearts, minds, and legislation regarding psychedelic therapy. Ryan is also one of the storytellers from Triumph Over Trauma.

If you are unaware of my book, Triumph Over Trauma, it is written for the psychedelically-curious — and designed to first educate readers on the real history of psychedelics, including their use for thousands of years by Indigenous peoples. The book covers both full-dosing (macrodosing) and microdosing of psychedelics — and includes 23 stories of healing and transformation. Follow this link to learn more about the bookor this link to purchase it on Amazon.

I also had the opportunity to meet two beautiful souls, both on their healing journeys. First, there is Beth Wade, who was not attending the conference, but who lives close enough to Denver that we met up for coffee and a long, wonderful conversation. The second lucky encounter was with Fiorella Oldani, who had recently read my book and was deeply along her healing journey. These meetings — and so many others just like them for other conference attendees — were pivotal for me.

Besides being giddy meeting all these folks and sharing this beautiful experience with each other, another highlight for both Jenny and myself was the dinner honoring veterans and first responders. If people cannot get behind psychedelic medicine for the general population, there should be no such resistance to providing the healing these veterans and first responders desperately need to deal with the trauma, post-traumatic stress, moral injury, anxiety, and so much more.

Veterans are dying — by their own hands — at an accelerated rate. While many people may have heard the 22-a-day statistic, the real suicide rate for veterans is closer to 40+ per day. But we have a healing modality that can help veterans release that trauma (and all others) and live happy and healthy lives. Why are these substances illegal? We must move forward in getting these medicines into the hands of all people who are interested and who are seeking help along a healing journey.

Heading Home

Travel montage, 2

While the conference was fun and exciting, by Saturday morning, we were more than ready to get back on the road, first into nature, and then to our wonderful hilltop haven.

We love loops, so, of course, we took a different way home, traveling for the first time into the Teton Valley, located on the west slope of the Teton Mountain Range. Amazing. We are already making plans to come back and take a longer visit in this area.

Our first destination was Pinedale, Wyoming, a gateway to the Wind River Mountains — as well as a major gateway to the Jackson Hole area. The vistas along the drive are spectacular, and we lost track of how many times we stopped to take pictures.

When researching hikes near Pinedale, as soon as I saw something about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), I knew that’s where we were hiking because we have loved exploring CCC camps and their amazing handiwork all across the U.S. At the south end of glacially-carved Fremont Lake (which was formerly known as Stewart Lake, after Sir William Drummond Stewart of Scotland) is a fish and wildlife habitat interpretive area called the CCC Ponds, which has both paved and unpaved bike/​walking paths, as well as benches at quiet spots where you can observe fish, waterfowl, and many other species of wildlife. The ponds were originally developed by the men of the CCC in the 1930s during the Great Depression, in an effort by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create jobs. The work consisted of reforestation, road and park construction, flood control, and beautification projects. The CCC Ponds are an important historical feature to the Pinedale Area and were restored in the 1990s and given specific themes to provide for various wildlife species. In the winter, some of the trail is groomed for cross-country skiing.

The last leg of the journey took us to Deer Lodge, Montana, probably best known for its current AND historic prison (shown in the collage). Most of the weather while we were driving was sunny and beautiful, but we did finally hit a bad rainstorm on our way to Deer Lodge. It is the home of the Montana State Prison and the Old Prison Museum, as well as several other museums and historic sites. We ended up walking some of the side streets within town and calling it a day.

The final leg was the trip home, which was uneventful… and, amazingly, my deck tomato plants lasted an entire week without water!

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