Sunday, December 30, 2012

RMNA seeks to add tract to Rocky Mountain National Park

Calling it a "Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity", the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, the nonprofit partner to Rocky Mountain National Park, is making a final fund-raising push to add an inholding tract of land to Rocky Mountain National Park. This west-side tract, known as the Johnson Property, rests in critical habitat. The organization needs to raise $400,000 by February 1st in order to purchase the land and add it to the park.

Here's a letter from the RMNA Executive Director that was posted on the RMNA Facebook page this week:
Dear Facebook Friends,

We wanted to provide an update on our campaign to acquire the Johnson Property. As you may recall, we have until February to raise the $400,000 needed to purchase this 3.89 acre parcel and transfer it to Rocky Mountain National Park for permanent protection. As the year draws to a close, and the deadline approaches, here’s where we stand.

As of today, we have received 619 gifts totaling $220,384. The response has been strong (thank you!), and we have just $179,616 to go.

You may have already given generously (if so, thank you!), but we knew you’d want to hear if we could still use a bit more help. We are confident we can make the deadline if our park friends pitch in what they can. A team approach will make all the difference.

If you would like more information about this project and campaign, I invite you to contact me any time (details are also available here). I also welcome opportunities to address your civic group or meet with your friends about this important effort.

Thanks again for your ongoing support of Rocky Mountain Nature Association and Rocky Mountain National Park. We can’t do what we do without you!

Sincerely,

Charles A. Money
Executive Director

At this time, approximately 4000 feet of the Continental Divide Trail in the park is shared with motor vehicles. Acquisition of the Johnson Property and removal of the access road would remove over half this vehicular use from the CDT, and would also help to reduce habitat fragmentation, enhance visitor experience and improve wildlife viewing opportunities in this area.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead ribbon-cutting celebration

The U.S. Forest Service is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 10 a.m.

Many aspects of the Brainard Gateway Trailhead have improved for visitors who frequent the area for hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and sight-seeing. Recent updates include a winter recreation parking area, bathroom facilities, warming hut and newly re-routed trails.

The winter recreation parking area can be found by driving to the large parking area on the right-hand side of the Brainard Lake Road when heading westbound. For a map to the area from Colo. Highway 36 visit http://goo.gl/maps/ecNqD.

Attendees are reminded to come prepared for the day and bring adequate food, water and winter clothing to stay warm during the ceremony and make sure their vehicle is winter ready. Visitors are encouraged to stay and check out the area after the ribbon-cutting.

The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is the most popular destination on the Boulder Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests. Hiking trails to the west of the BLRA enter into the Indian Peaks Wilderness.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter scene at Bear Lake

This NPS photo was taken at Bear Lake last week after a fresh snowfall. Looming over the lake in the background is Hallett Peak. The Bear Lake area is an extremely popular destination all year round. During winter, snowshoeing is a major activity:




Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Friday, December 21, 2012

All trail and area closures related to the Fern Lake Fire in RMNP have been lifted

The Fern Lake Fire is not completely out, but with 12 plus inches of snow it has reduced the fire spread and potential to spread to very low. There will be small isolated areas of smoldering and it may produce visible smoke in the coming days. Keep in mind the fire is also in the Forest Canyon area, where it initially started. A fire has not burned in that area for over 800 years so the fuels in that area are very dense and deep.

All trail and area closures related to the Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park have been lifted. However, because a wildfire burned through parts of Forest Canyon, Spruce Canyon, trails in the Fern Lake - Cub Lake area as well as Moraine Park, there are potential hazards to be alert for:

* Falling trees & limbs - especially during periods of wind

* Unstable slopes & rolling material such as logs and rocks

* Burned out stump holes

* Areas that may still be smoldering or burning

* Bridges or other trail structures that may be damaged

* Off-trail travel is not recommended in burned areas



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Fern Lake Fire - One of the largest in Colorado history

With the arrival of several inches of snow in Rocky Mountain National Park over the last couple of days, it's a pretty safe bet to say that the Fern Lake Fire has been extinguished.

The fire that began as a result of an illegal campfire on October 9th has burned 3498 acres in the lower Forest Canyon, Cub Lake and Moraine Park areas, making it the largest wildfire in Rocky Mountain National Park history. According to an Examiner.com article from June, the Fern Lake Fire would be ranked as the 30th largest wildfire in Colorado history.

The 2002 Hayman Fire ranks as the largest fire in state history. That blaze burned 137,760 acres southwest of Denver, and resulted in 5 deaths, 16 injuries and 600 structures destroyed.

The High Park Fire (Larimer County) in June of this year is considered to be the second largest fire in state history. That fire burned 87,284 acres, killed 1 person, and destroyed 259 homes.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pikes Peak Highway open to bicyclists year round starting Jan. 1

Pikes Peak, in cooperation with the United States Forest Service, will open the Pikes Peak Highway to unescorted bicyclists year round beginning January 1, 2013.

“After a successful pilot program in September 2012, we are very excited to open the Pikes Peak Highway to cyclists year round,” says Karen Palus, City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director. “We know avid cyclists from the Pikes Peak Region and around the world will come to experience the challenge and beauty that Pike’s Peak - America’s Mountain has to offer.”

All riders must complete a use agreement and liability waiver available at the Pikes Peak Highway tollgate. Because of the extreme nature of the mountain, children under the age of 18 must be escorted by a parent or legal guardian. Riders need to be aware that there will be vehicular traffic and construction on the Highway and should be prepared for changing weather conditions.

There is no parking near the tollgate so any riders planning to drive to the highway and then bike to the summit are encouraged to park at the Crystal Reservoir Visitors Center parking lot or above. All riders must follow all safety and traffic rules, use regulations and hours of operation.

Participants are required to pay the regular admission fee or use one of the Pikes Peak-America’s Mountain passes. North Slope fees and passes are not eligible for this opportunity.

More information can be found at: www.springsgov.com/pikespeak or www.pikespeakcolorado.com.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Take a First Day Hike

Start the year off on the right foot by taking a First Day Hike in a state park near you. All across the country state parks will be offering guided First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day 2013.

The idea for First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year, and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, all 50 state park systems have now joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

An organization called America’s State Parks has compiled an online database of more than 600 hikes on their website. You can find a First Day Hike by clicking here.

There are several opportunities for a First Day Hike across Colorado, including a few in the Rocky Mountain National Park region. Among some of the state parks offering hikes are State Forest State Park, Lory State Park, St. Vrain State Park and Golden Gate Canyon State Park.


Countdown to Christmas! Last chance to save up to 85% on Camping Gear!



Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bear Lake Road Is Now Open

According to the latest update on the Fern Lake Fire, Bear Lake Road has reopened. However, closures still remain within RMNP:
Because the wildfire is still active and burning north of the Steep Mountain and Mount Wuh areas and in Forest Canyon there are numerous trail and area closures. A closure area is in effect, including Moraine Park, the Cub Lake Trail, Fern Lake Trail, the Fern Lake Road beyond the winter parking, the Hollowell Park/Mill Creek Basin area, and the Fern Lake Trail beyond Lake Helene. Please obey all closure notices. Violators will be cited and fined.
Here are the latest fire facts:

Date started: October 9, 2012
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Size: 3,498 acres
Percent Contained: 88
Cause: Believed to have been associated with an illegal campfire in lower Forest Canyon. The investigation remains open.
Structures lost: 1
Injuries to Date: None
Cost to Date: $6.3 million
Number of Personnel: 15

To read the entire update, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Another Record Setting Year for Canyon Lakes Volunteers

Volunteers to the Canyon Lakes Ranger District are worth more than a million – literally.

The more than 900 volunteers the district hosted in 2012 donated 51,636 hours to the local national forest in Larimer County. These hours are valued at approximately $1.1 million. Volunteers provide over $60 million in value nationwide.

This is the second time the volunteers have reached this million dollar mark and is a new record for hours donated as well. In fact, 51,636 hours is 1.8% of the 2.8 million volunteer hours for the U.S. Forest Service nationwide. The district ranks second among all U.S. Forest Service districts across the country in the number of volunteer hours contributed.

The Hewlett and High Park Fires greatly impacted the volunteer program this year. Fewer patrols took place as much of the Poudre Canyon was closed this summer; however, volunteers played a huge role in restoration efforts on trails and during the 2012 National Public Lands Day – planting trees and shrubs in two Poudre Canyon campgrounds.

Many groups and individuals make up the dedicated cadre of volunteers who benefit the district, including the Adopt-a-Road, Adopt-a-Trail, Cameron Pass Nordic Rangers, Colorado State University Interns, Deadman Fire Tower volunteers, Diamond Peaks National Ski Patrol, Northern Colorado Mounted Patrol, Overland Mountain Bike Club, Poudre River Rangers, Poudre Wilderness Volunteers, Wildland Restoration Volunteers and visitor information hosts to name a few.

The services they provide the district are vast. In 2012, volunteers made over 16,000 public contacts helping inform visitors on a variety of topics. Besides providing the public with recreation and safety information, volunteers help improve wildlife habitat, repair trails, pull and monitor weeds, build fences and kiosks, scan photos, and collect information about forest conditions.

If you are interested in participating in one of the groups mentioned above or would like to find out how to get involved in giving back to your local forest, please contact Kristy Wumkes at 970-295-6721 or visit online.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lights in Motion: Aurora of Denali

This is too cool! In late September Denali National Park posted a five-minute time-lapse video of the aurora borealis on its website.

The video, accompanied by an original musical composition, was prepared by Denali seasonal interpreter Jacob Frank, who took more than 8,000 still images of the aurora between last January and March. By taking the still images and rendering them together in sequence, the lights were animated back to life.

Close to 60 hours were volunteered, shooting still photos in subzero temperatures. Some nights were so cold (- 42 degrees F) that the camera only worked for about fifteen minutes.

Composer Peter Van Zandt Lane was commissioned, as a volunteer, to score the video. It took Lane ten days to compose and record “Coronal Mass Ejection,” a term used to describe a burst of solar wind that ultimately created the effect of the Northern Lights. Lane hopes to show the video and perform the piece live in concert in the near future. Enjoy:




Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snow helps to contain Fern Lake Fire

Fresh snow is helping to contain the Fern Lake Fire. As of this morning, the fire is 60% contained. With additional accumulations expected today, ranging from 1 to 2 inches, more progress can be expected. As a result of better mapping, the fire is estimated to be 3498 acres in size.

YESTERDAY'S EVENTS:

Cold temperatures with heavy snow later in the day, forced firefighters from the fireline because of safety concerns. Snow accumulations were 4 to 6 inches in the fire area. The snow cover will prevent further spread, although the fire will continue to smolder in heavy fuels. Crews removed debris created by fire line construction along the northeast perimeter, and removed fire hose laid out to protect structures in, and in the vicinity of, the YMCA. Crews and equipment continue to be demobilized, as fire suppression objectives are met. Adequate firefighting resources are being retained to continue suppression efforts, if fire behavior increases.

All pre-evacuation and evacuation orders have been lifted and all residents have been allowed to return to their homes.

PARK CLOSURES/RE-OPENINGS:

Rocky Mountain National Park officials have opened the park on a limited basis. Visitors may enter the park through Highway 34, the Fall River Entrance, and Highway 36, the Beaver Meadows Entrance. Weather permitting, the road will be open to Many Parks Curve, the normal winter closure point on Trail Ridge Road. Bear Lake Road will remain closed until further notice because of fire operations. Upper Beaver Meadows, Hidden Valley,and trails leading into the area around the Fern Lake Fire remain closed. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fall River Visitor Center is open weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information call the park Information Office at 970-586-1206 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

For the latest updates on the fire, closings and community meetings, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.

Here's a look at the fire several days ago as it burned in Forest Canyon. This NPS photo was recently published on the Inciweb website:




Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fern Lake Fire Update - More Progress Being Made

Much cooler temperatures with light snow showers greeted firefighters this morning as fire suppression activities continue. The fire is 45 percent contained, reflecting the excellent work safely performed by the 569 firefighters assigned to this incident. The fuels, or vegetation, in the fire area remain unusually dry at around 25 percent and the relative humidity (the amount of moisture in the air) is 30 percent. When these low values are combined with strong winds, the challenges to fire suppression increases.

Yesterday the fire was classified as a low intensity, smoldering fire that did not move very quickly. There are still hot pockets of burning or smoldering logs, as identified from a recent infrared flight on the south and northwest perimeter of the fire.

Today, fire crews will focus on fire line construction and securing recently constructed fire lines. Mop-up work will continue and crews will monitor the entire fire area for hot areas or escape fire. Fire crews will continue to secure the southern fire perimeter between Steep Mountain and Moraine Park. Four helicopters will support fire suppression activities by dropping water where needed. Yesterday, helicopters dropped more water than on any previous day.

As temperatures drop and the wind increases, the wind-chill factor is predicted to decrease to near zero, with hyperthermia becoming a concern for fire crews. Safe vehicle travel to and from the fire area in snow and ice conditions will be emphasized.

Some crews and equipment may be demobilized as fire suppression objectives are met.

Firefighter and public safety remain the top priority while suppressing this fire within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fire managers are focused on protecting the community and the natural resources of the area.

Smoke and possibly open flames will be visible for an extended period. This smoke comes from well within the burned area and poses no threat of escape.

A Colorado Army National Guard helicopter and crew remain on standby for rescue operations on the Fern Lake Fire. A UH-60 Black Hawk, with a crew of four soldiers and a medic, are based at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., ready to respond from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

EVACUATIONS AND CLOSURES

Based on fire managers' recommendations, the Larimer County Sheriff has decided that due to the reduced threat of wildfire and fire suppression progress made during the past few days, residents and business owners may return to all areas previously under evacuation orders. The remaining evacuees were allowed back into the Highway 66 area south of Aspen Brook Drive at 9 a.m. This area will open to the public at noon today.The evacuation center has been closed.

Rocky Mountain National Park officials will reduce road closures beginning at noon today and allow traffic into the park through Highway 34, the Fall River Entrance, and Highway 36, the Beaver Meadows Entrance. Weather permitting, the road will be open to Many Parks Curve, the normal winter closure point on Trail Ridge Road. Bear Lake Road will remain closed until further notice because of fire operations. Upper Beaver Meadows, Hidden Valley, and trails leading into the area around the Fern Lake Fire remain closed. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fall River Visitor Center is open weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information call the park Information Office at 970-586-1206 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

FIRE FACTS

Date started: October 9, 2012
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Size: 3,492 acres (Current estimate due to better mapping)
Percent Contained: 45%
Cause: Under Investigation
Structures threatened: 750
Structures lost: 1
Injuries to Date: 1
Cost to Date: $4.8 million
Number of Personnel: 569
Crews:15 (a crew is 20 firefighters)
Engines: 35
Water Tenders: 3
Helicopters: 4

For the latest updates on the fire, closings and community meetings, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Update on Fern Lake Fire - Progress Being Made

Fern Lake Fire Stats:

Date started: October 9, 2012
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park Size: 3,486 acres (Current estimate due to better mapping)
Percent Contained: 40%
Cause: Under Investigation
Structures threatened: 750
Structures lost: 1
Injuries to Date: None
Cost to Date: $4 million
Number of Personnel: 608
Crews:16 (a crew is 20 firefighters)
Engines: 45
Water Tenders: 5
Helicopters: 5

Update on Conditions:

Cooler temperatures with the possibility of rain and snow should help firefighters on the Fern Lake Fire today, but because of long-term drought conditions, significant precipitation will be needed to moderate fire behavior.

On the southern perimeter of the fire, numerous crews are working to complete a portion of the containment line in the saddle between Steep Mountain and Mount Wuh.

A steep canyon, or "notch," to the west of Steep Mountain continues to act like a chimney, pulling fire to its top. Crews are waiting for fire to burn out the heavy fuels in the canyon, allowing them to engage the fire in a safer location.

Resources on the northern perimeter of the fire are expected to be reduced today and the area downgraded to patrol status. Mechanical fuels treatment will continue along Bear Lake Road.

Because of the reduced threat of fire and the return of some evacuated residents, seven engines were released this morning.

Suppressing the fire within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park and protecting the community remains a top priority for fire managers, along with providing for firefighter and public safety.

A Colorado Army National Guard helicopter and crew remain on standby for rescue operations on the Fern Lake Fire. A UH-60 Black Hawk, with a crew of four soldiers and a medic, are based at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., ready to respond from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

For the latest updates on the fire, closings and community meetings, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

History Repeating Itself

This story probably sounds familiar:

A wildfire begins in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. Because it's a relatively small fire, low intensity, and doesn't threaten any structures, the Park Service allows it to slowly burn. Several weeks later high winds blow down off the mountains and whip the fire out of control. The fire spreads rapidly and threatens the homes and small businesses along the eastern boundary of the park, and the residents are forced to flee in order to protect themselves from the smoke and flames.

You might think I'm referring to the Fern Lake Fire, which is currently burning in the Moraine Park area of the park. However, I'm actually referring to the 1978 Ouzel Fire which burned more than a thousand acres in the Wild Basin area of the park.

Here's a quick overview of the fire from Rocky Mountain National Park: A History, by C. W. Buchholtz: 
On August 9, 1978, a bolt of lightning struck near Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park and started a fire in a subalpine spruce-fir forest. In accord with a new philosophy that recognized the ecological significance of natural fires, Park rangers monitored the fire continuously as it carried out its "cleansing" role. For days the fire behaved as expected, spreading slowly and casting only an occasional puff of smoke into the sky. But then on August 23 and again on September 1, gusts of wind caused the fire to intensify and spread rapidly. As public pressure grew Park officials decided that the fire could remain wild no longer and assigned firefighter crews to control the blaze. With the help of snow and rain, containment seemed assured by September 11th.

However, on September 15 winds exceeding thirty miles per hour swept out of the west, whipped the fire back into life and pushed it eastward toward the Park boundary. Residents of nearby Allenspark were alarmed at the rapid progress of the fire. People living in a housing subdivision even closer to the Park boundary found themselves directly in the path of the fast-approaching fire. Nearly 350 people prepared to flee or fight for their homes. Facing this emergency, some 500 firefighters scrambled to prevent the "Ouzel Fire" from escaping the confines of Rocky Mountain National Park. After days of strenuous effort, the fire crews successfully controlled one of the wildest elements of nature and kept the Ouzel Fire within the Park.
The fire was finally brought under control by September 30th, and wasn’t fully extinguished until December 4th! In all, the Ouzel Fire burned more than a thousand acres, making it the largest fire in Rocky Mountain National Park history at that time.

The scars from the fire can still be seen along the trail to Bluebird Lake:


It's funny how history has a way of repeating itself, and that we as humans have a hard time learning from the lessons of the past.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fern Lake Fire Update

Firefighters kept a watchful eye on the Fern Lake Fire last night, which remained quiet on the perimeter with some tree torching in insulated canyons where remaining heavy fuels continue to burn out. The focus for today is the Steep Mountain area, specifically the fireline from the Mill Creek Trail to the west of Steep Mountain, then east to the junction of the Moraine Park Trail and the Cub Lake Trail. Numerous spots are still causing concerns. Multiple handcrews will be working along this fireline, extinguishing spots which could become issues during continued wind events. Crews are also preparing structures in the area. Feller bunchers are being used to reduce fuel loading along the Bear Lake Road.

The north perimeter of the fire is in mop up status, with crews and engines working into the fire area at various distances which minimize the potential spread or spotting. Any hazards which interfere with access, or pose an immediate hazard to firefighters or the public are being mitigated.

Air assets will be used today as needed based on wind and weather conditions. An additional helicopter will arrive today, providing additional capabilities.

So far the fire has remained within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. To date, the fire has burned 3,477 acres. Here is the latest map showing the boundaries of the fire:



RMNP Closures:

Highway 36 to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park opened at 9 a.m., Wednesday. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center opened to the public at 9 a.m., although the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park via Beaver Meadows Entrance and Fall River Entrance will remain closed. Fall River Visitor Center will go to its normal winter hours and will be closed on Wednesday. For further information on Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.

Some Evacuees Allowed to Return to Homes:

Evacuated residents in the Highway 66 area from Highway 36 up to and including Aspen Brook Drive were allowed to return home Wednesday morning, Dec.5, at 9 a.m. This area will remain in pre-evacuation notice for the near future. Between 9 a.m. and noon only residents and business owners are allowed into this area with identification. After noon, the area will be open to the public.

Officials also announced tentative plans to allow the remaining evacuees in the Highway 66 corridor to return home on Friday morning, Dec. 7. These plans are only tentative and could change based on fire and weather conditions, so no further announcements regarding the possible lifting of evacuation status for this area will be made until Thursday, Dec. 6.

For the latest updates on the fire, closings and community meetings, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Classic Hikes of North America

Classic Hikes of North America, the latest release from Peter Potterfield, offers hikers of all abilities details on "25 Breathtaking Treks in the United States and Canada".

Illustrated with more than 150 color photographs, Classic Hikes of North America covers a diverse range of hikes: from routes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Grand Canyon; from the Sierra Mountains to the Black Hills, as well as Big Bend, North Cascades National Park, the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina, the Slate Range in the Canadian Rockies, the Long Range Traverse of Newfoundland, and more than a dozen other classics.

Peter Potterfield, an experienced hiker and photographer, has hiked more than 10,000 miles on six continents, including the trek to Mount Everest, a retrace of Ernest Schackleton's route in Antarctica, the wilds of Arctic Sweden and the rugged coasts of Tasmania. Potterfield now brings his expert advice back home in Classic Hikes of North America, a beautifully photographed and eminently practical guide of the best backcountry treks in the United States and Canada. The author has photographed, analyzed, and graded these spectacular wilderness experiences with both beginners and avid hikers in mind, and puts them within reach for any aspiring hiker.

Each chapter includes:

* Level of difficulty, both in physical effort and psychological challenge
* Details on trail conditions and recommended seasons
* Notes of potential hazards or difficulties
* Detailed route descriptions
* Detailed maps for every route
* Resources for information, staging, accommodations, and transportation


For more information on this wonderful book, please click here.



Jeff
Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fern Lake Fire Update and Stats

Firefighters made good progress yesterday after a night during which strong winds tested completed firelines. All lines successfully held with only a few spot fires outside the lines. The fire remains within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. Favorable weather conditions yesterday gave firefighters an opportunity to work on spot fires in the Steep Mountain area, using both ground and aerial resources. A handline is being constructed from the west side of Moraine Park along the southern portion of Steep Mountain in preparation for a possible burn-out to strengthen that section of the line. A feller-buncher (a machine that cuts and stacks trees) worked along the Bear Lake Road, helping to reduce the fuel load. Structure assessments continue in evacuated areas to the east and southeast of the fire area. Engines will patrol evacuated areas tonight to watch for any fire activity.

Fire Facts:

Date started: October 9, 2012
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Size: 3750 acres (yesterday this was reported to be 4400 acres)
Percent Contained: 40%
Cause: Under Investigation (purportedly from an illegal campfire)
Structures threatened: 1,000
Structures lost: 1
Injuries to Date: None
Cost to Date: $1.9 million
Number of Personnel: 250
Crews: 3
Engines: 42
Water Tenders: 11
Helicopters: 3

The east side of Rocky Mountain National Park via Beaver Meadows Entrance and Fall River Entrance is still closed. The Fall River Visitor Center, however, remains open. Also, you can still access the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, Lily Lake Trailhead, Longs Peak trails, and the Wild Basin area (although the Wild Basin road is closed at the winter parking lot). The west side of RMNP is also open. You can drive to the Colorado River Trailhead where you'll reach the winter closure point.

Here's an update from 7News in Denver as of last night that includes some film footage of fire suppression efforts yesterday:



For the latest updates on the fire, closings and community meetings, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Hiking with your dog in the Rocky Mountain National Park area

Since launching our new hiking website a few weeks ago, a couple of people have already asked as to whether or not pets are allowed on any of the hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately for dog lovers, the answer to that question is no.

The park prohibits dogs (and other pets) on all backcountry trails for several reasons:

• Dogs can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.

• Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife.

• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness.

• Pets may become prey for larger predators such as mountain lions, coyotes and bears. In fact, in August of 2016, a black bear killed a leashed dog in Shenandoah National Park. This isn't an isolated incident. According to a study conducted by Stephen Herrero and Hank Hristienko, both leading authorities on bear behavior, dogs were involved in more than half of all black bear attacks between 2010 and 2013. Bears aren't the only issue for dogs in the backcountry. Moose have also injured hikers while out on the trail with their dogs. Here and here are two relatively recent incidents in Colorado alone.

• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.

Although not allowed on trails, pets are still permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park. According to the park website, pets:
"are allowed only in areas accessed by vehicles, including roadsides, parking areas, picnic areas and campgrounds. They must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet and attended at all times. Pet etiquette dictates always cleaning up after your pet and disposing of waste in trash receptacles."
If you still wish to hike with your dog while visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park area, you do have a few options outside the park. There are several multi-use trails around the Town of Estes Park, as well as open space areas within the counties surrounding the park. Some of these include:

East of the Continental Divide:

• Buchanan Pass Trail
• Crosier Mountain
• Hermit Park
• Lake Estes Trail/Dog Park
Lily Mountain
• Lion Gulch / Homestead Meadows
• Mud Lake Open Space
• Rabbit Mountain
• Meadow Mountain / St. Vrain Mountain
Pawnee Pass (Indian Peaks Wilderness)
Lake Isabelle (Indian Peaks Wilderness)
Long Lake Loop (Indian Peaks Wilderness)

West Side of the Continental Divide:

• Cascade Mountain
• Bowen Pass
• Bowen Lake Loop
• Roaring Fork Trail
• Cascade Creek Trail

For additional information on most of the trails listed above, please click here.

You should also note that the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District has roughly 15 miles of dog-friendly trails. For more information on these trails, please click here.

All trails in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest, which surrounds Rocky Mountain National Park on all sides, are open to pets; however, some require pets to be leashed. You should always check first for information concerning a particular trail in the national forest. Hiking guides are available at ranger district offices. They describe the trails and identify special regulations, such as restrictions on dogs or horses, permit requirements, or other special trail regulations. You can also call:

• USFS Boulder Ranger District, Boulder: 303-541-2500
• USFS Canyon Lakes Ranger District, Ft. Collins: 970-295-6700
• USFS Sulphur Ranger District, Granby: 970-887-4100

Just south of RMNP, in the popular Indian Peaks Wilderness, dogs must be kept on hand-held leashes at all times. Failure to leash your dog could result in a fine.



Best Hikes with Dogs: Colorado covers 80 hikes in Colorado where dogs are welcome. The author, Ania Savage, describes rarely explored trails, short day hikes, longer backpacking trips, as well as information on off-leash hiking areas. She also provides a hike selection chart that compares trails by leash regulations, suitability for senior dogs, stream access, mountains you can climb with your dog, and more.







Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com

Monday, December 3, 2012

Despite high winds, fire contained within Park boundaries

Due to the hard work of firefighters, high winds in the Fern Lake Fire area did not cause the fire to spread any closer to Estes Park, and it is still contained within Rocky Mountain National Park boundaries. Approximately 150 firefighters and 19 engines worked on the Fern Lake Fire overnight. Spot fires continue to burn in the Steep Mountain area and crews continue working to keep it from moving further to the south. Structure protection crews are still stationed along Bear Lake Road to try to keep the fire within the park.

The fire management team is optimistic about the fire after fire lines held last night in spite of heavy winds. Forecasted weather conditions are also favorable with cooler temperatures in the mid-30s to low 40s and lighter winds for today. Calm winds are expected tonight. Today an air tanker is available and will help support firefighting efforts if wind conditions allow. Helitankers will also fly if winds allow.

Approximately 250 personnel are currently working on the fire and more resources are on the way. No injuries have been reported. Only one private cabin is confirmed lost in Moraine Park, within the park. The fire is approximately 4,400 acres and if weather conditions allow, there will be an infrared flight to map and estimate the fire size more accurately today. The last containment estimate for the fire is 20 percent.

Here's photo of Moraine Park by Justin Smith that was published on the InciWeb website:


For visitors, you may want to note that the Fall River Visitor Center will be open all week from 9am-4pm.

For the latest updates on the fire, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fern Lake Fire Update

As a result of the strong winds that blew through Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday night and Saturday morning, the Fern Lake Fire has more than doubled in size. Officials say that the fire spread approximately 3 miles in 35 minutes during the early morning hours of December 1st. The rapid advancement of the blaze forced the evacuation of more than 1000 people.

Here's a photo of Moraine Park by Bjorn Skovlin that was posted on the InciWeb website:


On Friday the fire was mapped at 1515 acres:


As of yesterday it was mapped at 3584 acres, and clearly shows how the fire advanced through the Moraine Park area:


Here's an update, as of last night, from 7News in Denver:



A community and evacuee meeting is scheduled for 5 pm today at the Town Hall board room, 170 MacGregor Avenue. This meeting will be live streamed at www.estes.org/boardsandmeetings and broadcast live on local cable channel 12.

There is also a Red Flag warning today.
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DENVER HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG WARNING FOR WIND AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 6 AM MST MONDAY. THE FIRE WEATHER WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

* AFFECTED AREA...FIRE WEATHER ZONES 214...215 AND 216.

* TIMING...WINDS WILL INCREASE THROUGH TODAY ESPECIALLY IN THE AFTERNOON. LOW HUMIDITIES WILL ALSO DEVELOP AS TEMPERATURES CLIMB INTO THE UPPER 40S AND 50S. WINDS WILL BECOME EVEN STRONGER TONIGHT...THOUGH IT WILL BE TURNING COLDER WITH HIGHER HUMIDITIES.

* WINDS...WEST 25 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 65 MPH.

* RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AS LOW AS 17 PERCENT.

* IMPACTS...FIRES WILL BE EASIER TO START AND WILL SPREAD MORE QUICKLY UNDER THESE CONDITIONS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND UNSEASONABLE WARM TEMPERATURES WILL CREATE RAPID FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.
Based on wind forecasts for this evening, residents should be aware that pre-evacuation and evacuation notices could be expanded. You can sign up for emergency notifications at www.leta911.org.

For visitors, you may want to note that the Fall River Visitor Center will be open all week from 9am-4pm.

For the latest updates on the fire, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fern Lake Fire more than doubles in size in last 24 hours

Firefighters continue to hold the Fern Lake Fire within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. Mapped at 3,584 acres today, the fire and has more than doubled in size, compared to 1515 acres on Saturday.

The fire spread approximately 3 miles in 35 minutes during the early morning hours of December 1st. One local report stated that "the blaze fueled by winds gusting to 75 mph consumed all of Moraine Park overnight, a mostly grassy area of roughly 600 acres".

There is no estimation of containment at this time. Fire managers are cautiously optimistic regarding management of the fire as winds were not as extreme today as they were overnight. Right now, the majority of Estes Park is unaffected by the fire.

Smoke from the blaze has been impacting the area especially during the evening hours. Approximately 150 personnel are working on the fire and more resources are on the way. Crews will monitor the fire throughout the night. No injuries have been reported. Only one private cabin is confirmed lost in Moraine Park, within Rocky Mountain National Park.

A Type I Incident Management Team will assume responsibility for Fern Lake Fire management on Sunday afternoon. Multiple resources are on order including Hot Shot crews, additional engines, two additional type I helicopters, and all available local resources. Two heavy air tankers are on order however, they were not able to fly today due to the weather conditions in California where they are stationed. Air support assigned to the fire was not used today due to gusty winds. Structure protection is being provided by many local Fire Departments. Cooperating lead agencies are the National Park Service, Larimer County Sheriff's Department, the Town of Estes Park and the Estes Valley Fire Protection District.

The east side of Rocky Mountain National Park via Beaver Meadows Entrance and Fall River Entrance remains closed. The Fall River Visitor Center, however, is open.

Approximately 1100 contacts for approximately 700 properties were made through reverse notification today. Currently, approximately 681 of those contacts are still evacuated along Hwy 66. The remainder of those contacts have since been reduced to pre-evacuation status. Pre-evacuation means that residents should be prepared to evacuate at any moment.

For the latest updates on the fire, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Evacuations for 700+ ordered for Fern Lake Fire near Estes Park

Update as of 1 pm: Firefighters are holding the Fern Lake Fire within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. Fire managers are cautiously optimistic regarding management of the fire as winds are not as extreme as they were overnight. The priorities for are: Firefighter and public safety Incident stabilization Controlling the fire perimeter keeping the fire from spreading beyond the park boundaries so residents may be allowed to re-enter when it is safe for them to do so. Multiple resources are on order, including a Type I Incident Management team, hot shot crews, additional engines, two additional type I helicopters, and all available local resources.

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Strong winds overnight have pushed the Fern Lake Fire into the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

As a result, more than 700 people living near Estes Park were ordered to evacuate this morning. According to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, evacuations have been ordered for: Highway 66 and all adjacent streets including the YMCA High Drive; and all adjacent streets on Marys Lake Road up to Moraine Ave and Marys Lake on the West side.

Evacuees were asked to meet at Estes Park High School at 1600 Manford Avenue in Estes Park. Larimer County Sheriff's Office and Estes Park Police Department are facilitating evacuations. The affected public may call 970-498-5500 for more information.

The Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park was also evacuated at 1:50 a.m.

As of 4:00 a.m. this morning, December 1st, the fire had not crossed Bear Lake Road. However, parts of the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park is now closed until further notice. The park housing area as well as park headquarters and Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is also in the evacuation area. Currently, other RMNP areas on the east side are open, including Lumpy Ridge, Lily Lake, Longs Peak, Wild Basin. The Fall River Visitor Center and the west side of the park are currently open.

The higher winds have contributed to increased fire behavior and a spot fire in the southwest corner of the fire, west of the confluence of the Forest and Spruce Canyons. The fire is burning actively and creating additional spot fires from embers that have landed on receptive fuel beds. Increased smoke from the additional fire behavior may be more noticeable. The fire is now estimated to be 1515 acres.

A high wind warning is in effect until 11 a.m. today, which includes west winds of 25-45 mph, with gusts up to 75 mph possible.

For the latest updates on the fire, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Friday, November 30, 2012

High Wind Warning for Northern Colorado

A high wind warning has been issued for Northern Colorado, which includes Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is from the National Weather Service:

...HIGH WIND WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 11 AM MST SATURDAY...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DENVER HAS ISSUED A HIGH WIND WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 11 AM MST SATURDAY. THE HIGH WIND WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

* TIMING...WINDS WILL INCREASE LATE TONIGHT INTO THE EARLY MORNING HOURS SATURDAY. WINDS WILL DECREASE BY NOON SATURDAY.

* WINDS...WEST WINDS 25 TO 45 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 75 MPH POSSIBLE.

* IMPACTS...THE STRONG WINDS WILL BE CAPABLE OF DOWNING WEAKENED BEETLE-KILLED TREES AND ALSO DEAD TREES FROM SUMMER FIRES. FIRE DANGER WILL ALSO INCREASE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

REMEMBER...A HIGH WIND WARNING MEANS THAT STRONG AND POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WINDS ARE EITHER OCCURRING OR HIGHLY LIKELY. RESIDENTS SHOULD MOVE TRASH CANS...PATIO FURNITURE...AND ANY OTHER ITEMS EASILY TOSSED ABOUT BY HIGH WINDS INDOORS. MOTORISTS TRAVELING IN HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES SHOULD CONSIDER DELAYING TRAVEL UNTIL THE WINDS SUBSIDE.


Obviously this is bad news for crews working on the Fern Lake Fire. In recent days the fire has grown to almost 1500 acres. I'm sure the fire will continue to expand as a result of the wind storm.

For the latest updates on the fire, visit the Inciweb website. To keep up with the latest weather related developments and forecasts, please click here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Fern Lake Fire Grows to 1500 Acres

Firefighters made progress on about a half mile-stretch of fireline on the southwest side of the fire near the confluence of Spruce and Forest canyons. The crews set up pumps to draw water from Spruce Creek to aid in suppression efforts. They continued "mopping up" spot fires and scouting out where they can build fire line connecting natural barriers to check the spread to the south and east of the current active fire area.

The fire was mapped Wednesday at approximately 1,488 acres, still primarily on the west and southwest side of the fire in Forest Canyon and near the confluence of Forest and Spruce canyons. About 60 personnel are now assigned to the fire, which estimated to be about 40% contained.


The Fern Lake Fire is being managed under a full-suppression strategy. Due to steep terrain, hazard trees and heavy fuel loading, fire managers opted to attack the fire on their terms, when the risk is more acceptable. Fire crews are accessing the fire from the Fern Lake Trail and avoiding areas that have an abundance of hazard trees. Their objective is to keep the fire on the north side of the Spruce Creek Drainage and to suppress any spot fires that ignite to the south or east of the active fire area.

The continued safety of visitors and firefighters and the containment of the fire in the park remain the top priorities of park and fire officials. A fire and smoking ban is in effect until further notice in the backcountry of the park, east of the Continental Divide. Moraine Park Campground remains open and campfires in grates are allowed. Use of fire anywhere in the area should be used with extreme caution. For visitor safety, trails in the immediate area of western Moraine Park and the fire are closed to hikers. This includes Fern Lake Road beyond the winter parking lot, Fern Lake Trail all the way to Lake Helene (by The Pool, Fern Falls, Fern Lake, Odessa Lake to Helene), the Cub Lake Trail from the trailhead to The Pool and the Mill Creek Trail from the Mill Creek Basin campsites to the Cub Lake Trail. Visitors who ignore trail closures will be issued a citation. Trails are posted and physically closed.

Information about the fire will be updated in additional press releases and is also available at InciWeb and by dialing (970) 586-1381, a recorded fire information number. New information about the Fern Lake Fire will be released as it becomes available.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Extreme Hiking: Angels Landing

One of Zion National Park’s most famous features is the death-defying hike up to Angels Landing. The trail climbs 1200 feet in roughly 2.4 miles. The last half-mile features sharp drop-offs along a very narrow path, and includes chains for hikers to hold onto. The chains are there for a very good reason. In the past eight years alone, six people have plunged to their deaths after losing their footing along this trail.

Below is an excellent video that shows what hiking this trail is all about. Back in September my wife and I visited Zion. Although this trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park, we opted not to take it. Instead, we hiked up to Observation Point, which is a bit safer, and arguably offers better views, including a birds-eye view of Angels Landing.

If you've never been to the park, I highly recommend it. The question is, would you hike to Angels Landing? With a baby?







Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A rerouting of Continental Divide Trail in southern Colorado could ban bikes

The Rio Grande and Gunnison National Forests continue to seek comments on an environmental assessment analyzing a proposal to relocate a segment of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, from its current alignment on existing roads and trails, to a newly constructed trail. The proposed 32-mile relocation would occur north and west of Saguache between Lujan Pass and the La Garita Wilderness boundary.

This "preferred alternative", however, is raising eyebrows within the cycling community. The preferred plan proposal would not allow bicycles on the new trail. Instead, mountain bikers would be re-routed onto existing roads.

The deadline, if you wish to make a comment, has been extended to December 17th. Comments may be submitted by mail, email, fax, or delivered by hand to the Forest Service offices in Gunnison or Saguache. Office hours for hand delivery are Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 p.m. You can mail comments to:

CDNST, USFS
2250 Hwy 50
Delta, CO 81416

Fax to: 970-874-6698

Email to: comments-rocky-mountain-gmug@fs.fed.us

The EA may be reviewed by clicking here.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Medical helicopter pilot cited for harassing wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has cited a medical helicopter pilot from Arizona for harassing wildlife after a group of hunters observed him flying his ship very low over an elk herd in a canyon near the headwaters of Granite Creek, southwest of Grand Junction.

Owen Park, 35, of Page, Ariz., a pilot for Classic Lifeguard Air Medical in Page, was assessed 10 penalty points against his hunting and fishing privileges and issued a fine of $200.00, which he has paid. A medical crew was also on board but only Park received a citation. The aircraft was not carrying a patient at the time of the incident.

On Sept. 23, Park and the ship's crew were returning to their home base in Arizona after delivering a patient to a hospital in Grand Junction. It was during the return trip that the witnesses say they observed the helicopter drop into the canyon and begin harassing the elk.

"The people that saw this told me that the pilot ruined their hunt," said Ty Smith, District Wildlife Officer in Grand Junction. "When I mentioned this to Park, he agreed that his actions may have done that."

According to the witnesses, Park flew erratically, making several passes below the rim of the canyon and at treetop level, causing several groups of elk to scatter in multiple directions. At times, it appeared Park was herding the elk, the witnesses said.

Because the witnesses were able to provide Smith with the ship's tail numbers, he was able to trace the helicopter to a company in Utah. With assistance from a Utah Wildlife Conservation officer, Smith contacted representatives of M & J Leisure L.C. of Ogden, Utah, the company that owns Classic Lifeguard Air Medical.

Company officials were cooperative with Smith, and told him that the pilot would contact him immediately. Park called Smith approximately 15 minutes later and explained that he did not feel his actions harassed the elk, but did admit that he was trying to get a better look at the herds.

Agency officials regularly receive reports of low-flying aircraft that appears to be harassing wildlife. In some cases, spotters in aircraft will assist hunters in finding their game, which is illegal.

In addition, the public is reminded that during critical, late-winter months when big game is surviving almost exclusively on fat reserves, or during calving and fawning seasons in early spring, human-caused pressure from any motorized vehicle or aircraft can lead to higher than normal mortality.

"I believe that most pilots may not realize the extent of the harm they can cause when they fly low over wildlife," continued Smith. "We remind everyone that the best way to observe wildlife is to do it from the ground, from a safe distance, and with a good pair of binoculars or a camera."

Anyone who sees suspicious activity should contact a local District Wildlife Manager, or Operation Game Thief toll-free at 877-COLO-OGT (877-265-6648). Callers contacting the tip line remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward if the information leads to a citation.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fern Lake Fire Activity Picks Up Due to Red Flag Conditions

The Fern Lake Fire is burning actively today, due to Red Flag conditions, including strong, gusty winds and single-digit relative humidity. The fire has spotted across Spruce Creek to the southern side, where fire crews are taking action on the ground. High winds have prohibited the use of the helitanker so far today. Smoke is heavier today and is visible from several places along the Front Range.

Due to increased fire activity and no relief in the weather forecast, the fire's incident commander has ordered more resources including a wildland engine and some overhead support.

The Fern Lake Fire, west of Moraine Park, is being managed with a full suppression strategy. It is burning in steep, rugged terrain that includes beetle-killed trees limiting direct attack by firefighters on the ground. It was mapped Saturday at approximately 1,370 acres.

The continued safety of visitors and firefighters and the containment of the fire in the park remain the top priorities of park and fire officials. A fire and smoking ban is in effect until further notice in the backcountry of the park, east of the Continental Divide.

Moraine Park Campground remains open and campfires in grates are allowed. Use of fire anywhere in the area should be used with extreme caution.

For visitor safety, trails in the immediate area of western Moraine Park and the fire are closed to hikers. This includes Fern Lake Road beyond the winter parking lot, Fern Lake Trail all the way to Lake Helene (by The Pool, Fern Falls, Fern Lake, Odessa Lake to Helene), the Cub Lake Trail from the trailhead to The Pool and the Mill Creek Trail from the Mill Creek Basin campsites to the Cub Lake Trail. Visitors who ignore trail closures will be issued a citation. Trails are posted and physically closed.

Information about the fire will be updated in additional press releases and is also available at InciWeb and by dialing (970) 586-1381, a recorded fire information number. New information about the Fern Lake Fire will be released as it becomes available.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Forest Service announces $13.4 million in contracts to improve 20,000 acres of national forest land

Bolstering a long-term strategy to address fuel reduction and overall forest health, USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman has announced two Forest Service 10-year stewardship contracts totaling $13.4 million.

The two contracts identify projects that will treat a minimum of 20,000 acres in two national forests.

The stewardship contracts are focused on improving the health of subalpine and mountain forests affected by mountain pine beetle on portions of the Medicine Bow-Routt and the White River national forests in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. The stewardship contracts announced today add to the $100 million the Forest Service directed toward addressing bark beetle infestations in the Rocky Mountain Region since 2010.

The Medicine Bow-Routt Long Term Stewardship Contract was awarded to Confluence Energy of Kremmling, Colo. Confluence Energy’s bid of $4.75 million was awarded based on price and on the company’s technical ability to accomplish forest health projects. Confluence Energy will remove beetle-killed trees and pile or scatter the residual debris that has no commercial value. In areas where the trees have commercial value for wood products such as dimension lumber, wood pellets and other biomass products, Confluence Energy will pay for that material to offset the cost to the government of the other forest health treatments in the contract area.

West Range Reclamation of Hotchkiss, Colo., submitted a winning bid for the White River Long Term Stewardship Contract. West Range Reclamation’s bid of $8.66 million was accepted by the Forest Service based on the company’s ability to meet technical requirements and per-acre price. The contract focuses on the removal of tree species susceptible to insect and disease infestations, including lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, aspen and ponderosa pine.

West Range has partnered with Eagle Valley Clean Energy to develop an environmentally sound use for the dead and small-diameter trees – known as woody biomass – that will be removed during fuels reduction and forest health treatments. Eagle Valley Clean Energy is currently planning an 11.5 megawatt woody biomass-fueled power plant in Gypsum, Colo. The electricity generated from the plant will be supplied to Holy Cross Energy, servicing 8,000 to 10,000 homes in Colorado from Parachute to Vail and Glenwood Springs to Aspen. Heat from the plant will also support an adjacent wallboard manufacturing facility. In October, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service announced a $40 million loan guarantee to help finance the plant.

The Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service developed a strategy to address the increasing threats to health and safety from the millions of acres with dead trees due to the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the emerging spruce beetle epidemic. The strategy focuses on prioritizing hazardous tree removal, working with partners to reduce risks to infrastructure such as power lines, residences and ski areas and providing up-to-date public information as those activities move forward.

Since the mountain pine beetle epidemic began in the late 1990s, more than 1.7 million acres of lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine forests on the Medicine Bow-Routt and White River National Forests have been affected. Estimates are that on average approximately 70 to 80 percent of the mature trees have been killed to date. As the dead trees fall, experts predict an increase in wildfire severity which would result in a degradation of our watersheds and in turn negatively affect municipal water quality and other national forest resources.

Stewardship contracting allows the Forest Service to apply the value of timber or other forest products removed from national forests as an offset against the cost of non-income generating treatments such as thinning or hazardous fuel removal. Learn more about stewardship contracting at the Forest Service restoration website.


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Help Support RockyMountainHikingTrails.com This Season

As you do your Christmas and Holiday shopping this season, please keep in mind that you can help support RockyMountainHikingTrails.com by shopping from our Amazon affiliate program. By clicking on the AD below (or any Amazon AD on our website) you receive the exact same low prices and great service that you would receive if you went directly to the Amazon home page:



Thanks again for all you support - we really appreciate it!


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.






Jeff
Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails

Friday, November 23, 2012

Update on the Fern Lake Fire

Rocky Mountain National Park published this update on the Fern Lake Fire this afternoon:

On Thanksgiving Day the Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park produced smoke that could be seen from the surrounding area. Due to dry and unseasonably warm weather, the fire crept toward Spruce Creek and grew in size to over 1200 acres. While snow lies on north-facing aspects, the fire is occasionally torching trees on steep, dry slopes. Fire managers are monitoring the fire and are planning for any change in fire behavior.

The forecast for the area calls for low humidity, low to moderate temperatures, and gusty winds. More smoke is expected to be seen mid-day today and until the current weather pattern changes. A Type 1 helicopter has been ordered to assist with suppression actions. Additional resources are being put on standby.

A fire and smoking ban is in effect immediately, and until further notice, in the backcountry of the park, east of the Continental Divide.

Moraine Park Campground remains open and campfires in grates are allowed. Use of fire anywhere in the area should be used with extreme caution.

For visitor safety, trails in the immediate area of western Moraine Park and the fire are closed to hikers, once again. This includes Fern Lake Road beyond the winter parking lot, Fern Lake Trail all the way to Lake Helene (by The Pool, Fern Falls, Fern Lake, Odessa Lake), the Cub Lake Trail from the trailhead to The Pool and the Mill Creek Trail from the Mill Creek Basin campsites to the Cub Lake Trail. Visitors who ignore trail closures will be issued a citation. Trails are posted and physically closed.

Suppressing the Fern Lake Fire with firefighters on the ground is extremely unsafe. The terrain is steep, there are numerous hazardous trees that could topple, fuel loads are heavy, and evacuation of an injured firefighter would be extremely difficult. Fire managers have and will actively manage portions of the fire, while opting to ensure fire fighter safety and wait for winter conditions to stop the fire spread and eventually put it out.






Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Winter Adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park

Just because there's a little bit of snow on the ground doesn't mean that Rocky Mountain National Park shuts down for the winter. In fact, the park offer several opportunities for outdoor winter adventures, including a few ranger led activities.

From the Estes Park area on the east side, visitors can enjoy Snowshoe Ecology Walks on weekends between January 5th and March 23rd.

The park will also be offering Full Moon Walks on the nights of November 28, December 28, January 26, and February 25. This is a great chance to explore the park by the light of the full moon. Each walk will last about an hour to 1.5 hours.

On the west side of the park, starting from the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, RMNP will offer ranger-led beginner and intermediate snowshoe tours, as well as cross-country skiing tours on mostly-level terrain.

For more information, please click here.






Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are Threats of Budget Cuts Closing National Parks Overblown?

A lot is being made recently on how Congressional budget cuts could possibly close several national parks around the country. Earlier in the month, Craig Obey, Senior Vice President for the National Parks Conservation Association, published this statement on the NPCA website:
“With looming closures throughout the national park system if scheduled cuts occur in January through the budgetary sequester, we are encouraged to hear President Obama and congressional leaders focusing on the necessity of a balanced approach to addressing the federal deficit. In fact, the first leg of that stool was the Budget Control Act, which already cut significant funds for national parks and other worthwhile programs. It is time for our leaders to bring more balance to the equation.

“If Congress fails to find a solution by January, more than $200 million dollars could be cut from the National Park Service budget, which would likely close visitor centers and campgrounds, and could put as many as 9,000 rangers and other park employees out of a job. These cuts could close as many as 200 park sites across the country.

“According to a recent poll, 92 percent of Americans believe funding for national parks should either remain steady or be increased. Sequester or not, our national parks will face a tough decade ahead. They cannot afford additional cuts after two consecutive years of cuts and a budget in today’s dollars that is 15 percent less than it was a decade ago.

“America’s 398 national parks – from the Statue of Liberty to Yellowstone’s geysers, to the magnificent Grand Canyon – are treasured places that tell the stories of our country’s shared heritage, drawing tourists, and tourist dollars from throughout the world. We call on the President and Congress to find a balanced approach that doesn’t mindlessly cut national parks, which generate more than $30 billion in economic activity each year.”
I'm going to have to take the contrarian view here, and say that these fears are simply overblown. Whenever the idea is floated that parks could be closed due to budget cuts, it conjures up images of Rocky Mountain or Glacier National Park being shut down. In reality, those headlines are referring to national park units that most people have never heard of, such as Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in Texas, or River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Michigan. The cynical side of me thinks that these assertions are meant to scare people into coughing up more of their tax dollars.

Right now there are 398 national park units, which include national parks, monuments, battlefields, lakeshores, seashores, historic sites, etc. Based on the current budget shortfalls within the National Park Service - even before the proposed cuts - it's pretty obvious that the NPS has over-extended itself. From my perch it's clear that the NPS has taken on responsibilities for far too many properties beyond the scope of their charter.

Wouldn't it be better if the federal government sold parks such as Devils Postpile National Monument, or Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, back to the states to be managed under state park systems? Or, what if some parks, such as Weir Farm National Historic Site, or Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, were sold to private entities - with certain stipulations - and run as for-profit organizations, or maybe even as a non-profit foundation, similar to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello?

In my view, this would allow the NPS to concentrate its limited resources on running the parks and monuments that deserve national recognition and preservation, more efficiently.

What are your thoughts?


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com